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Quickstep, Notes for Dance Improvement

by Brent & Mickey Moore

All dancing is a combination of many elements. Each component has importance and must be properly blended into the matrix in order to yield a desired result. However, every element of action and style cannot be examined in detail in a brief article. Below, we will focus on the relationship with the partner and how the feet are used to enable the flighting of the body in Quickstep.

Establishing the partnership has a critical function in all forms of dance in that it creates the fundamental image of a couple as dancers and it establishes the mechanical basis of coordinated movement. Partnership has several interrelated components -- position relative to the partner, hold, poise, and distribution of weight.

First is the position relative to the partner. In all International standard dances, the partner is positioned between the center line of the body and the right elbow. Additionally, all figures either maintain this basic relationship or use techniques to give that appearance.

The hold is composed of five essential points of contact. These are listed in descending order of importance: Most important is the man's right wrist to the lady's left arm pit applied with a slight lifting pressure. The man's right arm should be angled downward from the shoulder in a gradual slope. Second is the lead hands, which are joined at about the man's eye level (if there is a great disparity in height it is better established at the shorter partner's eye level) and extended out to just the point before the lady's right arm straightens. Third is the lady's left hand on the man's left upper arm, positioned so that her left elbow is level with her right one. The fourth contact point is the man's right hand placed softly on the lady's left shoulder blade -- the hand turned down with the fingers grouped together. The final point of contact is the bodies lightly touching at a point just below the rib cages to the hips on the right side. To insure that this contact point is light, there is a very slight turn to the right from the ankles up.

Poise is slightly forward so that the weight is carried across the medial (inside) arch of the feet. This forward poise is gained by softening the knees as the body is moved slightly forward. The amount of softening in the knees is small at this point but is the maximum straightening of the legs that we should have when our feet are collected under our bodies.

There are a couple of competing ideas about weight distribution; we will explain the one we use. The body can be divided into five major blocks of weight -- the head, the shoulders, the torso, the hips, and the legs. The man carries his five sections neatly stacked on top of each other, his spine is straight, and his hips are level. The slight body turn to the right mentioned in the hold gives the appearance of his looking to the left, but it is an illusion. The lady carries her weight in a slightly different way -- she curves her spine through the torso slightly to the left and back, to place her head weight over her left foot. The lady's hips are also danced in a level position.

Dancing is most commonly thought of as a series of foot patterns that carry the body from position to position. A better concept of dancing is moving the body from one point in the room to another. Another way of saying the same thing is that figures are created by body movement and footwork is the natural reaction to that movement. Move the body and the feet will get there! But we must keep in mind that even though we utilize the concept of body movement, our connection with the floor is through the feet -- more on that in a minute.

Moving the body (usually called "flighting" the body) is important to all smooth dancing but is critical to Quickstep. The mechanics of the figures in this rhythm hinge on it. In Foxtrot and Waltz, we use sway extensively to maintain the partnership while moving the body, especially in turns. Sway is used in Quickstep but is minimized and body speed and direction become the enabling mechanisms for maintaining body position and creating patterns.

Body speed also defines step lengths, which are somewhat compressed, due to the shorter duration of time on the standing foot as compared to other standard dances. All the fundamental figures in Quickstep are moving figures; that means that once we get the body moving, we keep it moving! Occasionally, stationary actions are added for contrast, but Quickstep's central theme is always movement, movement, movement!! Quickstep foot actions are designed to establish and maintain this speedy movement (i.e., mostly on the toes with use of the whole foot to impart energy). A critical element in how the feet are used makes a huge difference in our ability to move smoothly. That key element is when we allow the heel to lower from an extended (up) position. Foot elevation must be maintained until the free foot is to, or past, the supporting foot. This allows leg swing for the power movements. Early lowering make rough work of Quickstep and also gives the dance a choppy appearance.

Flighted movement, lightly skimming the floor, the wind whistling past our ears is the stuff of good Quickstep. Achieving that image and sensation takes long hours of practice, study, and close attention to what our bodies are doing. But, when we even approach such a level of competence, the joy of dancing takes on a whole new dimension.

From clinic notes prepared for the URDC Convention, 1995, and reprinted in the Dixie Round Dance Council (DRDC) Newsletter, November 2013.


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