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Smooth Dancing

by Pete & Mary McGee

One of our favorite rhythms has always been the waltz. Years ago, as new round dancers, Pete and I learned the classic dance Answer Me, and I thought it was the most beautiful waltz we had ever danced. However, there is a grouping of figures in the dance that never felt quite comfortable when we danced it: the Open Telemark, the Natural Hover Fallaway, and the Slip Pivot. Every time we danced Answer Me, we would "fudge" our way through as best we could so we could keep the dance moving. Despite those figures, I would request it everywhere we went, and of course after dancing the dance many, many times, we thought we had finally mastered that part of the dance . . . Wrong!

One day, we discovered there was actually another way to dance those steps . . . the correct way! Soooooo . . . after re-learning, and much practice, we realized the correct way made dancing Answer Me even more enjoyable. This is what I hope you will achieve after reading the article below, and after working the figures with your partner.


Always remember that the first step of each measure when going forward is a heel lead. The second step is on the toe or ball of the foot, and the third step starts on the toe or ball, the knee softens, and then lowers down onto the whole foot. (This also applies to the ladies when they are going forward.) When taking a back step, reach back with the toe while keeping your upper body forward toward your partner, and when in closed position, try to keep your shoulders parallel with your partner. In semi-closed position, try to keep the man's left side and the lady's right side toward each other. Also, the head plays a very important role in dancing. The man's head is straight with his nose pointed over his left shirt pocket, while the lady's head is always to the left in closed position. Probably a lot to think about, but it may help while working with the steps below, and it is very important if you want to improve your dancing.


Correct directions in a dance are also very important. The Open Telemark starts facing DLC, so the man must make sure that is where he is facing when he is ready to execute this figure. An Open Telemark can end in one of three different directions: Facing LOD (You can think of this one as the Papa Telemark); Facing DLW (the Mama Telemark); and the third one(the Baby Telemark) ends facing the wall. The Baby Telemark is the one we use in Answer Me.

1st Step: Commencing a left turn, step forward on the left foot DLC, heel to the toe or ball. (The lady will take a long step back R keeping her upper body forward toward partner.)

2nd Step: Because the lady will be putting her feet together for a heel turn, the man should try to make this step go past the lady. Continue turning left and step side on the toe or ball of the right foot. Also, when dancing the Telemark, it is helpful to the ladies if the man stands on his second step a little longer so the ladies can finish their heel turn. (Bring the L heel back to the R, keep the head well to the left. You will be turning left with the man, and at the end of the 2nd step, rise onto the toe or ball of both feet -- head is still closed.)

3rd Step: Step to the side and slightly forward on the left foot pointing the toe toward the wall, soften the knee, and lower onto the whole foot as you turn your left shoulder slightly towards the lady, putting her in semi-closed position. (The lady begins to open her head to semi-closed position as she steps side and slightly forward on the toe or ball of the R foot, soften the knee and lower onto the whole foot, also keeping her right side towards the man to help make this a tight SCP.) Now you are ready to work on the next figure.


The Natural Hover Fallaway is challenging in that it has three different things happening while being danced: a turn to the right, a hovering action, and a fallaway position.

1st Step: The word "natural" means it will be turning to the right, and that is exactly what the man does on the first step. He steps forward on the heel of the right foot turning his left side slightly to the right and pointing his toe toward DRW [be sure not to overturn to RLOD]. (Because we are in a tight SCP, the lady allows the man's foot to step through first, and on the same beat her L follows with a heel lead.)

2nd Step: The word "hover" means a rising action done on the ball of the foot, and it should feel like you are actually hovering over that foot. The man steps forward on the ball of the left foot rising, stretching his right side, and hovering over the foot, still facing DRW, with the left shoulder turned slightly toward the lady. (The lady steps forward R staying a little behind the man, stretching her left side, right shoulder still turned slightly towards the man.) Heads for both are stretched up as if you were trying to look over a tall fence.

3rd Step: Fallaway is just a position (SCP backing up). The man recovers back on the right foot, keeping his upper body forward. (The lady recovers back L, keeping her upper body forward, and looking out over her right shoulder.)


And now we come to the Slip Pivot to Banjo. This figure starts facing DRW and ends facing DLW. It is important to keep this figure on the diagonals.

1st Step: The man will step back on the left foot, staying in SCP still facing DRW. (The lady will reach back with the ball of her R, placing it directly behind the L, continuing to look over her right shoulder.)

2nd Step: The man will commence turning to the left, bringing the lady to closed position while he places the ball of his right foot behind the left foot and rises on the right foot. (The lady will quickly turn her head to the left and swing up in front of the man while pushing off the ball of the R and recover onto the toe or ball of the L now in CP.)

3rd Step: Recover on the toe or ball of the left foot with the toe pointed toward DLW, soften the knee, and lower onto the whole foot, now facing DLW and ready to step forward outside partner with the heel of the right foot into the next figure, which is a Maneuver. (The lady steps side and back with the toe or ball of the R, softens the knee and lowers onto the whole foot.)

We have tried to explain the above figures in a way so that even newer dancers would be able to work and practice the steps with their partners. Try it. See if these tips can raise your enjoyment levels, too.

From an article published in the ROUNDALAB Journal, Fall 2001. Reprinted in the Dixie Round Dance Council (DRDC) Newsletter, January 2013.


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