Dancing is all about movement of the center. Our most basic form of movement – walking – demonstrates how movement of the center drives all other functions: footwork, posture, timing, balance, and stability.
Yet most dance teachers emphasize footwork. They comment on where to put your foot, which part of the foot you should use, and the size of your steps. When these teachers mention the center, it is often in reference to your feet – as in “get your center over your foot” – or in reference to your partner – as in “point your center at your partner.” Admittedly, I used to teach that way, and when it comes to brand new beginners, it helps to direct the students’ feet to provide some framework for the dance.
But I have found that by repeatedly putting the focus on moving the center, rather than on footwork, the student gets the desired results with less effort. This is because, again, movement of the center drives all sorts of other functions, including the feet. If the student can get the center to move first, it helps to fix posture, balance, and stability by aligning the center directly over the foot on each step. And by moving from the center, it creates more continuous movement, cleaner body flight, and provides more flow in the dance.
The center is the engine. The feet are just the wheels.