Dance Movement

How to Move Better

In any dance, learn about all the actions and basic movements, which are the foundation that makes up all the steps.

The legs are the engine that drive the dance, the body above the waist stays in a fairly fixed (but attractive, not stiff) position, and goes along for the ride.

Swing dances: wind up, drive, follow through and release. (Drive swing collect; Drive release, rewind)

  • Feet and knee:

    • Swing dances, to be most efficient, feet must be parallel. Center of gravity is the link between standing leg and moving leg

    • The free foot could be the leading foot or the trailing foot.

    • Standing leg affects and moves and projects the center, it can't directly affect the leading foot. As the center displaces, the leading leg moves. Center projects the leading foot.

    • The alignment of the standing foot determines the alignment of the standing knee. The knee flexes along the same plane. If the knee and foot are lined up correctly, center of gravity has a chance to travel along the line projected by the standing foot.

    • For efficient use of energy/power, projection direction (direction center moves) is on the same line as the knee/foot. When moving direction forward/backward, the foot should be straight.

    • Center should be forcing the free foot out. The foot/leg should not be moving on its own, i.e. do not stick the leg out (either to the front or back) in preparation of a step. Move center first and when it's almost falling, strike leg/foot out.

Propulsion: using the floor, push

    • Foxtrot is the best dance to practice this as it has continuous move (not like Waltz which closes feet a lot of times)

    • Create pressure in the foot to the floor. Usually body weight start in front of the front (front of foot more pressure to floor), then roll the weight to back of the foot, and by the time to exit, you push off the heel (kicking the coin that was under the heel).

    • When working from the standing leg, pushing the floor, it naturally will create bigger steps. (Focus on pushing floor using standing leg. Do not focus on 'step big steps' which typically leads to people trying to work the moving leg instead of the standing leg.)

    • When using and pushing the floor, the movement is with intention, not just "faking movement" just because you know what is supposed to happen (like heel turn).

    • To make better heel turn: increase the propulsion.

    • Also focus on the "one step in the past", not "one step in the future".

      • Before stepping next step, focus on the end of pervious step - the standing foot. stay longer on previous step, the moving leg can prepare, but focus on standing leg.

      • Thinking about "step after" often makes people "fall back into the step" - not good.

    • Lady should never leave the standing leg until Man put Lady into the next step.

      • In Foxtrot, professional dancers often slow down the Feather step. For Lady to follow it, Lady should always be balanced at on the standing foot till Man places her onto next step.

    • The power/propulsion doesn't have to be at maximum all the time, e.g. in cornet, the energy/power would be less.

    • Practice to have control over the feet. (In Foxtrot, you'd want to have "faster body and slow feet" (body appears to have more traveling than the feet.)

3 phases of movement: lower (drive) - swing - collect and then drive again.

    • We lower to gain speed, move on the slow step, and slow down as we rise and swing.

      • Lowering is always controlled, it needs foot strength to "absorb", no "drop" heavy feeling. e.g. Pivot, lowering to move forward and come back up.

    • Energy is produced in the first step, just enough to coast through the rest of steps in the figure, not leaving so much spare energy at last step. Smooth, not choppy, movement.

      • 2 step (swing) should not be self-powered. It's releasing energy generated from 1st step, it's an extension from 1st step.

    • Movement is initiated by flexing the knee first (for both forward and backward movement)

      • Lower the knee and drive forward, (use supporting leg) to initiate and drive big steps with power.

      • Movement should not be initiated by leaning the body over. Bigger movement comes from using standing leg to push.

      • Pelvis position is important. Tummy should be collected, pelvis should not be too forward which will restrict movement, it shouldn't be too back either. Imaging the angle of pelvis when changing from standing to sitting on a bench. Spine is vertical when lowering. The hips should be free to move.

      • Bigger step: pushing off the standing leg all the way, so that it's pushing the hips forward.

      • Good idea to increase flexibility in hip flexor - starts each practice swinging a leg forward and back to stretch the hip flexor.

