by Pat & Joe
In this article,
would like to focus on the key components of picture figures and on
ways to make these beautiful figures easier to execute. As Kay Read
once said, are our pictures suitable only for a driver’s license,
or are they worthy of being displayed on the mantle? To hopefully
develop more mantle-piece moments, we will focus on some concepts to
keep in mind.
The concepts we
better” when executing picture figures
good dance position while executing a picture figure
The role of
stretch and rotation in developing a picture figure
Is Less Really
Better When Executing Picture Figures?
When we see a
leader execute a picture figure beautifully, our eyes tell us that
they made big, bold movements to get into and out of that wonderful
figure. The dancer learning that figure tries to mimic the actions he
has observed. This often leads to significant problems for the
dancing partner. The main reason for this is: what a dancer thinks he
saw may not be what actually happened. In actuality, the seemingly
big, bold movement is an illusion created by the amplified movement
of the upper body, which was caused by relatively small movements in
the lower body. Unfortunately, many people are not able to see and
understand the actions that cause the figure to develop properly.
Usually attention is drawn and eyes are focused on the bigger picture
developed by the dancers’ top line.
If the foregoing
analysis is correct, we may conclude that less really is better when
executing picture figures. We need to understand not only the body
mechanics of each figure, but also the part of the body’s movement
that needs to be reduced to make the figure work properly. Let us
explore some of the basics of picture figures.
Must Be Maintained Throughout Figure Execution.
tenet is that good dance position must be maintained throughout
figure execution. Good dance position is that relationship between
the dance partners where their body lines are generally parallel to
each other. This position is best seen in closed position (CP). CP
occurs when the leader maintains a good frame that allows the
follower to stay in a position with the follower’s right side
aligned with the leader’s center line. The partner’s shoulders
and hips are also parallel to each other. The partnership should try
to maintain this position throughout the dance. Good dance position
will vary slightly when the partnership goes to Semi-Closed Position
(SCP), Banjo (BJO), or Sidecar (SCAR) position, but dancers should
strive to maintain this parallel relationship as much as possible.
The dance position most common in picture figures is CP. Although a
figure may start in SCP, the figure will usually resolve into CP. We
will use a Waltz (WZ) Throwaway Oversway to demonstrate the movement
from SCP into CP.
(A through step is usually required to start the figure from SCP) --
MAN: Side and
left relaxing left knee and allowing right to point side and back
while keeping right side in toward woman and looking at her [with
left side stretch] (WOMAN: Side and forward right turning left face
while relaxing right knee and sliding left foot back under body past
the right foot to point back meanwhile looking well to the left and
keeping left side in toward man.)
The direction for
man to keep his right side in toward the woman and for the woman to
keep her right side in toward the man effectively moves them into CP.
While the timing of the Throwaway Oversway may vary, depending on the
choreography, the movement should be constant throughout the figure
with the dancers shaping up to each other. If the lady keeps her
right toe pointed toward the man as she swivels, it may make it
easier for the lady to keep her left side toward the man, instead of
turning away from him. If the man places his hips over his left foot
and then turns on the left foot, he can overcome the tendency to
over-rotate the right shoulder. Over-rotation of the man’s right
shoulder causes it to extend forward over the lady, and also causes
the man to lean forward over the lady because his hips are too far
back. Maintenance of a good dance position is essential for the
dancers to move easily through a picture figure. Loss of good dance
position increases the chances of losing one’s balance or being
All About The Lady.
To make a picture
figure be "all about the lady," the man must think of
himself as the frame of the picture. The picture frame provides a
stable setting for the picture and should never over-shadow the
picture. The man’s main thought should be to maintain his body in
an upright posture. This will reduce the potential of leaning over
the lady. When a man leans over the lady, he puts pressure on her and
increases the potential for the lady to get hurt.
The lady provides
of the embellishments that add a bit of flair to the figure and draw
attention to her. While the lady is adding the flair, she must
concentrate on keeping her relationship to her partner, in order to
maintain good dance position. The problem that occurs most often is
the loss of good dance position when the partners allow their sides
to drift apart.
Make The Picture Happen.
only be executed when our bodies stretch and rotate in a coordinated
manner to add a new dimension to the basic shape. It is the stretch
and/or rotation that keeps the bodies in movement throughout a
picture figure. It is so important not to rush the stretching or
rotating action in the figure.
into the figure prior to initiating any stretch or rotation. Many of
us have a tendency to immediately start our stretch or rotation. When
we do that, we are putting the cart before the horse. We need to step
into the figure first, to establish a stable base for the following
actions. We will use the waltz Contra Check to demonstrate this
MAN: Starting in
lower into the left leg and turn the body slightly left while
stepping forward heel/flat on the left with a strong right side lead
in CBMP. (WOMAN: Starting in CP lower into the right knee and turn
the body slightly left face while stepping back onto the right toe in
CBMP keeping heel off floor and with head well to the left.)
In this case the
into the figure occurred when we took weight on the man’s right and
the woman’s left foot. When we flex our knees, we lower our bodies.
The man's left and woman's right leg precede the body to move into
the next step, as the upper body rotates left face and the dancers
glide forward on the lowered plane to place their weight on the
moving foot. That same gliding action will occur as the dancers
recover from the contra checked position and prior to rising on their
Although the feet
be diagonally across the line of dance and the legs will be crossed
at the thighs, the dancers are still in good dance position with
their bodies parallel to each other and in CP. You should feel that
your body moves up to your partner as you roll onto the supporting
foot. This is a figure where the man must really concentrate on
staying upright and keeping his shoulders parallel to the floor, or
he will tend to roll over the lady. If you have time to extend this
figure, there is a technique that can be used to grow your top line.
That can be done by tilting the pelvis forward. By tilting the pelvis
forward, we are able to move apart at the top line, without bending
our backs. We recommend that you try this technique; it's lots of
We have looked at
to improve our picture figures by concentrating on a few key
small, controlled, lower-body movements let us generate much larger top
movements allow us to move easily and maintain good dance position.
position is vital to dance through picture figures safely and easily.
The lady is
the focus of picture figures.
rotation are the building blocks of all picture figures.
Step into the
figure prior to initiating stretch or rotation to ensure there is a
stable base to use to build the figure.
From clinic notes for the ROUNDALAB Convention, 2009, and reprinted in the Dixie Round Dance Council (DRDC)
Newsletter, December 2013.