How do dancers walk

Walking like a dancer? Stance -- the basics — Synapse in Motion

Written By Lisa Thorngren

I have very vivid memories of going to see ballet performances as a young dancer.  Even then I was watching people as they stood and walked, though my alignment knowledge was sorely lacking and the only thoughts running through my head went something like this: 

"Oh look at those feet -- she's walking with her feet turned out, she must be a dancer.  Oh and look over here, another dancer.  And more feet turned out over here, must be another dancer."

That was the extent of my observational skills.  Thankfully they've improved since then! 

It is true that many dancers, particularly if they have had ballet training, stand and/or walk with their feet pointing outward rather than straight ahead.  But have you ever noticed how many non-dancers do the same thing?  The next time you're among people, take a look at their feet and how they are standing and walking.   You might be surprised!

Why is this important?  There are multiple reasons to align the feet correctly, meaning that the outside edges point straight forward.  However, the one I'm going to mention here relates to the ankle joint in particular.  Your ankle joint, called the talocrural joint in anatomical terms, is primarily a hinge joint.  It is meant to hinge like a trapdoor, with the shin moving closer to and away from the top of the foot.  And as you walk with the feet pointing straight ahead, this hinging motion will happen as it should.  Imagine, however, what happens to that hinge as you walk with your feet turned out.  This is the equivalent of trying to open that trapdoor while twisting the door to face a different direction then the floor.  Or trying to have one half of a notebook face a different direction than the other.

See the buckling?  Imagine the torque, friction, and extra tension that would occur if that were your ankle joint.   Not good.  There is so much tension here that if I let go of one of my hands in this picture, the notebook would realign itself.  In our bodies, the friction from the ground, along with the weight and alignment of the rest of our body, provides the "hands" that are "holding" our feet in this incorrect alignment.  Can we fix it?  Absolutely!

Ever since my realization that walking like a dancer is not all it's cracked up to be, I've been working on realigning my feet, especially once I discovered Restorative Exercise™.  In one of my previous blog posts you witnessed my feet at the ripe old age of eight -- already looking like a dancer.  I am proud to say that I am much closer to a neutral alignment of the feet and the ankle joint.

Not perfect, but getting there (That picture wasn't posed by the way. Okay, actually it was posed, since I'm smiling at the camera.  But my alignment wasn't posed.  I wasn't even thinking about aligning my feet.   Seriously.  And they may still look like dancer feet to you, but they are a whole world of difference to me).

Check out your feet -- how are they aligned?  Remember, you want the outside edges of your feet pointing forwards to ensure the ankle joint is hinging in the right direction.  You can work on this when you're walking, standing, waiting in line, brushing your teeth, cooking oatmeal, slicing an apple, eating pecans, stirring soup . . . yes, I'm hungry.

Work on it.  Don't walk like a dancer.

If you want more anatomical detail, read this.  And if you're hungry for more, then read this.  And if you want even more, search Katy's blog for "foot alignment," "feet," "stance," "walking," etc. and go foot-crazy!

Lisa Thorngren

Walking: a lesson for dancers

It‘s interesting how we can perceive dancing and walking as very different things, but the two are intricately linked and surprisingly similar in so many ways. Here are some insights for dancers on the basics of walking actions to help improve your dancing.

After teaching several hundred people how to dance over the past eight years, one thing that stands out is how many people disconnect dance movement from normal types of movement. They walk into the studio just like they walk down the street, but when they first learn to dance they will often initiate strange actions that are disconnected from the way they walk. Shuffling the feet. Leaning back. Leaning forward. And so on.

We don’t normally think about how we walk. After all, we’ve been doing it pretty much our whole life. The only people who spend much time evaluating how people walk are chiropractors, shoe makers and dance teachers. But let’s take a minute to study that, because it relates well to how we dance.

When babies first learn to walk, they discover this strange force we call gravity. It pushes them down and makes it hard to stand up. Balance becomes a key element in being able to stand in one spot for any length of time. Adding movement complicates everything. Now the force of gravity requires musculart control as the feet move, requiring opposing actions of some muscle groups to keep us balanced. We learn to move the arms as a counter balance. We learn to keep our body between the feet as they move, and to stay centered above our feet when they stop moving. We learn to control the momentum through things like sway, enabling us to glide smoothly to a stop rather than having our bodies move beyond the action.

Then we learn to move faster; to run, and some things become different. Where we place our feet is slightly different in running than in walking, due to the extra momentum involved.

When they first learn to dance, people often initiate strange actions that are disconnected from the way they walk. Shuffling the feet. Leaning back. Leaning forward. And so on.

