The Foxy Foxtrot
by Gert-Jan & Susie Rotscheid
In foxtrot, the normal timing is slow,
quick, quick; and the weight change for most of the figures is slow
and constant, so the body stays in continuous motion. We do need to
remember to collect our feet under the body before going on to the
next step -- the moving foot swings through next to the standing foot
under the body. Sometimes, we can "borrow time" from one
step to give more time to the next. This gives more life and interest
to our foxtrot dancing. In round dancing, we often see that the slow
is taken as a longer step, and the quicks are usually taken as a
short step. We would like you to try and increase the length of your
quick steps, which will make your foxtrot more flowing .
Foxtrot is considered the most
difficult of the smooth dances to accomplish well. This is not
because the foot placement is so difficult, or learning the figures
is so hard, but because if you want to learn to dance this rhythm
correctly, it requires a lot of body, leg, and foot control. While
this does take lots of practice, if you are diligent and keep
practicing, when you do "get it," it is a feeling of joy
and movement that you will never forget.
To paraphrase a lecture by Steven
Hillier, MBE (winner of all the major ballroom championships multiple
times), "After the lady is gently drawn and guided towards the
man, she must be in balance (herself) as she stands in front of him.
The next vital connection is the man's right hand on the lady's back.
This is another very important connection that when properly done
will make a good dancer. Do not think of creating a 'big top' yet.
Make sure both of you are in balance. Connect the lady with your left
hand and connect her with your right hand. You are now ready to
"The so-called 'big top' is
created while you are dancing. The vital connections move only in
four directions to create a dynamic silhouette. They can move
forwards and backwards. They can move parallel to each other. They
can move to the left and to the right. The connections are alive!"
RISE AND FALL
Foxtrot does have rise and fall, but a
very specific type of rise, called "foxtrot rise."
(Strange, isn't it? :-) OK, we are all used to the rise and fall in
waltz, where you start low, then start to rise at the end of beat 1,
continue to rise on beat 2, then lower at the end of beat 3. That is
normal waltz rise. In foxtrot, we have more body flight than in
waltz. In waltz, you give and take your energy with rise and fall; in
foxtrot, your energy is spent more on movement across the floor. When
there is rise, it is usually only to the ball of the foot and then
not increased on the next step. We want to keep our emphasis on the
smooth, gliding, forward motion.
There are a few steps that are
characteristically foxtrot, and there are also some "constants"
that you can learn to make dancing these steps so much easier.
The Three Step is one of
foxtrot's basic figures. We could look at it as just three
forward-moving steps. But to be dancing, instead of just walking,
these three steps, we need to practice them in foxtrot character. In
round dancing, the Three Step is always started with the man's left
leg going forward. This step is taken with a heel lead, staying low
-- no rise. The second step will also then be taken with a heel lead,
going heel to toe, with the last step being taken over the toe, again
lowering back to the heel. At the end of the first step, the man
starts to develop a right-side lead. One of the very important
characteristics of the Three Step is that the steps, even the quick
steps, are all almost the same length. The second quick of the Three
Step may be taken slightly shorter (because it is taken toe-heel) and
also a little late. Do not hurry the quicks. Foxtrot needs to e
danced like ice cream slowly melting down the cone.
The Feather Step: I can't
imagine a foxtrot without a feather step. A feather step will always
end in banjo, and almost any step that ends in banjo is some type of
feather step. The two basic feather steps are a "plain"
Feather, and a Feather Finish. On a "plain" Feather, the
man will take 3 forward steps, starting with his right foot, ending
with a left-side lead in banjo. Please remember that banjo is a
closed position. One thing to be careful of is with the step
getting to banjo, or outside partner. This should occur naturally as
the man develops a left side lead. If the man actually "tries"
to step outside his partner instead of letting this occur naturally,
he will most likely have to do this with an ugly hip movement. The
bodies must be kept square and together at all times. If the man has
a left-side lead and steps forward on his last step, the result
should be his stepping outside his partner without losing contact.
The man's footwork for a feather step is heel, toe; toe; toe, heel.
We need to be careful not to push the third step of the Feather; it
is more allowing the leg to glide past the body and place.
In both the Three Step and the Feather,
the lady will take backwards steps. Her last step will be with a
matching side lead to stay together with her partner. For the lady,
going backwards, it is important to remember that in a backwards
step, you will extend from the hip; this way you will get a full
reaching extension. Also very important is that you move back from a
forward position, with the heel in contact with the floor, so you are
staying low. If foot rise is used, the flow of the figure will be
Ladies, match the shape of your
partner; your partner does not move you, you move like a shadow. Your
body is not static, but you move it as your partner moves to match
his shape. This is necessary to keep a connection.
