It’s another Tuesday, which means another popping class has passed. This past class was related to glides, slides, and floats – essentially all different ways of moving yourself around the dance floor. I’ll dive right in to the material we covered, adding my own thoughts throughout.
Dillon started out by showing us the most basic piece of foundation for gliding: the heel-toe pivot. This is a very simple movement (in theory), and forms the basis from which the glide flows out of. To do this move, the motion is:
- Start with both toes pointing inwards, almost, but not quite, touching
- Pivot on the toe of your left foot, bringing its heel around so that it is now pointing to the right (and your toe will now be pointing to the left). While you do this, you also:
- Pivot on the heel of your right foot, bringing its toe around so that it is now pointing to the right (and your heel will now be pointing to the left).
- When you have completed this motion, both of your toes should now be pointing out
- Repeat this process, this time pivot on the heel of your left foot, and bring its toe around so that it is pointing inwards (and your heel pointing outwards), and, simultaneously:
- Pivot on the toe of your right foot, and bring its heel out so that it is pointing outwards (and the toes pointing inwards).
- At this point, you should have your feet in the same position that you initially started in, but be a few feet to the right of where you started.
As you can see, this is a fairly simple movement. I have been shown this motion a couple of times, not just from watching popping instructional videos, but also in a few workshops that I’ve been fortunate enough to take. However, I’ve never really gotten it to stick. What I mean by this, I guess, is that I’ve been lazy and neglected to practice the move. I suspect that this is because when I first started teaching myself, I didn’t realize this was the foundation upon which glides were built, and just started right into actually working on the glide. My glides aren’t horrible, but they could certainly be better if I put in some time to practice proper floats.
This is really pretty unacceptable. Since this is the foundation upon which gliding is based, I’m making a mental note to make sure that I get this down.
As we were going through this, I noticed that a couple of people were having trouble alternating where they were placing their weight on their feet. Having worked with a couple of friends to try and help then get this motion down, I can totally appreciate this difficulty. One of the techniques I would recommend is a good starting point is to get the first pivot setup (so raise up on the ball of your left foot and the heel of your right foot) and then just pivot back and forth, into and out of, the first and second position. Don’t worry about changing where you’ve got your weight positioned for now. Just practice going back and forth between these two positions. After you’ve put some time in to that, work on the pivot from the second position back into the starting position (but this time continuing in the direction you started, rather than back to the original position).
Breaking the move down into these two steps will help you solidify it in your head and ensure that they can happen without you thinking about it, and this is really the key goal to establish when we’re learning new techniques.
Okay, on to the meat of what everyone has been waiting for. First, a quick note on glides. This is, hands down, the single technique that I get asked about the most. Gliding is a simple movement, but is very visually confusing. People always want me to show them how to do it, but don’t realize that it only becomes a natural movement with a little bit of practice. Not a ton, but some, definitely. I noticed in class that some people were getting a little discouraged as we went through the various techniques, and I got worried. I have a vested interest in seeing people getting stoked about popping (and the rest of the funk styles as well), so I want people to be pumped on these techniques. Hopefully some group practice sessions will help with that – more on this later.
Before going any further, there is an important point to make that Dillon didn’t cover in class. The key, in my opinion, to the glide’s visual effectiveness, is making sure that the foot that is raised up on the ball of its foot is not the one that is moving. The movement will always happen with the foot whose sole is flat to the floor. There is a good reason for this:
Imagine someone walking, running, moving normally. Which foot is doing the movement? It is always the foot that is raised. During normal locomotion, the foot that is flat on the ground remains stationary (and is being used to push off forwards with), while the raised foot travels forward, then gets placed flat on the ground, and is then used to push forward (and the back foot is now raised and moved through the air). Our brains are trained to understand this kind of motion, and to expect it.
A glide works by flipping this rule on its head. The raised foot never does any movement, and the flat foot does all of the movement. When the brain tries to parse this visual input, the viewer focuses on the raised foot expecting movement. However, no movement ever happens, and before you know it, the dancer has moved halfway across the dance floor.
When practicing glides, keep this cardinal rule in mind: The raised foot does not move.
The side-glide is the second most well-known type of glide, after the back-glide (popularized by Michael Jackson, incorrectly, as the moon-walk). This glide is actually much simpler than it looks, though it does require some training to understand exactly what is going on.
Dillon indicated that the motion for the side-glide flows directly out of the floating technique we covered earlier, and as soon as we started working on the glide, I was surprised how closely it really does. The motion is broken down as follows:
- Start, again, with your toes pointing inwards, and your heels outwards
- Raise up (and put your weight on) on the toes of your left foot, and the heel of your right foot
- Pivot on the toes of your left foot, and the heel of your right foot, so that your toes are now both pointing outwards.
