Salsa > Swaying the hip thing

Discussion in 'Salsa' started by AquaDancer, Sep 9, 2003.

  1. AquaDancer

    AquaDancer New Member

    Anyone got any advice for us people that just can't seem to master the hip motion of latin dances?

    From past training in not moving in the hips I find it extremely difficult to move the hips even doing the proper weight changes and foot work.
  2. youngsta

    youngsta Active Member

    Disclaimer: I am not an instructor! :D

    It's all in the footwork. If you're shifting your weight properly and centering yourself over the balls of your feet (never let your right heel touch when breaking back) the cuban motion will be there. Guys should practice isolating the ribcage area.
  3. borikensalsero

    borikensalsero Moderator

    The actual swaying of the hips is caused by a drop of the knee, if you would like to accentuate even further then be on the ball of your feet. You can dance flat footed and still have a sway of the hips, all because you are bending the knees.

    I've seen many people trying to sway the hips to no success. Yet, when they walk they have a natural sway of the hips. That is because when a person walks they must do so by bending the knees, and more so if landing on the ball of the foot. If you notice, just lifting your knee up will cause a drop of weight on the side which has just been lifted.

    When swaying the hips don't do the side to side thing with the knees that a lot of people mistakenly do thinking is what causes the sway. Just bend the knee naturally forwad and it will have no choice but to sway the hip. It is human plyometrics/human physics.

    Try so by just locking the knees and trying to sway... Not possible! The knees have locked the midsection. Now stand and just bend the knees, right, left, right, left, you will see the booty sway side to side. Bang!! That so called cuban movement, we all have it, except some of us have a better ability to move it...

    Be relaxed, and when droping one knee, let the weight follow in that direction. After you are good with that, stand with the knees bent and try moving your but back and forth, side to side, then in circles. Soon, you'll be doing the rumpshaker. :D
  4. SDsalsaguy

    SDsalsaguy Administrator Staff Member

    As per the other responses, the hip motion does not come from the hips! More then anything else it is related to proper use of foot pressure. Cuban motion results from stepping—with pressure—onto the inside edge of a turned out foot and rolling your weight outward, around the front of the foot, towards the outside edge of your foot.
  5. Vince A

    Vince A Active Member

    Listen to what these members say . . . you see, back in July I was asking a similar question, and I received many tips and points of instruction and exercises from the members on this site. My question was mainly for Cha Cha, but I was just beginning Salsa at the time.

    Believe me, with the exercises and what was suggested, my Cha Cha is totally different in just these few months . . . not to mention that Salsa is getting easier and looks much more natural!
  6. mellody43

    mellody43 New Member

    Rumpshaker! :lol:

    I love it.

    (Reminds me of that annoyingly catchy Puff Daddy/50 Cent song "Shake Your Tailfeather" -- hehe!)

  7. msc

    msc New Member

    It helps to use a bit of ab/lower back strength to circle the hip. The legs and feet actually increase the volume and the speed of the hip motion, but the ab muscles and the lower back create the basic twisting shape. The basic idea is to roll the area between your bellybutton and your spine in a figure eight, then the hips will follow that roll.
  8. pygmalion

    pygmalion Well-Known Member

    Also, don't give up.

    I starting doing my Cuban motion drills every day for months before my hips started to move. You're basically re-teaching your body how to do certain movements, and that takes time. Every instructor and professional I've talked to about this still practices their Cuban motion regularly. The motion will come. It just takes time and practice.

    There are also some videos out there with drills for Latin motion, that you can practice with. I have one that's pretty lame, so I won't recommend it. But I bet other folks can make recommendations.

  9. MissAlyssa

    MissAlyssa New Member

    IT'S ALL IN THE KNEEES! (I am a dance instructor :lol: ) I do a test on new latin dancers. I tell them to move their hips without bending their knees (the funny thing is they try, and what's even more funny is watching them try) I know, sounds mean but it gets the point across. You CANNOT move your hips if your knees don't bend, it's physically impossible. The more you bend, the more you shake yo groove thang!!!
  10. msc

    msc New Member

    Nah, I think the hips bend the knees (actually I'm certain of it.)

    How could Int'l Latin dancers possibly have any hip action at all, since they frequently step onto a "straight leg?"
  11. brujo

    brujo New Member

    Try this simple exercise:

    Put your feet about shoulder length apart and stand up straight. Lock your left knee and make sure your entire foot is touching the floor. Now bend your right knee so that you're standing on the balls of your foot. You will see that your hips are leaning to one side ever so slightly.

