Monday, July 27, 2009

Quickstep - Natural Turn

(After getting all out of sync last week, I will aim to get back on track now... sorry for any inconvenience!)

Great for getting out of corners, the Natural Turn in Quickstep is slightly different from those you have seen in waltz so far. The timing changes from a straight forward "Slow, Quick, Quick, Slow" pattern and becomes "Slow, Quick, Quick, Slow, Slow, Slow" over the course of the six steps.

Leaders'/Men's Footwork

Starting Diagonal to Wall, step forward onto your Right foot. As you do this you should already be turning your shoulders to the Right to begin the turn. On the "Quick, Quick" you Step side onto your Left foot and then close your Right foot to your Left having completed just over a quarter of a turn and ending facing the wall that used to be behind you.

Step backwards onto your Left foot and continue to turn to the Right as you take another step this time to the side onto your Right foot, doing what is called a Heel Pull before stepping forward on your Left. All of these are Slow counts!

What is a Heel Pull?
The technique book is quite specific on how a proper Heel Pull should be done. In basic terms, the turn is completed on the heel of the supporting foot, which means that you need to step first and THEN turn. The moving foot (in this case your Left foot) is pulled to follow the other foot - back and to the side. It is moved with the inside of the foot on the floor, leading with your heel, and is always kept a small distance from the supporting foot.

Follower's/Lady's Footwork

For once your feet are simpler than the guy's - you dont have a Heel Pull!
Start by stepping backwards onto your Left foot. You partner should already be initiating the turn to the Right and therefore causing you to rotate your upper body in the right direction. Step side and then together with your Right then Left feet. You should now be facing LOD.

Next go forward with your Right foot, continuing to turn to the Right. Side onto your Left foot and backwards onto your Right. Remember... all of these steps are Slow counts.

Notes for both the Leader and the Follower:

- This step is done here going around a corner and getting you back facing Diagonal to Wall on the new alignment. It can be done with varying degrees of turn if necessary.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Samba - Botafogos

When you look past the slightly funny name, Botafogos are an interesting and useful Samba step. They can be used to travel or to change direction, get you out of closed hold and generally create the big frame and movement that Carnival (where Samba originates) evokes.

Both the Leader and Follower do the same movement with the feet, although generally this is done as a Shadow step - meaning that the couple is moving in opposite directions. First though, to learn, it is best to just get the footwork.

Remember that Samba counts generally as "1+, a, 2" with the first beat being split into quarters. "1+" equals 3/4 of the beat and "a" equals the last quarter. "2" is a full beat.

Footwork for Leaders and Followers

Start facing a wall with your feet together but your weight on your Left foot, Right foot on the ball of your foot. (This is an arbitrary choice as this step can start on either foot.)

Step forward in a diagonal across your body, onto a bent knee, using your Right foot. Leave the ball of your Left foot where it was, but allow it to 'turn out' (be in a position where the inside of your heel is closer to the floor). This should put you in a lunge type position. (Count "1+")

Leaving your weight over your Right foot, move your Left foot to the side to create the opposite diagonal. (Count "a") Only place PART WEIGHT on this foot as you use it to shift the angle of your body and underneath leg - in this case your Right - finishing facing a new diagonal, still in a lunge position, for Count "2".

You are now ready to step forward on this new diagonal with your Left foot into a new lunge. (Count "1+").

Swing your Right leg to the side with part weight on Count "a" and then change your body and foot alignment to the first diagonal on Count "2".

Repeat as desired!

Notes for both the Leader and Follower:

- As described above, this is an individual step, however, if done after a step such as your samba walks, you are both facing in the same direction but on opposite feet. Maintaining connection with your outisde arm (Men's Left to Lady's Right), you can each do Botafogos with your free foot, stepping in opposite directions - these are Shadow Botafogos.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Quickstep - Spin Turn

Very much like the Spin Turn in Waltz, the footwork is the same but the main difference in the Quickstep is your timing. The total pattern for this step will be "Slow, Quick Quick, Slow, Slow, Slow" (whereas most of your other patters have been simply a repetition of "Slow, Quick, Quick). The rise and fall is slightly different as well, but I will talk about that in a later post.

