Swing Discussion Boards > turns

Discussion in 'Swing Discussion Boards' started by suek, Dec 14, 2003.

  1. suek

    suek New Member

    I was gonna title this I Suck at Turns. I won't because I'm trying not to be so negative to myself.

    However, I'm well aware that I have a big problem with balance and direction in turns and would like your thoughts on this dilemma.

    It's appalling. I can balance on a wobble board, on one foot, and roll down (articulating my spine, top of the head first), all the way down and then all the way up again and keep the edge of the board from touching the floor. Add movement and a partner and put me on the dance floor and all that skill goes out the window.

    Since I started talking about it with my pilates trainer who's a dancer, another swing dancer and a ballroom dance teacher/studio owner, I've had three separate pieces of advice: 1) take beginner ballet, 2) take beginner jazz and 3) don't do either--they take you out of the floor--and just practice practice practice. Drill spotting, take turns workshops when you can and work on turns for five minutes at the beginning of every private. (Responses in the same order as in the first sentence in this paragraph.)

    I'd appreciate your input.
  2. Sagitta

    Sagitta Well-Known Member

    All three responses will definitely help.

    I found that doing drills has helped me.

    The ballroomdancers.com learning center had a good lesson of the month some time back on turns.

    One of the suggestions was practicing doing partial turns. For instance, do a 45 degree turn, balanced on your right foot, in clockwise direction. If you can do that without losing your balance in the least, then do it counterclockwise direction. If you do both fine then increase the degree of your turn, e.g. to 60 or 90 degrees. This way you slowly increase the amount you can turn, making sure that you keep your balance as you advance from one stage to another. :)

    Also spotting really helps. When I don't spot I get off balance. When I do spots my turns are easier. :)
  3. danceguy

    danceguy New Member

    Hi Sue,

    Yikes, please don't be so hard on yourself! I'm very bad at turns too...and I have the same issues...amazing balance from nearly a decade of tai chi practice...and while it does help with my dancing...its also tough to break such ingrained habits! :shock:

    Firstly...360 degree spins were always a no-no from every Gongfu teacher I've had (more than a dozen), so it was something I was trained NOT to do. Upon taking dance, my body fought against doing it, and still is to a great extent. I remember at a dance sometime ago there was a lesson on some Charleston steps (I think that's what it was, I know little about it), and the teachers were spinning on their ball of one foot and turning 180 degrees in the opposite direction. Upon trying it, I was able to keep my balance ok, but again my body had been taught not to do this and it was extremely difficult for me to let all that go. However, after I started to work on that same turn, I remembered one MA style I had done that had a turn like this (with a nasty kick attached to it), and I had never been able to do it, and not only that I had a mental block against doing so. So in my spare time I've worked on that same turn and got much better, but I have a long way to go for it to be decent.

    Another thing...it is quite different for me to keep my TCC balance at higher speeds. I do Tai Chi very slow...sometimes taking a minute just to do one move...so speeding it up to dance tempo is quite awkward.

    Here's an interesting tidbit though. I just got back from a Salsa workshop...and the teachers taught us some balance postures. I was screwing everything else up...but when she went through these I suddenly was home. She had us doing a balance posture by standing up on ball of one foot and then she said "now find your center." I could have stepped up and hugged her...a classic Qi Gong practioner and I bet she never knew it. :)

    Hmm, to answer your question...all I can say is practice, practice, practice and take workshops and privates for turning. At that same workshop a lot of time was spent on turns, and while I was totally lost and dizzy...I learned so much about myself its not even funny. So, there's much practice for me to do on turning, and well as taking some lessons from those fantastic instructors.

    Best of luck,

  4. Giselle

    Giselle New Member

    I agree, finding your center is important. Turning well also has to do with holding yourself up, using your abs to keep everything else still. Shoulders down too. I had a ballet teacher who once said to think of pulling on an imaginary string that runs through your body up through the top of your head upward, to keep everything straight and tall. I always think of that when I get sloppy with my dancing in general, but it also helps with turns. Hope this helps
  5. suek

    suek New Member

    omigod, that's just like a tai chi principle I used as a student and a teacher for years and years...the string that comes from heaven and is attached to the top of my head that allows everything to hang straight. I haven't thought of it once since I started dancing. Now that's embarrassing. Gotta go practice some more.

  6. danceguy

    danceguy New Member

    Sue -

    Just watching some very advanced Salseras today and hearing them talk about center and balance showed just how much ancient Chinese MA and Salsa have in common. Slightly bent knees, straight torso and the string to the heavens? God must have surely intended me to learn both. :)

    Do you find the same for Lindy?
  7. suek

    suek New Member

    I'm trying to. Amazing how the tai chi training has stayed in its compartment, for the most part, and how I'm just now seeing how I can put the balance I learned to use in my dance.

  8. d nice

    d nice New Member

    While ballet and contemporary/lyrical jazz classes are great and will teach you how to do spins and turns... they will teach you ballet and contemporary/lyrical jazz spins and turns... which is not the same as lindy hop spins and turns.

