Simply Speaking, It's Simply Foxtrot
by Brent & Judy Moore
Slow foxtrot is reputed to be one of the most, if not the most,
difficult dances to master. But, let's make it simple. The concepts are
uncomplicated and straight forward. Yes, you can keep it that way and
make foxtrot a pleasant experience for both the man and lady. A nice
side benefit is that most of these tips will be applicable to all your
dancing. We offer three ideas:
Lowering is a characteristic of all dancing. The real secret to having
the lowering action be effective (that is, setting up the next figure
or movement) is to lower early. Lowering at the end of a figure and
being ready to do the next action is critical to maintaining smoothness
and to not forcing the backing partner into a falling action as they
move back. The easiest way to really focus on the technique is to get
the heel down on the last step of a figure. You don't have to sink
deeply into the knee to lower; just get the heel down promptly on the
last step of a figure. If the heel is not down, you don't have the
control and power to use the standing leg, and the backing partner is
uncertain of when or where to go next.
- Do things early.
- Use your standing leg/foot.
- Keep the lady on your front.
Turning is always a problem in all activities, including dancing. The
simple approach to help solve this problem is one we learned in driving
school -- signal turns early. We need to communicate to our lady that
we are going to turn and the signal is given from the standing foot
from the preceding figure (yes, it's the one we lowered early on). It's
the idea of "commence to turn, then go forward" into the first step of
the turn. Trying to go straight forward into a turn without a
pre-signal is an abrupt and destabilizing action that tends to
disconnect the partnership.
Another big problem for all dancers in all rhythms is our very early
training -- it is by necessity foot oriented. This develops a tendency
to think of where the free foot is going instead of thinking of where
you want the body to go, and it takes a lot of practice to overcome
this penchant for foot leading. We are so eager to direct the stepping
action we forget to dance the body, and then we force the foot to
precede the body when moving forward. We need to be propelling the body
forward with the standing foot and then catching its weight with the
free foot. It is in effect a landing action rather than a stepping
action. So, when moving forward, the body goes first. The focusing
secret is to spend more time on the standing foot.
Keeping the lady in front of you is simple as long as you are in closed
position -- it's when we are in semi and banjo and sidecar that the
problems develop. But, they don't have to! Now, by keeping the lady in
front we have a specific spot for that to be and it is on the right
side. That is the fundamental relationship -- the partner is to the
right -- on your front. The jewel for banjo is to make banjo shaping to
keep the lady on your right front. If we shape too strongly to the
partner, she tends to slip off our front and winds up on our side or
too much on our right. Being too shaped also very much restricts our
forward movement with the right leg (banjo & semi). We've
emphasized for years making a "sleek ship" shape in banjo and semi, and
we may have overdone it. We want a "sleek ship" but let's not make a
stiletto out of it. The same goes for semi as well.
When you really get down to the nitty gritty, foxtrot is one of the
easiest dances to learn and develop these basic skills that will make
all our dancing better. We're almost constantly dancing from closed
position to an outside partner position to a semi-closed position and
back. So, there are application opportunities galore for these ideas --
more than in any other rhythm. Maybe that's why so many people think it
is so hard. Just remember, it's not -- just keep it simple.
notes for a past festival,
in the Dixie Round Dance Council (DRDC)
Newsletter, March 2020.