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What Do Irish Dance Judges Look For? #7—Cross

Ariel Bennett, ADCRG, is a teacher and judge who has been Irish dancing for 30 years.

When judges watch you compete, one of the things they want to see is that your feet are crossed all the time. To get consistent cross takes regular practice.

Here are some of things you should think about when you practice your cross:

Screen shot 2013-11-21 at 10.34.03 AM1 – Cross your whole leg, not just your feet.

To get that beautiful cross, don’t focus on putting one foot in front of the other. Focus on putting one knee in front of the other. If you are turned out from your hips and crossed from your knees, there will be a diamond-shaped space between your ankles. That’s what the judges (and your teacher) are looking for.

Try this exercise: stand in front of a mirror, turn out, and then cross your right knee over your left knee. Walk forward toward the mirror, and every time you take a step, cross your legs at the knee. Make sure that you can always see that diamond-shaped space between your ankles.

When you can do this every time, try walking on your toes and keeping the diamond. Then try 1-2-3’s, then leaps, always concentrating on pulling your whole leg diagonally in front of the other leg.

2 – Don’t forget your back foot.

Your body is designed for your feet to go right under your hips when you’re walking or running, so if you aren’t focused on cross when you dance, your legs will naturally go side by side. This will especially happen with your back leg, since most of the time you’re only thinking about what your front leg is doing.

When you’re drilling your steps piece by piece to work on cross, concentrate on what your back foot is doing. Make sure that every time you do a hop back or a step in the back, your back foot is pulling diagonally over behind the front leg. Watch yourself in the mirror to check that you are making the diamond between your ankles on every move.

3 – Watch your cross when you’re turning.

Staying crossed when you’re facing forward is difficult enough, but things really get tricky when you’re doing a step that moves all over the stage. Whenever you turn to go in a new direction, your feet will have a hard time staying crossed over.

To help with this, imagine drawing a line from the middle of your forehead down to your feet, dividing your body in half. This is your center line. No matter which way you are facing, your legs have to cross over your center line.

Whenever you practice a turn or a move that changes direction, visualize your center line, and focus on pulling both legs across this center line. Try taking a video of yourself from where the judge would be sitting to make sure you are staying crossed throughout the entire move.

Just like with turnout, perfecting your cross takes time and patience. Don’t give up! One day all that hard work will pay off at the feis.

Photo credit: Bill Bennett

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