Creating great leg lines

West Coast Swing Online Styling

Hitting clean lines makes a huge difference in the quality of your dancing. Not only do good lines look powerful, but they also put your body in the right position for subsequent movements.

In this exercise, we’re going to use a tendu exercise to train our leg lines.

The Drill: For this exercise, find a place where you have some space to extend your legs and a support (like a counter or chair) that is three or four feet off the ground. You are going to use the support as a ballet barre: you should be able to comfortably hold onto the support to help your balance without needing to bend or stretch your body.

Stand at your “barre” at your side and your feet in first foot position (feet together, slightly turned out). The leg closer to the barre is your standing leg, and the leg further from the barre is your working leg.

Put all of your weight over the standing leg. You should have your hand on that side on the barre to help stabilize you, but you should not be putting weight on the barre.

Your working leg should now be free. Slowly, move the working foot straight forward to 12 o’clock. During this movement, keep your toes on the ground and your leg straight. As you move forward, you will need to flex your ankle in order to keep the toes on the ground.

Watch that the leg does not rotate as you move. If your working foot starts to roll over, you are letting the leg rotate. For this exercise, you want to keep all of the toes in contact with the floor. This will limit the distance you can send the foot out at first, and that’s ok. As you practice, you will develop the strength and range of motion in the ankle joint to be able to go further.

Once you have reached the working leg forward as far as you can go cleanly, slowly bring the leg back into first foot position. Again, keep the toes on the ground and the leg straight for the entire motion.

During this whole exercise, you should be standing up straight and your supporting leg should be straight but not locked. Concentrate on keeping good posture throughout this exercise. If you find it hard to stand straight, you probably have a limited range of motion in your hip. Again, practice will help open that hip flexibility.

You’ve worked forward. Now, do the same thing with the foot going to the side. Although your big toe will have most of the contact with the floor, use the ankle to keep the little toe in contact with the floor.

Your ending position should have the toes of the working foot approximately in line with the instep of the standing foot. If the toes of both feet are on the same line, your hips will be rotated slightly and the line won’t look quite level. Slowly bring the working foot back to first foot position.

Now go straight backwards with the working leg, to 6 o’clock. As you push backwards, the ankle will go into plantar flexion (your toes will push away from the leg) and the top of the foot will be towards the ground. In this finishing position, only the big toe will be in contact with the ground. But, still concentrate on keeping the leg from rotating to the side. You want the front of the leg to be facing the ground; you do not want the inside of the leg to face down. When you finish, slowly work back to first foot position.

Finally, go out to the side of the working leg again, and come back to first foot position.

Turn around so that you switch the standing and working legs, and again go through all four positions: forward, side, back, and side.

Repeating these exercises slowly trains your body to find these positions. Since these leg lines are clean and straight, you will be better prepared to find a line while dancing.

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