The Penguin Dance
Posted May 20, 2012on:
I helped teach an open-level Balboa workshop this afternoon; the part I taught was on spins and turns. I thought I’d share the material here in case anybody else wants to practice this.
The whole idea of the class was about keeping your feet together and in a slight V-shape while turning. There are three reasons why this is important for Balboa: it helps you turn faster and more efficiently, it keeps you from stepping on your partner’s feet, and it looks way better than going all pigeon-toed.
First I led a warmup that included a series of pliés and relevés while keeping the heels together, the toes turned out slightly, with the legs opening through the hips and keeping the knees tracking over the toes.
Then I asked the class to recall the scene in the movie “Mary Poppins” where Dick Van Dyke jumps into the chalk pavement picture with Julie Andrews. Remember when he starts dancing with the penguins? His pantlegs become miraculously joined down to the ankles, and then he dances around with his feet stuck together. That’s the image you should hold in your head while practicing these exercises! (You’ll also need slippery shoes.)
- Walk forward with your feet held together in a V. You’ll find that in order to make this happen you really need to involve your whole torso in rotating the hips. It is an action very similar to the agitator in a top-loading washing machine.
- Now walk backwards the same way. This involves rotating the hips even further than for walking forward.
- Move in a line going sideways. You’ll be making a series of half-turns, facing front, then back. Make sure you can do this going both to the left and to the right. Keep your heels together!
- Now try to turn all the way around while staying in more-or-less the same spot. Make sure you’re transferring weight from foot to foot, not just pivoting around one foot. Experiment with how few weight shifts you can use to get all the way around.
- Finally, add in an eight-count, Balboa-like rhythm: “ball-step, step, turn around.” Quick quick slow, quick quick slow. This time you will be pivoting around a foot, the foot you stepped onto on beat 3. Practice this starting with either foot, and turning both forward and backwards.
Once you’ve gone through all these exercises, you should find that it is quite possible to move around the floor and spin without taking big, awkward steps all over the place. Your Balboa turns will be faster, more efficient and more comfortable, whether you’re leading or following.
Let me know how this works for you!