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Round Dance Tips by Tim Eum —

Standard Figures from I to VI

PHASE 1 TIP: BOX — When taking side steps with the “inside foot” move the foot up beside the weighted outside foot before stepping side.

A two-step/rumba box goes “side, close, forward - ; side, close, back - ;” A waltz box goes “forward, side, close; back, side, close;”

This tip concerns the side step, which is the fourth step of the two-step/rumba box and the second and fifth steps in the waltz box. Many simply move their foot directly to the side, but because of the previous steps in the box, the foot not only has to go side but also forward (or back) across the diagonal of the box. This looks unattractive and affects your balance. The solution is to bring the foot forward or back, up to other foot, before moving it to the side. Do this in one smooth motion. “Tracing” your step in this way has the added benefit of allowing you to stay better balanced on your weighted foot while moving the free foot first up to the weighted foot and then out to the side.

PHASE 2 TIP: LEFT TURNING BOX — Stay in closed position on all steps.

Whether waltz, foxtrot, or two step, the one piece of magic for doing a left-turning box is to stay in closed position on every step. Keep the upper frame the same throughout. Keep together. If you master staying in closed position while turning left with side closes and then back turning left with side closes it will look like you are dancing as one.

PHASE 2 TIP: CANTER — Take a wide side step, bending your weight-taking knee, so that the draw step can be drawn out with rise and close at the end.

The Canter is only defined officially in the phase 2 waltz, but “side, draw, ---, close” is commonly done also in two step and foxtrot. But no matter the rhythm, you should take a wide and lowering side step to start a Canter.

Many people do not. I often see dancers do a very short side step, quickly bring their other foot beside to a close and then just stand there waiting. This is not very elegant and loses what should have been a nice flowing feel on the Canter. Note that you should really emphasize the drawing action in the Canter. Besides the initial lowering and gradual rise as you draw the foot close, you can also change the timing slightly. Instead of “1,2,3” where you step side, draw, close in even beats you should rush the first step, draw out the second and only at the last moment do the close. In other words, use the timing a/1,--, --3.

You may also use a little sway action. Lead with the hip as you step side and in a wave-like motion bring the upper body and head back up straight as you draw the foot in on the canter. You can do the Canter with elegance.

PHASE 3 TIP: PIVOT 2 — Step strongly into a Pivot, get up onto the toe, and stay up throughout the Pivot.

One of the toughest things for people to learn is the Pivot. People consistently do a couple things wrong. The first is not stepping strongly into the Pivot. When the man steps back, the lady must maintain body contact by stepping into the man. And when the lady steps back, the man must step in strongly right between the lady’s legs. Don’t be shy. The closer you are, the smaller the pivot point and the easier it is for the couple to rotate. Stepping strongly is also what initiates the momentum that will carry you through the rest of the pivot.

The second mistake is to come down too soon. We must get up onto the toe or ball of the foot and stay there throughout the pivot. If you go flat and let your heel come down, all rotation is stopped, and the pivot is over too soon and too short.

PHASE 3 TIP: CROSS HOVER — Start like a Twinkle, but rise higher on step two while “brushing” the free foot before stepping forward on the third step.

Cross Hovers (cross, side turning, fwd) are like twinkles (cross, side, close). Both begin with a crossing step at the end of which you begin turning. Then both take a forward step which feels like side because of the turn. Then you should bring the free foot up beside the other before taking the third step. You close on a twinkle, but on a cross hover simply rise without taking weight. This makes the free foot “brush”. Finish the cross hover by stepping forward. Don’t forget a nice SCAR position

PHASE 3 TIP : CHAIR — Trail leg thighs should touch in a Chair.

So many people dance so far apart. The Chair feels so much better if there is contact. The Chair is only one step. Start in SCP (semi-closed position) with the trail foot free and then lunge through bending the knee and lowering. Turn the toe in towards partner slightly. Be sure to keep a good “frame” by keeping shoulders turned towards partner as far as is comfortable. Keep the upper body straight and even extend “up and away” if time permits. Sometimes you get a whole measure to do the Chair and sometimes you only get one beat.

PHASE 4 TIP: CHANGE OF DIRECTION — Take a very quick forward step, followed by a very quick but wide side step so that you can draw out the draw step.

The same ideas that applied in Canter apply here in the Change of Direction. Although the “book” says to do this in even beats, you really should rush the forward and side steps so that you can emphasize the draw step. Thus in waltz, instead of (1, 2, 3) you should use (&1, --, --) timing. Here also take a wide side step (on the second step) with a bend in the knee and use a little sway action.

PHASE 4 TIP: HESITATION CHANGE — Take a very quick back pivot step, followed by a very quick but wide side step so that you can draw out the draw step.

All the ideas from both the Canter and the Change of Direction apply to the Hesitation Change. Modify the timing so that the draw step is drawn out, make the side step wide, lower into the side step, rise by the end of the figure, and use sway action. Applying these tips will make this figure look and feel better

PHASE 4 TIP: HOVER TELEMARK — Unlike the Hover which goes to the side, the Hover Telemark goes forward with almost no side movement at all.

Hover Telemark is a phase IV waltz, quickstep, or foxtrot figure. It begins in closed position. Starting with the lead foot (M’s L and W’s R) step forward (lady back). Then, as you take the second step diagonally forward with the trail foot (M’s R and W’s L), turn your bodies a quarter to your right and rise high on your toes hovering at the end of the step and turning to semi-closed position (SCP). You can even hold the hover a little extra long and then rush the last step, which is forward in SCP. Note that the Hover Telemark is very much like a Hover and is only like a Telemark in the very last step.

