Meredith & Harold



MAJOR SECTIONS: Figures | Articles | Links | Alph. Index | Search | Home

Figures in the Smooth Rhythms
Viennese Waltz
International Tango
American Tango
Two Step
Five Count
One Step
Figures in the Latin Rhythms
Cha Cha
Single Swing
West Coast Swing
Slow Two Step
Argentine Tango
Paso Doble
Dance Articles
Articles Home

Dance Figures

Dance Rhythms
Lead and Follow
Dance Styling
Fred Astaire Album
Other Sections
Dance Links
Music Clips For Each Rhythm
Search Site/Web
Contact Me

The Feather Figures

by Roy & Phyllis Stier
May, 1989

Following a somewhat natural sequence, we will consider a continuation of the feather figures which were part of last month's description contained in the Reverse Turn (foxtrot). First, we need to identify the three basic ending feathers which can be easily mixed up. If the first step is backward for the man as in the 4,5,6 of the Reverse Turn, it is called a Feather Finish. If the three steps taken to the feathering position are started in semi-closed position (SCP), the figure is called a Feather Ending. Lastly, when the couple starts in closed position (CP) and ends in the feather position with the standard three steps, it is called a Feather Step. Although the latter two have been standardized for many years, they have not yet been caught up by the Roundalab phase system.

FEATHER STEP: Starting from CP, usually facing line of dance (LOD) or DLC, the man takes a heel lead on his R with a body and foot rise which is continued on his L, R, starting to turn the upper body right face with a left-shoulder lead, then stepping outside the lady (banjo). All three steps are taken in a straight line where the partners keep their shoulders parallel while making the right-face upper body turn. To check for correct position, see if the feet are in line (on track) and the thighs are locked. The actual movement is somewhat like taking the first two steps to develop momentum and then letting the actual feather on step 3 be a follow through while using a fairly strong right sway.

For the lady, the footwork is opposite (L,--,R,L) where she goes from a toe to heel on each step to keep her body moving backwards but allowing freedom of motion for the man. She keeps her body presented toward the man by releasing the toe of the foot and drawing the heel backward past the supporting foot. She must maintain a closed head while turning her shoulders in a progressive manner right-face and lifting her right side.

FEATHER ENDING: This is used extensively in round dancing and starts from a V-SCP, usually facing LOD or DLC. The three steps used have little feeling of a true feathering action because the man has only a slight body turn. Starting with a R across L, --, then continuing L, R in the same alignment following the body and foot rise of the Feather Step, he is really accommodating to the lady's turn. He will feel the slight upper body turn right-face as he keeps his shoulders parallel with the lady's, and again, a right sway.

Ladies step forward on their L from the V-SCP starting a left-face turn, --, then side R to face the man, then back on their L to the feather position and left sway. Her head changes gradually from open position to closed on the left-face turn where she divides it up into 1/8 and 1/8.

CURVED FEATHER (to check): This figure is often paired with the Back Feather, however, for round dancers they must be separated. This is nearly always a SQQ figure starting facing LOD or DLW in CP or V-SCP. The man steps forward R starting a right-face turn and going from heel to toe. If commencing in V-SCP for the same alignment, the first step would be to the side and slightly forward with the left shoulder leading while bringing the lady to CP (she steps side and slightly back). Step 2 is diagonally forward on the L toe preparing to step outside partner now facing DLW or wall, depending upon the starting position. Step 3 is a checking motion as the man continues to turn right-face and an additional 1/8 on the toe to hold in strong contra banjo, lowering to the heel for the next figure. If the Curved Feather is to be followed by a Back Feather or Fallaway Whisk, an additional 1/8 body turn is made after step 3. For an Impetus Turn, Heel Pull, Zig Zag to follow, the extra turn is not necessary.

The lady's part is opposite to the man except for footwork---she is also up on the toe for step 2. On her step 3, she again uses a toe-heel, but either lowers late or stays nearly up with just a heel touch. A right sway for the man and left for the lady starts on step 2 and continues to build on 3, then is held until lowering to the heel for the man.

BACK FEATHER: The lead for the Back Feather is usually the Curved Feather, however, it can be taken after a Natural Turn from CP. If the precedes is the Curved Feather, a body turn of 1/8 is made between the last step (see above) and the first step of the Back Feather. The man steps backward L toward DLC in line with his R (=CBMP) going from toe to heel. If taken from CP he would have to use a shoulder lead. Step 2 is a curving one toward LOD with the right shoulder leading, rising to the toe and using body rise ready to blend to contra banjo. Step 3 is back L on the toe in strong contra banjo now facing RLOD at full body height. Rhythm is always SQQ.

Again, the lady has opposite movement except for footwork on steps 2 and 3 (T, T-H). The literature lists a fourth step, but this is the first of the next figure---a slow one to lead to the usual Feather Finish.

BACK LEFT FEATHER: This figure usually begins with the man facing RLOD, sometimes facing DRW, but necessarily requires a CP from a backing precedes on the man's R. He steps back on the L (Q) with a left shoulder lead to start the lady moving to his left side. Step 2 (Q) for him requires a little less than a 1/8 left-face turn as he brings the lady to a strong contra-sidecar position. The normal figure then uses steps 5 and 6 of the Reverse Turn on two quicks to complete a standard Feather Finish. If starting from facing DRW, everything is underturned to still end facing DLW. Footwork for the man is T-H, T, T, T-H; for the lady is H-T, T, T-H, T-H. It is important that the man keep his head to the left on steps 2 and 3.

We should comment at this time on the phase ratings of what we have covered. Feather Step and Feather Ending are not listed but "Feather" is described to cover Feather Ending and appears in Phase IV. Curved Feather is a Phase V figure while Back Feather appears in Phase IV. Roundalab does not show a Back Left Feather, but their version of Left Feather appears in Phase VI and is really an Outside on Left to Weave Ending. This is not to be confused with the Quick Left Feather which we cover next month. Curved Feather is also listed under waltz, however, its customary cue for this rhythm is Hairpin.

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, July 2010.


Alphabetical Index to
and Technique
Online since 2001 İHarold and Meredith Sears, Boulder, CO, All rights reserved.