    The whole motion of the hips is caused by the footwork, if you look at the exercise above, you will notice that if you straighten out your bent knee and lock your other knee, your hips will now be leaning to the other side.

    Of course, when you are salsa dancing, you probably don't want to lock your knees, but the level at which you bend your knees should be different due to the way your feet touch the floor.

    Think of the motion of one of those stepping machines in the gym, lay one foot flat on the floor and keep alternating between the left and right legs. Step in place and you will see that the transfer between the left foot and the right foot causes your hips to sway left and right.

    hope this helps.... It's the illusion of a straight leg, but the foot that is travelling should always be joined to a bent knee.
  12. SDsalsaguy

    SDsalsaguy Administrator Staff Member

    Ok, this is not about salsa per se but, as msc is alluding to, one of the characteristic and fundamental differences between American Rhythm and International Latin style ballroom involves stepping onto a flexed vs. a straight leg…and both styles certainly utilize Cuban motion.
  13. borikensalsero

    borikensalsero Moderator

    Here is why there is still a hip motion when you step on to a straight leg. The bend is taken of the knees but its picked up by the feet. The feet now are in-charge of the hip sway. If you want to test, stand on the ball of your feet and then bring one foot to a flat position while leaving the other on the ball. You will see a drop of weight, follow that drop with your hip and bang, cuban motion without the knees, yet it can't truly be as described as true cuban motion because of the stiffness of the legs, and upper body. Yes, To some it is cuban because of the sway of the hips but to others it isn't because cuban motion to its "folk nature" has never been danced with anyone part of the body "stiff", some parts straight, yes, but not stiff. It was the introduction of european/american styles to cuban motion that lead people to believe just that the sway of hips alone is true cuban motion. The blending of styles is what we now have, even Eddie Torre's uses an anglo/latin style of dance. The sway of hips is in all truth part of cuban motion, but not in its entirety.
  14. msc

    msc New Member

    Exactly,boriken, though I wouldn't say the motion is supposed to be stiff, it can certainly look that way. Here's my problem: once you learn to move your hips off of a straight leg (using power through the foot and leg to power the motion,) if you try to use a bent leg, you end up with way too much motion. Which is fine, if you're talking about a move that requires a lot of hip action. Also, I find, that I have a lot more foot speed when using a straight leg, as opposed to a bent leg, which really helps with the faster salsa and chacha songs.

    My memory could be a little hazy, but I thought the whole "bent leg" idea was introduced by Arthur Murray, because he felt Americans couldn't do the hip action off of a straight leg. I know I read that somewhere ...
  15. borikensalsero

    borikensalsero Moderator

    Hmmm... The bent leg thing might have very well been introduced to Americans by Arthur Murray, I'm really not sure. But the action of cuban motion done with the legs bent has always been so for Cubans. Hence, looking at a cuban folk dancer doing the yambu or any other dance of cuban origin their motions are always done with bent knees. If there is too much sway when trasfering the bend from the foot to the knees it really means that the sway has become a forced muscle memory, as opposed to a nutural musle memory. It is difficult to unlearn muscle memory. The difference being that the muscles keep the same sway when transfering the task from the feet to the kneens because they have been forced to learn it that way, hence its inability to keep its natural rhythm in relation to the movements of the legs, just because it has been forced to learn a movement which isn't natural to the body. Different people have naturally have more sway than others, limiting that sway becomes unatural to them, hence the biginning of forced muscle memory, and awkard movements when body position/technique changes. The muscles forget their natural movements and have begun to have, although still natural, an unatural to them movement.

