You’ve probably had the experience of falling out of a spin down the line. Even when the spin starts great, it can fall apart as you exit the spin. In this exercise, we’re going to fix a common reason why your balance can collapse at the end of a spin.
When you spin down the line, you almost always need to change the direction that you face during the spin. Regardless of whether you are following or leading, you start the spin on one side of your partner and you end the spin on the other side of your partner. Hence, you are facing towards the opposite end of the slot.
That simple 180° change wreaks havoc with spins, because you are entering the spin moving forward (towards your partner) but you are ending the spin moving backwards, away from your partner. As you learned in the point and poke exercises, and then practiced switching between forward and backward movement, you need to change where you move from when you switch directions. However, many dancers don’t make that shift: they continue to move from a high place even when exiting the spin backwards, and as a result they lose their balance.
In this exercise, we’re going to apply the concepts from the point and poke drills to spins. If you haven’t worked on those exercises yet, you should do so first. In fact, it’s probably worth your time to spend a few minutes warming up with those drills before continuing on.
The Drill: We’re going to practice this drill with the follower’s inside roll footwork, but you can apply this exercise to any traveling spin. You’ll start this drill without a partner; you can add a partner once you understand the mechanics.
As a quick review, the follower’s inside roll occurs on counts 3&4 of the six-count footwork. The follower steps forward with her right on one and preps while stepping forward with her left on 2. From there, she turns one and a half rotations to her left, with every step of the triple traveling straight down the line.
When you enter this spin, you are traveling forward on counts 1 and 2 and continuing the forward motion on count 3. So, go through the spin slowly, and point your finger forward from your chest as you step up through count 3.
On count 3&, whether you are moving forwards or backwards will depend on how much your rotated on count 3. Notice where you are as you step your 3&, and either continue pointing or switch to a poke (i.e., poking your finger towards yourself, just below your navel) as necessary. If you aren’t sure which you should do, try both and see what feels most balanced.
By count 4, you should be facing towards where you started your turn and traveling backwards to finish moving down the slot. If you haven’t switched to a poke yet, do so now.
After you try switching from point to poke in the middle of the turn a few times, deliberately try a spin wrong: start the spin with a point and continue moving from that high place even when you are finishing the turn on count 4. You should be able to feel the difference: when you lead with your upper body regardless of whether you are moving forwards or backwards, you will be unsteady as your upper body leans back at the end of the spin. Now do it again, switching to a poke at the appropriate time.
Becoming fluent in switching between point and poke movement in the middle of spins is a huge factor in how balanced your spins will be. Even if you start the spin with perfect balance, you will struggle to complete the spin if you don’t switch to a poking movement at the right time.
Continue practicing until you can make the switch consistently, then try doing it without actually moving your hand between the pointing and poking positions. If you can still execute the switch without the cues from your fingers, slowly build the speed of the spin until you can execute it comfortably at dancing speed.
Picture by Petr Dosek