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Latin Technique

International Latin Technique


Contents 1. 1 Latin Basics - Understand the Mechanics of Latin Dancing 1. 1.1 Posture and Hold 2. 1.2 Spine positions 3. 1.3 Leg Actions 4. 1.4 Feet Positions 5. 1.5 Body isolations and Figure 8 2. 2 Common Movements 1. 2.1 Forward Walks - Putting Spine, Hips, Legs and Feet together 2. 2.2 Back Walks 3. 2.3 Side Steps 4. 2.4 Forward Checked Walk 5. 2.5 Two Types of Direction Changes 3. 3 Lead and Follow 4. 4 Advanced Technique 1. 4.1 Flexible Turns 5. 5 Positions 6. 6 Styling 7. 7 Videos

Latin Basics - Understand the Mechanics of Latin Dancing


Posture and Hold
Posture:

Basic position of body: o Head, shoulders, ribcage, hip, leg, stacked up and connected, not tight, legs moves like scissors. o Tummy muscle pulled in o Shoulder is lowered: Really settle both shoulders down. ("Squeeze" shoulder blades down back center.) o Chest is release down to floor, no blown up chest, feeling of exhaling, let all air out o Look straight ahead Hold your own frame up o The body (center) should be very "lifted" and "up", otherwise Lady is heavy on Man. o Upper body: light; feet: heavy, sticky. This is like stepping in water. Arms above water, light. Feet below water, heavy. o No drop-dead elbows. Imagine a balloon under arms. The frame is "up" feeling, round with energy.

We try to create a large volume between us, slightly pushing away from each other. Think about opposition. Never break body in order to get more hip action. Have to keep basic fundamentals clear and then do as much hip action as you can. In Latin dances, weight is held more forward on balls of the feet. This allows more free movement in the hips.

The hold in Latin dances are closer than that of Standard dances.

Closed hold: o Man's L forearm to Lady's R forearm. Lady's L hand is higher on Man's R arm, around Man's R shoulder, rest on shoulder blade. o It's ok for forearms to touch (perpendicular to ground) or leave some space (forearm is forward), but never bend arm 'backward'. Keep tone in arm. o Fingers of man's left hand closed around lady's right hand. o Depending on height differences, Lady's upper arm is probably close to parallel to floor. o Stand about 6in apart from partner. Open hold: o (Lady) keep tone in the arm, elbow "out" or "down" - different instructors have different preferences. But the important part is to keep tone in arm. Some find arms on the side with elbow down is more natural. o Man should hold the lady's hand with thumb on the back of her hand, the first two fingers on the palm of her hand, with just tight enough a grip to clearly lead and communicate his position. o Lead at lady's waist level. o Stand at about arms length from partner.

Getting into position in Latin dances (basic way):


Man raises his energy and offers his left hand. Lady: pause, see, and sense.

Spine positions
1. Spine split between 2 feet. 2. Spine stacked over whole foot. 3. Spine over front of foot.

Leg Actions
1. Horizontal action: release back leg, track, move to front horizontally, front ankle directly below knee. 2. Vertical action: Contract thighs, pushing knee down and backwards to create lengthening of the leg. Common mistakes: reach from knee outwards.

Ladies: strive to keep legs together, minimize space between thighs.

Feet Positions
1. Whole foot (or Flat): feet lined up with knees (do not turn out foot, turn out is from hip socket). 2. Demi-pointe position (arch) - common mistake is missing this step and go directly to pointe position. Foot is placed so that from toe to ball of foot is pressing into floor, with the arch flexed. 3. Pointe: Feet are causing spine to move more. Foot is place so that only tips of toes are pressing into floor, with the foot straight, feeling of the heel being drawn into the leg, arch flexed. "Working from floor on and up" - it's the feet causing the spine to move. Common mistake: gravity causing spine to move.

