Here is an article covering alignments that I have been working on. Hopefully it answers common questions and gives the basic premise of using alignments in dance! Let me know what you think, and I hope you enjoy!
Also, keep an eye out for my next post – Dancing with the Stars is back for Season 23 and I’ll be announcing the full cast list!
Proper Positioning: Dance Floor Alignments
In every dance, there are all sorts of different steps and patterns to do. For travelling dances in particular, couples move around the floor in a counter-clockwise motion while performing those steps. This, as you may know, is called Line of Dance, and helps to keep folks from crashing into each other. However, there is an important item to consider while you dance your figures around the floor – alignment.
Alignment is defined as the positions of both the body and feet in relation to the dance floor. It is there to make the dance steps easier and help with floorcraft, since you know what direction you should start and end each pattern. Additionally, there are several terms that help us to pinpoint exactly how a figure should be danced by taking alignment into account. While a lot of these terms seem like common sense and may happen naturally, knowing your alignments can generate a big difference.
The first two terms we will look at are Facing and Backing. Just like they sound, they define which way the dancer is looking. Facing just means that you are looking in the direction you travel while Backing means you are looking in the opposite direction that you are moving. Now, since we already know Line of Dance, or LOD for short, takes us counterclockwise, we know that we will always have the wall to one side and the center of the dance floor on the other. Leads will commonly start Facing LOD, which has the wall on the right side and center of the floor on the left. Follows typically start Backing LOD, putting the wall on their left side with the center of the floor to their right.
The second set of terms that define alignment are Wall, Center and Diagonal. These three words further describe how we move by giving direction either towards the wall, towards the center or diagonally between them and LOD. We can move perpendicular to LOD, heading either straight to the wall or straight to the center. We can also move on a diagonal between the wall and LOD, which we call Diagonal Wall, or DW for short. Just like DW, we can move diagonally between the center and LOD, called Diagonal Center, aka DC.
The next terms to discuss are Along and Against. Taking what we now know about alignments, as dancers we execute each step in two main ways in relation to LOD – moving with the flow and travelling Along LOD, or swimming upstream opposing the flow and moving Against LOD. Along and Against further define our alignments as we can travel in a total of 8 different directions. We can head directly Along LOD, directly Against LOD, directly to the Wall and directly towards the Center. We can also travel DW Along LOD, DW Against LOD, DC Along LOD and DC Against LOD.
Again, some of these alignments and terms may seem like common sense, but they can be confusing. A tool that helped me to remember everything is matching alignments up to a compass. Just like the cardinal directions of North, South, East and West, we define our movements accordingly. Heading forward in LOD is North, while moving against LOD is South. Towards the wall is East and towards the center is West. North-East would be facing Diagonal Wall, and South-East is facing Diagonal Wall against LOD. Likewise, facing North-West is Diagonal Center, and South-West is facing Diagonal Wall against LOD. Keeping the rule of thumb that LOD is always North, it is much easier to find your alignments.
The charts below give a detailed overview on alignments and how to apply them on the dance floor:
The final term we’ll go over is Pointing. This is a tricky situation where your feet are in a different alignment than your body. This is most commonly used in all sorts of different figures, but you will typically see it happening in rotating movements, like a Natural or a Reverse Turn. Pointing generally has your feet prepping for the next alignment while your body is still facing the current alignment you are on. As an example, you can have your feet Pointing DW while your body is still facing Wall. With Pointing, you will end up turning to the direction your feet are with your next step, putting you back into a regular alignment.
Now that you know your alignments you can put them to good use! There are always several choices that you can make on the dance floor for what moves you decide to do next. Utilizing alignments can help you to make better choices and have smooth transitions between them. Knowing how one move ends, another begins and in which direction you travel will not only improve the step itself, but will enhance your understanding of floorcraft, since you are able to identify where other dancers may move about the floor in relation to you and your partner.
Keep in mind, focusing on alignments is an advanced way of thinking. Alignments may not be used right off the bat if you are just learning how to dance. Of course, there are other important aspects to focus on first, like footwork and timing. However, as you progress further and further into dance, the significance of alignments will become more and more apparent. Some moves will begin to make more sense and others will feel easy as you are able to adjust your alignments accordingly.