Waltz Rise & Fall
Rise and fall? According to my first coach a more accurate description would be rise and return to a neutral position.
That neutral position would be standing upright (with good posture!) with your toes, heels, knees, and thighs together. Even though you are standing up straight, try not to ever lock your knees when you are dancing, it puts unnecessary strain on your joints and creates more work for you. Got that? In between every set of rise and fall this is the neutral position we return to. Try walking around and finding that position again every few steps.
In waltz the first part of rise and fall is actually the fall. Start in your neutral position, and bend your knees (still staying upright with good posture!) until your knees are even with the tips of your toes. Try not to let your knees wander away from each other, we want them to stay touching throughout this exercise. This is as much "fall" as we need to start with. If we take our normal waltz count, 1 - 2 - 3 and subdivide it into six parts we get 1 - & - 2 - & - 3 - &. Our fall only takes up the first half of the one count so as we practice this by the time we finish saying "one" our knees should be just over our toes. Don't worry about trying this in the waltz box yet, we haven't gotten there quite yet, just practice it standing in place for now.
Our rise, on the other hand, takes four of those subdivided segments of our waltz count. It starts at the end of the one, or &, and continues until the first part of the three. Starting in our fall position with our knees over our toes, we roll to the balls of our feet on and, go up on our toes on 2, slightly unbend our knees on and, and completely unbend our knees on three.
Now to link it all together we return to our neutral position on the second half of three. Here are the steps and counts for our stationary waltz rise & fall practice exercise:
1 - we "fall", putting our knees over our toes
& - roll to the balls of our feet
2 - rise to our toes
& - slightly unbend our knees
3 - fully unbend our knees to reach the maximum height of our rise
& - return to our neutral position with toes, heels, knees, and thighs, together
Here comes the fun part. Adding this to our waltz box instead of practicing it standing still. Don't forget, our steps are going to be counted with a simple 1 - 2 - 3, while our rise & fall is subdivided into 1 - & - 2 - & - 3 - &. To keep things simple we are going to run through this exercise from the lead's point of view. Follows you are doing the same steps and rise & fall just starting in the middle when the lead steps backwards.
Let's get into our neutral position. From there we "fall" as we take our first step, forward on the left, just like we would if we were walking to the kitchen for a snack. Reach out with the heel of that foot only as far as is comfortable. Don't try to overreach yourself. Once you have reached out roll through your whole foot from heel to toe still maintaining that fall position. This is called a taking a heel lead, we'll get more into that in another post. 80% of your weight should now be in the ball of your left foot.
Step two: Reach out to the side with the toe of your right foot. This is where your next step should land. Again, don't try to overreach yourself. Take it nice and easy. Push off of your left foot onto the ball of that right foot without moving either foot. Ideally you should now find yourself split-weight (having your body weight almost evenly balanced between both feet), on the balls of your feet, and still in that fall position with your knees over your toes.
Next, we finally get to leave that fall position that has been brutally murdering your leg muscles. Continue rising through your right leg and draw your left foot to your right until you have halved the distance between your feet and your legs are almost straight.
Now we need to continue rising through our legs until our feet are together again and our legs are straight without locking our knees. Our weight is mostly on our right foot (80%) with the left leg as a stabilizer (20%).
To finish, we transfer our weight back to our left foot and return to our neutral position. Check yourself here. Are your toes and heels together? How about the rest of your legs? Did you lose any of your posture? How many times did you look down?
As you keep practicing this pick one thing you need to work on on top of your rise & fall and add it to your practice exercises. Don't try to add more than one. It's nearly impossible to focus on more than two things at once. Keep adding one layer at a time and before you know it everything will start falling into place. The first exercise, without the box, is an excellent way to build up the muscles in your legs to perfect rise & fall. Even if you have the room for a full box, warm up with a few repetitions of the stationary rise & fall exercise before practicing rise & fall in your box.
If you would like to see an article on anything in particular let me know through the contact page and I'll get to it as soon as I can!
Disclaimer: This article is meant as a supplement to in-person instruction. It is not intended as an instructional piece to teach you how to dance. Key components of dancing can only be taught in person. To schedule a lesson visit our Lessons & Classes page.