Phase II Techniques for Million
by Walter & Eula Brewer
What needs to be learned at phase I / II so that there is little or no
adaptation by dancers when it comes time to learn phase III & IV?
These techniques will help dancers smooth out, add elegance to, and
generally make their dancing feel and look better. The comments here
are mine, and are the synthesis of 35 years of dancing and instruction
from many of the finest round dance instructors on the planet. We
believe that incorporating these techniques early will enhance any
dancer's understanding of good & easy-to-learn dance technique,
providing the foundation for later successes if and/or when they pursue
additional dancing goals. Mastering these techniques early will lead to
dancers’ long-term enjoyment of great dancing. Since many teachers
start their beginner lessons with the two step, the figures explained
herein will mostly be in the two step. Generally, all these figures
have waltz counterparts.
Contra Body Movement (CBM)
Take a good closed position with man facing wall – then men slightly
rotate shoulders to right (which should turn lady’s shoulders to the
right allowing her to look toward right) – both dancers are able to
look to line of dance but the bodies (hips down) are mostly still
facing each other. “Forward” steps taken with lead foot should be more
side than forward. “Forward” steps taken with trail foot should be a
crossing thru step more than forward. When taking steps in semi-closed
position, the feet will naturally turn a bit with the toes slightly
turning toward line of dance (but only a little). The position of the
feet should have a natural turn and not purposely pointed toward line
All “forward” steps taken with the trail foot are done using a concept
called “contra body movement position” (CBMP). This term CBMP is a foot
position or method of foot placement. In essence, that’s all it really
means. There’s been much confusion over this term for years.
In semi-closed position (for the man), this is a position of the feet
where the right (trail) foot is moving toward the left shoulder with
the right foot crossing in front of the left foot with or without
forward progression. For the lady, the left (trail) foot moves toward
the right shoulder with the left crossing in front of the right foot.
Conversely, “backward” steps taken using the lead foot while in
semi-closed position should use CBMP as well. We don’t do a lot of
these (however, see hitch 6 below).
Forward Two Steps
From semi-closed position, the “forward” in the name means toward line
of dance – not actual forward steps. The steps should more closely
resemble a side two step followed by a cross-side-cross (or a thru two
step). Think more side/close/side, then cross thru CBMP/close/cross
From semi-closed, the 3rd & 6th steps are taken using CBMP. Think
of this more as a side/close/cross behind CBMP, and side/close/cross
thru CBMP – having started with lead foot.
Sidecar & Banjo Positions
For sidecar position start off
in closed position with man facing line of dance. Then as an
individual, both partners rotate the whole body to the left (up to
about a 1/8 turn) but still keep your head looking toward the left.
This may feel awkward since we may have been taught to turn as a couple
to the right. The left rotation will actually allow the man to step
forward outside the lady which places both dancers to the partner's
left side. For either dancer, a left foot forward step is taken in CBMP
and a right foot back step is taken in CBMP. Using this body
positioning and foot placement allows forward progression to actually
be taken on a diagonal toward line and wall.
For banjo position start off
in closed position with man facing line of dance. Then as an
individual, both partners rotate the whole body to the right (up to
about a 1/8 turn and keep your head looking toward the left. The right
position will allow the man to step forward R outside the lady, placing
both dancers to the partner's right side. For either dancer a right
foot forward step is taken in CBMP and a left foot back step is taken
in CBMP. Using this body positioning and foot placement allows forward
progression toward diagonal line and center.
For forward walks (either dancer from Sidecar Position): Starting with
Left Foot, the walk 2 will be a forward left crossing CBMP step and a
side-like forward right step. Starting with Right Foot, the walk 2 will
be a side-like forward right step and a forward left crossing CBMP step.
For backward walks (either dancer from Sidecar Position): Starting with
Left Foot, the back walk 2 will be a side-like back left step and a
back crossing CBMP step. Starting with Right Foot, the back walk 2 will
be a back crossing CBMP right step and a side-like back left step.
For forward walks (either dancer from Banjo Position: Starting with
Left Foot, the walk 2 will be a side-like forward left step and a
forward right crossing CBMP step. Starting with Right Foot, the walk 2
will be a forward right crossing CBMP step and a side-like forward left
For backward walks (either dancer from Banjo Position: Starting with
Left Foot, the back walk 2 will be a back crossing CBMP left step and a
side-like back right step. Starting with Right Foot, the back walk will
be a side-like back right step and a back crossing CBMP left step.
Progressive Scissors in TS,
similar to Progressive Twinkles in WZ
The Progressive Scissors to Sidecar (beginning with lead foot free):
Figure usually starts in Closed Position and starts with both dancers
stepping side with a very slight couple rotation to the right (lady
outsteps the man but stays in front of man in Closed Position but
slightly offset a bit farther to man’s left than usual), then both
close, (in between the 2nd & 3rd steps, both dancers individually
rotate to the left to sidecar position), then both take a CBMP crossing
step (the man’s forward crossing and the lady’s backward crossing).
