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DANCE LESSON OF THE MONTH - TURNING ACTIONS

The Pivoting Action

DEFINITION:
A Pivoting Action is a turn taken in the same direction as the forward foot.

Introduction
The Pivoting action is another very simple yet important component in the spectrum of turning actions. It too is the foundation of many other turns, including Alemanas, Open and Closed Hip Twists, Pivots, Pencil Turns, Ronde Turns, Ochos, and basic Cha Cha Crossovers. Even the Chanie turn, to be examined in a later lesson, is really just a type of pivoting action.

To familiarize yourself with the Pivoting action, step forward with your right foot making sure that the weight is fully committed to the foot. Then turn 1/4 to the right with the weight remaining on the right foot, allowing the left foot to brush together in third position, slightly behind. Repeat this action, each time turning another 1/4 turn, and paying attention to balancing the weight over the right foot.

The same turn should be practiced on the left foot, turning to the left.

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Where's the Axis?
As in the Twisting action, the axis of rotation is based on the vertical alignment of the shoulder over the hip over the ball of the standing foot. Balance is lost when one or more of these three points falls out of alignment. If you recall from the previous lesson, Spins & Turns, the use of this "Side Axis" causes one side of the body to remain in place, while the other side rotates around it. In this case, the side of the body corresponding to the standing foot is the stationary side, while the side corresponding to the free foot is the actively rotating side.

Execution
When taking the step in preparation for the turn, lead with your right or left side as suggested in the chapter 4 of the previous lesson, Spins & Turns. You have many choices with respect to the footwork and leg action, depending on the context of the turn. For our purposes, let's stick with a simple one: Step ball-flat and keep both legs straight throughout.

Stepping onto the foot, make sure that your weight arrives completely over it. Establish a strong vertical axis from shoulder through hip to foot. Keep your center picked up under the ribs, with tone in the leg muscles created by the turnout of the legs from the hips.

Using the muscles in the legs and feet, turn the lower body into the direction of the forward foot. If the right foot is forward, turn to the right. If the left foot is forward, turn to the left. The free foot should brush into 3rd position behind the weighted foot.

Special care should be taken to maintain the alignment of the shoulder, hip and foot through the axis of rotation. It is a very common mistake to rotate the shoulder backwards in attempt to create additional rotation. It is far more important when learning the pivoting action to focus on maintaining the axis than to attempt as many turns at once as possible.

Degrees of Rotation
Turns should be practiced both to the left on the left foot, and to the right on the right foot. Varying degrees of rotation can be practiced, starting with quarter turns, then half turns, and then ultimately full turns. It is pointless to continue attempting a specific amount of turn that's out of your league. Stick with simple movements that enable you to focus on maintaining axis and balance, and graduate yourself slowly over time.

Variations of the Pivoting Action
There are even more variations on the Pivoting action than there are on the Twisting action. Here are just a few:

Open and Closed Hip Twists: Don't let the name fool you... a "Hip Twist" is not a twisting action, it's a pivoting action (a turn in the direction of the forward foot). The hip twist is usually a Latin element, generated by the settling of the hip action. The standing leg remains straight, and the free leg bends as the foot brushes in, allowing the hip to settle. The settling or "twisting" of the hip initiates the turning action.

Pencil Turns: Pivoting actions of a full turn or more, where the feet remain in first or third position, are sometimes known as pencil turns. These are some of the most difficult turns to master, because they require a strong sense of axis and opposition of muscles necessary to generate the rotation.

Pivots and Chaine Turns: Not all pivoting actions are spot rotations. Some actually involve progressive rotation. Case in point: Pivots and Chaines. The issue of axis becomes quite complex during these types of turns, because the body weight (and the axis as well) continues to travel between steps rather than balancing over one foot. The complexity of this topic is such that it requires a dance lesson devoted entirely to it.

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