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Ballroom Dance

J M (Mike) Nelson
Phone: 612-810-0157

Stepping Naturally

This article is for the social dancer and, though it alludes to many patterns associated with the competition dancer, it is not intended as a substitute for formal training. Even so, for most of us, the following is a natural way to approach the footwork of social ballroom dance.

When we walk, we usually step forward, backward, or to the side, almost never diagonally. When we dance, we step similarly. Our natural walk generally conforms to the footwork prescribed in formal dance syllabi.

Formal dance prescribes precise alignments for feet, legs, hips, back, shoulders, and head. Attention to our natural walking patterns reveals that it replicates many aspects of these alignments.

When walking around, we generally turn our head in the direction we intend to go, and our feet, hips, back, and shoulders follow, in that order. This sequence is often found in dance; natural motion is generally sufficient for the social dancer.

If there is a significant exception, it might be the back step where, in dance, is it almost always done by looking in the direction opposite the step. When walking, we often turn our head and look back; sometimes we need to do this in dance as well, and for the same reasons.

The side step is almost always, in dance and in real life, sideways in relation to the head, shoulders, torso, and hips. In real life, we are generally looking for something while standing parallel to a wall or shelf, or we might side step to get out of the way of something or someone. In dance, we might be stepping similarly, or the side step might be done in relation to where our turning frame will be oriented at the completion of the step; that is, we might begin the side step while in the process of turning. Even so, the movements are essentially equivalent on or off the dance floor.

Examination of footwork also shows that much of the details in formal dance syllabi regarding heel-toe, toe-heel, inside edge of foot to full foot, are descriptions of what happens when we take a normal step, which we do instinctively, paying little attention to our feet until we get to the dance floor. Thus, if you can walk, you can dance. The more you dance, and the more you are attentive to the details of the movements, the more you will realize that dancing is more akin to walking than you might have realized. Dance Home Page Dance Curriculum Dance Articles

Copyright (c) 2006, J. M. Nelson. All rights reserved. Reproduction of contents prohibited without prior permission from the author.