The Progressive Scissors to Banjo (beginning with trail foot free):
Figure usually starts in Sidecar Position but may begin in Closed
Position. Begins with both dancers stepping side with a very slight
couple rotation to the left (lady outstepping man to Closed Position
but slightly offset a bit farther to man’s right than usual), then both
close, (in between the 2nd & 3rd steps both dancers individually
rotate to the right to banjo position), then both take a CBMP crossing
step (man’s forward crossing and lady’s backward crossing).
Locks (either forward or backward traveling) are danced with the body
turned at an angle of about 45 degrees (or even more). Locking figures
or step combinations should be danced with flexed knees. Knees should
absolutely never be locked (stiff), but should be more relaxed that
just a soft knee.
For forward movement, when starting with the left foot while facing
line of dance the body (pretty much all of it) will rotate to the right
so that the trunk of the body is facing toward diagonal line &
wall. If right foot, the body turns left to face diagonal line and
center. For either foot, this will kind of feel like someone is taking
the hand closer to line of dance and is pulling you forward toward line
of dance and you are somewhat resisting the pull. This would be the
lead hands if starting with lead foot or trail hands starting with
For backward movement, when starting with the left foot while facing
line of dance the body will rotate to the left with the trunk facing
diagonal line & center. When starting with the right foot the body
will rotate to the right with the trunk facing diagonal line &
wall. This would have the pull from behind with lead hands if starting
with lead foot versus trail hand starting with trail foot.
Forward Locks & Back Locks
After direction of body rotation and dancing with flexed legs are
understood, we look at the figure/step combinations we encounter in the
two step. The double forward lock (sometimes cued forward lock 2X or
forward lock 4) is very common, and the standard timing is 4 quick
steps (qqqq). From open position (starting with lead foot toward line
of dance) the couple will face in toward each other in a facing vee
open position – trail hands are joined at the vertex of the vee – and
will take a step toward line of dance (this step will feel like a
diagonal side & forward step) followed be a lock in back (with the
trail foot crossing in behind the lead foot with both feet close
together). The second forward lock will be identical. If starting with
the trail foot the dancer would turn away from each other into a back
to back vee open position with the trail hand joined at the vertex
(with trail hand farther down line of dance) and the first step is
taken toward line of dance.
In performing back locks from open position (infrequent), the dancers
would likely start with trail foot and would likely change to handholds
with the lead hands which would be the vertex of a facing vee.
Also common is doing forward locks from banjo position starting with
the lead foot. In this instance the dancers bodies will be aligned
parallel to each other but both will be turned to the right at the 45
degree angle with man slightly ahead of woman. Then the man does
forward locks while the lady does back locks. Forward locks from banjo
with trail foot should be considered poor choreography. But back locks
from banjo position starting with trail foot can be good choreography,
and in this instance the man does back locks while lady does forward
In sidecar position forward locks should start with trail foot (man
doing forward locks and lady doing back locks). Back locks would start
with lead foot (man doing back locks and lady doing forward locks).
The 3-step locks are an extension of a single forward lock. Timing is
quick quick slow (qqs) for one measure. When dancing single measure
combinations just do the steps indicated (using information form
above). For forward/lock/forward just dance the single forward lock
following by another forward step. Same for back/lock/back. Waltz will
use the preparatory slow count for a forward, forward/lock, forward.
Starting with lead foot, when dancing the forward/lock/forward twice
from open position the dancers will turn in toward each other for the
first “set” then (while bringing joined trail hands thru toward line)
will pivot on the lead foot to a back to back vee position to dance the
second “set.” This will feel a lot like the figure combination face to
face and back to back.
Right Turns (early turn)
Right turning figures use the reverse box as the foundation; so it’s
critical to understand the steps of the reverse box well. Most of the
turn on right turns is performed on the 3rd step of each measure (the
forward or back step) in the two step / 1st step in waltz. Early turn
means that the body turn and the foot turn starts before placing the
foot – then the turn continues while on the foot with both body and
The basic for right turns. The reverse box for the man is a step side
left, then close the right foot to the left, then back left, then a
pause (ﬁrst measure is complete), then side right, then close left to
right, then forward right, then pause. Timing translates to qqs qqs.
For lady it’s side right, close left, forward right, pause, side left,
close right, back left, pause.
Right Turning Box
The right turning box is a reverse box followed by another reverse box
– but – each time the dancer steps forward or back they turn 1/4 to the
right. This means that the figures covers four measures (each with a
quarter turn) and timing is qqs qqs qqs qqs. When using the left foot
for a right turn you prepare the turn after the previous step by
starting to rotate the body right faced – this will allow the foot to
already be turned some (toeing in) before completing the step back –
then after placing weight on the left foot perform a sharp pivot to
complete the 1/4 turn.
