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3 Dance Drills We ALL Could Use

Drills. Like apps, there’s one for every situation. And there’s plenty of “situations” we find ourselves in on the dance floor, from needing more smoothness to improving our rise and fall or our Cuban motion.

While not the glamorous part of dancing, drills are the “meat and potatoes” – they are where the real work gets done. The good news is drill technique can be added in layers, so you can find one that suits your abilities at any level.

All the drills below have been successfully used, either by Yours Truly or someone this author knows. So pick a dance situation that needs fixing, and give it a try!

CUBAN MOTION

The exercise: Start with feet together, toes turned outward about 30º or so. Moving slowly, take 8 steps forward, focusing on keeping the toes facing outward. Don’t be afraid to look down at first if you need to. Repeat with 8 steps going backwards, then to the right and left. Start over, and repeat the whole thing 2 more times.

Upgrade #1: Switch to dancing a basic step or two that uses all four directions. Rumba boxes, or the cha cha side basic is great for this.

Upgrade #2: Add stepping on a bent knee if American style, and a straight knee for International style. If the former, make sure the weight fully transfers (you can lift you free leg up without losing balance) before you straighten, like you are walking up a flight of stairs.

Upgrade #3: Keeping the toes turned outwards and after completing your weight change, let the hip over the stepping foot relax slightly. It should rotate, or settle, in the direction of the toe. Repeat, dancing the basic steps as before.

RISE AND FALL

The exercise: Begin with feet hip width apart, standing straight with knees soft, and hands resting gently on the back of a chair for support. Over a slow count of three, smoothly rise up onto the balls of your feet. Try to make the rise gradually over the full three count. Using the same three-counts, lower until the heels touch the ground again, then gently bend the knees, and finally straighten them again. Repeat 5-10 times.

Upgrade #1: Try it without holding on to anything, or if you really want a challenge, do the whole thing with your heels hanging off the edge of something, like the bottom step of a flight of stairs.

Upgrade #2: Dance a waltz box without music. The exercise stays mostly the same, except you start by bending only the knee of the standing leg as you step out for “1”, then rise up to the toes for “2-3”, lowering the heels on the “ee” of “3”. Try reaching out with your foot, then pushing off and squeezing the thighs to draw the knees together on the rise. Repeat 5-10 times.

Upgrade #3: Try it with a left or right turning box. Remember to rotate the body into the turn on “1”, then let momentum finish the job.

TURN CONTROL

The exercise: Stand with weight on the ball of the right foot, left foot pointed behind. Rotate the hips (Latin) or torso (ballroom), and close the back leg to the front to make a 1/8 turn right. Repeat, until you’ve made a full circle. Then do it again, with four ¼ turns, then two ½ turns, and finally one full turn. Repeat with left turns, with weight on the front left foot.

Upgrade #1: As above, but start with your weight on the back foot. Transfer your weight onto the front foot, and then make your turn. If this feels easy, add a slight “overlap” between your weight transfer and your turn.

Upgrade #1: Dance a turn in place, like an open break underarm turn, or a salsa underarm turn. Focus on alternating turns with weight changes – that is, change weight onto a foot, twist to turn on the same foot, then change weight onto the second foot, and so on.

Upgrade #2: Play a rumba song at ¼ to ½ speed, and try to smooth out the movement. Pause at the end of each turn to ensure you are still balanced.

About the Author

Ian Crewe has been dancing ballroom for almost 20 years, and has a Licentiate in American smooth and rhythm. His passion for dance and his endless seeking for ways to reach new audiences eventually led him to blogging and the World Wide Web. Ian currently teaches ballroom at the Joy of Dance Centre, Toronto, ON, Canada.

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