Keeping Your Knees Crossed In Irish Dance

Article featured in Diddlyi Magazine.
08.10.10

I make a new goal every dance season to help improve my overall performance. I take one element of Irish dance and work to perfect it during the course of the year. For example during the 2007-08 season I worked hard to keep my arms straight and behind my back. Tina Shelley had consistently told me my arms were bent, especially when dancing in hard shoes. So for one year I focused my mind on keeping my arms straight whenever I practiced. Focusing your mind for a period of time on one element helps it to become a habit later on. Eventually you’ll do it without any effort.

During the 2008-09 season I focused on smoothing out my steps. I worked hard to make my dances more graceful. Near the end of the season, Tina Shelley remarked more than once how much I had improved in smoothing out my steps to create a graceful flow.

So this past season I decided to work on keeping my knees crossed while dancing. I had received several adjudicator comments indicating my knees were not crossed enough. I don’t have the skinniest legs, so this is hard for me to accomplish while keeping my feet turned out at the same time. It’s especially difficult in hard shoes since whenever I stomp, a space can be visible between my knees. I hesitated to change my habits however, because whenever I work hard to cross my knees, the sound of the stomp is considerably less. I had more difficulty that usual this past season, since I couldn’t cross my knees as well as keep all the other elements in play.

It was only a couple months ago, at the end of the season that I realized why I was having so much trouble. I was watching a world champion Irish dancer who kept her knees crossed extremely well throughout her entire hard shoe dance. It took me some time to figure out how she did it and it was only later that I realized what it was. I watched the dancer again and discovered that she was dancing very high on her toes, higher than most dancer’s I’ve seen. Dancing that high on her toes helped her to keep her turnout strong and knees crossed at the same time. Her legs were straight and her knees tight.

I hadn’t even known I was dancing so low on my toes until that moment. Soon after I headed to the studio and practiced dancing higher on my toes. It was amazing the difference! I was able to cross my knees, stay high on my toes, and keep my feet turned out throughout the entire step.

So for this new 2010-11 Irish dance season, I’ll be focusing on staying high on my toes, and in doing so I’ll be able to more easily keep my knees crossed. I’m very excited to see the difference it will make in my Irish dancing this year.

Article written by Shelly Allen
Photo by Shelly Allen Photography

TAGS: knees, crossed, irish, dance, legs, technique

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