Turning Two Steps (right turning)
This is an extension of the right turning box – but only with two
measures. Timing is qqs qqs. But the big difference is you will turn on
steps #1, #3, #4, & #6. Each of these 4 steps create a 1/4 turn
each and each of these steps progresses down line of dance. Two turning
TS is a very linear figure – and by that I mean that it travels a long
length (distance) toward the dancing line of progression.
Starting with lead foot, we will perform an early turn before the side
step, we will close, then early turn while stepping back for man
(forward for lady), pause, then an early turn side step, close, then
early turn step forward for man (back for lady). In smoothing the
ﬁgure, some turn is also allowed on the closing steps. Also note that
due to the early turn the side steps may feel forward or back more than
sideward. Either measure of the figure can be done separately but is
Left Turns (late turn)
As in the right turns there is a foundation. For left turns it’s the
box. Turns also occur primarily on the forward or back steps. Late turn
means that all the turn for a given step is performed after foot
The basic for left turns. The box for the man is a side step left,
close right to left, forward left, pause, side right, close left to
right, back right, pause. Timing is qqs qqs. For lady the steps are
side step right, close left to right, back right, pause, side left,
close right to left, forward left, pause.
Left Turning Box
The left turning box is a box followed by another box – but – each time
the dancer steps forward or back they turn 1/4 to the left – but the
turn is a pivot on the foot after taking the step – this means there is
no preparation for the turn. The figure covers four measures with
timing of qqs qqs qqs qqs. All turn is on steps #3, #6, #9, & #12
with each turn exactly 1/4 to the left. There should be no turning on
the side or closing steps.
Left Turning Two Steps
This is an extension of the left turning box – but with only two
measures. Timing is qqs qqs. The big difference here is that you will
turn after the last step of previous ﬁgure (1/8 turn), on step #1 (1/8
turn), #3 (1/4 turn), #4 (1/8), & #6 (3/8). Each of these steps
progress down line of dance. Two Left Turning TS is quite linear as
well – but with a wrinkle. The first measure will travel primarily down
line but a little toward the center too. The second measure will travel
down line and a little toward the wall.
The figure begins with a late left turn after the last step of the
previous figure. Left turn will continue with a side step, we will
close, then forward (back for lady) with a subsequent late left turn,
pause, then continue rotation with a side step, close, and a final back
(forward for lady) with late left turn – this step will likely continue
rotation during the pause and into the first step of the next figure.
The lesson we’re looking for on twisting figures is that it’s better to
be subtle on the amount of turn involved but to be extravagant on other
styling techniques; kind of a less is more approach.
First, when we’re dancing open vines we want to keep lead hands joined
at all times. This may not be conventional but will allow a stronger
partner connection. Sometimes it’s hard to find the partner’s free hand
to keep joining the other hand for each step. This allows the free
(trailing) arm to get to do “pretty” stuff. This part is visual and
difficult to write about. The best part, however, is if the figure ends
in semi-closed the dancers can make a much smoother transition to the
next dance position.
Timing is ss ss over two measures. Try to minimize the amount of turn
on the 2nd and 4th steps. Description is the same for both the man and
the woman. Step side, turning to left open position cross in back (but
not to face reverse – you should be in a facing vee here), turning to
face partner step side, step thru (this should be more of a crossing in
front step than the forward thru step) bringing trail hand thru also
(but don’t grab hold) also to a facing vee position – lead hands should
be joined throughout the figure. Never fully turn your back to line of
dance – after all there are wolves down there.
Again, do not fully turn your back to either line of dance or reverse
line of dance (wolves down line – snakes down reverse). Less rotation
is better. Timing is ss ss over 2 measures. Usually danced in loose
closed position. Starts in closed position, man steps side left,
somewhat crosses right in back of left (to sidecar), turning to face
partner side left, somewhat cross right in front of left (to banjo).
The lady steps side right, crosses left somewhat in front of right to
sidecar, turning to face partner side right, crosses left somewhat in
back of right to banjo.
The phase III Strolling Vine is a combination using the twisty vines
along with left and right turning two-steps.
Side sway (utilizing side stretch) should be introduced as soon as
possible when teaching waltz. Side Draw Touch and Side Sway Left and/or
Right should be considered interchangeable cue terms. Side sway should
be utilized in Canters and Boxes and the sway introduced on day one of
any waltz class.
Dancing On Diagonals
Last but not least – where possible, dances should be danced on the
diagonals. Just because a waltz is phase II does not mean that dancing
cannot be performed on the diagonals. This, however, will require more
choreographers to consciously write their dances utilizing figure to
figure execution which allows and/or encourages dancing diagonally.
From clinic notes
prepared for the RAL Convention, 2015,
in the Dixie Round Dance Council (DRDC)
Newsletter, September 2021.