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by Harold & Meredith Sears

The Twist Turn is not a Roundalab standard figure, but we dance it in various combinations. Usually, we Spin Turn to a Twist Turn (Spin and Twist), but sometimes we Outside Spin or Royal Spin to a Twist Turn.  The Worlocks’ Adagio begins with a Contra Check; Switch & Hook; to a Twist Turn to semi-closed position.  Could we do a Running Open Natural; check it to a Twist Turn? 

A Twist Turn usually begins in closed position, facing reverse line of dance, trail feet free.  The man crosses behind and unwinds.  The woman runs right face, unwinding him. We usually end in closed position facing diagonal wall, wall, or even diagonal reverse and wall, depending on the choreography. 

Let’s look at this a little more closely.  A Twist Turn really begins with upper body rotation to the right, flowing out of the previous figure (e.g., Spin Turn). The man steps back on his right foot. The rotation gives the back step a crossing-behind component.  Then, using pressure into the right toe and the left heel, he unwinds to a very neat side-by-side foot position, rises to the balls of the feet, and changes weight to the right foot.  The count in waltz is 1/&.  During the “1” half of this beat, he is evenly weighted on both feet and unwinding.  Toward the end of the “&” half of the beat, he shifts weight fully to his right foot.  The woman has stepped left/right to the outside of the man in a right face arc.  She is on the balls of her feet.  On beat 2, the man continues to turn on the ball of his right foot, and the woman steps forward left and turns with him.  On beat 3, he steps side and back left, and she steps forward right between his feet to closed position, trail feet free again. 

Sometimes the first step of a Twist Turn is described as a “hook right foot behind left foot.”  If you truly hook the right foot so the front of the ankle is touching the back of the left foot, you’ll be unstable, and your unwind will leave your feet separated, not together.  So make that step a back crossing step, not a tight hook. 

Notice that there are two weight changes for the man and four for the woman.  In waltz, the timing will be 1/&23.  He takes full weight at the end of the “&” or even into the “2” and then steps side and back left on “3.”  She steps L/R, L, R; in a rather high, balls-of-the-feet run.  In foxtrot and quickstep, the timing is q/&qs.  Similarly, he takes full weight at the end of the first “quick” and then steps side and back left on the “slow,” and she dances L/R, L, R, -.  Various sources allow waltz timing of &/123 and foxtrot and quickstep timing of &/qqs, qq&/s, or even &/sqq.  We’ve always been skeptical of those who say, “the music tells you what to do,” but the music often does tell you when to do it and so helps you to choose among these options. 

Spin and Twist 

Again, the Spin and Twist is the familiar figure (phase VI) that incorporates the Twist Turn.  We usually begin in closed position facing reverse line of dance with lead feet free.  The man steps back commencing a right-face pivot 1/2 with left-side stretch, and the woman steps forward right between his feet and pivots.   He steps forward right between the woman’s feet continuing to turn, and she steps side and back left and draws right to left.  On count 3, he steps forward and side left turning to face diagonal reverse and wall, and she does her heel turn, changing weight to the right foot.  During this first measure, we are dancing an overturned Spin Turn.  Now the trail feet are free.  The man crosses his right foot behind his left, and she unwinds him as described above.  We end in closed position having made a 1 5/8 to 1 7/8 total turn.  There is even a common variation, the Spin and Twist to Semi, that underturns the Twist Turn to closed position facing line and wall on count “2” and then rises with right-side stretch for an exit—man side and forward left, woman side and forward right—to semi-closed position facing line and center.

Spin and Double Twist 

The Spin and Twist is so much fun that we will certainly want to do a Spin and Double Twist.  In this figure, you simply do a Spin and Twist overturned to face reverse, and then do another Twist Turn. This would give us 2 5/8 to 2 7/8 total turn over three measures.

One of the problems inherent in this "Double Twist Turn" lies in the long side step with the man’s left foot that overturns the first Twist Turn and prepares him to do the second Twist Turn.  It can become an abrupt leap that disturbs the smooth flow of the waltz.  Again, a Twist Turn for the man involves two weight changes.  He crosses his right foot behind his left.  She unwinds him.  He takes full weight on his right as late as beat 2, and then steps side left on beat 3.  You can smooth out a Double Twist Turn by taking four weight changes, instead of only two, and by making the third step a progressing pivoting step.  On beat 1, cross the right foot behind left taking weight and step left, as she begins to unwind you (1/&).  On beat 2, step forward right between her feet and pivot right-face in a maneuvering action, and then step small side left to set up for the second Twist Turn.  The count becomes 1&23; just as it is for the woman, and the flow is so much smoother than the usual "cross/unwind, -, leap."  Jim & Bonnie Bahr used this smoother, progressing version of the Double Twist Turn in their Red River Waltz.  It flows so well that we think even a Spin and Triple Twist would be comfortable. 

The Twists 

And indeed, Paso Doble has a figure that is called The Twists that begins with one measure of even-count preparation and then contains three syncopated Twist Turns in measures two and three. 

We begin in closed position facing wall with the trail feet free.  On the first beat, we Appel with the trail feet and turn to semi-closed position, lowering.  The man steps forward left, maneuvers right, and steps back and side left to closed position facing reverse and wall. 

Although the actual count for the complete figure is 1234; 1&234; &123&4; it will probably help to count measures two and three like this: 1&23 1&23 1&2.  These are the actual "twists."  For each “twist,” the man crosses his right in back of left, unwinds right-face, and steps left on the “1&.”  The woman runs forward left and forward right outside partner turning right-face and ending in banjo position, man facing line and center.  On the “2” and the “3” counts, he steps forward right outside of partner pivoting right-face (woman back left), and then side left (woman close right in a heel turn) to finish the “twist” in closed position and facing reverse and wall again. 

At this point, we have used only three of the four beats of the second measure, but it feels as though we have done a whole "thing."  We have done one syncopated Twist Turn.  Now, do another full “twist,” 1&23, and end the figure with the first three steps of a third but under-turned “twist,” 1&2.  For this third “twist,” cross your right in back of left, unwind right-face, and step left (woman forward left and forward right outside partner turning right-face) to banjo position, man facing line and center, and then close right to left blending to closed position facing line and center, lead feet free.  This completes three full four-count measures. 

We first encountered The Twists in Chris & Terri Cantrell’s Silverio. They begin part B with The Twists;;; curve left two to face center of hall,, point left /close left, point right; and then Chasse Right. 

Notice that The Twists does contain the smooth, progressive, 1&23 Twist Turn that we described in the Waltz Spin and Double Twist above.  Not only that, but, although we truncated the third “twist,” we have done a Triple Twist Turn, and it was comfortable.  You can also find this figure in Easterday’s Echoes of Spain

A version of this article was published in the Dixie Round Dance Council (DRDC) Newsletter, December, 2006.


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