Ballroom pivots are often a source of admiration and angst. The continuous partnered rotation, moving straight down line of dance looks absolutely amazing when done well. Pivots can however, be a source of major challenge, and cause more than their fair share of partner arguments. These are 10 tips for beautiful ballroom pivots, which will certainly help.
Part of the problem with ballroom pivots is that they look deceptively simple. The truth is however, that they can be considered a milestone in ballroom proficiency given the requirements of very specific foot position, weight change, body position, and partnership balance. As well, ballroom pivots are unique in dance. The pivots in jazz and salsa hardly resemble ours, and are typically simpler than ours unless there is significant choreographic variation. With this, previous dance experience may not help much.
To start, let’s understand the definition of the classic ballroom pivot:
- A single pivot is a 180 degree rotation of the bodies of both partners around common axis.
- During the rotation, the ball of the standing foot swivels on the floor to a maximum of a ½ turn.
Now, let’s look at the components of a ballroom pivot:
- A strong clear heel-toe step of the forward moving partner, establishes the location of the common axis and the momentum for the pivot.
- The stepping foot is along the path of the other foot for a contra body movement position.
- The contra body movement position supports a clear right side lead, and the ½ turn swivel of standing foot enables partners to exactly exchange positions while moving down line of dance.
- With this change in position, the partner that initially set the axis and initiated the momentum of the turn, now receives the position and momentum from the other partner, to complete the next ½ turn.
Finally, it is important to understand that balance, rotation and responsibility make the difference to success:
- Turn from the base, with a light and static connection at the top.Propelling the turn from the top will cause you to loose balance.
- In stepping forward, keep your foot straight forward with your knee and thigh also straight forward.A slightly turned in foot is typically OK because it keeps your weight centered, and your knee and thigh will still face straight forward. An even slightly turned out foot will make you more likely to overturn, loose couple balance or change the direction of the line that the pivots follow. The foot that steps back, also needs to be straight.
- Ensure that your weight is fully on the standing foot before you turn. This supports balance and precision for an exact 180 rotation on the ball of the foot.
- Make sure that your ribs are compact and not puffed out, your chin is parallel to the floor, your pelvis is straight and held right under your shoulders, and your knees are soft. This all just good form, but in pivots, you cannot get away with cutting corners.
- Your legs need to be held in a locked position, with your thighs together, firm and connected to your partner.This establishes a solid common base for your couple, and is important to make the pivot possible.
- Take the momentum from your base and think of moving your sides from one side lead position to another. This supports a clean vertical rotation, exactly around the common axis, by exactly 180 degrees.
- Keep the heel of the back foot off the ground at all times to prevent a harsh stop to your movements.
- If all of this is done correctly, the pivot should look and feel effortless. Undue body tension, will draw weight to the tense area of the body and will unbalance you.
- Practicing will show you the amount of power you need to drive the right momentum. Too much power and you will not be able to do a clean position change to 180 degrees. Too little power and you will not get to 180 degrees.
- Both partners have completely equally responsibly in dancing. Pivots show this point very clearly. Some people claim that it must be their partner’s fault for problems with pivots, because they are able to do them perfectly on their own. The fact is that on your own, you can often compensate for small errors. It is harder to hide errors with a partner. If things are not going well, check the detail of everything you are doing first, then figure out what you need to do together.