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Phase VI Figures

by Roy & Phyllis Stier
November, 1990

BIG TOP : The Big Top is a one-measure figure that has several degrees of turn; however, we will describe the one normally used by round dancers and note the variations. In all cases it should start from a compact SCP and very often facing LOD, the starting position we will use. The count that best describes the action is 1&23 with no weight change on the "and" count.

The man's first step should start as a continuation of the previous figure (i.e., Open Telemark) as he starts a left-face (LF) turn when the heel is lowered. The R is placed forward and across on the heel, then going to the ball of the foot as a 1/8+ LF turn is made. It leads the lady to start across on her L as she goes from heel to toe and starts her head to turn left for blending to contra body. Step 2 is really a continuation of the LF movement on the ball of the R in a swiveling action as the L toe is brought behind the R on the "and" count, then placed a little to the right as weight is placed on the ball on count 2 with the body facing approximately DRC. Ladies do a toe pivot on their R while keeping their L toe skimming the floor and close to the R. The lady's head is now back to closed as she keeps her right side to her partner. Step 3 is a slipping of the man's R back toward DLW (TH) as he brings the lady back to CP. It is on this step that the variation of turns is made as the ball of the R acts as a pivot with the lady held in CP and can turn up to 3/8 more (to face wall). Normally, round dancers turn only 1/8 to 1/4 more, even no turn so that the man ends still facing DRC. Ladies are pivoting on their L as the R is allowed to act as sort of a rudder with only the tip of the toe on the floor. She keeps her shoulders well back at the end of the figure and her head well to the left.

There is no sway in this figure and if done in foxtrot rhythm the timing is SQQ where the "and" count noted above is included in the slow. The Big Top does not lend itself as much to quickstep but would be done with a QQS count, or as in other turning figures, on three slows. Any turn less than 1/2 LF would be considered an underturned Big Top.

HOVER CROSS: This is a foxtrot figure that requires two measures to cover the 7 steps in its complete form. Starting usually after a Three Step (could be done from compact SCP) most commonly facing DLW, it really leads from a well overturned Natural Turn. The third step of the Natural Turn is modified with a turning side step where the man has a fairly wide stance and momentarily has his weight on both feet, hopefully facing as close to DLC as possible. There is no lowering to his R heel and most of the turn must come between steps 2 and 3, requiring a little toe spin on step 2 where he must allow space for his L foot to cross in front between the partner's (body turns less than the feet). The other important consideration is that he must keep the lady directly in front of him so as to keep away from her right side. The lady turns less than the man on her third step of the overturned Natural Turn and stays on the toe as she steps to the side on her L with a high body rise. Otherwise, her part is the same as in the Natural Turn to this point. Step 4 is the actual crossing step of L over R with a hovering action high on the toes but with no further turn while keeping the head to the left. The lady has a little RF turn (about 1/8) as she turns her head to the right and crosses R behind L while high on the toes. Both partners recover in place on the toe coming into contra body (lady still looking right) but because this is a preparation for a Feather Finish, a little LF turn is made. Again, the man turns more than the lady (he 1/4 and she 1/8) to compensate for his RF overturn on step 3 while maintaining a strong left sway (lady right). Step 5 is backward on the man's R in contra body approximately DRC while starting a LF turn and correcting the left sway but still on the toe. Steps 6 and 7 are standard Feather Finish to end in the normal contra body, man facing DLC. This requires the lady to make a little LF turn after lowering to her heel on step 6. Altogether, the timing for the seven steps is one slow and six quicks. Ladies must remember to close their head on step 6.

A Traveling Hover Cross is where the man steps between the lady's feet on his R blending to a CP to repeat the Natural Turn and another Hover Cross or Curved Feather, possibly some other figure. In other words, a substitute for the normal Feather Finish on steps 6 and 7 of the Hover Cross.

CONTRA CHECK: This is really a one-step figure, but in most literature the lead and recovery are also given = 3 steps. It is one of the picture figures and can be taken in any direction but usually toward the wall, less often toward COH. The man steps forward on his L creating the contra body movement position (CBMP) by turning his body a little to the left. This movement must incorporate a lowering (softening of the R knee) where the center of the body leads and the shoulders follow. This action is much more abrupt when used in the tango. There is a definite following through action at this point while being careful not to put too much pressure on the L foot. Ladies move their R foot backward while turning to the left without dropping to the heel and putting too much pressure on the L. They keep their head well to the left while the man looks at her or, more often, just past her nose. The placement of the feet are parallel on the diagonal with the exception of the lady's L where she turns her foot more outward with some pressure on the outside edge of the foot. This means that both must swivel a little to the left on the man's R and the lady's L for the lunge line.

Next Time: Double Natural Spin

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, November 2011.


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