There's A Funny Thing About Turns
& Dan Finch
few dancers stop to analyze how they turn. We think we just go
forward, turning and facing a new direction. A turn goes left or
right. Simple, clear, and works just fine -- for one person walking
or dancing. Add a partner and now you have three-dimensional space to
dancers are not mathematicians, so the dance world has developed
rules to made it fairly simple to understand and describe what
happens in a turn. When you talk about a turn, you describe it in
amounts by 1/4 or 1/8. If you start facing one wall and end facing
another, you have turned some multiple of a quarter: 1/4, 1/2 , or
3/4. If you start facing a diagonal and end facing a wall, you have
turned some multiple of 1/8. Think about turns in two parts—1/4
plus 1/8 is a 3/8 turn, 1/2 plus 1/8 is a 5/8 turn. Simple enough.
And remember, look to the feet to measure how much turn is done, not
starts getting more complicated when you describe where you started
and where you end because now you have a direction and an alignment,
which can be two different things. (See explanation at end.) In round
dancing, we take out some of that mystery because you know where you
started and the cuer will usually tell you where to end, such as
“turn left to face the wall.“ If you don’t hear the ending
alignment, you dance the basic figure, with the standard starting and
ending positions that you know.
add a little mystery when we mumble those infuriating letters—CBM,
often confused with CBMP. We use CBM (contra body movement) to start
a turn. It is a body turn, not something you do with your feet, to
alert your partner that a turn is coming. The amount of impulse
indicates whether the turn is slight as to feather position or a full
turn as in a big double reverse spin. CBMP (contra body movement
position) is the placing of one foot onto the same track or across
the track of the other foot.
then we add words like “commence to turn” and turn “on,”
“over,” or “between” steps in describing turns in the smooth
rhythms. “Commence to turn” means you are preparing to step by
applying CBM (a shift through the body) but no change of alignment
occurs until “between” the first and second step. In smooth
dances, turns occur between feet. In Latins, turns occur on a foot.
“On” means you have full weight on the foot as it turns, as in a
swivel, spiral, or pivot. “Over” means making the prescribed
amount of turn over a number of steps, as in a three-step turn.
real corker, of course, is that in a turn, the two dancing partners
have different amounts of turn on each step. Huh, you say? When you
are moving forward, you are most likely on the outside of a turn. The
person going back generally is on the inside of the turn. This
matters because the person on the inside will travel less than
partner, and in waltz, for example, all her turn is made between
steps 1 and 2. The body turns less than the feet between steps 1 and
2 but catches up on step 3. (This is so her body can remain in closed
position.) The person on the outside of a turn has farther to travel
and his turn is divided into two parts: In waltz, the leader makes
1/4 turn between steps 1 and 2 and 1/8th turn between steps 2 and 3.
the simple maneuver (phase II waltz), dressed up and explained in all
its glory, goes like this: Man commencing to turn steps straight
forward R (using CBM), then forward L making 1/4 turn between steps 1
and 2, and finishing with 1/8 turn before he closes on step 3. Lady
steps back L pointing R where it will go next, completing her full
3/8 turn as she steps forward R, closes L to R with no additional
foot turn but allowing her body to catch up (complete the turn).
you care? It’s not so important when dancing a phase II waltz
figure, but the technique, when applied, will make more ambitious
variations of it much easier.
who have taken a teach with us on Grecia’s Waltz (Blackford phase
VI waltz) or our Apassionata (phase V waltz), have heard some of
these words in describing the outside run & pivot; maneuver. It’s
like two maneuvers in a row, separated by a pivot. Lady is on the
inside of the two turns, one into the pivot and in the maneuver, but
on the outside of the pivot. It is especially important that she get
her first turn done (staying in closed position while the man comes
around on the outside) so she is ready to drive into the pivot.
[*The difference between alignment and direction: Alignment refers to
where the feet are pointing in relationship to the room. Direction is
where you are moving in the room. As in semi-closed position, we may
move down LOD (our direction of travel) but we would be facing
diagonal line and wall (DLW), which is our alignment because that is
where our feet are aimed.]
From a club
newsletter prepared by Dan
and Sandi Finch , August
in the Dixie Round Dance Council (DRDC)
Newsletter, December 2014/January 2015.
If you would like to read other articles on dance
position, technique, styling, and specific dance rhythms, you may visit
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Past DRDC Educational Articles archived here.
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