    • Slide each step to gain more inches! for bigger movement.

    • Movement goes in circles; send your weight back (towards your heels) to move forward; send your weight forward (towards your toes) to move backward.

  • Keeping both feet in contact with the ground at all times is required for balance in the swing dances.

    • Without this contact, there is a tendency, particularly when coming out of a rise, to come down abruptly and not smoothly.

    • Always track foot/leg under body, no rondes, don't lift foot completely off the ground. Especially when closing foot from side position (e.g. step 3 on Natural Turn), close with toe in contact with floor.

    • Glide, roll through the feet. Articulate through each step.

  • Side step: Use inside edge of ball sliding to the side, not whole foot, for greater balance. It is more grounded.

    • Practice and train the foot to listen to the floor with inside edge of the ball of the foot: step/glide to the side with inside edge of ball (heel slightly up from floor), make sure the feet are parallel (not turned out as in Latin, do not drive with the heel either).

    • Feel squeezing the weight out of the standing foot. Find balance and soften the knees. See how much you can "hang" over the foot.

    • Knee will flex and straighten - which is body rise. Even when there is no foot rise, the side of the hip is already climbing (sway).

    • Foot rise (most of the times) comes on top of (after) the body rise. (There are exceptions where foot rise is performed independently without body rise.)

    • Practice the phases: moving into the leg - rising up - lowering - squeezing leg moving out (into next phase)

    • "Displacement" is the movement of the spine off the standing leg. In Waltz, the movement into the "1" is the result of the displacement at end of the "3"

  • Knees are never fully locked. When straightened, it is still 5% flexed.

  • Hips: keep hips underneath the body.

    • Standard dancers are two people moving as one. This is only possible if the hips can be isolated from, that is, move independently of, the ribs. One needs to be able to point the ribs and the hips in different directions.

    • Hip girdle area: use butt muscle, which lift up hip, feeling picked up a bit, but, hip girdle area should not be flat, it has crease, legs should be free to move. Imagine trying to sit on edge of a chair.

    • Hips have both sway and rotation. For Waltz Natural Turn, 123, Lady's R hip is higher (sway) and L hip is "behind" (rotation, relative to feet), it's the wind up for next 123. 1 is when it's dissolved and go the other way.

    • Typically, in Lock steps, side leads, rotation is initiated from hips first, hips proceeds shoulder, shoulder follows the hip. Hip swings and rotates. Exception: hesitation - shoulder rotates, not hips.

  • Shoulder should be flexible for CBM, shaping. (CBM and side leading are 2 opposites.)

  • Lady should always wait to commit her weight until after Man commits his. If she commits her weight first, then, in effect, she is leading.

  • Precision in footwork is very important.

    • Generally, 1/4 rule - the feet can never turn out more than 90 degrees from the standing leg to the moving leg (when there is no pivoting or swiveling in rotation).

    • Always collect foot at end of each figure. Don't rush to next figure. Take time to lower/absorb on standing foot before stepping to next step.

    • Step relative to where you are now, not where you will be. For example, in the Waltz Natural Spin Turn the man's first step is forward, and then after placing his right foot he turns 1/4 to his right. Some might be tempted to turn the body and hips before the step, so that it goes DW against LOD, or the foot is placed turned out, which is not correct.

    • Dragging toe/ball of foot vs. dragging heel (toe release) - when moving back: (example below is for Lady)

      • If a previous step's footwork is TH (say, in Quickstep, after the 1st step in Forward Lock, which is TH on LF for Lady), that LF is already lowered to heel, after stepping RF back on 2nd step, you will drag the heel of LF on the floor before crossing LF in front of RF.

      • If a previous step's footwork is T (say, in Quickstep, after 3rd step in Progressive Chasse which is T on LF for Lady, the chasse part), LF is on toe when stepping RF back/slightly side on 4th step, when settling on 4th step, you will drag the toe/ball of LF back to collect (not heel of LF).

