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Some Basic Foxtrot Technique

by Paula & Warwick Armstrong

Rise and fall in Foxtrot is different from all of the other smooth rhythms. The rise and fall in Foxtrot will happen more through the actions of the movement rather than a conscious effort to create the rise and fall. Foxtrot is more about swing and sway rather than lower and rise. We have seen the expression used where Waltz is described as a child’s swing, where Foxtrot is more about a monkey swinging from vine to vine. Dancing the Foxtrot will demonstrate smooth travel through space of the upper body. Let's look at these ideas in relation to the foxtrot Three Step, Feather, Reverse Turn, and Feather Finish.

Three Step – more than just three steps

A rare movement where the men will have two heel leads. To keep this nice and level without the body popping up, the heel of the standing foot will not come off the floor until the moving foot is about to pass the standing foot going forward. Going backwards it is the ball of the foot that will not leave the floor until the moving foot passes. Simple to say, but harder to consciously do. We want to move the body so that when we put the foot down, it will land with the big toe under the front of the chest (men, think under your tie), rather than moving the foot and having the body catch up. The swinging leg will move in a forward direction so that it neither crosses over the path of the standing leg or opens the leg like you are commencing a turn.

Feather – one of the most common movements, used by the beginner and the most experienced ballroom competition dancer alike

Man – commences with the right foot. We think of the rise being created more by the right leg swinging past the left rather than through the ankle. We compress into the standing left leg. The standing heel only releases from the floor as the right foot passes (beat one). The foot will go directly under the lady. Our rotation is complete at the end of the second beat, or slightly after, as the right heel hits the floor. Rotation should be a gradual occurrence and not just completed through the first beat. The next two steps are outside the lady. There is a steady rise through the body through the next two beats but no more rotation of the body.

Lady – Compress into the standing right leg, there will be rotation through the body as the left leg “feels the floor” and extends back. There should be a sense of the left leg still having the knee towards partner, even though the leg is moving from the hip. The leg will not be straight. At the end of beat two, the body weight will land over the extended foot, and it is important to have only the right side (shoulder) leading and not back with two shoulders. Whenever going back, knees are poised towards the partner.

Reverse Turns – incorporating the Feather Finish

Too many of us try to turn this too early, resulting in either the lady under excess stress during the heel turn, or separation of the two bodies.

Man – There is no turn on the first step. Compress into the standing leg – there is rotation commencing in the body but the swinging leg will go straight forward. The second step will also go in a straight line and the turn should occur as a reaction of swinging the right hip. The turn is continual through beats three and four to allow the lady freedom to complete the heel turn. To allow the lady a good heel turn, the man needs to hold weight on the ball of the left foot from step one as long as possible through the rotation before stepping back on step 2.

Lady – The swinging right leg needs to go straight back feeling the floor as we compress into the standing leg. There is rotation starting in the body and the right foot will be slightly bent so that the toe will point slightly to the left. The left foot comes back while weight is transferred to the right heel to complete the heel turn, transferring weight onto the left as the man completes the finished alignment. Rise is generated through the ankles for a gathering step forward on the right.

Feather Finish – or completing the Reverse Turn

Man – The right leg going back is going to incorporate the lady leading with her heel. We need to compress into the standing left leg feeling the floor with the right foot before committing weight back on the first step. So we don’t leave the lady on the next step, the man will momentarily point the left in the direction of the new alignment, allowing the lady to swing past before he commits weight. The third step is the same as the Feather.

Lady – The heel lead on the first step creates the momentum to finish the movement and creates the flight for the second step to swing past the man. She will compress into the standing right leg and step under the man with a heel lead. The second step will be created by feeling like the right hip is going to swing past the man rather than turning the body. Rotation continues through the second and third step.



From the RAL Journal, Spring 2019, and reprinted in the Dixie Round Dance Council (DRDC) Newsletter, January 2020.


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