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Natural Turns

by Kay & Joy Read

The following questions are from a group of questions passed along in part by Frank Valenta from our e-mail discussion group. Most of the questions evolved around a discussion of the figures: Natural Turn, Half Natural Turn, and Open Natural Turn and seemed to centralize on the following themes.

Question #1: Isn't a Half Natural Turn the first half of the two-measure Natural Turn?
Question #2: What makes an Open Natural Turn an Open Natural and a Half Natural Turn a Half Natural?
Question #3: What are the correct/appropriate entry and exit body dance positions for each figure?

The answer to Question #1 seems a simple "yes" at first glance. In Round Dance and Ballroom dancing, however, we rarely choreograph both halves of the Natural Turn. Instead, we dance half of the Natural Turn (sometimes referred to as 3 of a Natural) and follow with a more interesting figure for the second measure. We should also remember that rhythm plays a role in the footwork and mechanics of the Half Natural Turn. The execution of waltz and quickstep Half Natural Turns are similar, and the figure ends with a foot close on step 3; whereas, a foxtrot Half Natural Turn has a lady's heel turn with weight change on step 2 and a progressive step back for the man (forward for the lady) on step 3 . Note: Roundalab's phase II waltz Maneuver is, in fact, a waltz Half Natural Turn.

The answer to Question #2 becomes a little more complicated. A Full Natural Turn allows the dancers to change their line of dance progression from Diagonal Line & Wall (DLW) to Diagonal Line & Center (DLC) by means of a two-measure right-face turn while maintaining both closed body position (CP) and the characteristics of the rhythm, i.e., rise, fall, flight, sway, timing. By contrast, the Open Natural Turn (Natural Turn from Promenade) allows not only a change in the direction of dance progression similar to a Half Natural Turn, but also allows more movement (flight) with an ending body dance position in preparation (BJO) for exit figures not easily accomplished from the ending CP of the Half Natural Turn. To accomplish this movement and preparatory exit position, the feet are "open" (passing steps) on all three steps of the Open Natural Turn.

The answer to Question #3 now becomes dependent on accomplishing the answer to Question #2. By definition, execution of the first half of the Natural Turn (Half Natural) requires a closing step (3rd step in waltz and quickstep and 2nd step in foxtrot) by the lady to maintain the characteristics of the rhythm. To comfortably accomplish the closing of the feet during this turn the lady should begin with a back step. Because the second step for the lady in waltz and quickstep is a "swinging" side step followed by the closing step 3, this figure can be accomplished from either CP or BJO (man outside partner). She would not be able to maintain good position relative to her partner and would have to dance the figure "square" if the figure began in SCP. In foxtrot, because of the rhythm characteristics, this figure requires the foot close with heel turn on step 2 and a progressive step 3. This is an impossible task for the lady if the figure begins in SCP; she must begin the figure with a back step. This heel turn is best accomplished commencing the Half Natural Turn in CP. Entering the figure from BJO results in the man being beyond the lady at the end of the first step creating the "feel" for the lady that another "open" side step is being led.

As to the Open Natural Turn, the lady cannot comfortably create added progression and flight if she must step back, check her motion, and then step forward. To accomplish the added movement, the figure is only comfortably danced from SCP (Promenade) to allow the lady to enter the figure with forward movement and sustain this movement through three "open" steps (thus the name Natural Turn from Promenade). Because of the added forward flight of his partner, the man is able to create through his Contrary Body Movement Position (CBMP) lead, a body position of BJO at the end of the Open Natural Turn that is preparatory for the lady to dance outside the man on the first step of the exit figure. Therefore, for comfortable execution, the correct/appropriate entry and exit dance positions for the Half Natural and Open Natural Turns should be as follows:

Half Natural Turns
Entry (waltz, quickstep) CP or BJO
Entry (foxtrot)  CP
Exit (WZ, QS, FT)  CP

Open Natural Turns
Entry (WZ, QS, FT)  SCP
Exit (WZ, QS, FT)  BJO

From the RAL Journal, Fall 1999, and reprinted in the Dixie Round Dance Council (DRDC) Newsletter, September 2018.


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