Remember that there is a varying amount of turn that you can do when you do a spin turn, depending on whether you are doing one in a corner or along a long line. This set of diagrams shows the amount of turn in a corner and assumes that you are going to use the following step to turn to face diagonally to the new line of dance.

Leaders'/Men's Footwork

Start with the first three steps of your Natural Turn (forward on your Right foot - turning to your right - and then side onto your Left, and close your Right foot to your left) to finish with your back directly to the line of dance. (Counts Slow, Quick Quick)

Step back onto your Left foot but think of keeping your knees bent and close together - because you are now going to pivot on that Left foot - think of pulling your Right shoulder backwards and bringing the Right foot around as if connected and immovable from the position it was placed in when you stepped back. Step forward onto the Right foot and then "fall" back onto your Left now facing Diagonal Against your New Line of Dance. (Counts Slow, Slow, Slow)

You can follow this with a Progressive Chasse which will keep you moving along the LOD and allow you to get back into your "basic" pattern of Quarter Turn to Right and Progressive Chasse.

Followers'/Lady's Footwork

Start with the first three steps of your natural turn. Step back on your Left foot, side on your Right and together with your Left to end facing Line of Dance. (Counts Slow, Quick, Quick)

Step forward into your partner with your Right foot (Count Slow), beginning to curve to your Right, the next step is taken forward as your partner is pivoting, which means that you end up with your weight on your Left foot and your back to the diagonal you initially started on on a second SlowCount. (Which in the technique books is therefore labelled as a step back and slightly to the side.) With your weight on the toe of your Left foot, lightly brush your Right foot towards your left (Count "2-and") and then back out on a diagonal to step forward on another Slow Count.

Following this step, you can go straight into a Progressive Chasse.

Notes for both the Leader and the Follower:

- When doing the pivot, it is very important that the gentleman keeps his weight over his supporting foot at all times... if you start to lean forward or backwards, you make the turn impossible for your partner. This also goes for the women, however. Ladies, do not hold on to your partner for dear life or lean into him, this will make the turn heavy and difficult to turn - it should feel light and easy!!

Friday, July 10, 2009

Rumba - Hockey Stick

Picking up where we left off last week, this move will begin from the Fan position. Ladies, this will be sightly trickier for you than the guys as you are the one doing all the changes of directions. I know you can handle that! Guys, dont forget that because your footwork is fairly straight forward, you are supposed to be leading your lady and assisting her movements - not making anything difficult for her! Make sure your leads are definitive and timed at the right moments.

Leaders'/Men's Footwork

As usual, you guys have it easy. You are currently, if we are taking this from the end of the Fan that we did last week, standing with your feet apart and on a slight diagonal towards your partner. You are going to do one basic movement stepping forward on your Left foot (Count 2), replacing the weight on your Right (Count 3), and then putting your Left foot together with your right on the 4-1 count and changing the weight so that you have your Right foot free. You should do all this and accomplish a small amount of turn to get you back to facing a wall instead of a diagonal by the end. (Which makes my drawing of it look a lot more complicated than it actually is!) As you do this you need to bring your Left hand (the one that is in contact with your partner) forward and in towards your body to make your partner move forwards and by the end of this set of steps you should have your hand drawn across your face, the back of your hand towards your forehead and there should be a window created with your and your partner's arms so that you can see each other.

As you move into the next set of steps, you need to move your hand over your partner's head so that your hand is resting with hers on or near her Left shoulder. You then have another basic movement, stepping backwards this time onto your Right foot on Count 2, transferring the weight forward again onto your Left on Count 3, and then stepping forward (following your partner) on your Right foot on Count 4-1.

Followers'/Lady's Footwork

You have a bit of a tricky set of steps to describe, so hopefully with the combination of the words here and the drawn steps, you will get the idea. I have numbered the steps in your diagram rather than labelled the counts as i thought that would be less confusing. So please don't do the rhythm based on the numbers on the diagram!