By the time they walk into a dance studio, most people pretty much walk with the same technique. They swing one foot forward starting with the heel of that foot, pushing off the ball of the back foot. As they begin to arrive over the front foot, it rolls onto the flat foot and the ball of the back foot releases to collect the back foot underneath the body. The back foot then switches from the ball to the heel as it swings forward.

When you analyze this movement pattern, you realize it’s exactly what we do in dancing, especially a srong walking-style dance like the Slow Foxtrot. The Foxtrot traces its history back to the Castle Walk, which was very strongly associated with a walking-style movement.

Very seldom do I see people walk down a sidewalk sliding both feet flat the whole time, or keeping the body always aligned over the front or back foot. Because those actions are inefficient, we don’t learn that way unless affected by an unusual situation, perhaps an injury or childhood trauma. Yet surprisingly, in a beginner dance class, they will move in those inefficient ways because, as I’ve heard more than once… “it’s dancing.”

When you dance, take a moment to compare the movement of your legs and feet to the way you move normally. You might be surprised at the similarities. And you can learn a few things about moving more efficiently.

The Foxtrot traces its history back to the Castle Walk, which was very strongly associated with a walking-style movement.

Swing dances especially are basically stylized walking actions. The swing of a foot forward or back while you turn the body causes the foot to arrive to the side of the foot you started with. When you’re up on your toes, it makes sense to use the toe for your next step, because it is inefficient and clumsy to use the heel. When you move forward from a low position, it makes sense to drive off the ball of the standing foot and use the heel of the forward foot. These are natural walking movements. Tango has some different characteristics, but it can be compared to real-world actions as well. Consider how you would walk across a rushing whitewater creek using just stepping stones. You would move your body weight from stone to stone, ensuring that you were balanced over the foot with each step. That’s pretty much the same thing you do in Tango. The Latin dances, of course are quite different from Ballroom in terms of the foot movement, except for Paso Doble.

Walking Backwards

We don’t normally walk backwards. If you’re walking down a hallway and hear someone call your name from behind you, people don’t usually walk backwards to where the voice originated. Instead, they turn around and walk forwards towards the source of the voice.

Because walking backwards is foreign to us when we start to dance, it makes sense when we see people doing strange things like sticking their legs out awkwardly behind them, taking unusually small steps, or leaving the front foot flat while stepping back. But when you study the mechanics of walking backwards, the principles are the same as those of walking forwards. We place the ball of a foot behind us with a leg that is very slightly flexed, lifting the front toe as soon as we begin to move. As we arrive over the back foot our front foot passes the other foot to begin taking over as the back foot. This natural rolling of the feet is pretty much identical to what we do in Slow Foxtrot. Yet when people learn to dance Slow Foxtrot, they typically try to move in very unnatural ways because they view it as something new. The only thing that’s new is not lifting the feet during this action!

Unfortunately far too many dancers move backwards leaving the front foot completely flat, which creates a few challenges in moving smoothly, and affects the partner who is moving forwards. When we treat the backwards steps the same way we do walking in everyday settings, we find Slow Foxtrot much easier to master.



I want to dance. 10 misconceptions about dancing

The desire to learn how to dance is natural and natural in the modern world. You can list the reasons, starting with obvious and popular pragmatic desires, for example, to start moving or losing weight, ending with unconscious and even existential ones.

This is due to the fact that dances are at the subtle intersection of the inner and outer worlds, physical and spiritual. Above this, music becomes a driver that cannot leave anyone indifferent.

In dancing, there is magic inside a person, which is not always noticeable when viewed from the side. At the initial stage, it is the external picture that attracts to dances, and sometimes repels, as it seems too frivolous and superficial.

But there are even stronger obstacles that stop many people from starting dancing. These illusions and delusions roam the minds of the majority, and are often afraid to ask about them directly, or they ask the question about it so often that they are no longer ready to hear an honest direct answer. I will try to do it in this article.

There are many examples of contemporary dance instructors sharing their thoughts about not expecting to be in the dance industry. Once upon a time there was a man and was engaged in adult, serious business. Sometimes even very serious. A person could have children and even grandchildren. I saw dances only on stage or on TV. For reasons unknown to himself, he ended up in dances. At first, everything seemed like entertainment and a useful pastime. But time has passed, and a person catches himself thinking that he thinks about dancing not just every day, but really all the time. A couple of years pass, and he already becomes a teacher or organizer of some event.

A similar path can start at 15 or 55 years old. The only difference will be in the self-perception of the starting stage, that it’s too late to dance. In fact, for each age there is its own dance direction, which can reveal it to the greatest extent at this stage. Hip-hop or breaking is closer to children and teenagers, and Argentine tango is closer to adults. It's never too late to start dancing. You need to make the right choice of dance style based on several parameters: age, gender, music, goal. There is a dance direction for any arrangement.

