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Round Dance Tips by Tim Eum —

Some Bolero Figures

Fence Line With Arms -- Many figures in bolero begin with a side step and the Fence Line is one of them. The Fence Line also uses the standard rise and fall of Bolero, in that the first step (side) is high with a stretch through the body and straightened legs -- but not so high that you extend the ankles and get up on the toes. Instead, keep your heel close to the floor. The second step is the crossing through in front that most will recognize from rumba and cha as being a Fence Line step.

However, most dancers make the mistake of doing as they do in rumba and cha by taking a sizeable step. Instead, you should only go about a foot or so, crossing thru in front (XIF) and bending the knee so that you lower down. This allows you to push off into the third step staying low and gradually rising, making for a "gliding" feel to the third step. Many dancers ignore the bolero technique for the second and third steps described above and simply "Rock Thru and Recover" with no rise and fall. While this is acceptable in round dancing, doing so misses the genuinely beautiful feeling of bolero. In the dance Almost Bolero, we also add armwork to this figure. When doing the Fence Line to the man's left, you take the trail arms (man's right, lady's left) and take them up and over . Hold onto the lead hands but let go of the trail hands so that they can move freely and independently while still mirroring each other. Lead with the elbow, allowing the arm to bend going through and then extend when going forward.

Time the extension forward to coincide with when you do the second step, crossing in front. When you push back on the third and last step of the Fence Line with arms, bring the arms back through to normal position. When going to the man's right, use the lead arms (man's left, lady's right) to go up and over.

Shadow New Yorker -- Most dancers learn "New Yorkers" as one of their first cha, rumba, and even bolero figures. To do a bolero New Yorker, you start facing partner and step side with a slow step, then do a quick cross in front checking, and then finish with a quick back step returning to face partner. Often you do this starting in BFLY and let go of lead hands when crossing through on the second step. With one modification you can turn this figure into a "Shadow New Yorker". You simply do the figure in a handshake with right hands joined. Try it. Join your right hands. Now do the New Yorker as you would in BFLY. Keep your handshake throughout. Step side slow and then on the second step both cross through in front. If you started with lead foot free and stepped side to LOD, your second step would cross in front toward LOD and your body would turn to face LOD with your right hand extending out to your right side toward the wall (as will your partner's as well). Your left hands/arms should be extended to your left which will put you in a left shadow position with man in front. You finish the Shadow New Yorker by stepping back from that position and turning back to face partner. Often you do a second Shadow New Yorker in the other direction. If starting with trail foot and man facing wall, you step side to RLOD, then cross in front toward RLOD in which your body turns toward RLOD and your joined right hands are now extended toward COH and your free left hands are extended toward the wall in a left shadow position with lady in front. Finish the Shadow New Yorker by stepping back and turning to face partner.

Turning Basic -- The Turning Basic is a phase 4 bolero figure that takes two measures to do. The first measure is similar to a bolero Cross Body in that it will turn left face one-half (if starting facing wall, it will end facing center). The big difference is that in the first step of the Turning Basic the couple steps side but turns slightly right-face, stretches their lead sides and looks up and away to the man's left and lady's right (i.e. a High Line Position). Then in the second and third steps of the first measure, the couple pivots left-face quick, quick, making a half turn. To start this pivot, the man slips back on his right and turns on his toe left-face while the lady steps toward the man with her left, turning on her toe left-face. The third step (man forward left, lady back right pivoting left face) completes the pivot and the first measure of the Turning Basic in closed position.

The second measure of the Turning Basic is similar to a Bolero Forward Basic (i.e. Side, - , Fwd, Bk;) starting and ending in closed position. To make this more elegant the last two steps should be done with Contra Check styling. To do this, lower into the man's forward step, and as he checks forward with his left (lady back right) turn the upper bodies left-face (i.e. Contra Body Movement). The final step is for man to simply step back (lady forward), and if you do this with bolero styling, it should be more of a moving step back staying low until near the very end rather than just a "recover" step.

Cross Body -- In rumba and cha, the "Cross Body" is a two-measure figure where the first measure is a Half Basic. In bolero, the Cross Body is only one measure. The first step is to the side, as it is with most bolero figures, however in the Cross Body, the man first turns his body and left shoulder to DLC (if starting facing wall) and only then steps side with his left foot for his first step. The lady steps side and forward with her right foot. The second step is the key. The man rocks back on his right foot while the lady steps across with her left -- but she should not step beyond the man's left foot. In fact, she could step slightly "into" the man instead of "across" him. The reason is soon apparent. After taking the second step, both man and lady must swivel on the foot that took the second step and while rotating they take the final third step -- man forward turning left and lady side and perhaps slightly bk (depending on how much left turn she has made). If on the second step the lady stepped across too far, then the rotation after step 2 and on step 3 become awkward. If the lady's swivel point is closer to the man they can then turn together -- which is a pleasing thing to do. After taking the third step, there is still a little more rotation until the couple is generally facing opposite to how they began (i.e. a half-turn -- if starting facing wall, end facing center). The timing is the normal bolero timing -- slow quick quick.