    • Footwork when moving forward:

      • If previous step is on toe, next step's footwork will be toe lead.

      • If previous step has lowered to heel, next step's footwork is most likely a heel lead when it's a driving step. (There are exceptions.)

    • Feet stay parallel (to avoid collisions and other such problems, no ballet turn out).

  • Think about actions, rather than figures, such as Natural Spin Turn action, or Feather action, as figures are composed of actions, and the actions should feel similar across the different figures that use them.

  • The key to moving better is to be balanced on your own feet first before making shape or moving bigger. You can't make movement bigger without being balanced first.

  • "Balance": is not static, stationary balance. Body/center is always moving, there is motion. "To be balanced" is to be in a position so you can strike the next step (comfortably).

  • Rotation is the bonding agent. Rotation will provide the looseness and softness, fluid feeling.

    • Without rotation the dance is flat and square.

    • Rotation focus on the hip not just the shoulder. When the hip rotates shoulder goes with it.

    • Rotation: the greatest amount of rotation is on Slow. That's strong. Next step is release, follow through, 25% effort. Don't over do it, don't over rotate.

  • To achieve "softer" look and feel - movement involves the whole body, not just one part.

    • Use standing foot/leg to absorb, do not drop fast.

    • Use the standing foot to push/drive. Standing leg knee forward.

    • Give arm to Man from the back (so it will be light on Man) (especially on backward movement)

    • Transitions between figures are important: movement never stops, it continues. It makes movement look smoother.

  • "Breathe and be softer. Don't spend energy for nothing." Work a lot in the body, but looking "light" and not working.

  • Man should not be dancing with Lady's arms. Use center and arm will follow. Man is dancing with lady's center/body.

Perception of balance

People may perceive balance in different ways: "crossed way" "parallel way". With feet apart:

  • "Parallel way": some people feel more comfortable, more balanced with weight either on one foot or the other. More conventional way.

    • Closed position will feel literally right side to right side connection.

    • Open position feels more open.

  • "Crossed way": Other people feel more balanced in a "crossed way" balance in movement, work opposite side

    • Closed position will feel more like tummy to tummy.

    • Open position is very much the same as closed position (opposition), except head is open.

      • When turning to R to PP, Lady should allow more rotation and not resist Man. Lady still stretches. Lady is the "quiet one", Man is more active.

      • When turning to L to PP, Lady is more active. (e.g. Outside change to PP in swing dances.)

Over balance:

  • When center of weight/balance is moved outside of the foot, it is called over balance.

Movement Actions

When are at top of ball/toes, going into a lowering and driving action: (this doesn't apply to Foxtrot Natural Weave - in which the heel doesn't lower, body is flat. This does apply to Foxtrot Natural Turn.)

  • Moving forward in Promenade Position:

    • Extend the foot past the spine, lower the heel and bend into the knee, arrive to the heel of the foot (ok to have some pressure of the back toe)

      • If the step is too small, it is hard to get weight onto the front heel first.

    • Have the leg loaded/grounded, weight transfers from heel-middle-ball, push into next swing.

  • Moving forward in Closed Position:

    • Similar to PP, except that this usually starts with some CBM (e.g. when extending RF forward, L shoulder/side is fwd)

    • Extend foot past spine, lower the heel and bent the knee, arrive over the heel of foot.

    • Weight rolling from heel to center to toe, rotate hip, change swing, push.

  • Moving backward

    • Extend leg further than the spine, body is more in the middle (do not stay too much front on bent knee, if that happens, it means you could extend the back foot further back and straighten more the front knee).

    • Lower and use ab muscle, push into the knee and arrive on the ball of the back foot.

    • Weight rolling from ball to center to heel, rotate hip, change sway and push to next step.

Circular/looping movement action when we are closing/collecting feet (e.g. Waltz, including chasses).

