The Art of
& Dan Finch
turns are performed by both partners, to make the rotation of some
turns easier for the partner on the outside of the turn. An action
within a figure, they are troublesome. On what foot does the turn
actually occur? How does man ensure his partner gets to her heel?
don’t see heel turns until at least Phase III. Ladies do them most
often, but the first heel turn encountered in the Roundalab (RAL)
Manual of Standards is a heel turn for man, in the impetus to semi. It
appears in Phase III waltz, quickstep and foxtrot. For men, there is
one other, related figure—the heel pull.
Ladies don’t see their
first heel turn until Phase IV waltz and foxtrot, in the telemark to
semi, and the foxtrot reverse turn and half natural.
explanation of impetus is for Man to commence a right-face upper body
turn backing L, then close R to L [heel turn] and continue turning to
step forward L in semi-closed position, usually diagonal line and
center, completing 3/8ths of a turn.
The RAL Glossary defines
heel turn like this: A turn commencing on the heel of one foot with the
free foot directly along side. The turn continues through the heel of
the other foot as the second weight change is taken and then weight is
transferred to the ball of that foot [heel to toe] before the end of
In other words, a heel turn is exactly what it says:
a turn on the heel, but the question arises—which heel. Note in the
definition of impetus turn, after stepping back, Man brings his R to
the L, but he doesn’t change weight at that point. The turn is done on
his left heel, the right foot going along for the ride, and the
transfer of weight to the R occurs when the turn is completed.
lady’s heel turn in the Phase IV telemark to semi, also properly called
open telemark, turns left over three steps, but it works about the same
way. Her Phase IV foxtrot reverse turn also turns left, but her Phase
IV half natural turns to the right. A heel turn for Ladies also occurs
in the natural weave, a Phase V foxtrot and waltz figure. Can you spot
her heel turn action in other figures? Consider double reverse spin,
hover cross from Closed Position, double natural and the “tele”
family—telespin, mini-telespin, double telespin, telefeather,
The technique to lead a heel turn varies, depending
on whether it is a turn to the right or to the left. The terms early
rise, early turn, and late turn are used in the RAL Teaching
Progression Manual for Phase IV waltz and foxtrot to describe the
proper technique for turns. Unfortunately, those terms are not yet
explained anywhere in the Manual.
rise is simply a change in when rise occurs. The standard mantra for
waltz is: Begin rise at the end of step one, continue rising on two and
three, with lowering at the end of three. Early rise is done by Man
simply stepping onto a straight leg on step one, accomplishing an
immediate rise on the first step, rather than spreading it out over all
three steps. This causes Lady to also step onto a straight leg, which
draws her free foot in. It also prevents him from overpowering her,
which would force her to take a step back on the second step instead of
bringing her feet together. Use it whether Lady is turning left or
right onto a heel turn.
Early and Late Turns
talk about turns being “early turns” and “late turns”—concepts that
refer to how much CBM (contra body movement) is applied and when. CBM
is that impulse communicated through the man’s body to signal a turn is
coming—called “commence to turn” in describing the first step of many
turning figures in the manual.
When turning left, the leader
takes his first step straight forward, while using CBM. This causes his
right hip to move forward more than his left, creating a swing into the
turn between the first and second step. This is called a late turn and
is done to give his partner time to react to a turn. If he just cranked
to the left on his first step, it would cause her to move out of good
closed position. [In smooth rhythms, turns occur between steps. In
latins, turns occur over a foot.]
When turning right, Lady is on
Man’s right side and his turn will not cause her to shift out of
position. CBM applied early in the right turn starts moving her out of
his way so he can dance past her. Thus called an “early turn.”
Phase IV foxtrot figure begins with Man stepping back L like he is
going to do a hesitation change, then pulling his right heel toward his
L on count 2, allowing it to pass as he turns right face on the left
heel. He transfers weight to his R taking a small step to the side.
Lady essentially does two weight changes, like a hesitation change.
variation of heel turn is a figure on its own but also shows up in
other figures. Men will recognize it as the action in the second half
of a reverse chasse turn [back, heel pull, touch] in Phase IV quickstep.
a club newsletter, October 2017,
in the Dixie Round Dance Council (DRDC)
Newsletter, September 2018.