Turn out o Foot is naturally turned out on backward and side steps. o Turn out is also on forward step when it's checked and followed by weight change to back foot. On forward step, tracking of moving foot is straighter. As weight is taken on to the front foot, the back foot will turn out naturally. o Amount of turn out: 1/16 to 1/8, depending on physique. Keep energy from feet at all times. For basic movements, feet should not leave ground. Feet should maintain the energy you feel when you stand on balls of the feet. o Pressure on the ground is what creates the grounded, solid look (as opposed to light). Feet should not be "loose" without tone. o When feet are in side by side position, the pressure is not to push out, the feeling is squeezing to inside thigh of both legs. o Practice by placing a piece of paper under each foot. For every move, the feet should be taking the paper with it. Hold the foot on floor as long as possible, then move foot quickly without missing stepping on beat. (Except for Jive). o This may initially look robotic, but is a very necessary foundation. Later, add in body movement. Footwork: mostly ball flat, a little more pressure on inside edge of ball of foot. o Part of foot is in contact with floor at all times. o Trailing foot: very important for the trailing foot to be turned out, also need to "break the ankle", "wing the ankle" - there is downward pressure from inside of ball of foot. (Think opposition.) o When stepping forward or to side, the heel of the other foot is released with IE of ball of foot in contact with floor, with "broken ankle". Track feet under body. o Moving foot from one position to another, the leg must track under the body. o All forward/backward open turns: start with step passing under body and then ending to side, back step, etc.

Terms used:

Transfer weight: foot has remained with pressure on the floor at the end of preceding step. (i.e. moving partial weight) Replace weight: pressure is released from floor at the end of preceding step. (i.e. moving full weight)

CBM and CBMP CBMP is a foot position where the foot steps the center line. Strong CMBP takes the foot strongly across the line. This is also called Latin Cross, Cuban Cross, or 5th position.

Closed 5th: back toe right behind front heel Open 5th: there is some space between back toe and front heel

CBM: Movement - taking opposite shoulder toward the moving leg. This is used in Shoulder to Shoulder and Spot Turn.

Body isolations and Figure 8


Whole body is working in figure 8 (not just hips). It creates the characteristics of the dance. It is about the internal state of the body. Anytime an external part is moved, think about how it's created using internal part of body. Core movements are connected to all external movements. 3 different isolations used in Figure 8: 1. Twisting (Practice with feet together. Straight knees.) Twist left and right. This action is most important. A lot of power. Really stretch (on 41). Get deeper in the action. o Twisting is when turn commences in hips only. o Rotational: hip rotates around spine. o Twisting in Latin dances is often associated with leg movement. o This is also the action for "settling" which happens on straight leg, on "&" beat. It commences hip movement, it often causes the other foot to move horizontally. 2. Compression: (Practice with feet together.) Hip moves laterally. For this exercise, do not allow hip to twist and move back. Squeeze, compress sides. o You could isolate hips without bending knees. Or, you could allow knees to bend. o Lateral: Hips move to left and right with minimal rotation. Some dancers dance ChaCha Chasse using lateral movement. 4&: the 2 steps have equal weight distribution. 3. Pendulum swing action: proper compression will create the pendulum action. o In practice, allow knee to bend, it creates more space. o In Latin dances, pendulum action is associated with weight/spinal transfer. "Cuban motion is the result of bending and straightening the knees" - a simple way of describing it in some studios when teaching beginners. Use muscle in the core to develop proper figure 8 action as described in details below.

Figure 8

Start with feet apart, straight legs. Compress on the left side, which creates L hip high, R hip low. Twisting: Keep the compression, then twist, still has L hip high, R hip low. Hips are on diagonal. This creates internal space. Do not allow rib cage to rotation with hip. When you twist and take left hip back, take left shoulder forward (not back) in opposition. Pendulum diagonally forward to right. Fill the internal space with body action. Now, R hip is high, L hip is low. Don't clip this short and start twisting early. To make action full with more power, finish pendulum action to create more circumference. Compress on the right side, just having R hip even higher. Transfer full weight on RF. Twist to right. Pendulum diagonally forward to left. (When there is a partner, the partners are working "in" toward each other. Keep body weight forward.) [Repeat]

The figure 8 body action should be going on through out the dance. Body needs to be active at all times. It could be slowed down, but not stopped.

Common Movements
Forward Walks - Putting Spine, Hips, Legs and Feet together
Every step commences with a slight flexed knee. Knee straightens just before it gets to its position. Combine spine movement with leg, feet and hip action. 1. Start: Spine over front of foot (in this example, LF), back foot (RF) in pointe position. L hip high, R hip low. 2. "&": o Internal action: twisting to left (horizontal action), causing R leg's horizontal action - Release R leg, track, ankle below knee o No weight on front foot/toe yet, but spine continues moving forward. o Keep steps small. 3. "2": o Internal action: compress on left side (vertical action), causing R leg's vertical action (compress thighs pushing knee down and back). R leg goes through pointe, demi-pointe, flat action (at this point, both feet are flat, split weight.) Spine is moving slightly forward. o L hip high, R hip low. hip is diagonal now. Do not attempt to increase hip motion by sticking head forward and butt back. There is no break at hip. Get hip, rib cage, head on one vertical line. Do as much hip motion as you can while keeping body alignment. o Push LF to demi-pointe to move spine forward, spine on whole foot, in the meantime, hips are neutral, but diagonal. o Continue LF to pointe, spine on front of foot, compress R side, this is