To dance the Feather Finish, the
man will first take a backwards step with his right foot, then side
left, and forward right with a left-side lead. The lady will usually
dance the normal opposite.
A number of foxtrot figures will end
with a Feather Finish or some sort of feathering figure. Two examples
are the end of a reverse turn, and the last three steps of any Weave.
If we can learn to execute the Three Step and the Feather without
problems, we have a good bit of foxtrot down.
For both partners, collect your foot
under your body before going on to the next step. When your feet are
both under your body, that is the end of the step – when your free
foot is passing under your body; the speed of the weight change is
relatively slow which gives continuous movement – pass the foot &
The Weaves in foxtrot have a
number of constants that might help you in learning them.
All weaves have 7 steps,
consisting of 1 slow and 6 quicks, and all the quicks are danced on
the ball of the foot (no lower & rise).
A weave will always start with
your trail foot, that step being the slow step.
There are 2 measures to a weave,
with the timing of: (measure 1) slow, quick, quick; (measure 2)
quick, quick, quick, quick.
The last measure is always (for
the man), a back, back, side, forward with those last 3 steps being
a quick feather finish.
Generally, this last measure of
all weaves will start with the man backing line of dance, and the
figure will end diagonal line and wall with a lead foot free.
That leaves the first measure,
which is normal foxtrot timing (slow, quick, quick) and is used to
get you into the correct position for the end of the weave.
A Reverse Turn is another figure
that uses a feather finish. Following the general principles for a
left-face turn in the smooth dances, a Reverse Turn will usually
start in closed position with the man facing diagonal line and
center, with a lead foot free. He will step forward left, he will
turn and, on the same diagonal, step side, then he will
continue to turn and step straight back, backing line of dance. His
next three steps will be a feather finish, where he will step back
line of dance, turn left-face and step side on the diagonal towards
line of dance and wall, continue his turn and step forward on the
same diagonal. So the pattern on the floor will be two steps in
(diagonal line of dance and center of hall) two steps straight back
towards line of dance, and two steps out (diagonal line of dance and
wall). Since this ends with a feather finish, it will end in banjo.
For the lady, the Reverse Turn has a
special kind of step, the heel turn. The heel turn in slow
foxtrot is usually used by the person going backwards, if the couple
is in closed position and is making a turn. Many ladies think of a
heel turn as a turn on both heels. This is not only false, it is
almost impossible to do and maintain balance. In the figure the
Reverse Turn, the lady will step back with her right foot, then as
she brings her left foot towards her right foot, she will turn
left-face on her right foot. The toes will be unweighted as
opposed to being lifted. The left foot is kept parallel to the right
foot as the turn is made. When the turn is complete, the weight will
be transferred to the left foot and the lady will rise, then make the
third step forward with the right foot. The last three steps will be
a feather finish. (The rules for a heel turn are the same when making
the turn with either foot, and for either partner that makes the heel
The opposite of the Reverse Turn is the
Natural Turn. This is a right-face turn, which will usually
start with the couple in closed position, man facing diagonal line of
dance and wall, and your trail foot will be free. This is also a
two-measure figure, but in round dancing, the full natural turn is
hardly ever used, and if so, it is usually step-cued as a Heel Pull.
The first half of the Natural Turn will also include a heel turn for
the lady, but starting with the opposite foot. The concept will be
the same. The same goes for the man, in that he will take his first
step forward towards diagonal line and wall, turn and step side on
the same diagonal, then continue the turn to step back, line of
clinic notes prepared for the ICBDA convention, 2012 & reprinted in
the Dixie Round Dance Council (DRDC) Newsletter, June 2013. For
a round world, Gert-Jan & Susie Rotscheid.
If you would like to read other articles on dance
position, technique, styling, and specific dance rhythms, you may visit
the article TOC.
If you are not a member of DRDC,
do consider joining. The group sponsors triquarterly weekends with great
dancing and teaching, and the newsletter is one of the most informative
Past DRDC Educational Articles archived here.
Aditional articles and dance helps by
Sandi & Dan Finch
Gert-Jan & Susie Rotscheid (see Notebook)
Go beyond this site. Good instructional
books and videos, both new and used, are available at low prices from Amazon. Find other references on our Sources and Links