In previous weeks, I discussed aspects of the first two types of connection in partner dancing: connecting with the music and connecting with your partner. This week, let’s look at what it means to connect to the floor (which, in the list of three, many take as an expression of my oddball sense of humour). So long as gravity is present, it might seem that “connecting to the floor” is more or less the default connection. But really, this aspect refers to a host of technique that will improve your dancing significantly.
To begin with, think about how you place your foot onto the floor with each step. Many newer dancers step in much the same way as they might step when walking – make first contact with the heel, then lay the rest of the foot flat onto the floor (or vice versa from toe to heel). To smooth out your salsa step and create a more positive floor connection, think about rolling your foot down and “peeling” it back up (rather than a straight lift) from heel (or toe) to the other end. This takes some practice at first, and mindful focus as you begin to introduce it into your social dancing. It does payoff, though, in both better style and – more importantly – less wear, tear, and strain on your ankles, knees, and hips. To extend this idea a bit further, rather than initiating the step by lifting the leg and bending at the knee, think about pushing from the hip on your break steps (the 1 and 5). This not only makes the step smoother, but encourages weight shift to achieve those sexy salsa hip movements!
Another important aspect of “connecting with the floor” has to do with turn balance. Simply put, to properly execute a turn that is safe, be it a spot turn in place or a travelling turn, you want to ensure that your centre of spin is vertical at all times, and perpendicular to the floor. In this regard, the best advice I ever received was this: Keep your feet directly under your body. The moment you become out of alignment for any reason is the moment that you may well lose your balance and spin off into never-never land (aka into the arms of another partner, or into the wall).
And speaking about turns, it’s useful to remember that many turns in salsa are “pivot” turns, which means they are ideally executed by pivoting on the ball of one foot that essentially stays planted in place during the turn. That “planted pivot” grounds you, enables you keep your balance, and helps you stay in time with both your partner and the music.
Three key connections. Master them and you will become someone people love to dance with.