So far, this is identical to the float. Here’s where the change comes in:
- At the end of the last pivot, you need to shift all of your weight to your left foot (which remains up on its ball), because… As you drop the heel of your left foot down to the ground, you want to slide your right foot away from you. I find that the hardest part most people (including myself) have to deal with is getting their right foot to remain as flat to the ground as possible, but without it touching. You want to avoid generating any friction between your foot and the ground.
- At this point, you should have both your toes pointed out, with your feet about two feet apart (or shoulder-width).
- Now, again, as with the float before, put your weight on the ball of your right foot, and the heel of your left foot. Pivot to bring your toes pointing inwards again, then shift all of the weight onto your right foot and slide your left foot back in towards your right foot. At the end of this motion your toes should just about be touching each other, and you’re back at the position you started in.
Another aspect of this glide that people have trouble with is the weight transfer. Ideally you want to do both the weight transfer AND the pivots at the same time, in one smooth motion. However, I’ve always found this fairly tricky (possibly because I ne
ver learned to float properly). I would recommend just taking things slowly for now, and focusing on the individual steps. If you have trouble with the weight transfer and the pivot, then just repeat that motion over and over, until you get it right.
One other thing that we worked on that was helpful was simply going up on the ball of your one foot, and sliding your other foot away from it as you brought the heel of the raised foot back down to the ground. This is a great way of developing the muscle memory for half of the motion for the glide. You could apply this same principle to the second half of the glide, ensuring that you get these two aspects down tight.
One last principle that is very important here. Ultimately, you want to learn to do this motion smoothly that you can carry it out without making any movement in your upper body. Initially, you will find it difficult to maintain the balance required to stop yourself from moving around, but with practice, you should be able to glide while keeping your upper body perfectly still (and then once you’ve got that down, you can start doing contrasting movements like waves through your upper body while gliding. But save that for later).
Next up, we focused on cross-over glides. These are done identical to the side glide, with the exception that your trailing foot either crosses in front of, or behind, your lead foot. This glide is definitely more advanced than the side-glide, due to the high level of balance that is required to sustain the isolation that you need.
As soon as you cross your feet, it becomes much more difficult to maintain balance and keep your upper body stationary. At this point, the class was starting to get frustrated, as we were nowhere near getting the regular side-glide down. Adding in this additional step was simply too much to handle at that point.
The circular glide is based on the same principle as the standard side glide (most of the more advanced techniques are), and as always, the cardinal rule continues to apply: The raised foot does not move, while the flat foot does.
The motion for this glide is performed as follows:
- Start in the same position as the side glide, toes inwards
- Raise up on the ball of your left foot, the heel of your right foot, and pivot your toes outwards
- Slide your right foot away as you lower the heel of your left foot
- Now, pivot your toes inwards, and raise up on the ball of your right foot
- This time, you pivot around your right foot, in a semi-circle. Your left foot traces this semi-circle and remains flat to the ground
- Your back should now be to the front of the room, and your toes should be facing inwards.
- You can now carry on the glide as you normally would for a side-glide, or continue to rotate in another semi-circle. The motion is the same, raising up on the ball of your lead foot, pivoting your toes outwards, and pivoting around the lead foot in another semi-circle
You can vary this glide by see-sawing back and forth as well if you like, always leading the turn with your front, or, with your back.
The snake glide is one of the glides that does not actually move forwards directly from the side glide. All of the movement is produced by one foot, while the other foot simply traces out a path beside it as you travel along.
The motion for this glide can be broken up into two distinct movements. For the first part, your back foot will be doing the moving.
- Start with the toes of your left foot pointing to the left, and your right foot held up off the ground
- Put all of your weight on the heel of your left foot
- Pivot on your heel to move your the toes to the right
- Now shift your weight to the toes and ball of your left foot, and pivot on them to move your heel pointing to the right
This is the half of the motion that will actually move you across the dance floor. The second half of the motion is should initially be practiced with all of your weight on your left foot, and leaving that foot stationary:
- Start with your right foot beside your left foot, with your toe pointing forwards
- Slide your right foot (flat against the ground) forwards
- As you the heel of your right foot reaches roughly your the toe of your left foot, rotate your foot around your ankle as much as you can, so that your toe is now pointing to the right (and hopefully somewhat to the back). Then start to slide it backwards
- Slide your right foot backwards (attempting to lead with your toe as best you can), and when the heel of your right foot roughly reaches the heel of your left foot, rotate your foot again around your ankle, bringing your toes around so that they are again pointing forwards.
