Many people ask me how important and necessary it is to use the tip of my foot during the dance. The answer is very simple and like everything in life there are pros and cons. But some precautions must be taken, especially by the educators, when dealing with the subject.
It is believed that the origin of the tiptoe came from the custom of dancing in high heels. Ballroom dancing environments used to be environments of high social sophistication, therefore the use of high heels was a common practice. Many dances still use this footwear but it is not always the most comfortable nor the most stable shoe. In some dances and communities the heel came off but the tip remained. In several other communities the use of the heel started to be questioned and the use of the heel started to be optional and many times discouraged.
Aesthetics enters neither the advantages nor the disadvantages. Aesthetics is something very personal derived from our personal tastes and customs. When we get used to see something in a way, that way becomes the aesthetic that pleases us the most. When we know a subject more deeply, we tend to find it more pleasant to see, what we know works better. So feel free to find more beautiful, whatever you want.
Advantages of using the tip.
1 – Reduces the friction between the foot and the floor.
Almost all dances for two have, in abundance, movements in which the foot needs to slide on the floor. Most of the time this glide is to follow the body’s turns. It is possible to rotate without sliding the foot on the floor, but this practice reduces the amplitude of the rotations and can generate great stress on the ankle, knee and hip.
Since sliding is so important, we first need shoes (or bare feet, or socks) that have a good friction relationship with the floor. If you don’t slide, you will gradually hurt your joints and lose range of motion to dance. If you slide too much, you lose the traction and cannot move easily. It is normal for dancers to have a small collection of shoes, especially those who dance in several places with different floors.
Once the healthy relationship between foot and floor is found, it remains to be understood that the fewer points of contact with the floor, the more easily friction is overcome, so the tip of the foot is ideal for those moments when we need to rotate. Especially turns, long and fast with greater comfort and safety for the joints.
There is also the possibility of turning with little friction using the heel. But this version is much less common and has fewer situations where it is a good technique to use.
2 – Agility in start-up
In dances that we need to have sudden changes of sides and a constant dynamic of acceleration and deceleration, the tip of the foot is very useful. Every step that needs to be used as an impulse to go forward gains efficiency if it is done with the tip of the foot.
Stepping on the tip of the foot does not allow us to swing the body backwards, this favours forward thrust. By stepping all the way on the ground, the body swings backwards as you lean your heel against the ground, which creates a huge delay.
3 – Height adjustment
We can easily change how much the heel comes off the ground by standing on tiptoe. This extension allows us to adapt to the size of our pair. For very large differences in height, the tallest person can always bend the knees a little more, so that the effort of adaptation is not just from the lowest person.
Many dances value stability of body height, in other words not bouncing. Care should then be taken to keep the height of the tip that has been chosen more stable, and even if the height needs to change within the same dance, do this in a more gradual and controlled way. The cases of abrupt change of height should be conscious when we want to make, in a purposeful way, drier movements.
1 – Stability
As we have already seen in Balance and Weight Transfer! How to Improve Your Dance All At Once! the base area is a crucial factor for balance. Therefore, by staying on tiptoe, we demand much more in our coordination to be able to maintain stability.
2 – Stamina
For those who are starting to dance, keeping the tip for a long time is a big challenge. It takes time to build up the strength and conditioning needed to use the tip with optimal control. Even for those who have been dancing for a long time, keeping the tip for hours at dances or other dance events is also a challenge to overcome.
2 tips to maintain stability?
1 – Don’t dance with your knees stretched out
As much as the base area is a key factor in balance, knee coordination is the most effective weapon to control the position of the center of gravity (is it confusing?, go back to the text mentioned 2 paragraphs above). To dance with stretched knees is to give up control and basically dance on wooden legs.
2 – Do not be afraid to put your heel on the ground
No matter how much your dance and your community uses the tip of their toes extensively, there is probably a multitude of movements that are more appropriate if done with the whole foot on the ground. And if you’re losing balance, it’s better to gently descend from the tip and recover than to have to take an unwanted step to restore yourself.
In my career I have met countless people who defend the tip, or the foot on the ground blindly. They learned that way and it became an absolute truth. There is no problem in having an opinion or a position, as long as it is based on plausible justifications.
In the community I dance in, tip practice is encouraged very early on, and the lack of discussion about its real importance and its advantages blocks the minds of many students. Many students end up spending years assuming that putting their heel on the ground is a crime, and this has contributed to their limiting their own dancing in addition to probably being a disseminating agent of the “cult” at the tip of their toes.
It sounds silly, but that kind of carelessness with information alienates and excludes. There are several people who, for innumerable reasons, cannot, or have an extreme discomfort in remaining at the tip of the toe. These people can be included in the dance if they understand that not dancing on the tip of the foot is totally possible.
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