  • When next step is moving forward: (e.g. 1st half of Waltz Natural Turn, Foxtrot Curved Feather)

    • Instead of thinking of placing LF next to RF, imagine almost a small back step onto L heel (but don't actually take back step). Use RF to place weight onto heel of LF.

    • Smoothly transfer weight, looping around into next step. With looping action, it makes it easier to be more stable (instead of trying to stay in a position).

  • When next step is moving backward: (e.g. 2nd half of Waltz Natural Turn)

    • Loop forward to front of foot (ball/toe) and then roll into heel.

Chasse action:

  • e.g. Waltz Chasse from PP (1 2& 3)

    • on '&': move weight leftward onto LF before next movement (do not fall backward into next step). It can stay fairly tall, doesn't have to lower into bent left knee, but weight is onto LF first.

3 Planes of Movement

Frontal Plane - the spine

    • Spine moving forward, back.

Rotary Plane - the side

    • Practice: head stays in center, looking forward, arms and body rotate to left and right, start with high, then get down to knees.

Sway Plane - the hips

  • Spine doesn't need to be straight up. it can be curved/slanted block of weight.

    • Practice:

      • Setup: L arm up and on the side, R arm in front of belly button.

      • "Pulling" left and right arm to opposite sides, and wing R leg to R side, keep R side of body in one slanted line

      • leg ahead of body, don't drop on left side - no broken sway. can practice getting feet together at the end.

When dancing, one needs to balance 3 planes.

3D in Head, Torso and Hips

All parts of body have some movement in the 3 dimensions

    • Head: Imagine there is a ball inside the skull, rotate the ball in different ways (keeping the axis of the ball). For each dimension, there is a degree of rotation that's considered acceptable. You don't want to do too much, which will look weird.

      • Horizontally (i.e. head turn left or right); usually 45 degrees to left and right (this is more than the other dimensions). 45-60 degrees are ok. Promenade position rotation is a little more. (When turning close to 90 degree, it will be uncomfortable and looks unnatural and weird.)

      • Vertically (i.e. side ways, ear goes to shoulder): you do not want to have a break in the neck.

      • Frontal (i.e. forward and back): do not break the neck.

    • Torso (middle of body): sphere between the chest. use it as the dial. Isolate and move the each block one by one, coordination: moving the blocks in harmony.

        • Horizontal rotation: around the spine

          • Can rotate as much as you can as long as hips are not included. Also, do not involve shoulder (shoulder does not "come inward")

          • Whenever it's outside partner position, Lady's shoulder is rotated to R.

        • Sway/extend/stretch the side - while keeping head at the same place. Do not add extra shoulder rise. focus on side, not shoulder. Sphere has to stay in the middle. Do not move whole upper body as one block, isolate the sides.

          • Feather step; work back muscle, swing to R, stretch R side, sway to L.

          • Three step: pay particular attention to keep left ear position, (not moving head into Man's space), stretch left side, shorten the distance between left shoulder and left ear.

      • Frontal: "slouch" forward, extend back from bra strap up.

    • Hips:

      • Horizontal (can slide the feet), rotate as much as you without involving the rib cage.

      • Vertical: imagine stretching one bikini line diagonally up, then the other side. This is more internal. It's not swinging hips

      • Frontal (like Samba): compress belly, relax tailbone back

Ranges of Motion

Range of motion is rotation/turning of the thighs, hip and torso. This is Man's steering mechanism. For both forward or backwards steps (except for from PP), there is range of motion (may be different amounts).

Forward range of motion:

  • When moving forward, body opposite of moving leg moving forward (opposition)

  • Even for linear step, there is still range of motion. More strong range of motion for bigger turns.

Backward range of motion:

  • When stepping back, release hip. The body of side of the leg that is stepping back will be dancing forward.

  • Rotation is from hip girdle area. Hip is rotating, but keep side positive relative to the hip (not flatten out side/shoulder with hip)

The person moving back is the person inside of the turn, always curve to the side to make space for the person going forward.

