A Waltz Whirl
by Harold & Meredith Sears
The waltz is a turning dance. Of
it can be many other things, but one thing that waltz has been for
over 200 years is a turning, rotating dance. When the waltz music
plays, we hold tight and whirl around the floor.
One way to produce this whirl is
the simple Left Turn (phase II). In closed position, we step
forward left turning up to 1/4, side right turning up to 1/4, and
close left. The lady dances back right turning, side left turning,
close right. During the next measure, the man dances back right
turning up to 1/4, side left turning up to 1/4, close right, and the
lady dances forward, side, close. If we began facing line of dance,
we could be facing line of dance at the end of two measures, and then
we could do it again . . . and again . . . until we were dizzy. Round
dance choreographers will break up such relentless flow with
refreshing variety, but back in the 1800s, such steady rotation was
the exciting norm.
Another way to turn is with the Viennese
Turn (phase IV). In closed position throughout,
man steps forward L beginning the left-face turn, side R continuing
to turn, cross L in front of R (lady closes R to L); back R turning,
side L turning, close R to L (lady crosses R in front of L) to end in
closed position facing line of dance; and, you guessed it, we could
continue this merry-go-round again and again.
One of the problems that arises in
doing these Viennese Turns on the cardinal directions (LOD; RLOD) is
that we tend to separate a little from our partner in order to fit in
that cross-in-front step. We stick our butts out and then hunch over
our partner to compensate. Maybe worse than that, we don't quite
achieve a full turn, we end the figure facing wall instead of line,
and we can't then do the turns that come next.
We can keep our hips together more
easily and our top lines apart, and we can get all the way around, if
we dance this figure on the diagonal. Do the first turn to face
reverse and center (lady line and wall) with strong right-side lead
(man's right shoulder back) and with left sway. Keep your left side
in to your partner, and in this strong contra-body position, the
crossing step occurs easily and in a more flowing manner. If you have
turned to face dead reverse, then the left foot crosses in front of
the right with more of a clunk.
Now do the second turn to face diagonal line and wall with the man's left shoulder leading and with right sway (lady's right shoulder strongly back). Again, keep your left side to your partner. Her crossing step will flow easily. You can dance any number of full Viennese Turns and never fall behind if the man throws his right shoulder down the line, and then his left, right, left . . . Focus on progressing down line with both your step and your shoulder, and the turns will happen.
But what we really want to talk
today is Evening Star, a phase VI waltz by Radka Sandeman.
George & Pam Hurd taught the dance at our Gala. It was tied for
first place as ICBDA's "most taught" dance in November, and
it is RAL runner-up for Round Of the Quarter during this first
quarter, 2011. There are lots of ways to whirl left, and Radka has
given us five thrilling measures: Three Fallaways into a Tumble Turn
and then back to an Outside Check. It really is a roller coaster ride
-- it takes your breath.
Fallaways (phase VI) is another figure that turns us left. These
are reverse fallaways. In closed position facing line and
center, we step forward L (lady back R) turning LF and with left
sway, side R down line, and cross L in back of R (lady cross R in
back of L) to semi-closed position facing reverse line of dance. A
fallaway is a step back in a semi-closed position. In the
second measure, we step back R turning LF to closed position (lady
turns and steps forward L slipping to closed), side and forward L
down line with right sway, cross R well behind L (lady crosses L in
back of R) to reverse semi-closed position facing reverse. This
second measure is a Left Whisk (phase IV). In the third measure, we
turn and step forward L toward line, slipping to closed position LOD
(lady back R) turning left-face and with no sway, side R down line
turning, cross L in back of R (lady crosses R in back of L) to
semi-closed position facing reverse but with heads closed. Notice
that we do have three different fallaways here: one to SCP with left
sway, one to RSCP with right sway, and one to SCP with no sway.
During the first fallaway, the man is on the outside of the circle.
During the second, the lady slips to the outside, and during the
third, the man slips to the outside again.
Let me add that normally we would
a little more use of the diagonals. The first four steps would
progress toward line and center on a straight diagonal line, steps 5
& 6 are taken straight down line, and steps 7, 8, & 9 would
be taken back out toward diagonal wall. But in this dance, because of
what follows, we need to straighten the Three Fallaways out and move
them more down line.
Now, let's do the Tumble Turn
(phase VI). Its name tells you that this will be exciting. The
standard timing for this figure is 12&3, but George Hurd taught
it as 1&23 and many others like it better that way -- putting the
syncopation early gives a little more time for the ride up (step 3)
and then down to the tumble (step 4).
We are in semi-closed position
reverse line of dance, and we begin this figure as though we were
going to do another fallaway. We step back R lowering and beginning
to turn left-face. The lady turns strongly and slips her L forward
down line. Remember, her head was already closed, and this helps her
to fold to closed position, the man facing reverse and wall. If we
use the 1&23 timing, we have only half a beat for this step. On
the &-count, we step side and back L (lady strongly side and
forward R to remain in closed position), the man now facing line and
wall. On the 2-count, the man sneaks his R across to a contra-banjo
position facing line of dance and rises to full stretch (lady back L
crossing behind). He may use a little left sway here to open her head
and let her take a peek at where he is taking her. The lead feet
brush up to the trail feet as both swivel to face center, and finally
he slips forward L and lowers strongly into a closed position facing
reverse and center.
This last step is of course the
"tumble" action, and the figure might be more accurately
called a "feather finish (phase IV) to a tumble ending (phase
VI)." That tumble ending is a little like a Contra Check (phase
V). The actual step is shorter, but she has stepped side and back to
move from tight contra banjo to closed, and he steps forward into her
with right side lead (contra), lowering. Again, the pretty part of
the figure is really the swiveling in contra banjo and the tumble to
closed. That is why we'd like to dance the initial back and side
steps quickly, so we have two full beats to do the rise and the
Finally, in our little five-measure
whirl, we step back to an Outside Check (phase IV). Having
lowered into that tumble, we are like a compressed spring, and we
rebound as off a trampoline: back R (lady forward L) still turning
left, side and forward L to face reverse and wall, and forward R to
end in banjo position. It's a peaceful end to a wild ride, and now
we're going to step back and whirl right for a while.
article was originally published in Round Notes, CRDA, p. 8-9,
Feb/Mar 2011; reprinted North Carolina Round Dance Association, 2/2011.
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