How Should One Dance? On the Toes? On the Heels? From the Center? Using Hips? :.

(inspired by a conversation with Leah Spryn. Leah's words are bold & italicized) (also note, that when I say "toe" I am actually talking about the "ball of the foot")

Some dancers said that you should move forward on your toes—first sinking into your hip (i.e. when you’re preparing to move forward) then pushing off of your foot, and keeping your body weight directly over the bridge of your forward foot; that is to say, not so much “reaching” forward with your moving foot, but having it “be” forward with your body as a result of pushing from your planted foot.

Having studied under many teachers with many different beliefs, I don't necessarily agree that this is the only way or a "better" way to move. It is just another way to move that has been studied in more depth than most students tend to study their dancing. Every way of moving has pros and cons. In my opinion, the above description has some great concepts, for example: all movement should start with your center and then translate to your feet. This is a great concept but... What is your center? Some teachers say it is your Belly Button, others say it is your Hips, and still others say it is your Heart. Technically, the center balance point of every person is going to be slightly different depending on their weight, build, and every other physical feature of their body. But is it even the center of balance that the teachers are talking about? Some teachers say the hips are the center because this is the point in which your body can fold in half... In any case, does all movement have to start from your center? I believe the answer is: No, it can start from any point on your body, but each point will give a different look and a different feel. I think the important thing is that we recognize what we are doing so we can choose to do it or do something different. That being said, I choose to move from my hips most of the time because this gives me a certain look and style that I like, yet I am also intrigued by the style of moving from your mid-stomach.

But this doesn't mean that the energy to move (or be moved) comes from these parts of my body. If I were to choose only one point where the energy comes from, I guess I would say it comes from friction with the floor. When I run or walk, I usually grip the floor with my feet and push off to move. This push off transfers through my whole body and into my partners body but it starts with the floor. Even when going into Counterbalance or moving from the center, I still connect to the floor in order to stay balanced with my partner.

In these other dancers’ opinion, you shouldn't walk from “heel to toe” when moving forward, but *always* stay on your toes because when moving heel to toe, this forces your forward leg out ahead of your center (even if only slightly) and a transfer of your center from heel to toe.

Toe to toe movement is almost always good for Lindy Hop but I think the reasonings above are slightly flawed. I would argue that your moving leg will naturally always move ahead of your center, regardless of whether you do heel toe or not. Try standing straight up and down, and lift your knee off the ground. Notice your "center" is now behind your foot (unless your center is in your knee). When you lift your knees (even slightly) your foot automatically reaches and I don't think there is anything wrong with this. Physically, it would be nearly impossible to stop on 1 foot if it had to stay underneath the body because there would be no opposing power to stop your directional momentum if you landed with your center directly on top of your foot. I believe, when you move your foot prepares itself to be landed on by "reaching" a little; even if you start the movement from your center; even if you move toe to toe. Charleston is an obvious example of a movement that starts from our "center" but then the foot leads (or reaches) in front of the body. Now, I am not saying you should move your leg before your body, I am just saying that when moving heel to toe or toe to toe, your forward leg still moves in front of your center so this reasoning doesn't make sense to me. A better reason for moving toe to toe instead of heel to toe in any dance would be because it allows you to react more immediately to a lead. Moving from your heel without going onto your toe is very difficult to do efficiently, so your reaction to a lead will probably not happen until your weight comes over the ball of your foot (or "toe" to keep things simple) at which point you will be able to react. In Lindy Hop we dance at higher tempos and leads come more quickly so I think it is most common for dancers to dance toe to toe. But does this mean that practicing only toe to toe will make you a better Lindy Hopper, I believe not and will explain at the end of the article.

They seemed to think moving heel to toe was bad because your weight should always be over the toe of your forward foot, and they believe you can’t sink into your hip as much moving from heel to toe.

Well first, if we are talking about Lindy Hop, I don't necessarily agree that there should be a whole lot of hip sinking action. Some is good because if we didn't sink into our hips at all we would look like a stiff board, but Lindy Hop is not a Latin dance and the faster we move the less time we have to sink into our hips. In any dance, regardless of how much hips you use, I think toe to toe techniques are good when moving faster, just like when we run we often never touch the heel to the ground. I think heel to toe techniques are better for slow dancing (probably around 100bpm or less) because they allow for more fluid movement and balance points, however this will change the look of your dancing. Again if we are talking about Lindy Hop, I don't know how they danced to slower music as I haven't seen any clips of "Lindy Hop" below 160bpm but my guess is that they danced whatever was easiest for them and didn't think about it too much. Either way, I don't see how going from heel to toe impedes the hip sinking action no matter what degree you choose to sink into them, it just delays the sinking until your weight comes over your toe.

After trying both, I feel as though I can still sink into my hip a fair amount moving “heel to toe” (as long as I get off my heel before moving forward again)

EXACTLY... don't put that in brackets like it's a side note! That is the bread and butter right there! Highlight it, Bold it, CAPITALIZE IT, Remember it. Use those heels but don't forget about those toes in the process. Use it all Baby, Use it all!!! (Sorry, lots of inside jokes going on in my head and I had to get all crazy with that one. Makes it more personal anyway, Right???) I am a big fan of using everything we have the ability to use when we have the ability to use it. Why leave something out, dance with everything you got! However, take care... Damon Stone brought up a great point that in Lindy Hop moving heel to toe can create a drag between when the lead asks for a movement and when the follow is able to react to it, plus toe to toe and heel to toe are going to create different looks for your dancing and some people will argue that heel to toe doesn't look like Lindy Hop. My suggestion is to practice it all so you have the ability to match your partner and do whatever feels most comfortable for any given situation.

Going backwards/rockstep seems to be the same regardless. Do you have any thoughts on this difference between the forward motion?

Again, I think it depends on speed of the movement. When going slow "toe to heel" makes the most sense and when going faster "toe to toe" seems to work best. Toes have extra muscles we can use to move, so they should always be used. Heels allow for more balance so they should be used when we want to slow movements down.

Is this just one of those “everyone does it differently” things? They seemed to think it was very important…

Everyone does it differently... Definitely!

Lindy Hoppers mostly move toe to toe but i am sure there are some that don't. Many other dances vary as well depending on the dancer.

And everyone thinks there way is the best... Definitely, otherwise, why would they do it that way? If there was a better way, then they would change to that way… and then that would be their way and it would be the better way too.

There are lots of opinions on how to move, and in my opinion, the best can do them all. Every lead in every form of dance has a different way of leading and a way of following him that will make things more comfortable (and vice versa for follows). In some moves, I probably move from toe to toe more naturally and other moves I probably move from heel to toe more naturally (or even heel to heel with heel slides;-). When I social dance I don't think about which technique to use, I just use what feels more comfortable for my body with each given partner and the movement I am doing at that moment. If you practice many different methods, your body will be more readily prepared to adjust to each partner a lot quicker and easier than someone who has only danced their own style.

Hope this helps,


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