Class Tip #2 … Where Is Your Weight?

Remembering sequences of steps and combinations is one of the most challenging aspects of dance for many students. Mastering individual steps and movements is one thing, but stringing a series of  them together, particularly if the combination travels, can be an added obstacle that presents itself time and again, possibly robbing the student of much of the joy they came to dance class to get in the first place.

If you continually find yourself with “two left feet” once the teacher gives the class more than one step to do at a time, one of the concepts that may be the source of your frustration is whether or not your weight is on the foot it needs to be on.

 Think about this: just because a foot is in contact with the floor, doesn’t mean there is weight on it.

Figure out: if I place my foot on the floor, do I put weight on it, or not?

Can you: tell whether there is weight on your foot or not? Is the difference clear to you?

You must develop the sense of where your weight is and be able to control where it is and where you want it to be. 

This may seem obvious, but I see students struggle with this almost every day. Lots of times, a student will place a foot on the floor but not actually step on it, with their body weight. Other times, a foot needs to be in contact with the floor but not bearing any weight. And in many cases, both feet have weight, but that weight is primarily on one, using the other for stability. Unraveling all that can take deliberate internal attention, a skill not everyone may have at first but that one needs to develop if they’re going to progress in most kinds of movement.

Not every class or every teacher will include this kind of nitty-gritty explanation for a variety of reasons; there’s not enough time, it’s not part of their teaching style, it’s not that kind of class, many students don’t want to spend time on it, and the list goes on. This is a concept that many folks feel ought to be implicitly understood, and for many, it is, but if you’re a person for whom this is an ongoing issue, and you’re unaware of where the problem lies, and it’s not covered in any classes you take, then you’ll always have difficulty. You’ll say things like, “I’ve always been uncoordinated, and always will be,” “Some people are born dancers and I’m not one of those people,” “No matter what I do, I never improve,” and so on. I find this situation to be a terrible shame, and it doesn’t have to be that way.

The concept of knowing where your weight is can be confounding and take quite a bit of internal body sense at first … and why wouldn’t it? Walking and transferring weight from foot to foot is completely automatic—as well it should be—and going inside your own automatic physical sensations to analyze what is going on, and then deliberately doing something that your body usually does all by itself can be a lot of mental work that not everyone finds fun. Breaking things down and then reassembling and controlling movements is a fundamental, root skill that every dancer does no matter what their level or style. Knowing where the body’s weight falls, where it should be falling, and where it needs to go next is something every mover needs to do, whether they’re a baseball player, martial artist, acrobat, or dancer.

I know, I know … this sounds like work, and that’s not what you may have signed up for dance class to do! Yes,at first it IS work, and it can be tedious for awhile, but the good news is that eventually, with patience and perseverance, it becomes automatic. It’s a skill that you’ll use in any movement context. Your internal awareness will improve, and you’ll have developed lots of neural pathways and awakened brain cells that have been asleep. And best of all, it will make your dancing more fun, more artistically satisfying, and more beautiful to watch … which is what you’re after, right?

Please, if this issue is plaguing you in class, don’t give up! It is well worth the struggle to go back to the basic fundamentals of what you’re doing, figure out where any problems lie, and fix them. This takes patience and time, but it will unlock the freedom you need to progress and ultimately develop the self-expression only your dancing has. The confidence you gain by really analyzing—perhaps with the assistance of a good teacher—what you’re doing on a deep level will show in your dancing and general enjoyment of life. Challenges will be fun because you can say …

“I can figure this out!”