Make A Picture
by Harold & Meredith Sears
is more than locomotion and tracing out patterns as we go, an open
vine here and an open telemark there. As we travel, we pause, we
pose, we create
little works of art. A dance figure that contains one of these poses
is often called a picture
to emphasize its purpose, but almost all dance figures can contain
some little display —
some kind of picture.
Promenade Sway is a good example of a picture figure. "Promenade"
means semi-closed position and "Sway" means inclination of
the body — in this case to the left. So a Promenade Sway is left
sway in semi-closed position. We step side and forward on our lead
feet blending to semi-closed position. We stretch up and look up and
over our extended lead wrists. During a second beat, we relax the
lead knee just a bit and so emphasize the sway. We keep the
unweighted legs straight and strong. In dancing a picture, we stop
our progression —
we pause. We’re
not dancing so much with our feet. We’re dancing with all the rest
of our body.
consider a Drag Hesitation to a Back, Back, Lock, Back. These aren’t
usually thought of as picture figures because we are certainly
progressing, but there are opportunities for pictures in almost any
sequence. The Drag Hesitation begins in closed position facing
diagonal line and center. The man steps forward on his left foot
turning left-face. He steps side right continuing to turn and then
draws left to right, ending in contra-banjo position facing reverse
line of dance. The woman dances the natural opposite: back right,
turning left-face, side left, and draw right to left. In the second
measure, we dance Back, Back/Lock, Back (woman fwd, fwd/lk, fwd),
ending in contra-banjo position still facing reverse. We could dance
this figure in a waltz as a simple forward, side, draw; back,
back/lock, back (123; 12&3); but the Drag especially gives us an
opportunity to create a little picture. As we turn and take the
second step, we can use left sway and a strong left leg to create a
good looking and good feeling body line. The woman will have right
sway and a strong right leg. Her head will be open (turned to her
right), although our bodies will remain in closed position. We have
only one beat of music, but the line is a graceful curve.
Furthermore, we are using body sway at the same time that we are
turning left. The left sway complements the left turn. Then lose your
sway as you step back to the lock, sway a bit right with right side
back during the lock, and you have a second little picture with quite
a rolling, breaking-wave feeling in between.
general, we create pictures by thinking about more than our feet and
the steps they are taking. We form dance pictures by being aware of
our entire body — legs, torso, head, arms, left and right sides,
even hands and fingers. We use a toned frame to stay together as
partners. We use sway to create a graceful body line, a strong free
leg and even pointing the toes to extend that line, arms up and a
balanced head, and an extended free arm to continue the line upward.
We use side lead and contra-body motion to facilitate and complement
body turn. In short, we go beyond simply standing up straight and
walking. We shape our bodies in ways that look and feel good.
This article was published in the Washington Area Square Dancers Cooperative Association (WASCA) Calls 'n' Cues, November, 2010; reprinted NCRDA August 2015.
If you would like to read other articles on dance position, technique, styling, and specific dance rhythms, you may visit the article TOC.
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