Ariel Bennett, ADCRG, is a teacher and judge who has been Irish dancing for 30 years.
Any time in your hard shoe steps when you have a click—or another move where your heels are supposed to hit together—the judge wants to hear a loud, clear sound. If you miss your clicks, the judge will take points off.
There are three main things to think about when working on hitting your heels together:
Try this exercise: stand in your hard shoes with your feet straight and side by side. Look down at your feet. What part of your right shoe is closest to the left at the moment? With your feet straight, it will likely be the leather part on the side of your foot near the heel. If you hit those two leather parts together, it won’t make a loud sound.
Now turn your feet out. Which part of your right shoe is closest to the left now? It should be the hard heels—the part that will make a sound when you hit them together.
To hit your heels together consistently, you always want both feet turned out so that the heel taps are close together. If your feet turn straight, you’ll miss the click. If one foot turns out but not the other, you’ll find yourself hitting one heel against the side of your foot—ouch!
Repeat the above exercise, but start with your feet turned out and heels flat on the ground. Look down at your feet and see which part of your shoe is closest to the other one. The leather at the back of your foot might be closer to the other shoe than the hard part of your heel.
Now go up on your toes. Going up on your toes makes the hard part of your heel stick out, so now the heel taps are close together and much more likely to hit each other than the leather part of your shoe.
When you’re working on hitting your heels together, you need to make sure that the foot on the ground is up on the toes, and the foot that’s in the air is pointed so that the heels can strike each other cleanly.
If your feet get too close together when you’re trying to click, you’ll kick yourself instead of your heels (and we all know how much that hurts). If your feet get too far apart, you’ll miss the click completely. So you need to make sure that your feet are always the right distance away from each other: just close enough that the heels will hit when they pass.
That takes slow, patient practice, especially if you’ve kicked yourself a few times and are scared of doing it again.
If you’re trying to get over the fear of kicking yourself, do this exercise: sit down in a chair in your hard shoes. Put your legs out in front of you and make sure that your feet are turned out and pointed. Slowly practice passing your legs and clicking your heels together. You can also do this lying down on your back with your legs up in the air.
Once you’re hitting your heels together all the time, stand up and hold onto the back of a chair. Put one foot up in the air, keeping it low to the ground, and check to make sure that you are turned out and pointed/up on your toes. Then jump and pass your feet, using the back of the chair to give you support as you jump.
Keep your legs low and your movements slow at first, checking between each repetition that you are turned out and pointed. If you miss the click, don’t get frustrated or try to do a bunch more in a row. That will just lead to you getting more frustrated. Take a deep breath and reset your legs, checking your form. Remind yourself that it will take time for your muscle memory to develop to the point where your feet will hit the click consistently. With practice, you will be able to hit your heels most of the time, and then you can work on taking your legs higher.
You can also use Dance Master Shane McAvinchey’s clicks video to help here on Diddlyi.
Photo credit: Flickr user Adam Baker
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