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Round Dance Tips by Tim Eum —

A Few Bolero Figures

Right Pass, phase 4

The Right Pass, which is sometimes called a Right Side Pass, was a figure in the very first bolero ever to be done in Round Dancing, “Sleeping Beauty” (BO 5), and is also in “Wonderful Tonight” (BO 4). It begins with lead hands joined in Left Open Facing Position (LOPF), usually with man facing toward wall with lead foot free. The pattern of the Right Pass for the lady is the same as doing a rumba Hockey Stick Ending where she steps forward across the front of the man toward his right, then takes a second step swiveling left face under the joined lead hands, and finishes with a back step along the diagonal away from the man. There are two major differences. First, the timing in the bolero Right Pass is SQQ whereas in the rumba Hockey Stick Ending it is QQS. Second is that in the bolero Right Pass the lady steps right, left, right; whereas in the rumba Hockey Stick Ending she steps left, right, left. For the Right Pass the man does a bolero Hand to Hand: first he steps slow forward & side with left foot to face partner, then quick rock behind with a small crossing step on right foot, and finish with a quick forward step on left toward partner. If starting facing wall, the man should end in LOPF position facing DRC with trail foot (right) free. Note that in a Right Pass the lady passes to the right side of the man. Remember in bolero that during the first slow step your body should rise up (do not extend high up onto your tippy toes but do stretch and straighten your legs, back, and neck), then compress down on step two, and remain low as you progress on step three only commencing to rise at the end going into the following figure. The last tip is to let your free arms (trail arms) flow in movement – not just lie limp at your side.

Opening Out, phase 4

Some boleros such as “I Hope You Dance” have a figure called “Opening Out” or as some cuers say, “Double Handhold Opening Out”. I like the longer term in order to clearly distinguish this from the Rumba figure “Natural Opening Out” which is much different. The lady’s steps in a bolero “Double Handhold Opening Out” are just like a bolero Shoulder to Shoulder --- the lady steps side slow and then lowers crossing behind and then quickly takes her third step going forward. Just as Shoulder to Shoulders are often done in pairs, so are Double Handhold Opening Outs. It is even common to do four Opening Outs together. The man only takes one step for each Opening Out and then turns and shapes his frame toward the lady. The man’s step can either be a side step or a closing step. After taking his one step, the man will point his other leg & foot to his side. If you do 4 Opening Outs, it is common for the man to step side on the first Opening Out but use closing steps on the others. The Double Handhold Opening Out starts, continues, and ends in butterfly position. As the lady moves to the man’s side, the man will rotate his upper body frame with the lady. As the man rotates his upper body, the couple can apply an upper body sway, which will tilt the butterfly with lead hands going high when rotating left and trail hands going high when rotating right. The key to making it look nice is for the couple to maintain their upper body frame in a good BFLY position for the entire figure. One common error is for the lady to let her arms bend or move instead of keeping her upper body frame intact. Another common error is for the man to bend over from the waist instead of keeping his body erect.

Riff Turns, phase 5

Riff Turns are easy for the man but difficult for the lady. The man simply does two side closes while holding up his left hand. The lady also has only four steps but the first and third require nearly a full toe spin without losing balance. There are two full turns in the figure “Riff Turn”. The lady steps side and forward with the right and spins a full turn, then closes with her left, then does it again (i.e. side and forward with right spinning a full turn, then closing with left). As in most underarm type of turns, the man must not hold the lady’s lead hand tightly or it will impede her spin. Instead the man should “cup” his hand to allow the lady’s hand to rotate freely while still maintaining contact. One thing the lady can do to make the spin easier is to turn ¼ right face as she takes her “side step” making it more forward than side. Doing this means that the lady only has to spin ¾ right face instead of a full turn. The lady needs to remember that in any spin, the way to keep balance is to keep the head, shoulders, body, and hips all in a line directly over the spinning foot. If you lean off this alignment, you will lose balance. Another tip for the lady is to only take a small step side (and/or forward) to do the spin. When you take a large step, you have to compensate for and stop the movement when you do the spin making it more difficult. Less movement means less difficulty because there is less momentum to throw you off balance. One last tip for the lady is that she should almost immediately bring her free left foot close beside the right foot that she is spinning on. Not only does having the left foot close help with balance (having the left foot away from the body tends to pull you off balance in that direction) but also helps place it correctly when you close on the second and fourth steps of the Riff Turns.

Tim Eum prepared many Round Dance Tips for Calls 'n' Cues, Washington Area Square Dancers Cooperative Association (WASCA), for his weekly Rocket Rounds email report, and for other publications. Reprinted, Dixie Round Dance Council Newsletter, September 2015.  Visit this page for a DRDC Eum archive.


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