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The Foxy Foxtrot

by Gert-Jan & Susie Rotscheid

In foxtrot, the normal timing is slow, quick, quick; and the weight change for most of the figures is slow and constant, so the body stays in continuous motion. We do need to remember to collect our feet under the body before going on to the next step -- the moving foot swings through next to the standing foot under the body. Sometimes, we can "borrow time" from one step to give more time to the next. This gives more life and interest to our foxtrot dancing. In round dancing, we often see that the slow is taken as a longer step, and the quicks are usually taken as a short step. We would like you to try and increase the length of your quick steps, which will make your foxtrot more flowing .

Foxtrot is considered the most difficult of the smooth dances to accomplish well. This is not because the foot placement is so difficult, or learning the figures is so hard, but because if you want to learn to dance this rhythm correctly, it requires a lot of body, leg, and foot control. While this does take lots of practice, if you are diligent and keep practicing, when you do "get it," it is a feeling of joy and movement that you will never forget.

THE HOLD

To paraphrase a lecture by Steven Hillier, MBE (winner of all the major ballroom championships multiple times), "After the lady is gently drawn and guided towards the man, she must be in balance (herself) as she stands in front of him. The next vital connection is the man's right hand on the lady's back. This is another very important connection that when properly done will make a good dancer. Do not think of creating a 'big top' yet. Make sure both of you are in balance. Connect the lady with your left hand and connect her with your right hand. You are now ready to dance."

"The so-called 'big top' is created while you are dancing. The vital connections move only in four directions to create a dynamic silhouette. They can move forwards and backwards. They can move parallel to each other. They can move to the left and to the right. The connections are alive!"

RISE AND FALL

Foxtrot does have rise and fall, but a very specific type of rise, called "foxtrot rise." (Strange, isn't it? :-) OK, we are all used to the rise and fall in waltz, where you start low, then start to rise at the end of beat 1, continue to rise on beat 2, then lower at the end of beat 3. That is normal waltz rise. In foxtrot, we have more body flight than in waltz. In waltz, you give and take your energy with rise and fall; in foxtrot, your energy is spent more on movement across the floor. When there is rise, it is usually only to the ball of the foot and then not increased on the next step. We want to keep our emphasis on the smooth, gliding, forward motion.

SOME FIGURES

There are a few steps that are characteristically foxtrot, and there are also some "constants" that you can learn to make dancing these steps so much easier.

The Three Step is one of foxtrot's basic figures. We could look at it as just three forward-moving steps. But to be dancing, instead of just walking, these three steps, we need to practice them in foxtrot character. In round dancing, the Three Step is always started with the man's left leg going forward. This step is taken with a heel lead, staying low -- no rise. The second step will also then be taken with a heel lead, going heel to toe, with the last step being taken over the toe, again lowering back to the heel. At the end of the first step, the man starts to develop a right-side lead. One of the very important characteristics of the Three Step is that the steps, even the quick steps, are all almost the same length. The second quick of the Three Step may be taken slightly shorter (because it is taken toe-heel) and also a little late. Do not hurry the quicks. Foxtrot needs to e danced like ice cream slowly melting down the cone.

The Feather Step: I can't imagine a foxtrot without a feather step. A feather step will always end in banjo, and almost any step that ends in banjo is some type of feather step. The two basic feather steps are a "plain" Feather, and a Feather Finish. On a "plain" Feather, the man will take 3 forward steps, starting with his right foot, ending with a left-side lead in banjo. Please remember that banjo is a closed position. One thing to be careful of is with the step getting to banjo, or outside partner. This should occur naturally as the man develops a left side lead. If the man actually "tries" to step outside his partner instead of letting this occur naturally, he will most likely have to do this with an ugly hip movement. The bodies must be kept square and together at all times. If the man has a left-side lead and steps forward on his last step, the result should be his stepping outside his partner without losing contact. The man's footwork for a feather step is heel, toe; toe; toe, heel. We need to be careful not to push the third step of the Feather; it is more allowing the leg to glide past the body and place.

