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Slow Two Step

by Randy & Marie Preskitt

History – Slow two step as done in round dancing is taken from the social night club two step developed by Buddy Schwimmer in the 1960s. The timing of night club two step is usually a quick-quick-slow beat starting with the rock recover prior to the slow side step. In round dancing this has changed to the slow-quick-quick that we normally dance with the side step first, although if you search for night club two step in YouTube you will find discussions on both timing techniques.

Basic Movement – The basic movement of slow two step is to step side on a slow 2 beat count on a flat foot with no rise. Step 2 on beat 3 is back and behind the body on the ball of the foot. This causes a lifting in the hip but not in the body. Do not move all of your body weight back over the foot. Step 3 on beat 4 is a recover step on a flat foot.

Many night club dancers will perform this basic action using a pull and close action on step 2 and cross in front on step 3. This method can be used but is not common in the round dance activity.

Crossing Step – A very critical action of slow two step is the crossing step on step 3 done in moves such as left turn inside roll as well as many others. Step one for the man is forward LOD with the left foot on the slow count turning left face, step 2 is side and forward right, step 3 is a strong crossing in front. Failure to take the cross in front step can cause the man to loose his traveling movement and can possibly result in going in the wrong direction on the next movement.

Another example is the combination of open break, change sides lady underarm, basic ending. The open break would be moving to man's right with a side right on the slow, rock bk left, recover right, the change sides is fwd left to wall turning right face leading the lady under the lead hand, side right, cross left in front. This crossing action is very important to keep the couple moving to the man's right to then correctly perform the basic ending. If the man and woman close their feet on step 3 you lose your sideways travel leading into the next movement.

Timing – There are two distinctly different timings done in slow-two-step dances. The more common is 4/4 timing but there are a few dances done in 6/8 timing. Knowing the difference and how to dance them differently can help avoid confusion and some frustration.

4/4 Timing – This is the more often danced timing and is done as described above with slow on step 1 taking 2 beats, cross back on step 2 being 1 beat, and recover on step 3 being 1 beat. This gives steps 2 & 3 the same timing and is easy to perform.

6/8 Timing – This is danced in the same timing as Hesitation Canter Waltz “1&a 2&a” with step 1 being danced over the first 3 beats of “1&a” count. The step 2 rock is done on “2&” timing with the step 3 recover done on the “a” timing. If you give numbers of 123, 456 the steps would occur on 1, 4 & 6.

Some of the dances using 6/8 timing are “A Summer Place”, “It Takes Two”, and “Are You Still Mine”. If you have danced these dances, you may have wondered why they feel so different. If you listen to them, you will find it impossible to count 1234. Try counting 1&a 2&a.

Speed – Slow two step has perhaps the greatest variation in speed of almost any other rhythm. In foxtrot and waltz, higher phase dances are usually danced slightly slower than in a lower phase dance. This is usually because the moves in higher phase dances simply require slightly more time to comfortably perform due to the greater amount of rotation and more syncopated steps.

This “tends” to be reversed in slow two step. You may find that phase 3 & 4 dances are played slower than phase 5 and 6 dances. If played at 45 rpm Rachel's Song is 26 mpm (measures per minute), Beat of Your Heart is 30 mpm, and Remember When is 32 mpm. This is not to say any speed is more correct than another. Just remember that the slower the speed, the more control you need to dance it well. Most dancers find dancing slower than 28 mpm to be difficult.

Dancing Tracks – What are “tracks”? When doing moves such as basic, underarm turn and lunge basics this is not something you consider. It becomes important when performing left turn inside roll, right turn outside roll, and critically important on a traveling cross chasse. On a left turn inside roll the man moves straight down LOD while the woman moves from the outside track, to the center, onto an inside track. Right turn outside roll is just the opposite. The woman moves straight to LOD while the man moves across the woman from the inside track to the outside track (terms inside & outside are relative to moving to LOD).

The move traveling cross chasse is slightly different. In this move the crossing of tracks is shared. Moving LOD from a static position with the lady facing the man, the partners on on the same track for a slow forward step with slight left face rotation. This rotation puts the man on the outside track and the woman on the inside track for the side, XIF steps. The next step is forward to LOD, back to the same track with right face rotation causing partners to start to change tracks (man to inside, woman to outside) for the next side, XIF steps. It is important to note that the first step is straight forward back to the same or shared track. It is not a crossing step to opposite tracks and it is never a side step.

Preparation Step – The preparation step or early maneuver/pickup is very important for turning moves such left turn inside roll, triple traveler, right turn outside roll, & switches.

On a left turning action, the woman would start to cross in front of the man or pickup at the end of the previous movement. On a basic ending for instance the lady would dance side left, XRIB of left , recover left turning left face moving up in front of the man.

On a right turning action the man would do the same with his right foot turning right face in front of the lady. This allows the left turn inside roll or right turn outside roll to be started by stepping fully across partner on the slow count and turning to perform the next 2 quick steps. You do not want to end up in front of your partner after the slow step and then try and continue across on the quick counts.

An exception to this would be the relatively new move – The Square. On this action the man would face the lady on the slow step then step side R toward COH opening to ½ open for the XIF step. The lady would then move in front of the man to face him to perform her identical action.

Rotating Arm Action – This is something that is important to a flowing action in moves like triple traveler and lariat half to an outside roll. At the end of the man's spiral or lariat action the lead hand is high in between both partners. The hands are then brought down between partners and back up around the lady in a circular clockwise direction. This leads the lady on the outside roll after the slow forward step to turn right face under the lead hands on the quick quick counts. Remember that on any inside or outside roll movements the lady does the underarm turning action on the quick quick steps, never on the slow step.

Phases – As one of the more recent additions to the round dance world, slow two step has the least developed list of basic movements in the higher phases. As of the lasted phase listing, the Triple Traveler is the only move in phase 5 with Pull Pass and Passing Cross Chasse as the only moves in phase 6. (Written in 2015; some updating has been done recently.) This means that the phase 3 and 4 dances are all very basic and easily danceable with a good knowledge of the published list. With dances listed as phase 5 & 6 you're going to need a long teach and lots of resiliency. However if you keep in good practice with the methods of moving, crossing, and turning noted in these notes, you'll have a good head start in dancing this new material.

From clinic notes prepared for the RAL Convention, 2015, and reprinted in the Dixie Round Dance Council (DRDC) Newsletter, December 2021.


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