    You mention feeling as if you have a lot of more foots speed dancing straight legged as opposed to bent knees. It might be so because you are used to it and feel more comfortable doing as your technique calls for. But the speed at which you move your feet is increased by a bend in the knees. This is seen in speed drills time and time again. The faster the foot or legs have to move the more the bend on the knees, to a certain degree. The reason is because carrying your body weight on straight knees is an abnormal movement for the body. It doesn't allow the muscle to reach maximun capacity for they are already fully streched. Power and agility come from a flexed to contracted muscle. The more muscles invloved the faster and stronger you can do that task. The bend of the knee also brings the center of gravity down, which adds to agility. So for agility purposes the body automatically bends the knees, hence why when we run the first thing that happens is we take a crouching like stance. The body readies itself to flee in the fastest, most agile physical way it finds and that is by bending the limbs, which cause the involved muscles to performe at higher level, in both speed and agility.
  16. SDsalsaguy

    SDsalsaguy Administrator Staff Member

    OK, again not relating to salsa per se, but there is an increased speed to straight-legged action. Simply stated, if you arrive on an already straight leg, no time is spent in straitening it! This is one of the reasons that American Rhythm cha cha has, historically, been seen as being slower and less powerful then International Latin cha cha. The reality, of course, is simply a difference in technique…and, contrary to much misconception, almost all of the top European judges I’ve asked about this do recognize the American style, flexed-legged version as being more authentic (i.e. closer to the original forms from which it derived).
  17. Vince A

    Vince A Active Member

    Since you mentioned cha cha . . . the Pro that I dance with has been working me more and more to get a very . . . as she puts it - "staccato look" - does this sound right to you???
  18. SDsalsaguy

    SDsalsaguy Administrator Staff Member

    Depends. What style of cha are you working on? If it's country cha, then I have no clue :?

    If its "club", then there's a twofold answer: (1) you're social dancing, who cares (!), and (2) most club style cha cha is not very staccato at all.

    If you're talking American Rhythm, then it dance-wise or competitive? Socially, closer to club style – note my post above, for instance, regarding Rhythm being viewed as more stylistically "authentic" by top European judges. Also keep in mind that pushing through from a flexed to a straight leg provides greater Cuban motion but, at the same time, provides for a less staccato action. Competitive Rhythm is a bit more defined...clean actions being part of what is judged in competition after all, hence the use of a flexed (and not bent) leg.

    For International Latin, then staccato is very much the name of the game and, as you'd expect, all the more so for competition. You’re arriving on a straight leg, so the foot actions are, in fact, very staccato.

    As a final point though, keep in mind that these points are all in reference to foot actions and the resultant hip actions – the body should stay active and engaged throughout!
  19. borikensalsero

    borikensalsero Moderator

    I do see the fact that one can spend less time getting from point A to point B in a song with a straight leg because there is no time to spend in bending the knees, which translates to a much more compact motion, and quicker looking moves. Which leads to my question, Maybe someone with ballroom dancing expirience can clarify it for me. Wouldn't the very fact of a quickness at first with straight leg keep a dancer from reaching maximun speed? I don't mean looking briskier, but the actual top speeds that a dancer can reach? Even if the speed looks briskier/Quicker on a straight leg, it doesn't mean that the dancer can achieve his/her individual top speeds. In a song we must all hit the same beats at the same time. Compact dancing whether straight legged or not leads to compact movement ultimately faster moves up to the point, where the respective techniques will go against plyometrics, unavoidably the dancer has no choice but to reach a platau before reaching top speeds. Although a dancer feels he can go faster he won't because a limit on the body has been reached within a given techinque. So while body/leg movements looks briskier because of the straigh leg, the speed at which the feet transfer from "A" to "B" is the same. There is a limit as just how fast the feet move without the aid of helper muscles.

    I've noticed that when I want to do a shine pattern to song like MamaGuela I find myself getting closer to the ground and increasing the bend on my keens, and the faster the song goes the more balancing with the upper body to compansate for the speed at which the feet are moving I have to do. My technique is very compact so I don't look all over the place. I ask the question and make this observations because my dance expirience is limited to Social Mambo. However, the depth of knowledge on the human body is pretty extensive and it causes me to question until I'm satisfied with an answer. :D
  20. SDsalsaguy

    SDsalsaguy Administrator Staff Member

    Excellent, excellent questions boriken! You are, of course, absolutely correct regarding an absolute limit on foot speed. What makes the straight-legged action “faster” is not that the foot arrives any sooner but, rather, that the full body weight does – your weight is already entirely over your foot. This, in turn, enables a faster redirection of weight. Also, just as a point of clarification, the knees do, of course, bend – its just that they’re bent while in transition and arrive straight. I’m not saying, by any means, that this is the only definition of or mechanism for speed …and I certainly don’t dance my salsa this way, I’m just providing what I understand to be the case based on the ballroom Latin & Rhythm dancing to which I’ve been exposed.

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