reaching the maximum, R hip is high, L hip is low, still same diagonal. At the same time, body should not bend backward. Keep body alignment. Do not isolate the upper body. The whole upper body moves as a unit. From shoulder, there is downward pressure, compress. Create curve flared front leg, it's on the edge of moving/twisting. o Finish with tail bone down. Use pressure on back foot, ankle downward. So there is good axis for swivel/direction change. o Back foot (LF) is turned out. (turned out toe will end in line with heel of front foot.) 4. "&": repeat on R side, twist to the right, release L leg. Repeat: RF: Demi, pointe, release, demi, flat, [LF: demi, pointe, release, demi, flat...]

Spine moves steadily over the foot and continue to move throughout the steps. o Spine and hips movement could slow down or speed up, but never stops. Feet and leg movement could stop. Feet are like the drums: sharp and staccato (it has a pausing action and then place). Connection actions: Do not place the foot without moving the spine (except when it's intentional delayed walk). You want them to be connected. Hip has connected movement with spine. o Pendulum action of hips is connected to transferring of the spine. When hips swings forward, spine moves forward. o Twisting action of the hips is connected with the movement of the legs.

Back Walks
Body/hip actions are simpler for back walks than forward walk. It just has lateral, pendulum action (only for consecutive backward actions) - no twist. (If figure 8 were to be done, it would need to be "backward" figure 8 to make leg move the right direction backward. Normal figure 8 is such that it moves legs forward, not backward.) [Use lateral, pendulum action only for consecutive backward walks.] Keep body weight more forward.

Start with RF in front. Weight on LF. Imagine a string pulling from left side to R toe. On "&", contract, squeeze left side (laterally), it pulls the string to move the R leg. Quick release the R knee. Connected movement (hip and leg). o It's important to release the foot ahead of the spine. Do not pull body back. Body is quite forward. o Accelerate front foot, Squeeze thighs as scissors. Allow knee to drape over (cross). Quick release, do not drag the leg back, do not let gravity take the body back. This actually allows for longer leg lines and faster/sharper leg action. o Track with inside edge of RF till it gets to the "important spot" where the two knees are "locked together" (the bones on 2 knees fits perfectly together). This is as big a back step as it gets. Keep it small, if the step is too big, butt/hip will stick out when settling on it. o Upper thighs are very close and tight. The whole time - keep body forward,

do not let it fall back, do not let gravity take the step. At this spot (this is the marker for all backwards steps), put RF down in demi-pointe position (demi in the perpendicular position, not too flat). Then roll RF down flat going to split weight position. Maintain the forward pressure on front foot (like elder's cane). This is the point when you have both feet flat. Do not start releasing front heel until back foot is flat, i.e. do not go on balls of both feet at any one time. Back foot has controlled lowering. (Slight turn out, not too much, otherwise the other foot is going to click on it.) Stretch the front leg, LF goes to demi-pointe, then pointe. At this time, hip is neutral, both legs are straight. (Always pointe front toe when stepping back.) o It's the pushing LF from flat to demi to pointe that made hips neutral. o Front foot (LF) should not slide on floor when RF receives weight. If that happens, it means momentum is dragging body back. Don't do that. Need to keep body in forward poise and use muscle to release LF and point it back. o There is no more settling, twisting in back walks, that would be pulling energy away from partner. Though this is walking back, the energy is still toward your partner. Contract right side, LF pushes the floor, quick release L knee, do not let body fall back on its own. Body is quite forward. (repeat)

The main difference in "41" between Forward and Back Walk


Leg in Back Walk accelerates ahead of spine and slowly accepts weight. In Forward Walk, spine moves and foot immediately accepts weight.

In Latin dancing, most often, spine moves steadily, but leg/foot moves faster and sharper.

Side Steps
Side step size: stand on one foot, point the other foot to the side (without moving spine). Step the other foot down, generally it's right under the shoulder. That's how much the feet are apart from each other. Keep pressing inside edge of ball of foot (IEBF) into floor. The feet moves the spine. Never begin to transfer weight until the stepping leg is straight. Example: stepping RF to right side (using Rumba timing):

"2": L side twist, RF track with inside edge to side directly to the spot. o (Not like other dances, if RF starts in the back, it does not go in to LF first and then out, do not do 90 degree angle.) o At this time, full weight is still on left leg, RF IEBF is pressed into floor. o Compress left side to straighten R leg. place right heel on floor. o Step size: Ankle below the shoulder for the side step, not bigger. o Allow R leg to straighten at the same time moving spine to a split weight position. Straight, split weight on flat foot. o With two straight legs, both heels on floor, roll using inside edge of the feet. Roll onto RF, feet moves spine. Outside of LF peel off floor, till it can't peel anymore, go to demi-pointe, and then to pointe when it's appropriate (When pointing - use sickeled ankle, ankle aiming down the ground.)

