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Quickstep

by Dick & Karen Fisher

The quickstep is a joyful but demanding dance. The basic figures are simple, easy to learn, and easy to fit to the music. The tempo and bright character of the music add to making quickstep a joy to dance. However, mastery of the basics is essential if one wishes to really enjoy quickstep. The walk, the chassé, and the lock are the foundation of many quickstep figures, and we should attempt to master them before we worry about figures.

The walk in quickstep is not different from that in other smooth rhythms; however, in quickstep it is very important to execute it properly in order to keep the body from popping up and down, as well as to conserve energy. However, before we begin to look at the walk we must have the correct poise, or carriage of the body, and correct balance, or distribution of weight, foot alignment, and dance hold.

The dance hold is a matter of personal preference, but a quiet and unvarying top line is essential in quickstep. The elbows should be held only slightly forward of the shoulders and as widely apart as possible. They should not move from this position. The man’s right elbow should never move back of the shoulder line. Correct poise and balance is achieved by having all of our blocks of weight in alignment. When we stand normally, this is usually not achieved. There is a tendency to have our chest and head out of alignment. To correct this, use your abdominal muscles to lift the chest and then move your head back so that it is aligned over your spine.

The forward walk: Standing very erect with knees relaxed but not bent, push the hips forward so that your weight is on the balls of the feet but the heels are still in contact with the floor. Take care not to allow your body above the hips to move forward. For our example, we will begin with the left foot free. Swing the left knee forward allowing the ball of the foot and then the hell to just skim the floor and extend the foot. At the full extent of the stride, the heel of the left foot and the ball of the right foot will be in contact with the floor. As the hips move forward, lower the left toe so that the full foot is on the floor, then allow the hips to continue to move forward until your weight is on the ball of the left foot, and repeat the process with the right foot.

The backward walk: This is more difficult than the forward walk. The person moving backward must be careful not to take weight onto the moving foot until the forward motion of the couple has caused a weight shift that forces them to do so. Taking weight onto the moving foot too early will impede the couple’s flowing movement over the floor, which can be particularly disastrous in the quickstep. Standing very erect with knees relaxed but not bent, push the hips forward but keep your weight evenly distributed between the balls of the feet and the heels. Take care not to allow your body above the hips to move forward. For our example, we will begin with the right foot free. Swing the right leg back from the hip with the ball of the foot and then the toe skimming the floor. As the forward motion of the couple moves the center of gravity, begin to take weight on the ball of the right foot. Continuing to move backward, release the toe of the left foot, and dragging the heel draw it back under the body toward the right foot. When the feet are parallel, lower the right heel to the floor, and repeat the process with the left foot.

The chassé: The basic chassé action (QQS) is side, close, side and forward or side and backward. The side-close-side steps are taken on the ball of the foot with the feet just skimming the floor, but there is a very definite placement of weight onto the ball of the foot at the end of each step. This is accomplished by the flexing of the ankle and instep as the step is completed. The third step is taken ball-flat, preparing for a heel lead on the next figure by the person going forward.

The lock step: The lock step is a chassé in which the feet are crossed on the second quick. To accomplish this, step forward or backward on the first quick and then bring the knees together tucking the knee of the moving foot in front of or behind the knee of the supporting foot. This means that the feet will remain somewhat separated. Although the feet remain parallel to the line of dance, the person moving forward has a left side lead. Of course, this is the responsibility of the man. As in the chassé, the ball of the foot should just skim the floor as each step is taken.

In quickstep, the almost continuous contact of the feet with the floor, maintained by the softening of the knees and allowing the ankles and the instep to flex, allows the dancers to move in a flowing motion across the floor without bobbing up and down. There is slight body rise and fall but it is nothing like the rise and fall in waltz. Even in figures such as telemark, impetus, and spin turn, which are danced like waltz, the rise and fall is minimized. Excessive lowering will lead to bobbing up and down and make quickstep a tiring dance. Body rise and fall needs to be dampened by having soft knees and flexible ankles so that the head shows little or no up and down motion. This conserves energy and does not tire the dancers out.


From clinic notes prepared for the ROUNDALAB Convention, 2011, and reprinted in the Dixie Round Dance Council (DRDC) Newsletter, April 2014.



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