Misconception 2: Men don't dance

Our culture has a number of restrictions related to dancing. Most of these causes are psychological and lie outside the realm of rational reasoning.

First, in our culture, in principle, dancing for pleasure or self-expression appeared relatively recently. 20-30 years ago dance clubs were only for children. To start dancing even in adolescence was considered exotic.

Secondly, the aesthetics of the body in our country for men is not in the focus of attention. In general, this can be attributed to the fact that Russian men try hard not to draw attention to their appearance and clothing. Men in our country use other tools for this.

Third, dancing is associated with entertainment and alcohol. If a man feels serious and respectable, then he either does not have time or desire for this.

Nowadays the general cultural background has changed and the result is that men are learning to dance. It becomes as much a sign of masculinity as clothing, hair or beard.

Unfortunately, many misconceptions remain even among those who have already started dancing. Dance teachers do not always pay attention to this, as it seems to them that this is a matter of course.

Fallacy 3: special training is needed

For an outside observer, there is always a cognitive dissonance about what dance is. What he sees on the big stage in the form of a show with sweeping movements and splits is obviously dancing. Breakers doing unimaginable elements in the air and on their hands, competing with each other, also seem to be dancing. Pensioners in the park waltz. Dancing again, but for some reason everyone is so different. How to understand that this is a dance, and what physical criteria should be in the body.

In fact, any self-expression through the body to music can be attributed to dance. There are a number of reservations, but they are not essential. For self-expression, a person uses the set of plastics that he has. Subtlety and technique do not depend on extreme ways of self-expression, and it often happens that splits and somersaults interfere with a meaningful dance. The development of plasticity and the expansion of the body's capabilities are part of the preparation of the dancer, but not an end in itself.

Fallacy 4: You must learn to dance in pairs

In couple dancing, the final learning outcome is that the couple dances at a party. It would seem that you should always train together to get the desired result. This is not true. Let's take an example from boxing. An indicator of a boxer's skill is a fight with an opponent, but this does not mean that he constantly has to fight. Also, the ability to dance is built on the possession of one's own body and the ability to interact.

The skill of the teacher is the correct selection of methods so that the student masters the skill. Based on the skill, you can engage in creativity and self-expression in dance. Not everyone knows, but it is no coincidence that almost all social dance dancers have a serious dance background, which is based on the development of individual techniques.

The same can be attributed to the interaction in a pair. The ability to separate in oneself the one who leads and the one who follows the lead is impossible within the framework of studying the sequence of movements in pairs. For this, there are special exercises that make the skill more versatile. For this, the presence of a permanent pair is not necessary, as well as the regular presence of a partner in general.

IMPORTANT! You can’t experiment at a party, and everything should be in its place there: men dance with women.

Getting rid of illusions is a complex internal process. If you leave them to yourself, you can even get the opposite result.

Fallacy 5: plastique and stretching are mandatory attributes of dance

Much depends on the genre of dance that you want to master. In previous articles, I have already mentioned that different dance styles are suitable for different ages. It is appropriate to dance hip-hop in adolescence or youth, Argentine tango is a more adult dance, it is important to enter classical choreography at a young age.

The degree of necessary plasticity and sensitivity to the dance direction also correlates. For example, breaking requires great physical effort and dexterity. Elements are built on acrobatics and high speed of execution. Who are they more suitable for? Obviously young people.

There is a lot of interaction in salsa. It is necessary to feel the partner subtly, to be able to show a variety of figures and elements. Twine or acrobatics are completely inappropriate here. However, a variety of ways to show oneself are required. Accordingly, the dance is youthful, but not at all childish.

The older the dance, the less stretching or acrobatics is required. The main emphasis is on the quality of technology, the variety of ideas and the ability to show plasticity.

Misconception 6: Mirrors are necessary for learning

There is a set of instruments that dancers use to learn how to dance. The fact is that the dancer needs to receive feedback on how his movements look from the side. It is impossible to dance and see yourself from the side at the same time. The most common tool is a mirror. But not the only one.

Like any auxiliary tool, mirrors have positive and negative effects. The positive is that they can receive feedback in real time and technically it is not very difficult. The downside can be dependence on mirrors. A situation where a dancer cannot capture the feeling of dancing, such as on stage or at a party. For these purposes, you can use, among other things, video filming or proper preparation.

In many countries in Latin America, dance classrooms are not equipped with mirrors. Classes are held in bars or large halls. The dancers initially form the skill of focusing on the inner sensation, and not the habit of looking for their reflection in the mirror with their eyes.

