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Phase III—Spin & Impetus Turns

by Roy & Phyllis Stier
January, 1989 

We will describe in detail the turning figures most commonly used from closed position facing revere line of dance with particular emphasis on a comparative analysis — first the basic overview: 

What comes to mind immediately is that the Spin Turn is an adaptation of a pivot and the Impetus Turn, as the name implies, is a use of the lady's weight to bring the partners around with the "impetus" created by the man bringing his feet together. Second, since both turns require a brush step for the lady, the Spin Turn has a back step for the preparation and the Impetus Turn a side step. Third, the Spin Turn uses the man's left side to create the rotation, whereas the Impetus Turn is created by the man's right side. We should mention also as an important difference that the Spin Turn starts with a slight back curving step for the man, while the Impetus Turn should be straight back. Another way to visibly point out the difference is to check for a swish of the lady's skirt in the Impetus Turn that is lacking in the Spin Turn. 

SPIN TURN: For the man's part (facing reverse in closed position) — after lowering onto the right foot — back on the left ( think straight back while curving a little right-face) with a slight toeing in toward center of hall and lowering onto the left leg from toe to heel, the bulk of the weight remains on the ball of the foot. The thought process involved is to bring the lady forward and start a right-face pivot (usually over a 3/8 turn). The second step is a critical one, both from the standpoint of foot placement and body control. This requires a strong lead while turning right-face and rising from the lowered position on the left using a right hip lead with body rise. The right foot is placed inside the lady's right (too far to the lady's left side would shift relative balance). Some dancers slide the heel forward (man), but this is a matter of degree to accommodate forward movement (DLW) — not a must for everyone. The man should think of his movement from the thighs to the rib cage which results in a strong body rise. Pivoting on the right heel is really a drifting motion and may result in as much as a total 7/8 turn (the generic for ballroom description, but "Overturned Spin" for round dancers) although normal is 5/8 (counting steps 1 & 2). The man controls the amount of turn and uses a long 2 count to achieve a hovering action to face DLW with body weight directly over the ball of the foot. 

For the lady's part (facing line in closed position) — after lowering onto her left foot — a right-foot heel lead between the man's feet (think thigh and body first, then heel) start to pivot right-face with body rise to the ball of foot. The second step is back and side on the left using a long 2 count with a brushing action of the right toward the left while still pivoting. At this point, the lady must feel the man start his third step before she takes hers toward her partner on her right still in closed position with body rise and weight over the ball of the foot. Note: The hovering action is the mark of a good dancer. The technique is to use a quicker action on the pivoting motion to allow more time for the hover. In quickstep, the timing is S,S,S, again with a longer count on step 2. Although the Spin Turn is not supposed to be used in fox trot, it could be employed with a S,Q,Q rhythm. It is listed under waltz as a Phase III figure. 

OPEN IMPETUS TURN: (Phase III) For the man's part (facing RLOD) in CP or Contra Banjo — Backward L LOD as in the Spin Turn but straight back, drag R heel turning RF and transfer weight to heel of R with strong hip motion and stopping rotary action to "set" the lady for her brushing movement. If the man's heel touches the floor too quickly on his first step, he cannot lead the lady properly into her side step. The feet should point DLW but the body keeps turning RF with a lift of the right hip. Depending upon how far the lady travels in her side step the feet will either be together at the heels or a little apart. Most advanced dancers use quite a bit of motion and, therefore, the lady's power will force the man to step more to the side on his right. Step 3 is a side step on the left to blend to compact semi-closed position (usually LOD and slightly COH) using a left shoulder lead and weight well onto the ball of the foot = forward poise. 

For the lady's part (facing LOD in CP or Contra Banjo) — She will start like a Spin Turn except that there is much less body rise and hovering action to follow. Step 2 is a left foot to the side DRW. It can be fairly wide if the couple is used to more movement. There is a body rise and a lift of the left hip, but not as pronounced as the man's part. On step 3, the lady matches the man's feet with her side step on the right — parallel and pointing diagonal toward the man's. 

Timing is S,Q,Q in fox trot (not used very much) or S,S,S in quickstep. It is very rarely underturned or overturned but can be adapted up to 1/8 either way to accommodate the following figure. 

CLOSED IMPETUS TURN: (listed under Phase IV in both waltz and fox trot) The first two steps are the same as in the Open Impetus Turn but the man steps sideward and somewhat backward on step 3 — the lady forward on step 3 to CP to end facing DRC. The lady must wait until the man starts his lowering movement on step 3 before she steps forward between his feet. Again, the man must keep his weight on the ball of the foot and not drop back to the heel — lady also keeps her body "up." 

General Notes: In fox trot where it is used considerably, the timing is S,Q,Q, and as expected, in quickstep it is S,S,S. The man "collects" the lady in both the Open & Closed versions on her brush step (her second). In the Open Impetus Turn, the right side still holds position while in the Closed Impetus Turn, the man must face the lady and his left side takes over. In bringing the feet together at the heel versus nearly together, the guide is the amount of movement. The best criterion is to move only as far as the width of the shoulder. 

More on Phase III figures next month.

This column comes from a series published in Cue Sheet Magazine between 1987 and 1992, and is reprinted with permission. The full series is collected in an 86-pg booklet, available for $30.00 plus postage. E-mail Fran Kropf at This article was published in the Dixie Round Dance Council (DRDC)  Newsletter, March 2010.


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