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Changing Phase: Details

Notes (Part I): a Step, a Tap and the Difference

A tap can be performed with a partial or complete foot placement:

  • Partial foot placement (stages 1-2)
    Since no weight is to be transferred there is little risk of slipping. By default, floor contact is made with the front of the foot, but any other part of the sole can be used, especially the heel.
  • Complete foot placement (stages 1-3)
    Takes slightly longer to execute, but is particularly useful when you need to absorb a bit more time when dancing to slower music. Both ball and heel of the foot make contact with the floor. [A common fault is to allow the knee to continue moving backward (stage 4), which would then begin weight transfer. See below.]

The Difference
Try using your body to answer these questions:

  • What are the properties of pressure generated by a partial weight transfer?
  • Can you feel the difference between full, partial and no weight transfer?

Notes (Part II): Changing between Steps and Taps

About the Verbal Cue
Remember to count as evenly as you can, and try to synchronise your taps and steps with the cues as precisely as possible. Done properly, this will result in smooth transitions between steps and taps.

Notes (Part III): Changing phase within a music framework

In this exercise, notice how similar the step patterns are to those in salsa. Salsa is a symmetrical dance i.e. a different leg is used at the beginning of every bar. A merengue basic is asymmetrical i.e. the same leg is used at the beginning of every bar, unless you use a tap to change phase.

Once you've mastered the phase change, you can dance the merengue asymmetrically or symmetrically as you see fit. It demonstrates the power of the merengue, especially when you take the time to master each skill flexibly (see Extras). So if you want to salsa, simply change phase at the end of every bar of music.

Learning Tips
Probably the last thing you want, is to have to remember a mass of information when you're merengue-ing. I simply remember the phase change as a "tap–step"; every time I tap-step, I change phase.

If I feel that I'm not in sync with my partner I do a tap-step. If I'm not sure I tap-step anyway to find out if it feels any better: if it's better I can feel smug about it, and if it's worse I just tap-step back again.

Common Faults
The most common fault is to let partial weight transfer occur when performing a tap. This can be overcome by using a partial foot placement with the ball of the foot only while keeping the knee high. The high knee stops the heel from dropping and the leg from straightening, preventing weight transfer.

Final Demonstration: The Bigger Picture
Here is a real-world example of when a phase change is needed:

Shirin and Nathan are performing the common figure called the cuddlehold (which will be described in a later section). Notice that it involves changes in orientation within the partnership: facing each other, facing the same way, then back to facing each other again. Nathan is required to change phase twice, although the second one is not shown.

A close-up of the phase change is below:

You can see how being in phase avoids the partners' hips from bouncing off each other in the side-by-side position, allowing a closer hold.


1999 Salsa & Merengue Society