Double Handhold Opening Out -- One of the figures in Almost Bolero, a popular, venerable, phase 4 bolero, is the “Opening Out” or sometimes cued “Double Handhold Opening Out,” so that it is not confused with a similar cue for a cuddle-type figure or with something like “Natural Opening Out.” The Opening Out in bolero is done in BFLY (hence the “Double Handhold” reminder cue). The man takes only one step – either a slow side & forward step or a closing step. Then the man simply lowers by bending the knee of the leg he just took a step with and points his other foot to the side (and a little forward) while rotating his upper body frame maintaining BFLY position. The lady’s steps are very similar to what she does for a bolero Shoulder to Shoulder. The lady will step slow to the side still in BFLY, then cross in back lowering, and finally glide forward for the third and final step. After the lady takes her third step, both man and lady will begin rising. The timing of this figure is the standard SQQ for bolero, but note that the man is not taking a second or third step (he only lowers and then rises). Butterfly (BFLY) position is maintained throughout – in fact – this is one of most common errors. Many dancers do not keep their upper body frame intact when rotating the upper body frame on the second and third steps. You see the arms move or bend (i.e. elbows flex or move in relation to the body) instead of keeping a good butterfly position throughout. Another common error is that the man bends forward from the waist – he should instead lower while keeping the upper body erect (i.e. head and shoulders behind his belt buckle). Another refinement is that, when pointing the free foot, make sure to completely straighten the pointing leg and extend the pointing toe as far as you can, and touch the inside edge of the foot to the floor (which gives a pleasing “tilt” to the foot). Last, when rotating on the lady’s second and third steps, apply a little “side stretch” or sway. If stepping to the man’s left, the side stretch/sway will cause the lead hands (man’s left, lady’s right) to tilt high and the trail hands to tilt low (remember you are still maintaining an upper body BFLY frame). If stepping to the man’s right, the trail hands will tilt high and the lead hands low. Double Handhold Opening Outs are almost always done in pairs. In fact, in Almost Bolero you do four of them in a row. It is common to flow from the previous figure into the first Opening Out with the side step on step one, but then for the man to simply close on the weight taking step of each subsequent Opening Out after that. This makes the man appear as a solid foundation for the lady to highlight the figure with her “butterfly” like movements flitting from one side to the other.

Full Moon – In 2012, Roundalab adopted a new phase 6 bolero figure, "Full Moon." This figure is NOT two Half Moons. The Full Moon takes four measures. It begins in handshake position (partners facing with right hands joined) and with lead foot free (man's left, woman's right). The first measure is like a Cross Body except that, after taking her first slow step, the lady will roll left-face quickly on the quick quick steps ending in varsouvianne position facing DLC. The second measure is like a SQQ Hover Fallaway (i.e. Fwd, - . Fwd checking, step back;) except that you use bolero rise and fall technique (not waltz) where the first step is up, second step low and you push back into the third step. Here is the key -- as you push back onto the third step, the dancers let go of the left hands but retain the right hand-hold, and the lady uses the momentum of the push back to swivel right-face on her third step to face partner. You have now finished half of the Full Moon (not the same as a Half Moon at all). To finish the Full Moon, just repeat the first and second measures as described above. The ending position will still have right hands joined but partners should be facing with the lady just having swiveled right face, both with lead foot free. Since the figure is so new, there is still some variance in the way it is danced. Most all agree with what is described above except for the last step of the second measure. One common variation is to end half of the full moon still in varsouvianne (having done no turn on the last step of the second measure), then on the first step of the third measure the lady steps slow side & forward swiveling nearly 5/8 right face on her right foot and then rolling left face on the quick quick to varsouvianne. This variation makes the lady travel further on the second half of the Full Moon and requires some adjustment to flow smoothly into any figure that follows the Full Moon.


These Tips come from Tim's regular email newsletter for his Rocket Rounds round dance club, Huntsville, Alabama; reprinted in the Dixie Round Dance Council (DRDC) Newsletter, September 2013.



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