Archive for November, 2007

The second most common type of turn in the standard technique is turn ON a foot. As with turn Between, it is important to understand exactly what is meant when this term is used so that you can execute the figures properly.

Again, the term can be take literally. You are on a particular foot and turn. By which I mean, that foot rotates on the floor. However, turn ON a foot is more complex that just that, and in fact, more complex than turn Between.

To start with, you have to determine if you are turning ON the ball of the foot or the heel of the foot. In addition, while standing on a given foot, you could turn either left or right. Just given those two variables, we have eight possible rotations already:

Standing on the Left foot, rotate left or right, on either the heel or ball.

Standing on the Right foot, rotate right or left, on either the heel or ball.

Fortunately, not all eight are actually a part of the technique, however, six of the eight do occur at some point. There are no instances in the standard technique when we stand on the heel of the left foot and rotate to the left, or stand on the heel of the right foot and rotate to the right.

In addition, there is another factor which makes turn ON more complex: does the body remain the same relative to itself, thus making the turning action a SPIN; or does the body alter its relationship to itself, making the turning action a SWIVEL?

Lets be more specific here.

Most turns are given as occurring BETWEEN the step currently being described and the previous step. In order to properly execute the turn, it is important to understand exactly what is meant by the term ‘between’.

In some ways, the term can be taken literally. The turn occurs as you step from one foot to the other, so it is happening between steps. The turn is not happening because the foot you are standing on moves on the floor, but because the body, specifically the hip joints, move so that when you step on to the next foot it is pointing a different direction on the floor then the foot you are standing on when you started this (part of the) turn.

As a result of this difference in where the feet are pointing, the amount of turn is measured by looking at the where the toes of the first foot were pointing in comparison to where the toes of the next foot are pointing. More formally, amount of turn is determined by looking at the alignment of the previous step and the alignment of the current step and taking the ‘difference’. Since there are only eight (8) alignments, turn generally occurs in increments of eights.

There are two (and only two) fundamental ways in which turn Between manifests in the standard technique. Either you step so that the toes are pointing outward from you own center, in which case you are on the inside of turn; or you step so that the toes are pointing inward toward your own center, in which case you are on the outside of turn. (Go back and read that again, really.)

Lets figure this out. Go get a rope, long string, dog leash, anything you can use to make a circle on the floor. (I have a big hula hoop I use, as well as what I call my portable circle, made from a segment of garden hose.)

Put your circle on the floor and stand inside of the circle. From anywhere inside of the circle, your toes are pointing somewhere toward outside of the circle. You are literally inside of the circle.

Now stand outside of the circle but facing the circle. As long as you are facing the circle, your toes are pointing toward the inside of the circle. You are literally outside of the circle.

Stand inside the circle with your feet together and so that the toes of both feet touch the inside edge of the circle. Now do the following:

  • Put your weight on your RIGHT foot.
  • Keeping your LEFT foot in contact with the circle, move it leftwards around the circle for 1/4 of a turn. (If your circle is too big, this will be difficult. Get a smaller circle.)
  • Now stand with your weight BETWEEN both feet, equally distributed.

What do you notice?

  1. Your toes are pointing away from your own center.
  2. Your center is pointing in a direction that is 1/8 to the left of where your right foot is pointing, AND 1/8 to the right of where your left foot is pointing, i.e., half way between your two feet.
  3. If you drew lines straight back from the heel of each foot, they would intersect in the middle of the circle.

You are demonstrating turn BETWEEN, ON THE INSIDE OF TURN (for a Side step turning 1/4.)

In the figure descriptions, the AMOUNTS OF TURN column gives the specifics on all things related to turn for any given figure. These descriptions of turn are given in a coded language, so in order to understand what that column of the technique is trying to tell you, you have to learn to read the code.

I will try to decode the language of turn for you so that you can more readily understand the intention of that aspect of the technique.

Here is a (partial) list of the language used to describe amounts of turn

  • NIL (or none or -)
  • Commence
  • Slight
  • Direction given as R (right) or L (left)
  • Specific amount given as a fraction in increments of eights (1/8, 1/4, 3/8, etc.)
  • Step Number
  • Body Turns Less
  • Body Completes Turn

In general the specifications of TURN are formulaic, meaning there is a specific order to (most of) the descriptions. That formula looks like:

Amount + Direction + Type + When + Special Notes

AMOUNT is given in increments of eights, or one of the special terms such as COMMENCE or SLIGHT

DIRECTION is given as R (meaning right) or L (meaning left)

TYPE is given as BETWEEN or ON

WHEN is given as the step number or numbers that this specification applies to.

SPECIAL NOTES are anything not otherwise specified that effect this particular turn.
Here is the specification for the Amount of Turn for steps 1 -3 of the Reverse Turn in Waltz for the FOLLOWER:

Commence to turn L on 1
3/8 turn (L) between 1 and 2 (Body Turns Less)
Body Completes Turn on 3

Look for a series of postings in which I will seek to define (as exactly as possible) all of the terminology used in describing AMOUNT OF TURN. Hopefully that will assist you in understanding how to read that column of the technique descriptions.