In response to our recent Reader Survey "I Would Never Rent An Apartment That....", many people said they would never live with neighbors above them- top floor only! I am lucky enough to live on the top floor, but I try to put my years of ballet training to use and tread lightly, out of consideration for my neighbors below…
Now, I enjoy clomping around in hiking boots and kitchen clogs as much as the next girl. Maybe more, since I recently considered buying a pair of black tap shoes because, "they're just like high-heels but louder". At home, though I move as quietly and gently as possible. I take off my shoes right when I walk in the door, and put them on just before leaving. This is also a great way to keep the floor clean, as you all kindly pointed out. I'm also lucky enough to have hardwood floors, so it's especially important to take my shoes off: no carpet to muffle the noise!
In ballet, you're always carrying your body. Gravity doesn't drag you down: you're always lifting, holding every part of your body up. Even in the deepest pliés, energy is rising through the balls of your feet, up through your legs and hips, your stomach is pulled up and in, your neck is lifted, and your head is held gracefully atop your neck. In this way, it's as if you are exerting very little impact on the ground. Instead of each step going down into the floor in a heavy, plodding way, each step moves you up into the next step. In my fruitless search for "how to walk like a ballet dancer" tutorials, I happened upon this phrase: to walk like a dancer, there must be "a little air underneath the heels". This doesn't necessarily mean walking on tip-toes. Rather it refers to the feeling of gentleness and floating that you experience with each step. You can also imagine your floor is made of a delicate material that you wouldn't want to bruise or damage. Pretend it's the peach from James & The Giant Peach, and you will find yourself placing each foot a bit more softly.
Even just thinking of the neighbors below you with every single step, for a week, can change the way you walk. Think of them trying to sleep, or talking around the dinner table, and your steps will lighten.
Any current or former dancers out there able to help me explain? Though I studied ballet for 16 years, I've had several years off, and my descriptions are a bit rusty (not to mention my pliés). Any other techniques you all have used to be good upstairs neighbors?