Spins and Turns
by Gert-Jan & Susie
While all of you probably either know these basics or do them
automatically, sometimes it is handy to be able to have them written
- Left turns start with the left foot going forward or the
right foot going backward.
- Right turns start with the right foot going forward or the
left foot going backward.
- Left turns are also called reverse turns.
- Right turns are also called natural turns. If you have
trouble remembering this, just remember that most people are naturally
right-handed -- and natural turns turn right-face.
Contrary Body Movement/Body Swing
Contrary Body Movement is the action of turning the opposite hip and
shoulder toward the direction of the moving leg and is used to start
all turning movements. Often the term "body swing" will convey this
turning action more clearly. Also realize that an excess of Contrary
Body Movement will produce a dance that is more ugly and unbalanced
than one entirely devoid of it.
(This "same time swing" is what creates the CBM, "opens the door",
which is why right turns are called early turns.)
- As you start a forward turn to the right (with the right
foot), at the same time, swing the left hip and shoulder forward.
- As you start a backward turn to the right (with the left
foot), at the same, time swing the right hip and shoulder backward.
(This "delayed swing" is what keeps you in good position with your
partner, not "pushing" them into your path, which is why left turns are
called late turns.)
- A forward turn to the left (with the left foot) will have a
delayed swing of the right hip and shoulder forward.
- A backward turn to the left (with the right foot) will have
a delayed swing of the left hip and shoulder backward.
With the exception of a pivot movement, the swing of the body is not a
stationary action. It is more important to feel a forward swing (when
stepping forward into a turn) than a twisting of the body. Sometimes in
forward turns it will feel that the movement is initiated in the
shoulders, while in backward turns the movement is started from the
hips (open the door). Be careful not to turn the shoulders without
turning your body -- this will make a dipping movement instead of CBM.
Contrary Body Movement does not
change the direction of a step. If you are facing LOD and
turning to the right, do not allow your foot to travel to DLW. Only the
body turns away from LOD. The foot must move straight forward.
Body Sway in Spins
Body sway is used mostly for effect, although in a few turns it may be
practical. Sway should be made by inclining (leaning) the body to
either the left or right. Sway can be used on nearly all turns, except
spins. A spin is too quick to allow sway to be used comfortably. Sway
can also be used in figures that curve or wave and in sideways figures
If you make a turn to the right going forward with the right foot, your
sway is to the right. This is because you reach to the side for your
next step. If you make a turn to the right going backward (so with your
left foot), your sway is to the left; again because you are reaching to
the side for your next step. The logical opposite is true, turning to
When dancing a spinning figure, you will generally be standing only on
one foot, but the other foot needs to be close -- if you leave your
free foot extended, it will bring you off balance and also your partner
off balance. Your partner will not be able to step close enough to you
without tripping. And as an extra benefit, it looks nicer if you fee
Some General Points
Practice Makes Perfect, but . . .
- A forward step is always forward; a backward step is
- If you have a body turn before the step is taken, the step
is still forward or backward in relation to the body (before it has
- On turns, the whole couple will rotate;
- On spins, usually one person is spinning while the other is
turning (around partner);
- The axis of rotation needs to be kept vertical through the
- The person who spins does not "hang" on the turning partner;
- The turning partner should not destabilize the couple by
pulling or pushing; the spinning partner needs to keep their weight
over their standing foot and keep a good poise and balance;
- Don't lock your knees;
- Keep your eyes looking forward, never down (there are no
diamonds on the floor);
- Spins and turns are made with the body, not with the feet
-- that means that your body initiates and maintains the action;
- Your head is the heaviest part of your body -- use it to
your advantage to get more swing into your spins;
- When you take your last step -- you stop your turn or spin
-- don't take it till you are where you want to be!!
You can't learn these figures only by doing lots of them. In fact, a
funny thing about spins is that after a short while, often just a few
minutes and a few "good ones", the more you practice, the worse they
get -- in that practice session. So when you notice your practice
deteriorating, it's time to stop. You'll probably find that the next
time you practice, it will go a lot better.
Mental practice also helps. BOTH actual practice and visualization work
together. So, in addition to really practicing, spend a few minutes
visualizing yourself doing spins and turns really well. One advantage
to this type of practice is that you can do it anywhere, not only on
the dance floor.
From clinic notes
prepared for the URDC Convention, 2003, based in part on material from Ballroom Dancing by Alex Moore, and
in the Dixie Round Dance Council (DRDC)
Newsletter, May 2018.