Avoiding “The Heel Turn Hell”


Heel Turns: They are a beast to learn, deceptively easy once you think you have learned, but then, like so many things in dance, they feel challenging again once you realize what perfection really looks like.

Part of the importance of perfecting heel turns is similar to the need in travelling Pivots, [if you haven’t seen, here is the article on Pivots]. The impact of each dance partner on the other is significant even when a move or position is only slightly off. As well, adjudicators tend to pay a lot of attention to the quality of heel turns as one way to separate couples. Will this, understanding how to avoid heel turn hell makes sense for every ballroom dancer.

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The first part of perfection is knowing the main challenges:

1st Challenge – The word Heel Turn is a bit misleading.

  • It suggests to a follower that the follower turns on the heel, which is not the case. The follower is turned.
  • A good way to remember this is for a lady to remember that in a heel turn… He Will Turn YOU!

2nd Challenge – It looks like the turn is on both heels, when it is not.

  • The turn happens on one heel, then on the other.
  • In fact, the heel turn actually happens on a flat foot, with the weight on the heel.
  • Pointing toes to the sky will reduce balance, which is never good.

3rd Challenge – Common complaint of followers, of the feeling knocked or pulled down by their partner during the turn.

  • Leaders need to enter the heel turn with Contra body movement (CBM), and allow the weight shift of the followers before a turn is initiated.
  • Leaders also need to get around the followers before initiating the turn so the follower can use their momentum, and not feel pushed.

4th Challenge – Timing of weight shifts in the turn.

  • When the follower is closing their feet, it is tempting to close it too quickly.
  • A good way to prevent this is to think of only partially pulling the front foot back, to allow for the partners’ momentum for the completion of the close.
  • You can  then transfer your weight to the closing (left foot) at the end of the turn.

When all is good, or getting good, you then practice… and practice again…

Author: Miss P [Celebrate DanceSport]
Photography: Egorich.ca
Exclusively for Dance Comp Review