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Foxtrot Is Not Waltz Danced SQQ

by Paula & 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 Finish.

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

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.

Natural Turns

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.

Natural Weave

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.


From clinic notes prepared for the ICBDA Convention, 2017, and reprinted in the Dixie Round Dance Council (DRDC) Newsletter, March 2019.


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