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Spinning

One of the key areas of dancing which people fall down on (often literally) is their turning and spinning. Spinning is actually easy as long as you obey some simple rules and practice on a regular basis even on your own, if you have some spare minutes each day.

The Correct Foot

How many times have you heard people say they can't do a spin or a turn because they are wrong footed. The rule for which foot you should be on is easy - ALWAYS STEP ONTO THE FOOT OF THE DIRECTION OF THE TURN. Which means if you are turning in a clockwise direction then your weight should be on the right foot and if you are turning in an anti-clockwise direction then the weight should be on your left foot. This is actually quite natural (there will be times though when you may need to break this rule).

The Ball of the Foot

The weight must always be on the ball of the foot and you should feel the floor pressing back up towards you. Never let your body rise up as you spin (only ballet dancers go up on point), keep straight and tall but keep your upper body level.

Centre of Balance

One of the reasons a coin spins so naturally is that the centre of balance and the centre of mass remain fixed as long as the coin stays in an upright position. Keep tension in your arms and mirror your positions on each side. If one arm is extended and the other in close then your centre of balance is to one side and you will go off balance. Never place a hand behind the back, (unless it is a lead spin, then it has no impact) not only can you not control your rotary momentum, but if you are the follow you may not be able to pick up a lead that is being offered - you are literally dancing with a hand tied behind your back.

Don't Look Down

One of the reasons that people become dizzy and disorientated when spinning and turning is that their brain loses the connection between what is happening to their body and the fixed outside world. If we look down or up when spinning we are reducing our field of vision and our brain tells us that the world is spinning and not us. As this defies the laws of nature the brain's response is to create dizziness, nausea, and in extreme circumstances, a complete shut down i.e. we can even black out. If you keep your head up and focus on a fixed point in the room, your partner is always a good idea, then there is less chance of this happening. If you are practising then alternate the direction and this will help overcome dizziness.

All in the Hips

Take a coin and holding it by its edges at the top try to spin it. You will find that the coin won't spin it will simply fall down flat. Now take the coin again holding it again by the edges but this time half way up - behold a perfect spin. Many people attempt to spin by leading from the shoulders, twisting themselves to achieve momentum - unfortunately like the coin being spun from the top you will achieve very little. You can use your arms and shoulders to give your momentum* but lead the spin with your hips. If you are turning clockwise and are forward on the right foot, then bring your left hip forward holding back with the shoulders. You should spin perfectly!

*you should only need to do this if you are dancing alone, when you are being guided into a spin by your partner, you should have enough momentum from the 'spring/tension' between you to start the spin.

Low Energy

With spinning less is definitely more. Don't try too hard, keep the energy low and aim for smooth acceleration rather than throwing yourself into it.

The Friction Factor

Whenever you spin there is always the friction of the floor acting against you - ice skaters have low friction from the ice and therefore can achieve many more spins than dancers. Wear a smooth soled shoe (trainers just won't work) and again stay on the balls of the feet as there is less contact with the floor to hold you back. If you are wearing shoes that grip or are dancing on a sticky floor then simply step round when you spin - it's a lot easier.

Spotting

Spotting helps to reduce dizziness. Either focus on your partner or a point at head level in the room. Spotting on a partner implies that the stationary or unspinning partner should not move around too much otherwise the spinner loses orientation - i.e. keep still. To practise what the head should be doing, focus on one point, then start to walk your feet around slowly, when you reach the point at which you are about to lose eye contact on your spotting target, whip you head around to the other side and then walk the feet back around to the starting point.

Tip
  • Starting off with a half spin (180 degrees) is a great way to build up confidence and prepare for a full spin.