    Now you will certainly leaqrn alot about your center and balance, which can only help you as you learn how to be lead into spins and turns in the lindy hop manner, but do not confuse learning solo work in another dance as being a replacement for learning/practicing how to spin/turn in your partner dance.

    Three things that make turning/spinning imcompatible at times from the solo work mentioned and the Lindy Hop method of turns and spins are,
    1) the ability to allow yourself to be lead into turns (oddly enough, if you relax and allow the leader to move you you'll find that a number of balance problems will actually resolve themselves),
    2) that full spotting is useful maybe only as much 50% of the time, the rest of the time in lindy hop, the follower should be leading with her head into turns.
    3) that standing upright or rising in a spin/turn is completely breaking your Lindy Hop posture which will infact make it harder for you to follow a move not easier, in the context of this dance.

    My personal recommendation is to take privates. A qualified teacher should be able to break down how turns and spins work in the dance of your choice, give you drills to help improve your balance, and teach you solo turning drills but also how they apply to being lead, all with the appropriate body posture.
  9. pygmalion

    pygmalion Well-Known Member

    Hmm. Disclaimer: I know nothing about lindy!! But one concept that is really helping my turns is what my coach calls "the separation of the church and state." Meaning, use your upper body to lead the turns, and allow your lower body to follow and complete the turn. Turns become so much easier that way, because your upper body creates a momentum, and sort of pulls your hips, feet and legs through. Hard to describe, so some private lessons might help. But once you understand the feeling, it's pretty easy to practice on your own.
  10. d nice

    d nice New Member

    Funny, I use the same technique, and the same phrase.

    Yes this is important... but also the primary factor for followers turning themselves if they have experience in solo dance forms... the follower in led turns has her upperbody moved by her leader (or more to the point he initiates its movement which she is suppossed to maintain so there is one uniform rate of turn guided by the leader the entire time) rather than just doing it herself.

    Learning how to recieve the lead on turns is difficult.
  11. suek

    suek New Member

    Dnice, I've studied this with you some, and clearly need to refresh. This is what I know (in my head, maybe not so well in my body):
    -keep frame
    -let the compression build through connection (locking down frame as the lead for the turn comes through the arm)
    -allow myself to be led!

    There's probably more I didn't retain.

    About the rest, I agree with you and Gwen that it's better for me to practice drills my swing teachers give me and to add turns practice to my privates and put the ballet/jazz solo stuff on the shelf for now.

  12. suek

    suek New Member

    I am feeling so much better about all of this. I took three hours of classes tonite, and felt some improvement in my turns and my balance. And--probably even more important--was able to identify problem areas and get input from my teacher (thanks D!) on stuff to drill and how to do it.

    I love what Damon said on the way out of the studio: I told him this stuff is getting harder and harder, and he said it means I'm getting better.

    Maybe he was joking, but it felt great to hear it.

    I love dancing, and I pray every day that I get to dance one more day. With luck, I'll dance tomorrow!
  13. d nice

    d nice New Member

    You are getting better. You know me and compliments... if I say them I mean them, even "off the cuff" statements.

    The surest sign you are getting better is realizing how bad you are... and it is also the surest way to continue to improve... it is when you think you are good, have little or nothing left to learn, that you stop learning.

    As my old roommate used to say about dancing, "Humility is empowering." -Joe Price 1999 A.D. :lol:
  14. jon

    jon Member

    I always find it funny that we expect followers to be doing multiple spins all over the place, but if a male leader does even a double, his follower is likely to be going "ooh! aah!". Perhaps with tongue planted firmly in cheek :)
  15. Swing Kitten

    Swing Kitten New Member

    I'm coming in late... some of my thoughts

    Hear Hear!!

    This is very interesting -- I've been taught to see the body as an instrument... this developed in acting class and was further enforced by puppetry, painting, drawing, sculpture, Tia Chi, pottery, and most recently dancing. These are excellent ways to tune the instrument and hone skills. It's interesting that one type of learning would limit another... although it stands to reason I've learned to look at it differentlyas I see that everything is connected to everything else and in this way each craft adds to the other-- i.e. learning pottery has helped me become a better puppeteer which actively contributes to my dancing etc. etc.

    Next... it always makes me smile when D nice touches on the mental notes I gather when reading the thread --- he always has a lot more to say about it... but I get an little "yay!" out of it.

    Also in general I think I tend to lower my center of gravity a tad during my spins (not that my spins are anything special-- but I seldom fall over so I figure I just might be doing something right) just a little extra squating (I'm not sure if squating is the best word)-- I think that's when I 'use the floor' most noticably
  16. pygmalion

    pygmalion Well-Known Member

    How about "flex in the knees, and connect to the floor?" Sounds like you've been reading Edie the Salsa Freak's turns and spins article. :D Good stuff.

    (Hope you've having fun! :D )
  17. suek

    suek New Member


    Yeah and what I love the best is the close connection between humility and humiliation. :roll: But you know what, it's paying off. Hip hop for example. All those months of feeling completely humiliated; that feeling is going away. I may never have the 'tude right; I can still get better and better with practice.

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