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Round Dance Tips by Tim Eum—

Three Left-Turning Figures

Reverse Wave (Foxtrot, phase 4)

It is very common for dancers to encounter "Reverse Turn" in Foxtrot but less common to encounter "Reverse Wave". It is curious, because the Reverse Wave is simpler to do and should probably be taught to dancers before the Reverse Turn. For one thing, all six steps of the Reverse Wave are done in closed position (CP) while in the Reverse Turn dancers must change from CP to banjo (BJO). Another thing is that you turn a lot less in the Reverse Wave than in the Reverse Turn. However, both are two-measure figures and the first measure is the same for both. Start a Reverse Wave in CP (often facing LOD or DLC). The first step is a slow forward with heel lead and as you take weight onto the foot turn the upper body frame toward the left. Then as the man is able to rise a little onto the toe, he turns left as he takes his second step to the side (right). The lady's second step is not to the side -- she instead does a heel turn -- which means that she will bring her feet together while turning left face on her right heel and then transfer weight onto the toe of the closing foot (left) for her second step. The third step for both is simply a quick back step still in CP. In these first three steps of the Reverse Wave, you should not turn very far and end facing DRC or even COH (i.e. only about 1/4 left face turn). The last three steps of the Reverse Wave (i.e., the second measure) is very easy -- simply progress backwards one slow step and two quick steps curving gently left face to end still in CP but now facing RLOD. Overall the timing in the Reverse Wave is SQQ SQQ. Note how the pattern of the figure on the floor makes a wave and that you were turning left face (i.e., in the reverse direction). I encourage dancers to be "playful" when dancing and here's one way to play --- in the last three steps of the Reverse Wave let go of lead hands, turn your hands around so the palm faces the same way as your back, and then raise and lower the fingers together quickly --- this is a "Reverse Wave" :-)

Reverse Fallaway and Slip (Foxtrot, phase 5)

One of the figures in All That Jazz by Sehrist is Reverse Fallaway and Slip. It is done with only four steps that are simply one step per beat (i.e., QQQQ). So what makes it so difficult as to be designated a phase 5 foxtrot figure? One thing is that on step 3 the couple must go backwards, which always seems a bit more awkward. The big thing is that the fourth and last step requires a slipping action, which many ladies find hard to do and does require coordination between dance partners, which men should lead. The Reverse Fallaway and Slip starts in CP or BJO with lead foot free. The first step starts just like a Left Turn – man steps forward (lady back) and as you take weight turn left face about 1/4 . Note that unlike many foxtrot steps the timing on this first step is quick not slow. The second step is a simple side step to man’s right (lady’s left) staying in CP (or going to CP if started in BJO) with no turn or only slight left face turn. Now the tricky steps. On the third step, the couple turns to semi-closed position  (SCP) while crossing in back (man XIBL, lady XIBR), which has the couple traveling backwards in SCP. This by the way is what ballroom calls “fallaway”. Now the final fourth step of the figure – the slipping action. While in SCP with trail foot free moving backwards, the man will step back and side onto his right foot and turn left face. The trick is to turn at the same time as the lady. That means a momentary “wait” while the lady completes her slipping action before turning. It will also mean transitioning the top frame from SCP to CP in a way that helps the lady do her slipping action. The lady’s fourth step begins almost immediately after she takes weight on her third step. She will swivel left face on her right foot while keeping her left foot in front. At this point she will feel the man taking his fourth step back and because of her swiveling action she should now be almost facing the man and able to step forward with her left foot into (CP). When the man feels the lady place weight onto her fourth step, he can lead the couple to finish the figure by rotating another 1/8 to ¼ turn left face. Note that in this slipping action, the lady swivels to CP and that in CP the lady’s left foot is outside of the man’s right foot – not in-between the man’s feet. However, because the couple must still swivel another 1/8 to ¼ turn after placing weight onto the fourth step of the slipping action, the lady may actually place her fourth step in-between the man’s feet and then as the couple turns end with the foot properly outside the man’s right foot. Practice with your partner will enable you to learn where the lady’s foot is best placed for her fourth step. Placement depends on factors such as how close you dance CP and how much you turn on that fourth step. The Reverse Fallaway and Slip usually starts in CP facing DLC and ends in CP facing DLW and thus turns ¾ left face over the entire figure.

