The Burlesque Ball Change

This is a Burlesque Basic!!

The ball change is a common beginner dance step used in jazz and tap. This same step is often displayed not only on the burlesque stages today, but was a popular dance step for the burlesque artists of yesterdays. Most every vintage video shows popular strip teasers working this novice step! Because of the popularity of this dance step in burlesque, the Kittens' have coined it the "burlesque ball change."

In dance we train both sides of the body. The following instructions will start on the right side, and transition to the left. One of the instructions will be the word step. Sounds easy right? Well, this sometimes becomes difficult in a dance class for beginners. When you step, the foot you step on takes the entire weight of your body (even if the other foot is still on the floor). I recommend when first learning a dance move such as this to actually lift the other foot off the floor, ensuring that your weight is transitioned to the correct foot to complete the step!

Here's how you do it:

1. Stand feet together in parallel, toes pointing forward. In jazz dance this position is called 1st parallel. In ballet, it's referred to either as 6th position or feet parallel. Weight is evenly distributed on both feet. Throughout these steps, keep shoulders and hip bones pointed forward (or "centered").

2. Lift your right foot and step to the right side, shifting your weight to the right foot. Your feet will be shoulder width apart.

3. Lift your left foot, placing it behind your right. Lift your right foot off the ground at the same time, putting all your weight onto the left foot in the back.

4. Return your right foot to the same position in front of your left, lifting the left foot off the ground.

5. Now we go to the left side! Step your left foot to your left side. Your feet will once again be shoulder width apart.

6. Lift your right foot, placing it behind your left. Lift your left foot off the ground at the same time, putting all your weight onto the right foot in the back.

7. Return your left foot to the same position in front of your right, lifting the right foot off the ground.

You've now completed the Burlesque Ball Change! Or as it's known in the dance world, the step ball change.
Wanna advance this step a little for a more graceful look?

In dance, the weight is constantly maintained on balls of the feet. Normally in life, we keep our balance by placing our weight backward, or toward the heels of the feet.
Test it! Stand in 1st parallel (feet together; toes pointed forward). Now, try to lift up onto your toes. You'll notice that your body has shifted forward to rise up.

For an intermediate level burlesque ball change, repeat the above directions, but without placing the heels on the floor…ever! In dance, we do put our heels on the floor but always keep our weight on the balls of our feet. By rehearsing with the heels off the floor, it will be easier to learn.

Wanna get more advanced? Let's add style!

Stylized movement often goes against what's natural in movement, but these simple isolations add a more graceful and artistic quality to dance arrangements.

First addition: this is a basic in jazz, and sometimes a hard concept to get! As you are stepping on one foot, you will actually push through the other. Imagine jumping in the air. There's a push off that enables you to leave the ground. Using this same concept, push through the opposite foot. If you are doing the right side (stepping on the right foot first), push through the left foot, shifting your weight as you step.

Second addition: Isolations of the shoulders and rib cage!

As I mentioned earlier, you are keeping both your shoulders and hip bones facing forward. The natural tendency is to release one side of our body back; this is also a great sign of an amateur. When stepping to the right (as we first start in step 2) and then placing your left foot behind the right (step 3), we want to let both our left shoulder and hip fall or release behind us slightly.

To add style, keep the hips facing center (or front), and have the left shoulder shift forward, opposite of what the left foot is doing (moving back).

For a more graceful look: Don't push the left shoulder forward! Pull the right shoulder back. This requires pulling with the muscles in your back.

This also engages another concept that is immense in jazz dancing: Rib cage isolation. Simply using the muscles differently to achieve the same look adds an alluring and stylized quality that will have you looking like a pro in no time!

What to watch out for: The biggest pet peeve in stylized jazz comes down to one simple mistake in the ball change: levels!

When shifting the weight forward (off the heels, and onto the balls of the feet), during the ball change the level will change. Standing in 1st parallel, our head is at one level. When we ball change, because we're stepping back onto the balls of our feet we lift up, and when we step back forward we shift down. I had a great dance instructor tell me that me that this is one of the differences of a child dancing and an adult. The solution: always keep your knees slightly bent, and bend slightly more when you notice yourself lifting higher.

Fun fact: In ballet, there’s a step called balance, a rocking step. It’s a step that shifts body weight from one foot to the other, usually in 3/4 time. This is very similar to the burlesque, jazz, and tap ball change.

The Velvet Kittens will be back with variations of the ball change and more burlesque dance steps, plus additional info for the burlesque performer in you!