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Feathers, Feathers Everywhere

by Sandi & Dan Finch

The feather is seemingly a fairly simple figure. Three forward steps for Man, backward for Lady. It is one of the first intermediate steps taught in foxtrot. Ah, but wait!

To do a feather correctly, you need to know something about CBMP (contra body movement position) and body alignment differing from the direction the feet are moving. Once that sinks in, you become aware that it isn’t just one figure but comes in at least seven varieties, and that’s not counting all the hidden feathers, like those in the natural weave, top spin, promenade weave, and diamond turn.

Feather is an international foxtrot term. Open finish is the waltz version of feather, as defined in the Roundalab (RAL) manual. You may also hear it called “continuity finish” in American style ballroom.

Our dance card has not seen much of the advanced feather variations in recent years, and now suddenly we have two new foxtrots to test our memory of left feather and (heaven forbid) back left feather.

To get to the “other” feathers, you need an understanding of the basic phase IV feather. The RAL manual describes it as a right-turning figure, even though it seems to move forward on one alignment. The figure got its name in 1920 from the British. Feathering means tapering to a thin line, like the feathers of a bird. The feather is designed to blend from closed position to banjo, making partner thinner so Man can step forward outside her on her right side for the next figure. The right turn is accomplished by turning the upper body. The feet continue down line of progression as Man’s torso changes to face almost diagonal line. The CBMP occurs as Man steps forward and his torso rotates, causing one foot to land in front of his other foot with thighs close together. Lady follows the man as partners’ shoulders remain parallel.

Feather finish starts with Man going back, as in the last three steps of a full reverse turn. Feather ending starts from semi-closed position. Back feather is a normal feather, but with Lady dancing the Man’s part and Man dancing backward as Lady. It is a distinct figure on its own but is found in the extended reverse wave. Curved feather, as the name implies, is three forward steps for Man but curving to the right. (Its opposite is the curving three step, which curves to the left.)

And that brings us to the phase VI left feather, found early on in the Hall of Fame foxtrot Kiss Me Goodbye. Now, Summertime, the new phase VI foxtrot by the Rotscheids, has it, as does the new I Will Wait For You by the Preskitts. One slow and four quicks, Man’s left feather moves forward slow from closed or banjo position, then two quicks to sidecar, then two more quicks like a twist vine turning left to banjo, with Man backing up.

Both partners keep their heads left through all steps. When starting from banjo position, Lady passes through momentary closed position on her way to sidecar on the first two quicks.

Back left feather, with the same timing as left feather, begins in banjo with Man stepping back with trail foot, then two quicks back moving Lady to sidecar, followed by two quicks turning to banjo ending with lead feet free. The new I Will Wait For You, taught last weekend at the San Diego “A Formal Affair” weekend, follows a left feather with this back left feather.

Four feathers, also called wrong side feathers, is an old English variation which, broken down, adds a feather to start into a left feather, then a back left feather, the ending being like a feather finish SQQSQQQQSQQQQ. Gee, the new Preskitt dance pairs a feather before the left feather, which means we are now doing four feathers. Now that we are doing it, get ready for the next cue sheet to assume we are four feathers ready.

From a club newsletter, March 2017, and reprinted in the Dixie Round Dance Council (DRDC) Newsletter, April 2018. Find a DRDC Finch archive here.


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