The Physics of Dance Master Class by David Hamilton Notes, comments and interpretation By Paul Hughes

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Further Resources:

The Physics of Dance

Physics and Dance


Alignment of blocks of body weight:


Upper Torso, Ribs and Back

Hips & Center

Legs & Knees

Not vertically aligned or stacked blocks of weight on top of each other like boxes above your legs. If all 4 blocks of weight are lined up you are not moving. You will be stiff in movement and less expressive. The blocks should  be counterbalanced.

Head – back à

Torso – Ribs & Back – forward ß

Hips & Center or Core- back à

Knees – forward ß

Never should all four blocks of weight move in the same direction at the same time.

Need to use blocks of weight in order to move.

If you pick up feet and shake it around, you will not move, unless you move one of the blocks of weight in the direction you want to move.

In order to move when taking a step, tilt your head forward.

Move ribs and back backwards.

Decide which blocks of weight to move to create movement.

Which one do you use to counter it so you do not fall? They always counter each other.

Coordinate the movement.

When you lower weight with gravity it is natural for the core and center to go backwards to balance.

Sit more back with your hip weight when lowering. Keep ribs and back forward so you do not fall backwards and to make a connection with partner.

Ladies in poise position keep head back and ribs and back forward so as not to pull away from partner and be back weighted as you would when you take ribcage and shoulders back.

When you move backwards you need to send something forward or you will fall.

To stay balanced the blocks of weight counter each other.

You can move in any direction by even taking one of the blocks of weight out of alignment: such as just head, ribs, hips, or knees. Your body will fall in the direction of the movement. Not breaking down every little movement you make, you have to determine according to the feeling of balance, character of dance, what foot you are on, etc, which block of weight should be leading. (Shifting block of weight out of balance precedes movement.) Pushing or pulling a block of weight in the direction of where you want to go using your head, ribcage, back, hips, or knees. You will catch yourself from falling by taking a step and moving in that direction.

The point is, it does not matter which direction you go, you should have a primary block of weight that is leading it.

Release weight into left leg, release the weight from gravity, grab hold of right hip, create a pulling sensation, backwards from that hip, until it pulls you off your feet.

Instead of picking up right leg, and dance into a weave or feather finish, use hip to pull you off your feet.

If we pull from the ribs, back and hips we are in trouble.

So if the hip is pulling backwards, something has to be countering forward. What block of weight is sitting on your hips? Your ribs and back,upper torso, counterbalance to create more balance and control from falling backwards too fast as you release the weight. Better balance and more control to move. If you pull back from your ribs, back and hips you will fall backwards guaranteed. Use the word pull vs push. Even going forward there is a pulling sensation rather than pushing sensation. Pushing feels hard and heavy. Do not push your partner over. Pushing make you leave the foot faster. Pull from front side of rib cage, rather than pushing from back muscles until you have to move in that direction of the pull. If rib cage and back is pulling backwards, then your head weight is forward to counterbalance and keep from falling back too soon.

Primary thought, if the weight is forward, on balls of the feet, use other blocks of weight to continue to move using ribs or head weight. Do not use 4 blocks of weight at the same time. Keep spine lined up. Do not lose posture.

Stand on left leg using block of weight of the hips into the knees and there is pulling sensation to rise up into promenade, shift hips back the other way, bring shoulders and head forward, use leverage to rise and counterbalance. Bring hips back and pull the ribcage forward. Every time there is a specific block of weight leading. Use hip weight to lead and everything else follows. Control movement with counterbalance. Specific block of weight will initiate movement. To create rise the hips are under the body. The blocks of weight work in opposition. When lowering body weight the hips are behind your knees. When you raise your body weight, the lower blocks of weight are now lined up to keep balance.

Standing with partner  on opposite feet and connect with hands and pull away with hips, the other blocks of weight work in opposition to counterbalance.

Bring knees and hips in and pull other parts of body away. Balance and connection feels stable.

Stand side by side with partner on the right side with one hand hold with weight on left foot, right foot free, specifically move feet into shift weight, rise up, knees and hips backwards, with upper body forward. No leading skills involved, just shift own blocks of weight. Partner could feel that it was very balanced and responsive with connection. Communicate connection through specific blocks of weight.

Put partner on right side on left leg, knees forward, hips pull back, send ribcage forward, pull head up, then turn knees to the right, pulling and twisting sensation of hips over the foot, rise up, pull knees and hips back, keep shoulders and head forward, pull hips out. Partner can sense direction, rise and when to move.

Body awareness, not thinking about the steps, timing, but position of the body. Flip your thinking and get out the step pattern into a body pattern.

On left leg lower body weight, shift ribs and back forward and then back. Feel that block of weight alone will shift your weight from foot to foot.

Body has a left side and right side around a common center. You have a right front and a right back. You have a left front and right back. You also have diagonals. Left back and right front. Left front and right back. Go forward with right side by sending left back through. Move left side back by sending right front through. When shifting side to side literally send ribs and back diagonally. Keep common center still.

In shadow position shift upper blocks of weight to back corner. If shift side to side no way to travel. Circular girth of ribs and back move through diagonals. Put left hand on left  back, put right hand on right front. Push the left back forward, right front side up and forward then you have to move.

Pull right front into left back until you have to move off your foot.

Send left back through right front keep going until it moves you out of your feet then have to move.

In promenade use of block of weight continues to move.

In Viennese Waltz use gravity, swing, leviate and use body to keep moving.

Use block of weight and rotation of upper body and pendulum swing and use head weight and fall forward and catch yourself and feel momentum and use back weight to counterbalance. Head weight forward and pull back with ribcage. If you don’t feel balanced you don’t trust yourself to let your body weight move you, you will step yourself around the floor. It will be lethargic and belabored. Action comes from the body.

Use counterbalance to move and shift your weight. Use weight of your body to move and not just take steps. Focus on what block of weight is leading to create motion.

If all 4 blocks of weight are lined up you are not moving.

Use your body like on a rollercoaster the outside of radius of a turn has higher elevation. Inside radius of turn is closer to gravity for stability.

Sway and bank like flying an airplane, everything should be on an angle: knees, hips, back, ribs, shoulders and arms.

Outside of a turn up, out and around.

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