Three Fallaways with Feather Finish (Foxtrot, phase 6)

Many dancers encounter the phase 6 figure, “Three Fallaways with Feather Finish” in the classic dance, Symphony by Slater. The timing is very straightforward – simply 9 quick steps all in a row for the Three Fallaways and then 3 more quick steps for the Feather Finish – 12 quick steps all in a row with no syncopation. The difficulties arise in this figure if the lady has not mastered the slipping action of Slip Pivot, if the couple is not familiar with the proper way to hold each other in a reverse semi-closed position (RSCP), and finally if the man has no idea what the lady does in a slipping action.

The first four steps of Three Fallaways is the same as the phase 5 figure, Reverse Fallaway and Slip. Starting in CP generally facing LOD, the man steps forward with lead foot turning left face ¼, then steps side right, then crosses in back with left to SCP, and finally steps back & side right pivoting ¼ left face. The lady does the opposite by stepping back with lead foot (right) turning ¼ left face, then steps side with left, turning slightly RF to SCP, then crosses in back with right in SCP swiveling left face to face man after taking weight (i.e., slipping action) on the third step, and on the fourth step goes forward and pivots left face ending in CP with man facing wall.

Note how the slipping action between the third and fourth steps (lady swivels to face) and the fourth step (left face pivot step) itself are the same as what happens between the first and second steps and then the second step of the phase 3 figure “Slip Pivot”. To smoothly do Three Fallaways, we must be able to smoothly do the slip pivot movement.

Steps five and six of Three Fallaways are simple but troublesome. Starting in CP with man facing wall, the man simply steps side left and then crosses in back with right (XIBR) to RSCP. The lady does the mirror image by stepping side right and then XIBL to RSCP. But herein is a problem. Most dancers are unfamiliar with the proper way to hold each other in RSCP. The primary problem is that the man pulls his right shoulder away from the lady instead of maintaining upper body frame by rotating his right shoulder TOWARD the lady. When the man incorrectly pulls his right shoulder away, two bad things happen: first, the lead arms become crunched together uncomfortably, and second the man’s right arm gets stretched across the lady’s chest. Note that doing the proper thing of rotating right shoulder toward the lady for RSCP is NOT intuitive because the man is crossing his right foot behind him and turning his head to his right which would seem to go with turning the upper body to the right as well – but instead he must turn the upper body frame to the left – not natural at all – but a must to properly dance RSCP. The couple should be in proper RSCP at the end of the sixth step of Three Fallaways.

The last three steps of Three Fallaways is easy for the lady. She simply takes three back steps. It is the man who has to master step seven, which in essence is what the lady did in step four of this figure, i.e., the slip pivot movement. As the lady steps back on step seven, the man must swivel on his right foot turning left face toward the lady (i.e., turning from RSCP to CP) and step forward to CP pivoting left face. If done successfully the man will then easily be able to step side right to SCP (step eight) and finally cross in back left (step nine) to finish the Three Fallaways in SCP facing RLOD.

Three more beats of music must be danced after dancing the Three Fallaways to get back on measure. In Symphony, the lady will do a slipping action to face the man at the end of the Three Fallaways (i.e., swiveling on right foot to face man after step nine and before the first step of the Feather Finish), and then do a Feather Finish. In a Feather Finish the man steps back with right turning left face, side with left turning to BJO, and then XIFR ending in BJO facing DLW. The lady finishes her slipping action and steps forward to CP turning left face, steps side right turning to BJO, then XIBL.

Note that the term “Fallaway” is a ballroom term for moving backwards in what round dancers call SCP. In this figure we are indeed doing that on step 3, then moving backward in RSCP on step 6, and finally moving backward in SCP on step 9. Thus there are Three Fallaways.

There is a lot in this figure, but if you have mastered the previous figures of Slip Pivot, Reverse Fallaway and Slip, Left Whisk (an example of using RSCP), and Feather Finish then learning the Three Fallaways is just a matter of putting it all together smoothly in 12 quick steps. Okay, perhaps not simple – that’s why it is rated as a phase 6 figure.

Tim Eum has prepared many Round Dance Tips for Calls 'n' Cues, WASCA, for his weekly Rocket Rounds email reports, and for other publications. DRDC is grateful for permission to collect and reprint. A Tim Eum archive.



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