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Tele What?

by Wayne & Barbara Blackford

Wow! “TELE” is a prefix that is used in 10 described figures in our Manual in 2 different rhythms, starting at Phase IV. But there are several other “tele” figures just lurking around in choreography that are not described as such.

Let's first consider the proper “technique” needed to be able to execute a tele-figure. The first concept we must address is the “heel turn” for the woman. No matter what rhythm we are dancing (usually foxtrot) they are danced with “swing” and “early rise” for the man. This action should “block” the woman’s rise and forces her to commence the turn on the heel of the back stepping foot. As the man completes his “swing”(turning 1⁄2) he clears the way for her to rise. One of the most important concepts it to retain “counterbalance”.

“Counterbalance” is maintained by keeping your head weight in the proper place. This is done by keeping heads well to the left. The mistake we make is where we place the head weight. Most dancers will use “face weight” and just turn their heads left. When we all should be using “back head weight”. Most men will turn their heads to look at their partner in turns and this will destroy “counterbalance”. Woman can also destroy the “counterbalance” by allowing their heads to “turn” and come forward, especially in semi-closed position. To help maintain “counterbalance” we include sway (the inclination of the body from the ankle upward and away from the moving foot). If you will think of swinging the hip (opposite of the turn) upward you will achieve sway and maintain “counterbalance”.

“Rotation” -- Once you start the turning action, you must maintain the same speed (rate of turn) until it is completed. Many times the turn starts fast, pauses, and then turns fast again. To help maintain the same rate of speed & rotation, try using the tips of the elbows turning at the same rate until all the turn is complete.

Exiting the turn will also cause a loss of “counterbalance”. The tendency is to fall our of the turn especially when exiting to semi-closed position. An easy way to think of the exit is to slow down the upper body (stop rotation and keep with the woman) and allow the lower body (hips) to continue the turn a little bit more so that the couple stays in closed position and retains their connection and “counterbalance”.

Remember, all turns should start with a commencement of turn in the body while on the standing foot. In Left turns the first step is taken FORWARD in the direction of the supporting foot which will create a slight contra position between the body & foot. Right turns the first step is taken at an angle to the supporting foot is alignment with the body. Consequently Left turns are late (turn happens after the weight is on the foot) and Right turns are early (turn is made before weight is on the foot).

Most of us think that “tele” can only turn left, but in actuality it may turn right. The list is long (and we are sure there are some we haven’t heard about yet);

Left turning “tele” figures: 

  • Telemark to SCP (open telemark)
  • Telemark to BJO (closed telemark)
  • Telemark ending
  • Telespin to CP
  • Telespin to SCP
  • Double Telemark
  • Mini Telespin
  • Teleronde
  • Telespin ending Double Reverse

Right turning “tele” figures:

  • Natural Telemark
  • Natural Hover Cross
  • Continuous Hover Cross
  • Dbl Natural Telemark
  • Traveling Hover Cross

From clinic notes prepared for the RAL Convention, 2015, and reprinted in the Dixie Round Dance Council (DRDC) Newsletter, March 2019.


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