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Stepping Into Quickstep

by Gert-Jan & Susie Rotscheid

One of the most exciting rhythms we dance is the Quickstep. The tempo of this rhythm is quicker than a lot of the dances we dance, the quickest of the Standard dances (Samba is usually considered the quickest of the Latin dances). Because of the speed of the music, and therefore the actions, there are some general guidelines that should help us execute these figures. We will not say to you that the quickstep is an easy rhythm; it does take effort to learn. But it is so rewarding, when you do learn it and are able to enjoy this delightful rhythm.

With most rhythms we dance there is one main and one secondary timing. One of the challenges of quickstep is that there are so many timing variations. You have [SS; S] [SQQ;] [ QQS;] [QQQQ;], and then of course all kinds of variations and combinations for different figures. Part of learning each figure includes learning the timing of that particular figure. We need to learn each figure well, and be able to dance them "without thinking,"which can be a challenge given the speed of the music.

With any figure, in any rhythm, we need to know how and where we should place our feet to dance the figure correctly. With most of the familiar rhythms, this footwork comes by now pretty naturally to most of us. But with quickstep, since we are not as familiar with the figures, and since they do come quickly, it will take some extra effort to learn the footwork.

Two figures that are very prominent in quickstep are the lock steps and the chasses. One of the most important things concerning any lock step is the body position; we need to dance with a shoulder lead -- never straight. Our feet can travel Line of Dance, but our body must be diagonal.

One of the most important aspects of quickstep is that (usually) all the quick steps are taken on the ball of the foot. One example of a figure that we so often see danced incorrectly, with both a lowering action and dancing "straight," is the phase IV figure, Running Forward Locks or Running Back Locks. We must practice these with shoulder lead until it becomes second nature.

With a chasse, we need to rise smoothly and gradually. The rise starts at the end of the first step and reaches the maximum height at the end of the third step. On the fourth step you stay up, then lower at the end to start the next step low (heel lead for the person going forward). For most chasses, we think, "down, up, up, up."

There is a lot to learn with all that is included for each figure: the timing, footwork, body position, rise, sway, but we think you will feel that it is well worthwhile when you find yourself "flying across the floor" gracefully executing a well-written quickstep dance.

A Few Figures with Remarks --

  • Running Forward Locks (and Running Back Locks) [QQQQ; QQS;] In this figure, the general tendency is for dancers to lower, especially on the fourth quick, and sometimes to forget the timing and try QQS; QQS;
  • Tipple Chasse (and Forward Tipple Chasse) [SQQ; S] Sometimes we forget that on a tipple chasse there is a "tipping" action, so a stretch towards the foot that starts the chasse. We need to be careful that we make a body stretch, not a dip with the shoulders.
  • Double Reverse Spin [SS; QQ] Like the Double Reverse in other rhythms, the basic problem dancers have is getting all the way around with their partner. And as in the other Standard rhythms, the lady needs to think about dancing "through" her partner, not "around" her partner.
  • Scoop [SS;] In this figure, since the foot placement is not difficult, we often forget what "makes" the figure a scoop, and not just a side close; we need to have the strong sway away from the stepping foot which will make a left side stretch for the man, a right side stretch for the lady. At the end of the figure there is a rise to the toes.
  • Quick Open Reverse [SS; QQ] We need to remember to start this figure with two slow steps, which is unusual in quickstep.
  • Running Finish [SQQ;] I'm not sure why, but often dancers want to go left-face instead of right-face for this figure. Don't do that! :-)
  • Six Quick Twinkle [QQQQ; QQ] This figure has two sway changes and a change of shoulder lead, making it a challenging figure to dance correctly. On the fourth quick it is acceptable for the man to make a slight side step while the lady closes; this can help to get the lady in front. The lock at the end of the figure will be made with a left shoulder lead, and an extra lock will get you back on the measure.
  • Stutter [QQS; QQ] This figure goes from a left side lead, through closed position, to a left side lead again; and this change through closed position and then back again happens on the last two quicks. This figure will also often have an extra lock at the end to get back on the measure.
  • Mini Telespin [SS; S&QQ; S] Any problems with this figure in quickstep would usually be the same that a dancer would have in other rhythms -- keeping the bodies together; also, we need to realize that the last slow is a hold with no change of weight. Again this is a figure that ends on a half measure, so that extra half measure is usually made up either before or after the figure. Often the figure getting out of a Mini Telespin is a Contra Check, and in quickstep if we dance a Contra Check, Recover, Side in three slows, we are back on the beginning of the next measure.


From clinic notes prepared for the ICBDA Convention, 2014, and reprinted in the Dixie Round Dance Council (DRDC) Newsletter, December 2017.


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