Not Waltz Danced SQQ
& Warwick Armstrong
Foxtrot in our activity is often taken as Waltz done to a different
timing. We probably get away with this at the lower levels. But Foxtrot
is unique in its technique and its look. The rise and fall in Foxtrot
is different from all of the other smooth rhythms. The rise and fall in
Foxtrot happens 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 that 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 of the upper body through space.
While there are many movements and variations of movements, Foxtrot
gains its identity from the flight across the floor coupled with swing
and sway from the execution of the movements. A lot of these movements
also require the understanding of CBM (Contra Body Movement) and CBMP
(Contra Body Movement Position). The following basic level movements
described set the foundation concepts for executing the more
complicated movements. While Reverse Turn is specified, the first two
steps for almost all the Reverse family will be the same. Movements
incorporating a Weave Ending will use the same concepts as the Feather
In general, 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, nor opens the leg
like you are commencing a turn.
Three Step -- More Than Just Three Steps
A rare movement where the men will have two heel leads. Starts with the
left foot, heel lead. To keep this nice and level without the body
popping up on the next step, the heel of the standing left foot will
not come off the floor until the moving right foot is about to pass the
standing foot going forward. Second step can then be danced as a heel
lead. Slight right side lead on step 1. Small balancing step forward on
the ball of the foot for the last step for the man.
The feather is one of the most common movements done.
Man -- commences on the right foot. We think of the rise being created
more of 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. CBM on step 1 and CBMP on the last step.
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 only have the right side
(shoulder) leading and not back with two shoulders. Whenever going
back, knees are poised towards the partner. As with the man, there will
be CBM on step 1 and CBMP on the last step.
The Reverse Turns (incorporating the Feather Finish)
Too many of us try to turn this figure too early, resulting in either
the lady being under excess stress during the heel turn or separation
in 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 to step 3 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. CBM
will be initiated late on step 1.
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 slightly into the standing
left leg feeling the floor with the right foot before committing weight
back on the first step. If the man compresses too much, this will
encourage the lady into a heel lead which is not desired. So we don't
leave the lady on the next step, he will momentarily point the left toe
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,
CBM on step 1 and CBMP on step 3.
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.
There used to be a saying, left turns late, right turns early. The
truth is, though, that the same technique that applied to the Reverse
Turn will apply to the Natural Turn family, except that CBM will occur
early in step 1. For the man, the right leg will go straight forward
and the left leg will swing past and in front of the lady.
The Lady's Heel Turn
Many of our movements will involve the lady completing a heel turn.
This can be greatly assisted by the man, whether turning left- or
right-face, by staying on the ball of the foot of the second step for
as long as possible. The rise on the second step also needs to be
sooner. Landing the third step too soon puts a lot of stress on the
lady and will cause imbalance. Also the placement of the second step is
on the same alignment as the first. Taking the second step off this
alignment will cause the lady to be pulled onto her toes.
The weight through the heel turn is done on the heel of the first step.
If the first step back is the right foot, then the turn is done on the
heel of the right foot with weight changing at the end of the rotation.
Weave Four Ending
This figure is just the Feather Finish, but with an extra step before
it. The man will go back on his left foot but will stay high before
going into the normal Feather Finish.
Check & Weave
Ideally, the back checking action will be a back Contra Check and it is
this action that is often missing. This back Contra Check will offer
greater stability through the checking action. For the second step
there is a lowering or softening to allow a heel lead for the man. The
second step is to the side; third step is back in CBMP. Finish as
described for the Feather Finish.
The Promenade Weave
All Weaves are reverse turning figures. As with the rule for the
Reverse Turns, the first step is forward. Rotation only occurs on steps
2 and 5. CBM will occur on steps 1, 4 and 7. The first step is slow
with the next six steps quick. Steps 4 through 7 are nothing more than
the weave ending.
Still a reverse turning figure, the Natural Weave is just initiated
with an underturned Half Natural Turn. One of the biggest mistakes made
is with the man keeping the lady in closed for too long. The man needs
to lead with his left side to put the lady outside on step 3. The man
has his right side in the direction of the travel, but he is leading
with his left side. Steps 4 through 7 are still the Weave Four Ending.
clinic notes prepared for the ICBDA Convention, 2017,
in the Dixie Round Dance Council (DRDC)
Newsletter, March 2019.