In both the Three Step and the Feather, the lady will take backwards steps. Her last step will be with a matching side lead to stay together with her partner. For the lady, going backwards, it is important to remember that in a backwards step, you will extend from the hip; this way you will get a full reaching extension. Also very important is that you move back from a forward position, with the heel in contact with the floor, so you are staying low. If foot rise is used, the flow of the figure will be restricted.

Ladies, match the shape of your partner; your partner does not move you, you move like a shadow. Your body is not static, but you move it as your partner moves to match his shape. This is necessary to keep a connection.

To dance the Feather Finish, the man will first take a backwards step with his right foot, then side left, and forward right with a left-side lead. The lady will usually dance the normal opposite.

A number of foxtrot figures will end with a Feather Finish or some sort of feathering figure. Two examples are the end of a reverse turn, and the last three steps of any Weave. If we can learn to execute the Three Step and the Feather without problems, we have a good bit of foxtrot down.

For both partners, collect your foot under your body before going on to the next step. When your feet are both under your body, that is the end of the step – when your free foot is passing under your body; the speed of the weight change is relatively slow which gives continuous movement – pass the foot & continue.

The Weaves in foxtrot have a number of constants that might help you in learning them.

  • All weaves have 7 steps, consisting of 1 slow and 6 quicks, and all the quicks are danced on the ball of the foot (no lower & rise).

  • A weave will always start with your trail foot, that step being the slow step.

  • There are 2 measures to a weave, with the timing of: (measure 1) slow, quick, quick; (measure 2) quick, quick, quick, quick.

  • The last measure is always (for the man), a back, back, side, forward with those last 3 steps being a quick feather finish.

  • Generally, this last measure of all weaves will start with the man backing line of dance, and the figure will end diagonal line and wall with a lead foot free.

  • That leaves the first measure, which is normal foxtrot timing (slow, quick, quick) and is used to get you into the correct position for the end of the weave.

A Reverse Turn is another figure that uses a feather finish. Following the general principles for a left-face turn in the smooth dances, a Reverse Turn will usually start in closed position with the man facing diagonal line and center, with a lead foot free. He will step forward left, he will turn and, on the same diagonal, step side, then he will continue to turn and step straight back, backing line of dance. His next three steps will be a feather finish, where he will step back line of dance, turn left-face and step side on the diagonal towards line of dance and wall, continue his turn and step forward on the same diagonal. So the pattern on the floor will be two steps in (diagonal line of dance and center of hall) two steps straight back towards line of dance, and two steps out (diagonal line of dance and wall). Since this ends with a feather finish, it will end in banjo.

For the lady, the Reverse Turn has a special kind of step, the heel turn. The heel turn in slow foxtrot is usually used by the person going backwards, if the couple is in closed position and is making a turn. Many ladies think of a heel turn as a turn on both heels. This is not only false, it is almost impossible to do and maintain balance. In the figure the Reverse Turn, the lady will step back with her right foot, then as she brings her left foot towards her right foot, she will turn left-face on her right foot. The toes will be unweighted as opposed to being lifted. The left foot is kept parallel to the right foot as the turn is made. When the turn is complete, the weight will be transferred to the left foot and the lady will rise, then make the third step forward with the right foot. The last three steps will be a feather finish. (The rules for a heel turn are the same when making the turn with either foot, and for either partner that makes the heel turn.)

The opposite of the Reverse Turn is the Natural Turn. This is a right-face turn, which will usually start with the couple in closed position, man facing diagonal line of dance and wall, and your trail foot will be free. This is also a two-measure figure, but in round dancing, the full natural turn is hardly ever used, and if so, it is usually step-cued as a Heel Pull. The first half of the Natural Turn will also include a heel turn for the lady, but starting with the opposite foot. The concept will be the same. The same goes for the man, in that he will take his first step forward towards diagonal line and wall, turn and step side on the same diagonal, then continue the turn to step back, line of dance.


From clinic notes prepared for the ICBDA convention, 2012 & reprinted in the Dixie Round Dance Council (DRDC) Newsletter, June 2013. For a round world, Gert-Jan & Susie Rotscheid.




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