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Thursday, August 5, 2010

Foot Technique for Followers

I recently visited a practica in a small community where at least half of the followers present were dancing with weight on the balls of their feet exclusively (never using their heels at all). I'm not sure if this was due to someone teaching this poor technique or if they had just picked up the habit and the instructor/s there hadn't noticed. Many of these followers were dancing in flats (I assume this was because they were thinking that the heels were causing them foot pain and wanted some relief during the practica). The shoes are bad enough (I don't see how followers wear them at all) but they have heels for a reason: the heels are meant to be used to help support your weight while walking backwards by helping you maintain your balance and axis (thus taking maybe forty percent of the pressure off of the delicate metatarsals of the supporting foot).

Here is an exercise that everyone should try in order to demonstrate why this is such a bad practice: Stand naturally with your feet together and shift your weight forward so that your weight is totally on the balls of the feet, transfer weight to one side so that your weight is totally on the ball of one extend the free leg back as if you are going to take a back step without transferring any weight to the free leg without using the heel, now try a forward extension without transfering any weight (I think that almost everyone will have real difficulty doing this). Now bring the feet together and shift your weight back so that your weight is evenly distributed along the entire length of one foot from heel to toes, now...once again extend the free leg backwards in preparation for a back step, now try the front extension...Isn't this much easier to accomplish with proper technique?!

Leaders need to be aware of this and bring the followers weight onto the ball of her feet before leading pivots (very easily done, and this will happen without much conscious thought after the technique is practiced properly for awhile).

One of the followers at this practica has been dancing longer than I have, and I have to say that she danced quite well (although I could tell right away that something was wrong when I danced with her). When I explained my position she told me that her reason for doing this was that she had been caught with her weight back on her heels many times, and she was trying to avoid this by keeping her weight forward. (see the note to leaders above).

I hope this helps someone, does anyone have any thoughts or reactions after trying the demonstration above? I would love to hear from you.