Keeping Your Movement Small

West Coast Swing Online Footwork

Most dancers move too much. When dancers take steps that are too large, they can run out of room at the end of the slot; either the anchor, posture, or frame will suffer. They can also struggle dancing to faster music because there simply isn’t enough time to cover the distance.

Learning to dance small is not easy. Because your steps are smaller, you have a smaller base to balance on as you transfer your weight. You also have a smaller area to cover as you move your center, which means that you need to control a slower movement of your center in order to fill the space between beats. Smaller steps also require more foot and ankle control in order to roll through the feet. In short, dancing with smaller steps requires a lot of body control.

This exercise is designed to practice dancing with smaller steps. It will be challenging, especially if you aren’t very conscious of your step size or if you are just learning to control your center. But, once you learn this skill, you’ll find that you have much better control not just through your small steps, but also when you intentionally decide to move further for styling.

The Drill: For this drill, use a short length of rope, a theraband, or a bungee cord. Make a loop about the width of your hips and put the rope around your ankles.

Be careful so you don’t trip yourself during the next phase of this exercise—start slowly so you can get used to your limited mobility. Dance your basics and be aware of the size of your steps. The loop will limit your step size, forcing you to be keep your movements small.

As you dance, focus on maintaining your body flight throughout the movement. You will need to control your weight transfer through every part of your foot. If you are struggling, pay attention to what part of your foot has your weight at every moment. Start with broad areas: the front of the foot, the heel, etc. As you practice, work on feeling where your weight is more precisely: instead of the front of the foot, narrow it down to the ball, behind the ball, between the ball and toes, toes only, and so forth. When you can feel smaller distinctions in where your weight is, then continue practicing until you can control your weight at that smaller scale.

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