"Dancing Tid-bits" Issue #85, Thursday, Jan 17, 2002

Dancing Tid-bits
Waltz: A lesson with Pierre Allaire

A few weeks ago I told you who Pierre Allaire is, the Canadian legend of ballroom and Latin dancing with his wife and partner Mereleux, the 10 dance star of North America. I like him as a coach/teacher because whatever he says, I can understand and do. Nothing seems to be too controversial and out of this world.

He started his group lesson by telling us about a conference in Holland that he attended or knew about in which were present almost all the world class coaches. The panel of these experts was asked the following question.

Question: What is the most important feature of the modern day Waltz? The consensus was in the following answer.

1. The Swing: Actually it is hard to remember how he exactly explained the swing, so I will just quote from Dancing Tid-bits #16 that I wrote several months ago.

"Rise and Fall is an important aspect of Swing Dances. Swing Dances are Waltz, Slow Foxtrot and Quick step, and Viennese Waltz of course. We will base our discussion on Basic Waltz today. The term Swing Dance could be a little confusing to American dancers because we relate this to Swing Dance, like Jive. Actually when I heard this term for the first time I didn't know what exactly it meant. Then it got so complicated with terms like metronomic swing, pendular swing, upswing, downswing, that I thought it was about time to make some sense out of it. So I started teaching swing as a simple "Feeling" thing rather than a mechanical motion. You have heard "Less is more." So, with beginner students, first I will just walk the steps and tell them, this is "one way we can dance." Actually then I say "we are really not dancing, we are just walking the steps." Now I get them in a little mood and start swinging... "Come on Swing a little, like this." Steps get a little longer and I tell them to do a little "waltzing," up and down and they really start to swing and dance."

Do we swing our legs, hips or bodies? You will get different answers from different people, so I play safe and say that a little of everything. I wont say that I swing my spine. By now I hope you know what is the difference between just walking the steps like forward, side, together and swinging the steps to create waltz.

I dont know whether Swing creates Rise and Fall or vice versa. It's like asking, chicken or the egg first? You tell me. This I must say, you have to go down before you go up.

2. Closing of the feet: How simple and how complicated. The students are not to blame. You tell any student that closing the feet neatly is an important part of waltz and they would do it right away. I feel that many times teachers (I dont mean you) dont point this out in early stages of training and therefore many of us get into bad habits. I do recall a lecture by Andrew Sinkinson in Cobo Hall (Detroit) spending almost the whole hour demonstrating feet closure and stillness and balance of the body. So what does it mean; of course it is closure of both feet toe to toe, heel to heel. So, if you have patent leather shoes, you better put some petroleum jelly on the inside of shoes.

Use inside Halves of Feet; I keep forgetting this aspect of footwork and I am glad Mr. Allaire pointed it out repeatedly. The transmission of weight is through the lower end of Tibia, to Talus and then to inside of the arch of the foot.

Why Natural turn is called Natural Turn? Because lady is slightly to right of man so right side is naturally dominant like weight hanging on your right shoulder. He then emphasized basic and doing consistently the same thing again and again. I also noted that when pointing to the pressure in the toe of closing foot, he said neither too fast nor too slow. If you take much time there, then lowering on 3 will be rushed. Makes sense. Again I left with an unsatiable appetite for a little sparkle of choreography but as I said you can't have it all in 1 hour. Best wishes for a great Swinging Waltz...Max

PS: If you would like to meet Pierre, he will be teaching a Cha Cha technique class on Wed, Jan 23, 8 PM at Dancesport Academy of Micigan located at 23666 Park in Dearborn, Micigan.

Questions and comments to Dancemax@aol.com, thank you.

This article is part of and should be seen in the frame context of Dancesport UK, Tid-bits