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Let's Learn to Twist

by Dan & Sandi Finch

No, not like we did last summer, not like Chubby Checker.

Our twists are the advanced figures in rumba and cha cha generally known as hip twists. We see five different hip twists in choreography. Two of these have been standardized only in the last year or two.

Hip twists are rotational figures, with a sharp swivel over a standing foot. The rotation is always toward the standing foot (e.g., standing on the right foot, swiveling right face). The name “hip twist” comes from the action itself—the hips will rotate more than the torso causing a slight twist in the body as the swivel occurs. (In smooth dancing, the hips belong to the upper torso and they together move as a unit while the legs move freely. In latin dancing, the hips belong to the legs and can move separately from the upper body.)

Terminology --

Rotation is a generic term for turning actions. What distinguishes them is whether the rotation occurs over a foot or as you move between feet. True turns occur between feet. A swivel or spiral is a turn on a foot. The swivel rotates in the direction of the standing foot. Its sister, the spiral, is a rotation over the standing foot but in the direction opposite to the foot.

Mechanics --

A good hip twist requires an understanding that the rotation can only occur when the body’s weight is centered securely over one foot. The vertical axis for the rotation is not through the center of the body. For a swivel, the vertical axis (the body’s balance point, center of gravity) shifts to the side, running top to bottom from the shoulder to the hip and down to the standing foot. Attempting to turn over one foot while keeping your balance in the center of the body will cause you to be unsteady and need to take an extra step.

And here are the twists, as shown in the Manual for rumba --

I. Open Hip Twist (Phase V)

This begins in open facing position, lead hands or right hands joined. As Lady steps forward on her third step, Man’s resistance through the joined hands will cause her to swivel right face on the last half of the “slow” count, almost like an “&.” He does not turn her. Her turn must only occur after she has her weight over her third step, generated by her through the hip.

Open Hip Twist
QQS;
FWD, REC, CL, -;
(BK, REC, FWD SWVL, -;)
MAN: Check forward left, recover right, close left to right, -;
WOMAN: Back right, recover left, forward right toward man with tension in right arm which causes woman to swivel 1/4 right face on right on count of "and", -;
NOTE: Man may use either hand, woman uses right hand. Swivel must happen after woman steps forward on right.

II. Closed Hip Twist (Phase V)

This begins in closed position. Man will use a subtle left lead (turning his body slightly to the right) to encourage Lady to open out right-face up to one half on the first step, then he recovers with a right side lead to get her to return to closed position. On the slow count he closes with a left side lead again to cause her to swivel 1⁄4 to face line of dance, ready usually to go to fan.

Closed Hip Twist
QQS;
CHK SD & FWD, REC, CL, -;
(SWVL BK, REC SWVL, SD SWVL, -;)
MAN: With slight right face body turn and right side stretch giving woman a slight left side lead to open her out check side and forward left, recover right with slight right side lead to lead woman to close, close left with slight left side lead to turn woman ending with slight right side stretch, -;
WOMAN: With slight left side stretch swivel right face up to 1/2 back right, recover left swiveling left face up to 1/2, side right small step swivel 1/4 right face on right touching left to right no weight with slight left side stretch, -;

III. Advanced Hip Twist (Phase VI)

This also begins in closed position, but Man will step forward instead of side and forward to cause her to swivel and open out 1⁄2 to face wall. Because he steps back under himself, Lady’s second swivel to recover will take her into Man’s right arm, and she steps forward in banjo to swivel to face line of dance.

Advanced Hip Twist
QQS;
FWD, REC, XIB, -;
(SWVL BK, REC SWVL, FWD SWVL, -;)
MAN: Forward left on ball of foot with pressure into floor and slight body turn to right, recover right, cross left in back of right with push action but do not allow weight to drop back, -;
WOMAN: On weighted foot swivel 1/2 right face back right, recover left swivel 5/8 left face, forward right outside partner swivel 1/4 right face, -;
NOTE: Starts in Closed Position, ends with woman facing across in front of man. The woman swivels right face on the right foot, while the shoulders are held as square to the man as possible, creating a strong twist of the hip to the right. The hip twist action can take place any time after the woman has completed the third step, but usually occurs on the second half of the fourth beat.

IV. Circular Hip Twist (Phase VI)

Standard figure begins and ends in closed position, and usually rotates one full turn to the left. Man’s action is like a natural top but going to the left. It begins by swiveling Lady in place like an advanced hip twist. Lady then walks and swivels rotating left-face. Avoid the tendency to “prance” the steps. Man is not the center of the rotation. They both circle a common center.

Circular Hip Twist
QQS; QQS; QQS;
FWD, REC, XIB, -; SD & BK TRNG, XIB TRNG, SD & BK TRNG, -; XIB TRNG, SD & BK TRNG, CL, -;
(SWVL BK TRN, REC TRN, FWD TRN, -; SWVL FWD TRN, SWVL FWD TRN, SWVL FWD TRN, -; SWVL FWD, SWVL FWD, SWVL FWD, -;)
MAN: Forward left, recover right, cross left in back of right, -; side and back right making 1/8 left face turn lead woman to swivel right face, cross left in back of right turning and backing left face lead woman to swivel left face, side and back right turning left face lead woman to swivel right face, -; cross left in back of right turning left face lead woman to swivel left face, side and back right turning left face lead woman to swivel right face, close left lead woman to swivel left face, -;
WOMAN: Swivel on left step back right turning 1/2 right face, recover left start left face turn, forward right outside partner completing 5/8 left face turn, -; swivel 1/2 right face step forward left, swivel 1/2 left face step forward right, swivel 1/2 right face step forward left, -; swivel 1/2 left face step forward right, swivel 1/2 right face step forward left, swivel 1/2 left face step forward right to face, -;
NOTE: Standard figure begins and ends in Closed Position. Couple usually rotates 1 full turn to the left.

V. Continuous Hip Twist (Phase VI)

The first measure is like an Advanced Hip Twist, second measure feels like a left-turning hip twist & curving walk 2 back to partner.

Continuous Hip Twist
QQS; QQS;
FWD, REC, XIB, -; BK, REC, FWD, -;
(SWVL BK, REC SWVL, FWD SWVL, -; FWD SWVL, FWD, FWD, -;)
MAN: Forward left on ball of foot with pressure into floor and slight body turn to right, recover right, cross left in back of right turning 1/8 left face with push action but do not allow weight to drop back, -; back right, recover on left commencing right face turn, forward right to woman’s right side completing 1/4 right face turn, -;
WOMAN: On weighted foot swivel 1/2 right face back right, recover left swivel 5/8 left face, forward right outside partner swivel 1/4 right face, -; forward left swiveling left face, forward right outside partner, forward left in Banjo Position, -;
NOTE: The figure starts with an Advanced Hip Twist. It then turns 1/4 right face and ends in Banjo Position. Man commonly continues to turn right face 1/8 into the following figure, which completes a 1/4 right face turn from the original facing direction. In choreography, the figure, or a portion of it, may be repeated.


Dan and Sandi host two weekly Carousel Clubs and teach a weekly figure clinic on advanced basics in Southern California. This article comes from clinic notes prepared for the ROUNDALAB Convention, June 2011, and reprinted in the Dixie Round Dance Council (DRDC) Newsletter, November 2013.



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