Latin Dances - if all steps are ball-flat, why do we talk about the toe so much?
This is a FANTASTIC question that one of my students asked me a couple of weeks ago (thanks Peter!). It is true that most steps taken in Latin dances are ball-flat, not toe-flat as we may think. Paso Doble of course is the exception, which features its own unique style of walking consisting of ball-flat and heel-flat steps, but for the other four dances, it is the ball of foot that usually commences the step.
In Rumba and Cha Cha we are constantly talking about the toe, however, it is not in regards to footwork of a step, but the ‘action’ or foot and leg usage that characterises the dance. This is where Toe Usage vs Toe Step becomes important. There is no rise in Rumba and Cha Cha so we never step ‘up’ onto a toe. We do however point the toes a lot and also use the toe to ‘track’ the feet under the body.
Cha Cha and Rumba utilise a unique straight and bent leg style of movement. The standing leg is always straight but the moving leg is bent. Toe pressure is used to keep the moving foot in contact with the floor, like writing your name in the sand on the beach with your big toe. At the full extent of a forward, side, or back tracking action, the foot already has ball pressure on the floor. To complete the step, the heel simply needs to be pressed down.
So in short, toes are used for tracking the feet under the body (the action), but the step itself is taken ball-flat.