• Movement Artisans


Updated: May 2, 2018

PIVOTING - an adaptation skill

by Kira Kirsch

abstract: in this short article, i would like to present the concept of pivoting (turning) support structures like feet and hands or any other body part that is in contact with the ground to maintain structural integrity and alignment in dynamic transitions.

The idea for this article came a while ago when working with a mixed group of people, either trained dancers new to the Axis Syllabus or people generally new to dance and dynamic movement practices. I witnessed as with most beginners but also in trained dancers that there is often a tendency to glue support structures to the ground while the rest of the body is dynamic. The body parts that translate through space then act as strong levers that pull, push and twist on support elements, sending excessive shearing forces into the supporting joints . Which possibly means instead of compressing the articular parts of a joint into their spatial relationship, where surrounding soft tissue elements can go into balanced tension to keep and support the articular relationship, articular surfaces are driven apart and submitted to extreme torque plus possible hyper extensions or flexions. Mechanic responses in the structure become non-tensegral or inefficient in terms of kinetic energy propagation and recycling. Fixing support structures to the ground hinders quick adaptation to changing circumstances

What is a pivot?

The meaning of pivot in this chosen context is a turning movement around the point of contact. In this context it would be a body part for example a foot in contact with the floor, turning. The pivoting moment can happen just before the transfer of full weight into a support or at the moment of leaving the support and moving to the next. Pivoting is therefore a transitioning element and makes it a key tool for transferring weight from support to support (i.e. foot to foot) which becomes crucial especially when becoming more dynamic and needing to react to sudden shift of directions.

What are shearing forces?

‘Shearing forces are unaligned forces pushing one part of a body in one specific direction, and another part of the body in the opposite direction. When the forces are aligned into each other, they are called compression forces.’ Wikipedia

Pivot Zones and Pivoting Angles

Pivot zones would be the location on a body part that allow for a more tensegral tissue response during weight transfer. Take for example your hand and lean a little bit of weight into your hand. Experiment with different angles of weight transfer as well as change the location on the hand where the weight transfers through. Then try turning your hand over different areas of the hand.

You might find that is easier to turn the palm of your hand then your fingers. The palm of the hand has more fatty pads and less joints so if you are not pivoting right at the edge to the wrist or to the finger joints, it offers a more stable and yet resilient surface. Being a little inclined to the lateral side of your palm and allowing your wrist joint an oblique angle (approx 120”) supports an omnidirectional transfer of weight and compressive forces will support the integrity of the hand and wrist alignment which also effects the integrity of more distal joints like elbow and shoulder.

pivoting zone of the hand

You can try the same sequence with the foot. Experiment with lifting you heels of the ground just a little bit, sometimes i like to say just enough to slide a slice of paper underneath your heal. Then as with the hand allow your weight to steer forward and one or two degrees laterally, think micro-movements, and start moving and rotating your pelvis and upper body towards a side, and observe how your feet can react to the shifting of the upper body masses with a pivot. you can try the same with starting from pivoting your feet. Allowing you feet to pivot as you turn reduces shear especially in the knee joints as well as over-twisting the lumbar spine. The described foot coordination and weight distribution works for many contexts such as many sport disiplines like basket ball, handball or socker where sudden shift of directions with high speed are common as well as for many dynamic movement practices such as dancing. In classical ballet the pivot zone might shift as the classical vocabulary often requires a higher lift of the heel which will move the weight forward as well as slightly more medially over the padding of the third, second and first distal metatarsal heads.

The ability to pivot is also dependent on the degree of friction your supportive body parts have with the ground. If friction is too high it is advisable to take many mini steps to accommodate turns and sudden shift of directions.

supportive pivoting zone on the foot

Pivot zones can also be found on other body parts when doing floor work or working in contact. If you are familiar with the landing and launching pad map of the Axis Syllabus you can experiment pivoting on all of these pads, observing how this might effect your coordination on the floor. I found it especially useful in the transfer from upper arm pad to just below the scapular both in a roll from the side on to the back and into sort of a shoulder roll with actually bypassing the more bony aspects of the shoulder.

graphic by Frey Faust