While doing range of motion, make sure to keep blocks of weight lined up, do not lean either forward or back.

When doing CBMP, the size of the steps are naturally getting smaller. To make it bigger, compress into standing leg more.

Preparation Step

After Man places the Lady, Lady stays in place. Lady will only move when Man uses his hand to invite Lady to move to a new spot.

Breathe and raise energy, have eye contact with partner.

Waltz timing for the example below:

  • Normally, preparation step starts from weight on Man's RF and Lady's LF

  • Hesitation to Man's L (1 2 3):

    • Man step to side with LF. Shaping to Left. Slight turn to R.

    • Lady step to side with RF. Stay on inside edge of left foot. Swing hips to right (follow Man) and leave your head behind (increase volume/layout).

    • On 2, extend and stretch, then keep that stretch.

    • Slight rise. Keep knees flexed.

  • Hesitation to Man's R (1 2):

    • Man: Shaping to Right. Slight turn to L.

    • Keep the big volume/layout, move whole upper body as a unit

    • Lady's LF slides/steps to left side. Follow Man's R leg, stay on Man's R side. Also be careful not to be too far to left either.

    • The pushing effort is at beginning of the step, not again at the end of the step in an attempt to gain bigger side step.

    • Lady's R side, rib and hip to Man even more. On "2": need to keep extending/rotating to left (think about diagonally left toward elbow). But, do not get in front of Man, Lady's body will slide slightly to her left in order to both rotate, keep extension and stay on Man's left.

    • Stay with bent, flexed knees, do not rise, no foot rise, stay low. Left heel is down.

    • At end of this step, shoulders are more neutral, not winding up to left (which is what next step is going to do). No need to over-turn to wind up.

  • Step 3 Man stepping forward:

    • Previous step finishes in a more flat/neutral position (body comes to a square position for a second), this step winds up to to Left. The whole action is fluid, no stopping.

    • Lady: twist upper body to left some more (more CBM), RF back, keeping shape till Lady's LF foot passing RF, that's when hips/body becomes flat, before continuing CBM for next step. (For more advanced dancer, this can even be delayed further.)

    • Lady: Don't lose R side pressure to Man.

    • Take a big step (toe on floor first), preparing for very strong powerful first step. RF straight back, not to the side, don't curve.

    • Be careful not to steer foot to Man's left, keep this step straight forward for Man, Lady backward.

  • Start with first figure (for example, Waltz Natural Spin Turn).

Forward movement

Example of moving forward with heel lead:

    • Start with feet together (after settling), weight on LF.

      • Settle/collect: lady using settling time and sense what Man is leading for next step. The amount of settling should match between Man and Lady.

    • Initiate the movement by compressing (bending) the knee forward, keep body aligned.

      • Four joints through the leg: hip, knee, ankle, toes. Movement is initiated by compressing the knee of the standing leg.

      • Knees don't just bend "down", it should be "down & forward", moving them forward of the toes, and maintaining proper body alignment, delay lifting the back heel which will make stronger and more powerful movement.

      • Do not initiate movement by leaning forward or backward, which will throw partner off balance.

    • Roll through LF, pushing for bigger steps. Right heel glides on floor. Straighten the leg to gain more distance. Keep body straight up. It comes to a point where weight is evenly balanced between heel of right foot and ball of left foot. Back knee slight flexed. Split weight, do not sit on back foot.

    • Continue rolling forward/push off left foot/leg to transfer weight to a bent right leg. It is only when the foot goes out to its full extent that we stop sliding and transfer weight. Should feel hip flexor working. Bend R knee when landing on floor.

    • Use center, press up with the thigh and through the right knee to bring the feet together, front toe will lower as body moves forward. Tighten up the center. Back leg should be straight, dragging toe, then, ball of foot skimming floor until feet are level, then foot flat.

    • It feels like body weight is more hanging back when moving forward. Don't take upper body forward too fast.

