Footwork: Rolling Through the Feet

West Coast Swing Online Footwork

West coast swing is characterized by an extremely smooth quality of movement. In WCS, the dancers appear to glide across the floor; there is no bounce in the upper body. (There is a pulse, but the center does not bounce up and down.)

One of the essential techniques that creates the smooth movement of WCS is rolling through the feet. In all backward walking steps and triple steps, the dancer should roll his or her weight from the toe through the heel. This drill is designed to practice moving the weight through these parts of the feet.

The Drill: Stand with the feet side by side and the weight entirely on one foot. With the free foot, put the toe base on the ground. This is the part of the foot made of the big toe and the two toes next to it, where the toe joints meet. You don’t want to press on the actual tip of the toes, as the toes are not strong enough to support the body’s weight without extensive training (and often, specialized ballet shoes). However, you still want to be slightly in front of the ball of the foot. As this foot takes weight, slowly roll the foot down to the ground, making contact with the three toe base, the ball of the foot, the forward part of the arch, the middle of the foot, and finally the forward part of the heel. Stop before you put your weight over the back part of the heel—if you feel like you are tottering over, you have gone too far.

Continue to slowly roll through each foot, from the toe base to the forward part of the heel. The goal of this drill is to become comfortable in articulating through all of the parts of the foot.

Bonus Variations: Once you are comfortable articulating through all of the parts of the feet, you can practice rolling through the foot to music. In general, you want to hit the ball of the foot on the beat. For triple steps, the first and third step should hit the ball of the foot on the downbeat and upbeat, respectively; the timing of the second step will vary depending on whether you are dancing to straight count or rolling count.

There are many more technical elements that go into rolling through the feet, which will be covered in future drills. Keep practicing!

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