PHASE 4 TIP: IN AND OUT RUNS — In and Out Runs can be thought of as an Open Natural followed by an easy Pivot 3.

Why are “In and Out Runs” called that? After all, the first thing the man does is to go towards the outside of the lady. Why not call this “Out and In Runs”? Heaven only knows. Once something gets named and many people adopt it, it is difficult to go back and change it.

In any case, the In and Out Runs is a phase IV figure defined in the waltz, quickstep, and foxtrot. This tip concerns how you can think of it as two simpler one-measure figures. Start the In and Out Runs in SCP with trail foot free. Then do an Open Natural, followed by a Pivot 3 to SCP. An Open Natural is a Maneuver, Side, Back ending in Banjo position. All three of these steps progress down the line of dance, even the side step. When doing the side step take it on the diagonal so that it really is partially a back step as well. In doing the Pivot 3, the lady takes her first step outside the man. The man takes his second step directly between the lady’s feet and rotates in closed position. The third and last step for both is to step forward in SCP. Remember that going from CP to SCP should involve a right face upper body turn.

Sometimes you hear cued Open In and Out Runs. This is a different figure than the one just described above. Open In and Out Runs can be described as “Man roll across to left-half-open in 3; followed by Lady roll across to half-open in 3.” This is what is done in Answer Me, the classic waltz written by the Palmquists.

PHASE 5 TIP: DOUBLE REVERSE SPIN — Use SQQ& (or 1, 2, 3&) timing on double reverse spin.

Timing for the lady’s steps in the double reverse can vary, but I recommend the above timing. The first step of a double reverse is a long step that commences to turn left. It is the same as you would do in a Diamond Turn or a Telemark, or a regular Reverse Turn. At the end of this first step, the man rises onto the ball of his foot and begins turning left-face. The lady will lower to her heel turn. The second step for the man is side, around his partner about 3/8ths of a turn. The lady will do a heel pivot transferring weight to her left heel and beginning to rise to her left toe. Note that you stay in a tight closed position during this entire figure. A common mistake is to open into semi-closed position here. The third step for the lady is a side step around the man followed quickly by her fourth step, which is a lock in front. The man takes no further steps and simply turns on his toe as the lady takes her third and fourth steps. The most difficult thing for the man here is to maintain his balance since he has to turn a lot (180 degrees) on his toe/ball of the foot.

The key point here is the timing. Many teachers teach (1, 2&, 3) timing in waltz, which while not wrong, does not flow as well. The 1, 2&, 3 timing means that the lady must hurry her heel turn, which is awkward to do. Our recommended timing (1, 2, 3&; SQQ& in foxtrot) allows a smoother, less hurried turn for the lady.

PHASE 6 TIP: TELESPIN — Think of the Telespin as similar to doing a Telemark and a quick pickup to another Telemark (i.e., a Double Telemark) except that the man simply points and holds on steps 3 and 4.

When I first learned to do a Telespin, it seemed easy to do the first half, but it seemed that the second half was a whirlwind, and I had trouble getting around to where I was supposed to end facing. Now, as a teacher, I notice that many people have the same problem that I did. One day, I realized that the second half of the Telespin was just like doing a second Telemark and doing it that way made it seem easy to get around.

Start a Telespin the same way you would start a Telemark to Semi Closed Position. The man steps forward left and starts to turn left-face (the lady steps back with her right), the man then steps forward and side right around the lady continuing to turn left-face (lady closes with her left doing a heel turn).

Now, on the third step the man does something different: he simply points his left toe forward while the lady takes her third step (forward right in Semi-Closed Position). NOTE: some teachers describe this as “opening the door to let the lady pass”. The problem with this description is that some dancers open the door too wide. You need to keep good frame and stay in SCP; don’t open up so far that the man’s left shoulder pulls away from the lady and you end up almost in Half Open Position.

The fourth step is also different: the man simply holds as the lady quickly picks up to closed position. The lady has now taken four steps and the man two, so lead foot is again free for both.

Now to finish the Telespin, simply do a Telemark. You can end in either SCP or in Banjo (the cuer should tell you which). Timing is 1, 2, 3&; 1, 2, 3; in waltz and SQQ&; QQS; in foxtrot. See how easy it is? Instead of being an overly difficult phase VI figure it now seems like just doing two phase IV figures in a row. If you can do Telemarks, you can do a Telespin just as easily. I should note that Roundalab specifies that the lady does a toe spin in the second measure instead of a heel turn, so this second half is not officially a Telemark, but I feel that a heel turn does work as well.

Once you master the Telespin to SCP and the Telespin to BJO you are ready to tackle other figures in the Telespin family: Telespin to Closed Position; Telefeather, Teleronde, and Mini-Telespin and perhaps even Telescoop (which isn’t yet defined by Roundalab).


Tim Eum has prepared many Round Dance Tips for Calls 'n' Cues, WASCA, for his weekly Rocket Rounds e-mail reports, and for other publications. This set was expanded for the National Square and Round Dance Convention, 2011, and reprinted  in the Dixie Round Dance Council Newsletter, February 2015. Visit this page for a DRDC Eum archive.


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