Use Calf Raises to Control Your Rolling Action

West Coast Swing Online Footwork

The smooth look of west coast swing is created by rolling through the feet. Controlling the roll requires a good amount of strength through the arch of the foot and the calf. Dancers without the strength to control this motion will fall through the foot and appear flat-footed even when they step with a ball-heel action.

This exercise is great for developing your calf and arch strength. As you practice, be aware of your body’s limits: it’s okay for the body to be sore, but never ignore pain. You will need to practice this exercise regularly in order to build up the stamina to control your rolling action for an entire song.

The Drill: Stand with your feet about shoulder width apart, toes turned out slightly. Put your weight over the balls of your feet. Slowly push through the balls in order to lift the heels off the ground. Go as high as your foot strength will allow, then slowly lower your heels back down.

This drill is intended to develop control, so move slowly—especially when going downwards. The downward control is emphasized in west coast because the feet usually roll from the ball down to the heel.

Try doing this drill to a slow song, raising for four beats and then lowering for four beats. Be aware of each part of the arch as you move.

Your ankles are more vulnerable when your weight is on the outside of the foot, so concentrate on keeping the weight towards the inside edge of each foot. You should feel your thighs working with your calves to keep your feet from rolling to the outside edge.

Bonus Variations: As you develop your strength, you can increase the intensity of this exercise by pushing up closer to the toe, taking longer to raise or lower your feet, or working one foot at a time with the other foot off the ground.

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