I joined this site as a book/movie nerd and I maintain very deep roots there still.  But who says a person has to confine themselves to one particular world of geekdom?  The following is an essay I wrote for a class which I would like to offer up as a preliminary introduction to the newest love in my life.  I hope that something of my own passion for the subject will interest you my readers just a little bit.

 

             Dancing, as it turns out, is an activity intimately connected to one’s feet.  Which is not to say that it is limited to the feet exclusively, of course.  On the contrary, dancing—good dancing that is—engages the entire body.  But the feet especially.  We will perhaps address those other aspects of dancing some time, but just now I cannot think of anywhere better to start, in acquainting a person with dancing, than the feet.  This is where the groundwork is laid, you see, for the rest of it.  My particular area of expertise lies in swing dancing, the Lindy Hop in particular, so I would ask my reader’s indulgence to contain my references to that genre.  That being established let us consider a swing dancer’s feet. 

 

 First, we will inspect her shoes.  This is the simplest way to classify what sort of dancer she is—certainly easier than judging the arbitrary “quality” of her dancing.  If, for example, she is wearing  five inch, blood red, Jimmy Choo stilettos, it is safe to assume that this is a girl with less than no idea of what the Lindy Hop is, and is quite likely to roll her ankle and possibly puncture someone during the course of the night.  On the other hand, if she is wearing Aris Allens, suede-bottomed, black and white, wingtip Mary Janes you may classify her as a true Swinger, with a high probability of intimidating you with painfully technical air-steps at some point during the dance.  Our particular dancer has settled in the middle with blue Chuck Taylors.  This is the choice of the comfortable dancer.  She knows what she is about, she has fun, and she doesn’t take herself too seriously.  In the tradition of all great dancing shoes, and all great Converse, these shoes are well-worn, less blue than a blue-tinted steel color.  The treading under the ball of the foot is worn smooth.  The laces used to be white, but are now a sort of dingy gray that makes you think of rain puddles.  That cap on the toe seems to have more scuff marks than white rubber showing.  These shoes are asking to be out on the hardwood.  To put it simply, if these shoes could talk they would tell you that it don’t mean a thing if it aint got that swing. 

 

Let us now broaden our view just a smidgen.  We have seen our dancer’s shoes, now let us behold those be-shoed feet upon the floor.  As I say, dancing is all about the feet.  It is not as obvious as you might think.  Next to our girl, you see, is a fresh-faced initiate, new to all things swing.  She has been to one too many high school dances.  She seems to think that dancing consists of snakily weaving her body above impressively immobile feet.  In fact, if I didn’t know any better I might actually think her feet were nailed to the floor.  How does she keep her balance?  How does she communicate with her partner?  How does she dance?  Contrary to this beginner’s training, if you don’t move your feet, you’re not actually dancing.  Our girl knows better.  There are two great secrets to the Lindy Hop.  The first is simply that if you don’t know what is going on, make it up.  The second is that every step you take is always on the opposite foot  (except, of course, when it isn’t).  Perhaps this should have been the first secret…  So we see the feet of our swing dancer, alternating right and left, following the pattern of a basic Lindy swing out:  rock step, triple step, step, step, triple step.  Rhythmically it goes something like this: One, two, three-and-four, five, six, sev-en-eight.  She is swinging those triples because that is what makes it Lindy instead of Mambo or Cha-Cha—and any swinger worth her salt has attitude about ballroom.  It’s the first way you learn to spot the ballroomers, in fact.  They can’t break the habit of straight triples. 

 

But this is not all we notice about the swing dancer’s feet.  Over there in the corner is that guy who has been swinging for the last five years and still looks like a beginner.  He has feet, and good dancing shoes upon them.  He is even swinging his triples.  But he plants those feet like pile-drivers, plodding out his basic with a mundane regularity that would be impressive if it weren’t so boring.  But here’s the thing, the feet are where our dancer’s style begins, not just in where she puts her foot, but the way she puts it there.  The universal sign of life is a pulse, or so I’m told, and by that definition the Lindy Hop is a living dance.  The entire body pulses with the rhythm of the song, and that pulse begins in the feet.  Here stands our girl, lightly poised on the balls of her feet, cushioning her weight and distributing it through her feet, ankles, knees, hips, and back—each joint angled slightly to take its share of the burden.  It is almost magical how the floor doesn’t even seem to bear her pressure, so light is she within her own body.  When the time comes to step, she has a few options as to how she wants to do that.  Like that guy in the corner she can simply move this foot from point A to point B, quickly, heavily, and boringly.  Or she can hesitate; she could swerve; she might choose to slide instead of step.  Her interpretation of the dance begins with her very first step. 

 

Of course, no matter how it looks, ultimately the feet alone connect the dancer to the floor, bear her weight, and move her from here to there.  If she doesn’t keep them under her she will quickly find that, in a fight, hardwood conquers knee every time.  The lead’s first rule of dancing may be to protect his follow, but he can only do so much.  If she is determined to put her feet where her body isn’t his only resort may be to fall under her, thus offering her at least a slightly softer place to land.   This option is, for some reason, not especially popular amongst leads and if the follow persists in her heedless behavior she may find herself working on her solo Charleston rather a lot.  Of course, our dancer, with her Converse, her swung triples, and her sassy foot-work knows to keep herself centered.  She always keeps the foot bearing her weight centered under her body.  If, then, she finds herself off-balance she can blame her lead, as any good follow is allowed to do.