    • Use range of motion, but upper body is moving smoothly forward (there is no forward and back rocking boat motion).

    • Think about diagonals and how back muscle moves diagonally when walking forward.

    • When going forward, do not allow arm to go back, keep arm in front (from the back), keep tone.

For toe lead:

    1. With feet together, after pressing up through the knee, continue pressing up through the feet, getting the heels as high up over the balls of the feet as possible.

    2. Step forward with the right foot, landing on the ball of the foot, keeping the heel off the ground. Foot is in front of the spine.

    3. Bring the left foot to the right foot, and do not let the heel of the right foot touch the ground until the left foot is even with it. Weight will roll from heel of the foot to front of the foot.

Backward movement

  • Backward is initiated by lowering first, sending the standing knee forward in front of the foot while maintaining upper body alignment.

    • Do not start by leaning back head and shoulders, falling into the step. Also do not stick butt out leaning forward.

    • From sternum to coccyx (tail bone) is pretty upright. Extension/shape is from sternum up.

    • As the knee is going forward, upper body/head is even more extended, also extend/give the arms to Man, frame is not "held right/rigid", it "breathes". The moving leg extends back.

  • As standing knee (e.g. L knee) is lowering, R leg is already preparing to extend back. To gain more stride/step length, put the tip of the right toe down first. Stride, really stretch hip flexor, fully extended, use thigh muscle to really reach back, that will gain a few more inches. Do not break the hips and gap with partner, though. (The follower should show someone behind her the whole sole of her shoe.) Then LF pushes the floor, displaces the spine, RF go back even more.

  • Roll down onto ball of the RF, keeping body poised forward. (Body weight feels more forward on backward movement.)

    • The movement direction is going backward, but Lady feels the body is going forward to Man.

  • Upper body does not travel quickly.

  • Weight is then equally divided between ball of back foot and heel of front foot, back knee slightly flexed and front knee straight. Check weight by dropping back knee to floor to see if body is centered.

  • Tighten up center and use core to pull back (belly button), dragging the left heel along the ground. Avoid back-weighted posture.

  • Keep the heel of the right foot and the toe of the left foot off the ground until the feet are together. The forward poise of the body is required to keep the heel of the right foot off the ground.

    • The back heel should lower very slowly and with control.

    • Back heel lowers when both feet are together (level).

  • When moving backward, the body as a whole is moving backward, but chest/middle of body can (and should) still be forward to Man, not pulling away from Man.

  • Arms extend more forward (tone comes from the body/back, avoid stiffness), especially when moving back.

  • When stepping back (inside of turn), there is no foot rise (NFR).

  • When stepping back, make it slightly to the side, but not changing direction of travel. This is to make room for partner's leg to step in.


  • Man:

    • When turning into Promenade: do not use arm and break frame. Lift your right side, left side rotate/extend "around" the Lady. Turn the ribs, do not turn hips.

      • Practice: take L arm away, just use body.)

    • Posture:

      • Man's right hand is always below Man's right elbow, i.e. do not drop right elbow.

      • Left hand should be higher than his left elbow.

      • Create a straight line going through the standing leg up through the head, do not break at hips.

  • Lady:

    • When turning into Promenade: only rotate head to right, do not change head's position in space, keep the volume between Lady's head and Man's head.

    • Stay behind man. Feel like L armed is stretched back, R side/shoulder tries to be closer to Man (R arm stretched forward).

Rise and Fall

  • Ladies never "fall down" - they move "across". It's different look and feel.

  • Rise and Fall works "opposite" what one may naturally think.

    • When rising, the feeling is heavier suitcase, shoulder connecting more down. Do not open the ribcage, instead breathe out. Do not push down on partner.

    • When "falling", breath in, "internally" it's going up.

  • 3 types of rises:

    • foot rise: lift heel, which does not necessarily cause overall body rise, it could be absorbed by bending knees.