Pendulum action to diagonal right. R hip is high, L hip is low. "&": R hip twist to draw inside edge of toe close to the other foot. heel leads the rest of the foot, pressure IEBF of LF on floor maintained until left heel is brushing right ankle, left knee crossing in front of right leg. o Two feet are closed now. o No artificial "tick" tilting pelvis forward. center/spine moving is a result of figure 8. "3", Pendulum to left, moving spine to straight L leg. Compress L side to get high L hip, low R hip. "&": L hip twist, connected action sending R leg out to side, slightly diagonally forward. Opposition. "41": repeat similar to count "2". Spine shifts to right. o on "1", hips should not move beyond the leg line, i.e. do not break body alignment.

o o

While Rumba Cucarachas (feet closes) and Cuban Rocks (feet are kept apart) are traditionally executed with both heels remaining on floor, it is now often seen in competitions, and acceptable, to create the line with the free foot. (Lift heel of the foot without weight, pressing with IEB for greater extension.) During the whole exercise:

Weight transfer should always happen through pressing IEB. Never bend knees to push. Keep upper body as still (and flat) as possible, don't let shoulders move toward the direction hip is moving. Work on isolation. Practice this slowly and then gradually increase speed.

Forward Checked Walk


This is the action used in Rumba basic.

2: LF fwd, basic technique. o Start with split weight, both feet flat, R hip high in back, L hip low in front. o Push RF to demi-pointe, hips pendulum o RF to pointe, hips pendulum, diagonally fwd, finish (compress) all the way with spine on the foot. Do not disturb body alignment. &: L side twists. Twisting causes R leg checking action, with R knee goes to the spot. start preparing moving back. o RF in demi-pointe, arch perpendicular to floor (as much as possible). ("broken ankle"). o Back foot (RF) does not move, it stays in same spot. o In Rumba, weight is over whole foot - which is Forward Checked Walk. (Some instructors say it's 70-30 weight split.) In Cha Cha, it will be Forward Check Action and weight is more back. o Finish L side twisting to back. 3: Push LF to transfer weight to WF on RF, R hip diagonally fwd right (yes, RF is back, R hip forward)

&: R hip twist, connected movement - L leg to side. L hip diagonally fwd.

Two Types of Direction Changes


There are really just 2 types of direction changes (though the amount of turn could vary). Tap in the power of standing leg - standing side. 1. Swivel to outside: Rotate to outside of your standing leg. e.g. turn to Right when RF in front. o Whole spine over whole foot. Key: as part of previous forward walk, make sure spine keeps moving forward till it's completely over the foot, finish the hip pendulum action to swing diagonally up (without disturbing the body shape). (With hip up, the twisting has larger circumference.) Leg and upper body is on straight line, no bending line at hip joint. (Think about level fruit basket.) Test - completely over the foot. Do (ballet) passe to test. Should be able to stand on the foot without adjustment. Hips are locked down, rib cage sits right on top - whole solid axis o Pull the right side back (twisting R hip), swivel on axis. Twist the core, not using shoulder. o For basic swivel actions Do not pause and have free leg hang by standing leg before stepping out. (Advanced dancers may make conscious choice to add accent.) Make it all one action, moving foot continue to the position where ankle below the knee, then use vertical action to push knee down and stop at split weight position. Then, add more twist (hip going back), but spine is moving forward. create internal space. Do not do delayed walk after turning (i.e. do not extend from knee and spine didn't move with it). Make sure ankle comes under the knee and then press knee down. Spine moves as free leg straightens. 2. Forward Walk Turn: turn to the inside of the standing leg. e.g. turn left, starting from RF in front, split weight position. o Axis to rotate around is not completely over the foot. It in the middle/center of the 2 feet. o There is pressure on the back toe. o From split weight position, feet flat. When rotating, use the pressure of the back foot, rotate around the center axis. o Energy comes from the back foot and leg. Apply pressure on ball of the feet and turn. The pressing causes the turning. o This is not heel turn. Turn is made on ball of foot while keeping foot flat. The other foot (e.g. RF, the one originally in front) stays flat while turning on ball. Keep pressure on ball of LF foot. Do not rise and turn on ball of both feet which will make body "pop up". Body height stays flat. o Ending with LF on demi-pointe, proping cane, straight legs. Body is still forward. o Make sure spine does not keep on moving back during the turn. This allows

