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Elevate Your Foxtrot

by John & Mary Macuci

In our corner of the Dance World, Round Dancing is done for fun and pleasure, and it can be even more enjoyable when steps are executed properly, which in turn adds elegance and comfort to our dancing. Proper use of legs, ankles, feet, and foot alignment are important in executing the figures comfortably.

Body Posture -- Correct body posture is important for balance and comfortable dancing. The body should be held erect without either partner leaning towards the other while maintaining a light contact in the diaphragm area. Think in terms of an imaginary fence line between the man's and the lady's upper body, about chest height. The man should not go over the fence into the lady's space, nor should the lady intrude into the man's space.

Man -- Should think thin -- head left, long neck, free from tension, relaxed shoulders, passive chest feel, shoulder blades drawn comfortably down and giving a flat back, and a broad line to the elbows -- never a pinched look. Feel a stretched spine at the lower back. Flat front, no hip tilt, but feel the hips hanging under the neck in a vertical alignment. Arms elevated without shoulder rise. Light feeling at the elbows, hands and wrists free from tension, yet toned.

The man's left arm should slope down slightly and extend out comfortably with his left hand held at the lady's eye level. The right arm should slope slightly and extend out with the man's right hand placed on the lower part of the lady's left shoulder blade. The wrist should be in contact with the lady's left underarm with light pressure.

Lady -- Has two basic curves for lightness and balance. The lateral curve and a backward curve. The lateral curve may be changed, but the backward curve never gets less, but may be enlarged. The whole poise must result from stretch. Chest lift is most important to style and lightness -- an upward expression -- long neck -- bosom up. RULE -- both curves must always be present.

The lady's right arm should slope slightly downwards from the shoulder to the elbow and then upwards from the elbow to meet the man's hand with her four fingers placed between the man's thumb and forefinger. The man will then close his fingers gently over the lady's fingers with the thumbs upright and placed against each other.

The lady's left arm should rest lightly on the man's right arm and must not bear downwards. The left hand, with thumb and wrist parallel to the man's arm, should be placed on the man's right arm between the elbow and the shoulder depending upon the lady's and man's height. The lady can think in terms of placing her left arm lightly on a high bar.

Weight -- There are four blocks -- head, shoulders, rib cage, and hips -- which should be aligned on a vertical center. The body should not be rigid and should rotate around the vertical center. The man and lady should center their bodies toward each other with a slight turn to the right through the legs. Both the man and lady should have balance over their standing feet. The hips must never be displaced forward or behind. No twists must occur between the shoulders and the hips. Think of the body as a flat board. When turning, the whole body turns in its entirety.

Arms -- The arms are an extension of the body. They should move with the body with a sympathetic reaction in any movement, as opposed to a stiff, fixed, wooden type of hold. Do not drop the arms or move them independently when in closed position.

Foot Alignment -- When dancing in closed position, there are four tracks for the feet to travel on. The man has two tracks and the lady has two tracks. The man's left foot is outside the lady's right foot, and the man's right foot is between the lady's right and left feet. In this position, the man's body is slightly to the right of the lady with the man looking over the lady's right shoulder, and the lady's body is slightly to the right of the man with the lady looking over the man's right shoulder.

Foot placement is important. The feet should skim the floor. No noise is the aim. The feet do not miss the floor naturally; you make it happen. The inside edge of the foot is always used on side steps. The feet are used to lift, lower, and propel the body and are an aid to balance.

Legs -- Leg action is based upon the fundamental concept of parallel movement. Only the standing leg can move the body, with the use of the three main joints: 1. Foot/Ankle, 2. Knee, and 3. Hip. The standing leg moves the body -- the body moves the moving leg. Flexed knees are most important, and at no time should the knees be locked. When lowering, the rule is: the knees will flex and absorb the body weight before the foot lowers. When rising, the rule is: the knees will start to straighten (not lock) before the foot rise is made.

Head -- The head is normally passive, and its basic position is looking to the left, never centered. The head should not be allowed to move forward or backward in relation to the shoulders. The neck should be long at the back so that the chin will not tilt upwards. When in semi-closed position, the heads should look past the shoulder. Two good rules for the head: 1. Move the body and the head should react. 2. The head should follow the inclination of the spine -- looking into the sway line. The head should lend balance and control at all times. Incorrectly poised or used heads can cause an imbalance. As a balancing agent, the head is extremely important.

Body Sway -- Sway is used when turning in the same manner as when turns are made when driving a car. When a left turn is made, the driver automatically leans into the turn (left) to counteract the outward pull of the turn. If the driver did not lean to the left, the result would be an imbalance, with the driver toppling over and falling to the right. The same conditions and technique apply to right turns. Allow sway to happen; do not collapse the opposite side to achieve sway.

Sway starts on the standing leg, goes through the hips, and through the body emerging under the arms or at the chest area. There are three types of sway: moving sway, static sway as in lines and picture figures, and broken sway as in tipsy actions.

  • CBM (Contrary Body Movement) -- The purpose of CBM is to facilitate turning movements. CBM should start through the standing foot and leg to the hips and finally to the body. A very good rule to observe is: the hip and shoulder on one side of the body must remain in vertical alignment. Never should the shoulders be allowed to turn more than the hips, either backwards or forwards. The common error is to twist the body at the waist.

  • CBMP (Contrary Body Movement Position) -- CBMP is a foot position and is accomplished by placing the moving leg (foot) slightly in front of, or behind, the supporting leg (foot), with or without body turn (CBM). CBMP is used when stepping outside partner (banjo and sidecar) to ensure that partners can maintain close body contact.


From notes for a RAL Teacher's Seminar, June 1991, and published in the ROUNDALAB Journal, Fall 1991. Published in the Dixie Round Dance Council (DRDC) Newsletter, July/August 2012.




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