How Much Technique at Phase II?
by Don Casper
& Heike Beck
defines technique as “the manner in which basic physical movements
are used (as by a dancer); also: the ability to use such movements.”
We, as experienced dancers and leaders, know it takes technique to
get us in the right position, the right way, at the right time.
is not to be confused with styling (the way we look), although it is
a major contributing factor thereof and will also help us feel “good”
about our dancing by enabling us to go from one position to another
with comfort, grace, and ease.
all know that technique is very important at the higher ROUNDALAB
phases, and some figures are next to impossible to execute without
the use of proper technique. But where and how do we learn this
technique when starting out as dancers?
II is very important, as it is the first step of our "Round
Dance life," and we should follow the principle that what we do
not learn in our "youth" we will never learn at a later
stage; i.e., “ you can’t teach an old dog new tricks.”
teachers at the higher RAL phases have also criticized that dancers
will have to unlearn their bad dancing habits if they continue
dancing into the higher phases, so the best solution is to teach them
correctly right from day one. After all, we don’t want to lose them
because they have become aware of their difficulties and can’t
"keep up." From personal experience, we know some dancers
who have claimed foxtrot is "too difficult" because they
were not taught the proper execution of turns at the phase-II level
in waltz. So technique can certainly become a thread throughout a
dancer’s whole lifetime.
have listed a few topics which need to be stressed from the
beginning, not only in round dancing, but in any kind of dancing.
Repeated consideration of these topics from time to time will
reinforce these techniques in our minds, and the more attention you
pay to them, the less likely we will slip into bad habits.
need to stand and dance upright. Feet should never be wider apart
than shoulder width. The weight must be centered over your feet. No
slouching or leaning forward or back (exception: see Turns, below).
Although we like to start in an open or butterfly position, it is
imperative that a closed position be taught ASAP. When explaining CP,
be sure to call attention to the points of contact of the
partnership, also that the lady is always in front of the man and
never to his side, even in BJO or SCAR (see Positions, below). When
moving, be sure not to scuff the floor, but pick up your feet and
move deliberately (like your mother told you!).
dance frame must be sturdy. No “spaghetti arms,” but no “death
grips,” either. The man’s right arm must reach the lady’s
shoulder blade to offer support. If the lady leans slightly back,
then the man must counter with a slight lean back so the couple, as a
whole, is erect. The lady’s left arm should rest on the man’s
right arm, preferably at the seam of his shirtsleeve (there is some
allowance for different heights for man and lady), and she should not
grip his upper arm or elbow! The man’s right side is where the
lady’s lead will come from, and she is depriving herself of this
lead if she constricts her partner’s movement on this side.
“Lead hands” and true leads --
the man’s left hand is called the “lead hand,” he actually does
no leading with it at all! His leading signal comes from his right
side and the body contacts of the couple. Lead hands are part of the
entire frame and should be firmly held (no “dead fish”).
must be able to keep their balance by keeping weight on one foot
only. There is no figure at this Phase that will require having even
partial weight on both feet. Dancers must be taught to be consciously
aware of which foot is free at all times, and if they make a weight
change they need to commit fully to that foot.
Dance positions --
Position: slightly offset to the left, never toes to toes! Heads look
over the partner’s right shoulders. When dancing forward, as in CP
M fcg LOD, steps are between the partner’s feet. Forward steps come
from the knee, but backward steps come from the hip, so there is no
danger of the person backing up to be stepped on. Bodies must remain
parallel to each other -- teachers may want to use “parallel” as
a magic word -- it is the key to dancing with each other and not next
to each other. In CP, M facing wall, the lady is slightly behind the
man (in regards to line of dance) due to the offset nature of CP.
Position: never side by side (hip to hip)!! It is closed position
with the toes turned slightly to line of dance. The hold may be
relaxed a bit for comfort but should not become too loose or the
leader (man) will lose some ability to lead! The bodies are turned
slightly toward each other but remain parallel (magic word!).
Position: never side by side (hip to hip)!! It is closed position but
the toes are angled to the left (BJO) or right (SCAR). The lady must
remain in front of the man and always parallel (magic word!) to him.
Position: as the number of contact points for a lead have been
reduced to one, the lady must take over more control of her own
dancing and know where to place her steps. Both partners need to be
aware of where the other partner is and remain on the same plane.
Position: the number of contact points has been reduced to two here,
so remaining parallel (magic word!) is essential. Keeping a rigid
frame and using equal pressure on both hands will help smooth out
Facing directions --
must be aware that the 4 main facing directions (LOD, RLOD, COH,
Wall) are not the only ones they may be facing. Introduce dancers to
the 4 diagonals ASAP, as they will become imperative when teaching
Scissors in Two Step or Twinkles in Waltz.
Leading and following --
who cannot lead or follow at Phase II will be greatly hindered at
comes though the signals given by the man (the natural leader?) It
will be his right side that signals to the lady where he wants her to
go, even on left turns (see Turns, below). There is no pushing,
pulling or shoving whatsoever! Dancers should not overtake each other
and all movements must be done parallel (magic word!). The man should
not hesitate to use a strong lead so there is no doubt in the lady’s
mind regarding the step or direction she should take. Many ladies
have gotten used to “Lead what you can and follow what you get!”
Dancers should be made aware that the leader’s job may be
temporarily handed over to the follower; i.e., when the lady has to
move forward in the direction of dance and the man is backing up
(Backward Waltz or Backward Two Step traveling down LOD).
Foot placement --
should be placed straight forward, heel first, never turned – even
on turns. Always step first, then turn as you bring the body to the
foot. Backward steps are toe first and the leg is extended back from
the hip, not from the knee. Even when steps outside the partner are
called for, as in SCAR or BJO, a turn into the figure is never done,
only a step into the figure. The bodies must remain parallel (magic
parallel (magic word!) is an absolute MUST!! Dancers must remain in
CP throughout the turn!! Any step in the direction of partner must be
placed between the partner’s feet! The degree of turn must be led
strongly by the man, for example:
turns: first turn 1⁄2, second turn 1⁄4 (unless otherwise noted, i.e.
two 1⁄4 L turns)
turns: first turn 1⁄4, second turn 1⁄2 (or less depending on ending
turning two-steps: each turn exactly 1⁄2 (or less, see waltz right
each turn exactly 1⁄2 (like steps 3 and 6 of 2 turning two-steps)
rotation occurs, especially if there are many turns, i.e. double
pivot (pivot 4) in Two Step or 4 left waltz turns, leaning back
slightly may aid with the turn (centrifugal force) but only if both
partners lean back away from each other. Leaning towards partner
while he/she is leaning away will cause a loss of the axis of the
turn and lead to wobbling and falling out of position.
turning, heads and eyes should face in the direction of the turn, not
away from it and not towards the partner (however pretty her/his eyes
have tried to cover many points we feel are valid for any dance
activity and extremely important when teaching to beginner dancers at
the Phase II level. We try to impress technique without being too
technical and encourage our dancers to use proper technique as it
will help them to dance more smoothly and gracefully.
hope this information will be helpful with YOUR new dancers coming
into the activity at the Phase II level. Remember, what the dancers
learn in the early stages will follow them for the rest of their
dancing, cueing and teaching!
From clinic notes prepared for the ROUNDALAB annual
Convention, June 2012, and reprinted in the Dixie Round Dance Council (DRDC)
Newsletter, February 2014.