You are standing in fan with your Right foot extended to the side and weight on your Left. On count 2, bring your Right foot in to your Left foot, put the ball of your foot on the floor (your Right knee should be bent and crossed slightly in front of your left) and change weight so that you end up with your Right foot on the floor with a straight leg and your Left foot is now on the ball of the foot with the knee slightly bent and crossed. All of that is on count 2!

Then you have two walks forward towards your partner on counts 3 and 4-1. First your Left foot and then your Right. Your partner should lead you forward like this and bring your arm up in front of you so that there is a window between you and your partner when you reach the end of this set of steps.

He will then lead your arm over your head so that your Right hand is holding his and resting on or close to your Left shoulder. With your next two steps (Counts 2, 3), you actually make a total of a 90 degree turn and walk away from your partner. At the end of the second step (on count 3) you are wound in your own arm and can only get out of it by turning - bringing your Left shoulder back and around - on your Right foot before you then step back onto your Left foot on count 4-1.

Notes for both the Leader and the Follower:

- When you get more comfortable with the steps, you can make the leads sharper and slightly delayed - especially the final turn on count 3. But that requires both partners to be secure in their steps and paying close attention to the leads.

Tango - Open Promenade

(Two for one today as i am late with the ballroom step from monday!)

Much like your Closed Promenade, this step takes you along the Line of Dance in Promenade Position but instead of finishing back in a neutral position with your feet together, you have an Open Finish.

Leaders'/Men's Footwork

Just like the Closed Promenade, this step only differs in the final step. So, from PP (promenade position) you step forward onto your Left foot (Slow), forward again onto your Right foot - bringing the leg through the centre of you and your partner (Quick), change your alignment to face diagonal to wall again with your next step to the side onto your Left foot (Quick), and then rather than closing your feet together as you would in a Closed Promenade, step forward on the diagonal (in CBMP) with your Right foot (Slow).

Followers'/Lady's Footwork

Again, just like the Closed Promenade, you step forwards in PP (promenade position) on your Right foot (Slow), forwards again onto your Left foot (Quick), step side - changing your alignment when led to be backing the diagonal - onto your Right foot (Quick), and instead of bringing your feet together as you would have done in your Closed Promenade, step backwards in CBMP onto your Left foot (Slow).

Notes for both the Leader and the Follower:

- Maintaining the connection between your centre's at all times is integral when working in ballroom in general, tango specifically, and in CBMP even more so. Really try to keep your belly buttons facing each other at all times throughout this step regardless of what your shoulders or feet may be doing.

Friday, July 03, 2009

Rumba - Fan

Fan Position is a common staple that is used in Rumba and Cha Cha regularly. It is a natural following step from something like the Open Hip Twist that was described last week; amongst other things!

Leaders'/Men's Footwork

Often this is done on the second half of a set of steps, therefore meaning that you step back on your Right foot on Count 2, replace the weight onto your Left foot on count 3, and then, in order to maintain a connection with your partner, step forward and slightly to the side on your Right foot on Count 4-1 so that you end up on a diagonal.

You should have connection with your partner through your Left arm/hand and should ensure that you actually lead her movements and dont just assume that she will do everything in the direction and at the times that you want her to. You should be familiar with her steps so that you know when she should be where.
Followers'/Lady's Footwork

For the moment, think that you have just finished your open hip twist, you are standing there with your weight on your Right foot and are facing the side. Your Right hand is in your partner's Left and it is wrapped in front of your body. This is a common place to do the fan, and though the footwork doesn't change much if you are going into it from a different step, the beginning position probably will.

Step forward on Left foot on Count 2. Take another step forward on Count 3. As you transfer your weight onto the Right foot, unwind on Count "and" to face the wall behind you and then step back onto your Left foot on Count 4-1, leaving your Right foot extended and pointed in front of you.
Notes for both the Leader and the Follower:

- Ladies: dont walk too far away from your partner. You only have the total distance of the length of your arm combined with the length of his... and neither should EVER be completely straight. Gents: you can prevent her getting too far away by keeping your elbow in close to your waist on the first two steps.