    • leg rise: from bend knee to straight knee

    • body rise: extension, stretch

  • Styles of rise:

    • Pressure rise / stationary rise: going straight up (e.g. 6 step Natural and Reverse Turns).

    • Traveling/progressive rise: traveling through the rise (e.g chasse steps)

Head movement

Head change should not occur on its own. It's a reaction. It's a response to the change of the vertical, whole body. Head changes as the vertical changes, e.g. when swaying is happening. It is reaction to - rise, rotation and change in sway, and it needs to be a good amount of these, not just a little bit, amount matters. sometimes it's just a stretch. Lady should only change her head when she feels she has to. Head movement should be slower, smoother.

You are not using head to change the head, you are changing base which changes head. Don't close head using the neck. It will look out of sync and on its own. Let head follow the rotation of the body, and let body follow the rotation/lead of the man, then you'll be in sync.

Both Lady and Man should not cross to each other's spaces. They keep their heads in their own quadrant. This is particularly important when getting into promenade position - lady needs to stay back behind Man. Though Lady's head turns to look right, the head weight still stays left, always in its own quadrant. Shoulder should stay even and don't tip. At the beginning, the correct positioning may feel weird, and/or twisted.

For Lady:

  1. In Natural turning figures going backwards, the body turns first, and the head stays behind (i.e. keep head position and let body turn underneath the head). This will result in a big extension to left.

  2. In Natural turning figures going forward (e.g. 2nd half of Natural Spin Turn, or Closed Impetus), think of extending the nose past the left elbow. This will result in a long stretch from foot to left elbow.

  3. In Reverse turning figures going backwards, the head starts and leads the turn. Stay very left of Man, don't get in front of him. Note that the body is not part of it (otherwise, you'll pull the Man and after the turn, the body will be too straight.) Examples: Double Reverse Spin.

  4. When there is body tilt, the body sways and rotates underneath the head, the head stays still. (e.g. Outside Change with Promenade Finish.)

After every extension, the head returns to neutral at the end of a figure, except in rule #4 above, where you are usually going into promenade position. Lady does not maintain constant extension. During extension (when head and shoulders are more away from Man), lady should not pull the arms, instead lady should extend arms more forward to Man (arms are more straight than normal position).

Shaping and Extension

  • Shape & motion are together. Shape in time with music in motion.

  • Man and Lady have to use each other to support each other and create more shape. When Man gives more ribs/body, Lady responds with more body as well, match the tone and not fall back. (e.g. Waltz on 2. On 3: Don't lose R side body connection.)

  • Extension/shape is from sternum up, do not bend from lower back to create shape.

    • Head does not move off spine. Neck: one side long, the other side longer. no "short" side.

    • When turning head, head should still keep same line as body, don't bend neck back to gain more extension. Extend from sternum, "up & over".

  • Extension needs to be "fluid" - there are changes in the amount. There is the "normal" position (on Man's right, head left), then extended, then extend to the max.

    • More extension would require the feet to be more apart from partner. Middle of body need to have enough counter pressure with partner.

    • Extension is all about using counter-balance. Head weight is always aligned with foot with middle of body forward. Do not take head beyond foot - that will be back-weighted.

  • Head turning is a result of shaping change. Head turning shall be gradual, not abrupt, no edges.

  • Swing and Sway:

    • Swing and Sway go together. Swing is hips moving swinging like pendulum. Sway is the tilt, the change of vertical inclination. Swing is the action that brings you the Sway. The final part of the swing is the sway.

    • Sway is used to maintain balance when stopping or changing direction. Sway has to go with turns and it is not done on its own. No broken sway.

      • Body (head, torso and leg) form a diagonal, unbroken line.

      • Shape and sway in sync with Man, keep the connection, don't be stiff in upper body, be responsive and fluid, smooth, no edges.

      • Timing of Sway: Sway happens during the swing. In the case of Waltz, sway starts at beginning of count 1 (hip may have started negative) and becomes visible at the end of count 1, elevate one hip. Hip is at its highest at the point when weight is transferred to the other foot (beginning of count 3).

