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Round Dance Tips by Tim Eum—

Two Step

The first rhythm that many round dancers learn is the two step. Back in the late 1940’s when square and round dancing first began, the two step and waltz were the ONLY round dance rhythms and they are the only two that have any figures defined at phases one and two – supposedly the easiest levels of round dancing.

The basic pattern for two step is “step, close, step, - ;” which is done with small steps, under the body, with no rise and fall, and danced with a timing of quick, quick, slow (QQS). Yes, the two step is actually three steps, but you can think of it as “left and left” or “right and right”. History has clouded the reason for why this three-step pattern is called the two step.

Perhaps it comes from the “valse a deux temps” (waltz two step) or “galop” which were dances done in the early 1800’s. The “galop” had the three-step pattern similar to our two step and it was danced energetically like a polka. In 1889, John Phillip Sousa wrote the Washington Post March and promoted dancing the two step to it. The two step (and related ragtime dances) became very popular even internationally. Popularity waned in the 1920’s with the advent of dances like the charleston and swing-jive. Then in the 1930’s and 40’s, Lloyd “Pappy” Shaw revived some of the “old” dances to include square and round dancing and the waltz and two step.

The term “two step” is also used to describe a form of country-western dancing, but its basic rhythm is QQSS instead of round dancing’s QQS. In 1965, Buddy Schwimmer “invented” the “night club two step,” which has enjoyed some success in ballrooms and night clubs. Buddy’s “creation” used the QQS rhythm, but many ballroom studios evolved the “night club two step” into a SQQ rhythm. The round dance “Slow Two Step” came from this.

I am pleased to see so many report on the continued viability of two step as a round dance rhythm that still is used to provide fun and enjoyment to so many. I personally still teach two step as the first rhythm to teach beginners. Many of its movements are simple enough to teach to raw beginners without being boring. The music for two step can be lively and interesting. Two step can be danced in both loose positions and in close-framed positions so that such can be taught without insisting on either, giving the dancer a choice to be stylish or not. Round dance two step has figures that use many of the techniques that must be mastered in higher level phases and thus is a good rhythm to ease dancers into those techniques.

Three Figures --

FORWARD TWO STEP – Avoid the “bump up”.

There are two common problems with simply moving forward three steps (i.e. forward, close, forward, - ;) and thus doing a Forward Two Step. First is that some people don’t take three steps. Often this is because the second step (the “close”) is supposed to take weight and many don’t and just “touch” instead. Also, sometimes people do the three steps and then take a fourth step. This occurs because the two step is danced to music that has four beats per measure and you have to learn to hold on the fourth beat without taking a step. The second common problem is “bumping up” when taking the second “closing” step resulting in a jerky hopping action. Soften the knees to be smoother.

BREAKAWAY – Timing can be SQQ instead of QQS.

The classic dance Dancing Shadows has Breakaways in it. The steps for a Breakaway are : “side, cross behind, recover to face, - ;” By the book, it is done with the normal quick, quick, slow timing, but it feels better to dance it with slow, quick, quick timing instead.

STAIRS – Listen to cue to go either FORWARD or SIDE on the first step.

There are two kinds of Stairs in round dancing: Forward Stairs and Side Stairs. Forward Stairs is “forward, close, side, close;” Side Stairs is “side, close, forward, close;”. Note that the first word of the cue will tell you what to do on the first step and thus which kind of Stairs to do.


Tim Eum originally prepared these Tips for Calls 'n' Cues, (WASCA). Additional material from some of Tim's contributions to the Weavers discussion list. Reprinted in the Dixie Round Dance Council (DRDC) Newsletter, May and June, 2011.




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