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Lower Body Action: Details

The numbers correlate with the stages of the description in the Core section.

(1) Picking your foot up is optional. You can also choose to vary the height to which it's raised.

(2) Get into the habit of picking a precise spot on the floor where you want your foot to be, before placing your foot on it. This disciplines your body into executing your mind's intentions accurately (we call this perfect register). We will develop this idea in a later section.

(3,4,5) Once the hip, knee, and ankle joints are vertically aligned, your body weight is borne by bones under compression, rather than muscles in tension. This saves an enormous amount of energy: just try standing with your knees bent instead of straight for any length of time and you'll understand what I mean.

(3,4,5,6) Try to make sure that you control the movement of your joints i.e. heel descent, knee straightening, hip alignment, and release of tension (when settling) without jarring. Your aim is to achieve control through a smooth, even cascade.

(6) The breathing aspect of the exercise is a learning aid for beginners to develop a feel for reducing muscle tension (relaxation) over the hip. Once proficient, you can omit it from the exercise.

Having your feet turned out gives you stability in more directions, and means that a foot is already partially out of the way of the other when doing simple turns. In general, variations in limb angles are expected because everyone has a unique body frame, and you may need to adapt the exercises accordingly. Make the dance fit the body, not the body fit the dance - the body will break before the dance ever will.

Get into the habit of pedalling with your head up, without looking at your feet. Dancing is not nearly as enjoyable if you have to spend the whole song looking at the top of your partner's head. Furthermore, dropping your head downwards pulls your shoulders forward and your pelvis backwards, making it difficult to settle your hip.

Learning Tips
When you're fluent enough with the practice, and no longer need to refer to the description text, you can move on to consolidation. This is the difference between knowing something and feeling it.

Try using one of the following teaching points:

  1. Imagine you're crushing grapes slowly under your heel. This point helps you focus on how your heel meets the floor and derive leverage from the contact.
  2. Imagine you're pressing a nail into the floor with your heel. This point might seem similar to the one above, but it concentrates more on building up the controlling muscles around the ankle. Particularly important for dancers who wear high heels: where you'd make the practice more challenging by increasing the "length" and "thickness" of the nails.
  3. Imagine you're standing at a bus stop and waiting for a bus to arrive. Normally when we're waiting for something, we straighten one leg and shift all our weight onto it - which is precisely what pedalling is, with a more settled hip. Shift your weight from one leg to the other.

Common Faults
When you sit down, do you lower yourself onto the chair or do you let gravity do whatever it wants? If someone were to pull your chair away while you were sitting down, you'd be able to stop yourself in the first case because you retained control. Likewise, you should control the descent of your heel and the release of tension during hip settling, instead of letting them just drop.

Forced action
How is it that we can recognise when a lower body action looks forced?
The human eye is very good at comparing different speeds in movement. An action looks forced when a particular joint region moves out of sequence, or moves much more quickly than the neighbouring ones i.e. without a cascade. This fault occurs most when you concentrate too much on one joint region at the expense of others (usually the knees or hips).
You should practise timing the travel of each joint with even emphasis


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