Misconception 7: there is a lot of obsceneness in dancing

A common question from novice dancers who are taking their first steps in more contact couple dances is “in order to dance cool, there must be passion inside the couple?”. I immediately answer that no, not necessarily. Kizomba, bachata and Argentine tango attract many with their close contact. Like any other contact in our everyday life, in dances, contact can be different. We hug friends, parents, children. These hugs can wear many different shades. Sexual overtones are one of many.

The culture of dance also includes the boundaries of what is acceptable. A compliment from a well-mannered person is different from a statement about female sexuality by a gopnik. Usually, those who study at a dance school already have an idea of ​​what boundaries should not be crossed. A good dance from a technical point of view will never look vulgar or vulgar.
Dancers always have a choice about the boundaries of contact. Most prefer to leave a good impression of themselves, as word spreads just as fast in the dance world.

Misconception 8: the best dancers are the bearers of culture

Even the very question of the origin of this or that dance can be paradoxical and ambiguous, especially when it comes to its development and performance.

For example, the Viennese waltz did not originate in Vienna, but in Germany. Salsa has its main roots in the USA, not in Cuba. The famous Greek folk dance sirtaki was invented for the film Zorba the Greek and appeared only in 1964.

The same can be attributed to the development of modern dance styles. Korea is known for its world-leading break dancers. People go to Turkey for Argentine tango, Spain is strong with excellent salsa and bachata dancers, in Egypt, Russians are considered the best belly-dance performers.

A good dance is based on quality training and diligence. Skin color, place of birth and age are secondary. Exotic appearance, unfortunately, is often a reason to be more superficial about one's own professional development. This becomes the reason for the low level of teaching among the bearers of culture. I am sure that few readers of this post will be ready to conduct a master class in Russian folk dance outside of Russia.

The mastery of mastering and teaching a particular style does not depend on the dancer's homeland. And "they absorbed the dance with their mother's milk" is nothing more than a common misconception.

Misconception 9: You have to know a lot of moves to learn how to dance

Focusing on learning a lot of moves often detracts from the essence of dance. Of course, the sequence of figures is important. Especially at the start. Over time, the dancer should have an understanding of how movements can be generated independently. Accordingly, instead of memorizing millions of figures, you can understand how to create them.

From every system of improvisation that a dancer can use as an instrument, dozens, hundreds or thousands of variations are derived. This frees the head from trying to reproduce the exact sequence and definitely adds freedom in the performance of the dance.

The huge theme of musicality can be attributed to the same question. Not every pre-conceived or learned sequence will fit specific music. The dance should give freedom, and not drive the dancer into the shell of the ropes.

Misconception 10: dancing is homosexual

The unusually high attention to the body and flair from stories about professional ballet led to the spread of this myth, among other things. Unfortunately, such an idea still exists in the minds of our fellow citizens.

The dance industry is now very broad and is represented by many dance styles. Some of them can even be called homophobic. Dances reflect the general attitude to the world and it is different depending on the life position and worldview of a person.

In many dances there is contact between the dancers. In Russia, dance contact between men has always been perceived very intensely. In most other countries it is different. An example of the fact that this tension is associated only with the dance theme and does not apply to other areas is, for example, wrestling. When practicing techniques, men are in much closer contact with each other. Sometimes lying on the floor and holding each other tightly. The historical roots of Greco-Roman wrestling are also ambiguous from a sexual point of view. But in our country, unlike dance, they are perceived as acceptable and brutal.

Dance, like the culture of speech, makes a modern person more successful and self-confident. The ability to control one's body, tune in to another person and the ability to be aesthetic in the plasticity of movement is valuable in the modern world. If we add here the pleasure of the process and the availability of dance as such, then the possibilities of this activity can hardly be overestimated.

It's sad when interested people are stopped by prejudices and myths that have nothing to do with dancing. Freedom in body movements begins with freedom of thought and willingness to change.

I hope that this review will help to take a different look at the dance culture for those who still have doubts about whether to start dancing.

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How dancing changes the body - Live!

My friend, 35-year-old Vadim, teaches hustle at one of the Moscow dance schools. Looking at his toned figure and polished movements, you will never suspect that two years ago he weighed 30 kg more and was clumsy like a bear. One fine day, realizing that he already weighs more than a centner, Vadim signed up for dancing. The result is an excellent press (exercises for a flat stomach), a clear pattern of biceps, toned buttocks and strong embossed legs in a year. Vadim is convinced that dancing changes the body faster than fitness. Impressed by this story, I decided to find out what kind of bonuses for the figure and health to expect from serious classes in different styles of dance.

