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Round Dance Tips by Tim Eum —

A Few Phase VI Smooth Figures


Think of a “Big Top” as a “Chair with Cross Hesitation action and Slip.” The Big Top seems for many to be one of the most difficult figures there are. Perhaps thinking of it in terms of easier figures can help. If you can do the phase IV figures, Chair and Slip and Cross Hesitation, you can use that knowledge to do the Big Top.

Start in semi-closed position with trail foot free and on step one do a chair but instead of checking your motion continue your body motion forward while also rising. By the end of step one, all weight will be on the trail foot and you will have already begun the cross hesitation action and pivoting left face. Men must keep their lead foot behind them as they pivot and strongly rotate their “top” left-face. By the time you take your second step you will have pivoted half way around. The men will put their foot down (i.e., a cross behind step) while the lady takes her second step forward and side having picked up and rotated to loose closed position. Rotation continues as you take the second step. Ladies will momentarily brush with their left foot after taking their second step. The last step is a slipping action with the trail foot. Men step back with a ¼ turn while the lady steps forward slipping into tight closed position.

This figure should be preceded by a figure that allows you enter the Big Top with a little speed, so that you have sufficient momentum to complete the toe turn with ease. Both the man and the lady will take three steps in the Big Top and the first and third steps are taken at the same time. The man and lady take their second step at different times. The lady steps first and the man steps second. In waltz, the timing might be 1, 2, 3, for the man and 1&, ,3 for the lady. Note that with this timing the second part of the second step lasts a bit longer like a hovering step. Our clinician also noted that the lady rises before the man and that the lady has to dance slightly out of position (not in strict closed position) on the second step. The lady closes her head (i.e. turns head left) fairly early and holds it there well to the left throughout the figure. Again the last step is very much like a slip pivot step.


The Tumble is a one step movement, and the Tumble Turn is an entire figure that consists of a Quick (or syncopated) Feather Finish & Tumble.

Some characteristics of the Tumble:

  • It always begins in contra-banjo and always ends in closed position but with the lady's head open.

  • It is always done with the lead foot, goes FORWARD, and turns left-face.

  • It can turn up to 3/8.

  • Start the step preceding the Tumble low but rise and flow down into the Tumble. If this step is given a whole beat of music it will seem like a hover (especially if you have syncopated the two steps before this third one) but don't stop your motion at the top.

  • Make sure to keep the lady in front. A common mistake is for the man to turn independently leaving the lady far to his right and perhaps even behind him. You must do the left-face turning in the Tumble with proper frame. If the man holds the lady in a proper frame, it will be difficult for the lady to turn independently.

  • The Tumble is like a "lilt" but soft in the knee (and of course rotating).

  • Finish the Tumble on the ball of the foot, and don't settle onto the heel.

  • The lady begins with her head closed but during the turn of the Tumble opens her head even though going to closed position. (I believe it is because there is left sway in the ending position).

The Tumble Turn:

  • Again, the Tumble Turn is a Syncopated Feather Finish to a Tumble.

  • Waltz timing is 1& 2 3. (A foxtrot option is Q&SQ.)

  • Lower on 1, stay low on the &, start low on 2 but rise and flow into the Tumble on 3.

  • The last step, the Tumble, is like a Slip Pivot step except that the man is doing the lady's part and the lady is doing the man's part.

  • If you are familiar with the waltz Top Spin, you'll notice that the characteristic action is also a left-face turning movement, but the man always goes BACK out of a Top Spin, and that step is done high with straight legs, while the man always goes FORWARD into a Tumble and the step is done low.

  • Note that you could combine the Tumble with other figures that end in contra-banjo with trail foot free and moving forward such as :

  • Quick Feather and Tumble (This might be the easiest way to practice the Tumble.)

  • Weave and Tumble (remember to syncopate the last part of the Weave.)


It’s amazing how just modifying a couple things in a phase IV figure turns it into a phase VI figure, but it is true. So, add contra body movement to the first step of a Hover Telemark and modify the second step and there you have a Traveling Contra Check.

  • Relax in your knees thus lowering, and turn your upper body slightly left as you take the first forward step. It is “contra” because for man the left foot and the opposite shoulder (right) is forward.

  • Instead of taking the second step diagonally forward, simply close R to L, but as you do, rise up first with left side stretch (lady right side) as you turn a quarter right-face and then with right side stretch as you hover up on your toes finishing in SCP.

  • Do the third and last step just as in the Hover Telemark, which means you can hold the hovering action on the second step and rush this one at the very end.


Both man and lady rotate their left leg around in a counter-clockwise direction. That means that a transition must occur prior to the figure, and the man must communicate when to transition to the lady. A little different way to do this is to use a "Ta Ta" step. This means the man should, at the end of the previous figure, quickly step on his left foot and back onto his right foot (Ta Ta). The lady should feel this and can thus time her transition step to the man's Ta Ta steps. The man might be tempted to rotate his body before he swings his left leg around. Don't do it. Both man and lady should begin the leg ronde BEFORE any part of the upper body rotates. The last step of the Split Ronde is similar to a Slip Pivot step, back for the man and forward for the lady to closed position.

From reports to the Weavers Discussion List, partially based on clinics presented at the 2007 & 2008 Roundarama Institutes and reprinted  in the Dixie Round Dance Council Newsletter, August 2015. Visit this page for a DRDC Eum archive.


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