by Dick & Karen
The quickstep is a
joyful but demanding dance. The basic figures are simple, easy to
learn, and easy to fit to the music. The tempo and bright character
of the music add to making quickstep a joy to dance. However, mastery
of the basics is essential if one wishes to really enjoy quickstep.
The walk, the chassé, and the lock are the foundation of many
quickstep figures, and we should attempt to master them before we
worry about figures.
The walk in
is not different from that in other smooth rhythms; however, in
quickstep it is very important to execute it properly in order to
keep the body from popping up and down, as well as to conserve
energy. However, before we begin to look at the walk we must have the
correct poise, or carriage of the body, and correct balance, or
distribution of weight, foot alignment, and dance hold.
The dance hold is
matter of personal preference, but a quiet and unvarying top line is
essential in quickstep. The elbows should be held only slightly
forward of the shoulders and as widely apart as possible. They should
not move from this position. The man’s right elbow should never
move back of the shoulder line. Correct poise and balance is achieved
by having all of our blocks of weight in alignment. When we stand
normally, this is usually not achieved. There is a tendency to have
our chest and head out of alignment. To correct this, use your
abdominal muscles to lift the chest and then move your head back so
that it is aligned over your spine.
The forward walk:
Standing very erect with knees relaxed but not bent, push the hips
forward so that your weight is on the balls of the feet but the heels
are still in contact with the floor. Take care not to allow your body
above the hips to move forward. For our example, we will begin with
the left foot free. Swing the left knee forward allowing the ball of
the foot and then the hell to just skim the floor and extend the
foot. At the full extent of the stride, the heel of the left foot and
the ball of the right foot will be in contact with the floor. As the
hips move forward, lower the left toe so that the full foot is on the
floor, then allow the hips to continue to move forward until your
weight is on the ball of the left foot, and repeat the process with
the right foot.
The backward walk:
is more difficult than the forward walk. The person moving backward
must be careful not to take weight onto the moving foot until the
forward motion of the couple has caused a weight shift that forces
them to do so. Taking weight onto the moving foot too early will
impede the couple’s flowing movement over the floor, which can be
particularly disastrous in the quickstep. Standing very erect with
knees relaxed but not bent, push the hips forward but keep your
weight evenly distributed between the balls of the feet and the
heels. Take care not to allow your body above the hips to move
forward. For our example, we will begin with the right foot free.
Swing the right leg back from the hip with the ball of the foot and
then the toe skimming the floor. As the forward motion of the couple
moves the center of gravity, begin to take weight on the ball of the
right foot. Continuing to move backward, release the toe of the left
foot, and dragging the heel draw it back under the body toward the
right foot. When the feet are parallel, lower the right heel to the
floor, and repeat the process with the left foot.
The chassé: The
chassé action (QQS) is side, close, side and forward or side and
backward. The side-close-side steps are taken on the ball of the foot
with the feet just skimming the floor, but there is a very definite
placement of weight onto the ball of the foot at the end of each
step. This is accomplished by the flexing of the ankle and instep as
the step is completed. The third step is taken ball-flat, preparing
for a heel lead on the next figure by the person going forward.
The lock step: The
step is a chassé in which the feet are crossed on the second quick.
To accomplish this, step forward or backward on the first quick and
then bring the knees together tucking the knee of the moving foot in
front of or behind the knee of the supporting foot. This means that
the feet will remain somewhat separated. Although the feet remain
parallel to the line of dance, the person moving forward has a left
side lead. Of course, this is the responsibility of the man. As in
the chassé, the ball of the foot should just skim the floor as each
step is taken.
In quickstep, the
almost continuous contact of the feet with the floor, maintained by
the softening of the knees and allowing the ankles and the instep to
flex, allows the dancers to move in a flowing motion across the floor
without bobbing up and down. There is slight body rise and fall but
it is nothing like the rise and fall in waltz. Even in figures such
as telemark, impetus, and spin turn, which are danced like waltz, the
rise and fall is minimized. Excessive lowering will lead to bobbing
up and down and make quickstep a tiring dance. Body rise and fall
needs to be dampened by having soft knees and flexible ankles so that
the head shows little or no up and down motion. This conserves energy
and does not tire the dancers out.
From clinic notes
prepared for the ROUNDALAB Convention, 2011, and
reprinted in the Dixie Round Dance Council (DRDC)
Newsletter, April 2014.