Belly dance

Bonus: thin and flexible waist, beautiful hips, strong legs.

Oriental dances increase muscle tone, tighten the whole body. “Sometimes a woman’s weight remains the same, and those around her unanimously say that she has lost weight,” says the LIVE! belly dancer Svetlana Abu-Hardan. Due to the constant retractions and ejections of the abdomen, the abdominal muscles are strengthened - straight, oblique, transverse. Intensive rotation of the hips removes extra centimeters from the waist, improves blood circulation in the pelvic organs, which is very important for the health of the reproductive system. Arm swings strengthen the muscles of the shoulder and triceps, which means that it will be possible to safely wear T-shirts with straps.

Club dancing

Bonuses: flexibility, strong back, arms and legs, flexible neck, stamina.

Do not look at the fact that everyone who dances hip-hop, house, break-dance and RnB walks bent over. In fact, they have very strong back muscles and excellent flexibility. Club dances require remarkable strength and endurance - for example, in the lower break, the dancer performs truly acrobatic stunts. “Practitioners of this type of dance can forget about dumbbells, exercise equipment, jogging in the morning - the figure will be perfect anyway,” says break dance instructor Irakli Minadze.


Bonuses: excellent posture, healthy back, mobile hands, beautiful legs.

Flamenco classes teach you how to beat a fraction, keep your back straight and arch your hands. After a couple of months of training, the hips and buttocks lose weight, and the calf muscles acquire a beautiful relief. That is why flamenco is ideal for those who have full thighs combined with thin calves - classes will help improve the proportions of the legs. Turns and twists work out the muscles of the back, so flamenco dancers with their excellent posture can be seen from a mile away. “I had a ten-year-old girl with scoliosis in my group,” says flamenco teacher Anastasia Morozova. - Mom specially brought her to classes to strengthen her back. A year later, the scoliosis was gone.

Latin American dances

Bonuses: toned buttocks, thin waist, strong abs.

In latin and salsa, from the constant "eights" legs, hips, buttocks lose weight, the press is tightened. The lifeline quickly disappears from the waist. Latin American dances generally intensively burn fat and speed up metabolism. “One week of active Latin dance classes replaces a two-month gym membership,” says Anastasia Nefedova, Latin American dance instructor. Still - so dance!

Strip dance

Bonuses: high chest, toned stomach, strong arms and legs.

This is where you can mold a figure in the shortest possible time. “You won’t recognize yourself after three months of classes,” says Dmitry Tsibulsky, Strip Dance teacher. - Muscles are stretched, fat quickly disappears. In addition, many unconsciously begin to eat less, because often you have to hold the weight of your body on your hands, so you want to become lighter faster. Striptease dancers don't eat much." By strengthening the muscles of the shoulder girdle, including the chest, the chest rises. To stay on the pole, and even more so to raise the legs in this position, is impossible without intensive work of the press, buttocks and hips. Hands that have to support the weight of the whole body quickly acquire a beautiful relief, even fingers are strengthened. In general, this is really a very fast, although not an easy way to mold a beautiful harmonious body.

Irish dance

Bonuses: strong buttocks, toned thighs, strong legs, sculpted calves.

“After a month of classes, I lost 7 kg,” says Irish dance teacher Varvara Emelyanova. - The greatest load falls on the lower part of the legs - the calf muscles, feet, but the hips are also actively strengthened. The upper body does not move: the head does not spin, the shoulders are even, the arms are at the seams. My legs very soon became similar to the legs of ancient Greek athletes. One session replaces an intense workout on a stationary bike. Despite the fact that the body almost does not work in the dance, after a couple of months of classes, posture improves and the press strengthens.

Aerobics: body-made

Bonuses: beautiful harmonious body.

Body-made is a new trend in dance schools that is gaining popularity. In fact, this is a dance fitness workout with strength and aerobic elements. All major areas are trained: chest, waist, arms, back, buttocks, hips and legs. “Without particularly straining, you achieve the perfect figure,” says Tatyana Ermizova, a body-maid instructor. - Remove the “knuckle” around the waist, strengthen the press, drive off excess fat from the hips and buttocks. The results are visible within a month."

Personally, I like Argentine tango. After six months of training, my back straightened, and my calves and forearms acquired a beautiful relief. These classes pushed morning running out of my schedule: my legs hurt after tango as if I had already run my kilometers. In addition, dancing in the evening with a partner is much more pleasant than running alone early in the morning.

How has dancing changed you?

Useful links:

Video classes "Belly dance" with Svetlana Abu-Hardan and a master class "Belly dance" by Alexei Ryaboshapka in the fitness video library of the club "LIVE!".

Learn more