To bring everything together, you combine the pivots of the first motion with the slide on your right foot. The visual you are aiming to produce is that your right foot is snaking along the ground, and your left foot follows along.
I’ve practiced this motion in the past, but I find it very difficult to get the balance correct that is necessary in order to avoid lurching your upper body all over the place. Still, this is an excellent candidate to practice, and something that I will make a point of spending some time on, along with the floats.
The Wiggles glide is a glide created by Mr. Wiggles, of the Electric Boogaloos. I remember the first time I saw this glide in my Mr. Wiggles 2 VHS tape, and not being able to comprehend what was going on. The confusing part about this move is that the main amount of motion that is generated happens from a left-to-right (and vice versa) direction, while the dancer actually moves forward along the dance floor. This makes it really confusing for someone watching to figure out how they are actually accomplishing this.
The glide is composed of a set of pivots on your heels and toes, and the rest flows from that. First, the most important motion to train:
- Put the heel of your right foot directly in front of your left foot
- Pivot on the toe of your left foot, swinging your heel out to the left. At the same time that you do this:
- Pivot on the heel of your right foot, swinging your toe out to the left. Next, you pivot on the same body parts, and reverse the direction, so..
- Pivot on the toe of your left foot, swinging your heel in, through the center, and then out to the right. While you do this, simultaneously:
- Pivot on the heel of your right foot, swinging your heel in, through the center, and to the left.
You’ll notice that you can get your heel and toes out much further for the second part of the pivot than the first. This is okay, it’s just a limitation of your anatomy and the way our ankles bend.
Once you have this motion down, you’re ready for the more complicated part.
- Start with your feet as before, with the heel of your right foot directly in front of your left foot
- Pivot on the toe of your left foot, swinging your heel out to the left, and on the heel of your right foot, swinging your toes out to left.
- Now pivot again, swinging the heel of your left foot in, through the center, and out to the right. Do the same for the toes of your right foot. Now comes the new movement:
- Place all of your weight on the heel of your right (front) foot. Leave this foot positioned as it is
- Take your left (back) foot, and slide it out to your side, and around in front of your right foot. While you’re doing this, you want to pivot on the heel of your right foot, so that its toes swi
ng out to the right. This pivot should complete right as the heel of your left foot comes into position right in front of your right foot’s toes.
- Transfer your weight onto the heel of your right foot, and the toes of your left foot.
- At this point, you should be back in a familiar position – with one foot in front of the other, the toes of your left (front) foot pointing to the right, and the heel of your right (back) foot pointing to the right.
- Perform the pivot you practiced above, pivoting on the front left foot’s heel and swinging your toes to the left, and pivoting on the back right foot’s toes, swinging your heel out to the left. Now repeat these steps as much as you like to continue moving forwards.
Dillon mentioned that this appears and sounds like a complicated movement, but once you get the hang of it, it’s actually quite simple. I can attest that this is the case, having practiced this glide a fair bit. It takes a little bit of time to figure everything out, but once you have it, it creates a very pleasing visual without a lot of effort. This is, however, one of the more difficult glides to perform on “sticky” ground, as the heel of my shoes always gets caught and throws off my pivots.
One amusing note to mention – I can remember just throwing out this glide when I was taking the Funky Stepping workshop a couple of years back, and Jake, the instructor, jokingly called me a biter. Fair enough, I suppose. This is a very distinctive glide that is absolutely the domain of Wiggles. Having said that, I still think it’s valid to use a move that you’ve seen someone else doing. Just make sure that you give credit when it’s due, and apply your own style and attitude to the move. It’s okay to derive inspiration from other dancers – just take what you like and make it your own.
So that’s the whole of the class. Dillon took things a little bit slower this class, which was good (perhaps part of that was due to my insistent prodding), but I definitely noticed that there were at least a couple of people that were getting exasperated as we went into more complicated glides. This is definitely not what I want to see, because I have a vested interest in seeing people get enthusiastic about Popping (it means I’ll have more motivation to keep at it myself).
I’ve been talking with Brooke about the potential to set up a practice session at the studio, and I feel more strongly than ever that this is really something we should get going. I was originally waiting to hear back from Dillon on this, but I get the impression from him that he has too many other things currently commanding his focus, which is fair enough. However, I’ll see what can be done to take the lead on this and see if we can get something going (provided there’s some interest).
Next class is apparently about tutting. This should be an interesting class, as I’ve always shunned tutting due to the fact that my wrists simply don’t bend back at 90 degree angles, and thus my tuts look like ass. However, I’m sure there are a lot of techniques that I can take away from the class, regardless of how clean my angles end up looking. I’m looking forward to the next session.