“If you would only use your feet…more!” This was my dance coach’s constant lament. Every lesson, at some point, revolved around my feet, the use of them, or lack thereof. Jock McGregor was Scottish, he was an English and European champion several times over; he had the authority, and he had my attention. My understanding took a long time to come.
For McGregor, the quality of movement had to come first. Without serious attention to developing the use of the feet, the sought after quality of movement would not come. His generation didn’t indulge in excessive descriptive detail. They gave you the concept, mostly in the abstract, maybe transmitting the feeling of it, and simply kept coaching until you brought it into being. Once you didn’t hear the constant drone of “no, that’s not it, do it again…”, you could assume you were beginning to do it. That was positive reinforcement. Whenever I presented some problem I was having with some aspect above the waistline, he would characteristically respond by telling me to check my feet first and suggesting that a great deal of the problem would correct itself if I attended to my feet.
Peter Eggleton stressed the importance of feet just as strenuously. Only it always seemed more integrated. He would teach us patiently, with great attention to the minute details of the “use of the feet,” meditating on precise details such as striking from the outside edge of heel, rolling through and exiting from inside edge of ball of foot, depending on the step in question. He challenged us to master the technique and discipline of the use of our feet for ballroom dancing: precise and correct foot alignment, footwork, and how we use the feet with the floor.
I hope to have an opportunity to share more from my lesson notes from both of these teachers. Right now, though, you can gain inspiration and some immediate insights into the importance of the use of the feet in your dancing thanks to William Pino.
In an absolutely excellent lecture, given for the 2013 Series of The Camp, in Wuppertal, Mr. Pino amply demonstrates what brilliant “use of feet” looks like, and presents the questions that will motivate us; “It is very important that we know that the relationship between our feet and what we do with them is at the base of ballroom dancing. There is an amount of time that I spend on them. There is a proportion I use from that time. There are a lot of things [about the final result] that are connected to them.” Mr. Pino asks us: “How many lessons in minutes, how much time in minutes of your practices, do you spend on your feet? How much information in your lessons is given to you on the subject of your feet versus perhaps information on the area from the waist to the head?” He suggests perhaps 5 minutes out of 5 hours.
Let me suggest you watch his lecture.