      • Amount of sway depends on the effort/power.

    • Leader and Follower don't sway the same amount at the same time. One swings more, sways less, the other swings less and sway more.

      • When your center moves toward partner (in Waltz, this is count 2), you sway more (and shape more).

      • When your center moves away from partner, you swing more (sway less)

    • When head is more to the left, right side of body is longer than left, right hip is higher than left hip, it is said to Sway to Left.

  • Balance - Different types of balance:

  • Vertically stacked up, on your own feet, each individual is balanced

  • Reshape the body, taking center forward, leaving feet and head back, still individually balanced.

  • Counter balance: partners as a whole is balanced, not individually balanced.

  • "Dynamic balance": partner's movement balances the partner. The movement of the body balances out the body.

Swing Dance Exercises

Side step exercise to train the foot to listen to the floor with inside edge of ball, waking up feet and ankles

  • The exercise:

    • Start from feet together parallel, lower into standing knee/leg, squeezing weight out of the standing leg and step to the side into the other leg (new standing leg).

    • Body rise up by straightening the knees. Hip is climbing (even when there is no foot rise).

    • Then, add foot rise on top of body rise. Find balance, soften knees. Using the momentum to rise, see how long you can hang in the air over the foot, how much the foot can perform.

    • Then lowering, displace your weight out of the leg (squeezing yourself out of the leg) and repeat stepping to the other side.

  • Keep free foot parallel, do not turn out foot, do not drive with heel either.

  • Focus on softening, flexing and then straightening knees (body rise).

Practice directly to side, as well as side slightly forward and side slightly back. (diagonally)

Body rise precedes foot rise most of the time with some exception, e.g. Viennese waltz: just foot rise, no body rise: Tango: foot use is performed independently.

Waltz Box

  1. Forward step:

    • Acceleration happens at 1 (lowering).

    • Start with flex knee, hip should be ready to move, slight tilt like sitting ("break at the hip"), do not flatten hip girdle area. not too forward. Need to free the hips, so it can move. (Not the opposite extreme ("sticking butt out") either.

    • Lower into knee, displacement of weight off foot forward, strike foot, going upward. Arriving at foot.

    • Do not stick foot out too early.

    • Lowering on standing foot, that gets to the lowest point, then moving forward and upward swing.

    • Rise and peel heel off floor at end of 1, commencing upswing. not going downward. HT. Body rise is very gentle at 1

    • Peel heel off the floor before stepping to the side (never push on flat foot, push on ball, IE of foot).

      • Typically foot rise is on top of body rise, but in this case, they are very close. back foot push, body rising, back knee straightening (body rising) which makes the heel peeling off the floor.

    • Count 2 has to start with ball/toe of standing foot (not flat foot), knee is still flexed to push off.

  2. Side step: (just like the side step exercise).

    • Trailing foot do not get to next to standing foot, just clear the knees (trailing knee pass standing knee a little), and then foot go directly to side.

    • 1 and 3 in Waltz is full weight transfer. 2 is only partial (70-80%) weight transfer (IE of foot). Then draw the trailing foot in.

    • Do not overshoot weight (center of gravity) passing standing foot (then feet won't close on next step).

    • Stationary rise up. center of gravity is driven straight upwards. body sway and projecting to where center is going to be transferred to on 3 (the foot that was just drawn in)

  3. Close feet: Compressing, squeezing out of standing leg, displace weight.

    • Basic steps, feet have to close. It's a principle mistake if feet don't close. E.g. Change step, Natural and Reverse Turn.

  4. Backward step

    • Displace weight off standing foot, BF, heel kiss the floor and then lift to push off to step to side.


  • Difference between dancing vs walking is the rhythm. In dancing, timing is important, do right thing at right time. Be in sync with your partner, otherwise, you may block each other.

  • Balance is relative, one has to be balanced enough to continue on to next step.