either forward, backward, side movement. Compress on right side to continue. To continue moving backward, pointe the foot, release knee and move back. To continue moving forward, continue to twist hip, lower heel and press to flat and continue. In some figures, "Forward Walk Turn Action" is used, it is referring to the use of pressure in the back toe to rotate and turn. The back toe will keep pressure. In some dances (Rumba, slower), sometimes, you'd want to emphasize the full transfer of the weight to standing leg (for brush action in Alemana). For Switch Turn, do the normal Forward Walk turn because it's much quicker.

When practicing these specific points, eliminate all other extra little things that the body (arms, hands) tends to want to do. Turns can be either sharp, quick, sudden OR steady, slow sustained - two contrasting energies.

A turn made on supporting foot before next step is placed starts at the end of preceding step (previous '&' or 'a' beat). The amount of turn in Latin dances are not so exact. Express yourself.

Lead and Follow


About partnering:

Appropriate weight: always the minimal amount necessary to do the job. Lead: o Physical: good physical lead o Visual: be very aware o Verbal: not used very much in ballroom and latin dancing. But there are some auditory cues - sound of breath, is used slightly, sometimes by advanced dancers. Follow: Always follow the spine. o Lady could be too early - don't do that. do not go ahead of Man, always commit fully and transfer weight, solid steps. o Be very aware of partner's transfer of weight. Make conscious choice. o Lady is "echoing" Man. Delay action: seeing, sensing and then doing.

Advanced Technique
Flexible Turns

Direct turns (as discussed in Common Movements): this is basic technique, everything move in one piece. Switching actions is direct turns. Flexible turns are more advanced: upper half is going to go first, then the lower half. This helps to create the sharp look. o Swivel: twist upper body as much as you can, creates torque, delay foot, and then at the very end (before the beat), very quickly unwind and places the

o o

foot. Turns can be sharp even when music is slow. Examples: Cha Cha Fan's last "4&1" to Alemana, then flexible turn on Alemana's last "4&1" to detect whether Man is leading side chasse or forward (lock) steps into Closed Hip Twist. Hockey Stick "23" turning 1/8.

Positions
1. Closed position o Normal Closed Hold: 6 inches (15cm) apart from partner o No hold, L-to-R hand, or R-to-L hand hold. 2. Open position (Bronze, Silver & Gold) o Facing and away from partner, about arms length. o L-to-R hand, R-to-R hand, no hold, or double hold. 3. Fan Position (Bronze, Silver Gold) o Lady at 90 angle to Man on his L side on an imaginary line about 6 inches in front of him. o Man's L hand hold Lady's R hand. o Man feet apart, weight on RF; Lady LF back, weight on LF. 4. Open Counter Promenade Position o V shape with Lady's L side close to Man's R side. Distance may vary. o L-to-R, or no hold. 5. Open Promenade Position o V shape with Lady's R side close to Man's L side. Distance may vary. o L-to-R hold, R-to-L hold, or no hold. 6. Right Side Position o Lady is on Man's R side, both facing same way 7. Left Side Position o Lady is on Man's L side, both facing same way 8. Contact position (Silver/Gold) o Facing partner with light body contact and normal hold. 9. Promenade position (Silver & Gold) o Lady on Man's R side and Man's R and Lady's L side towards each other, slightly apart. o The opposite side of the body turned outwards to form "V". o Normal hold 10. Right Shadow Position (Gold) o Lady on Man's R side slightly in advance, both facing same direction. o Three different holds: Hold 1: Man's RH on or below Lady's R shoulder blade, LH holding Lady's LH, wrist or lower arm. Hold 2: Man's R arm is behind lady's back, RH holding her LH and LH holding her RH. Lady's arms arcross front of her body below chest level with her R arm above her L arm. "Cuddle Hold") Hold 3: Man's RH on or below Lady's R shoulder blade, LH holding her RH in front of the bodies just below chest level. Lady's L arm is held across front of her body, just below or above the joined hands.

11. Tandem Position (Gold) o Lady directly in front of Man, both facing same way.

Styling
See Latin Styling which describes what Latin dynamics are, body design, the use of space, hands, arms and other points on styling.

Videos
Subpages (1): Latin Styling

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