Archive for November 24th, 2007

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.

Welcome to Understanding The Technique

Here I will offer my perspective on various aspects of the technique used in Standard (and sometimes Latin) Ballroom Dancing. Sometimes this will be my understanding of the language that is used to describe the technique in written form (such as in the ISTD manuals). Sometimes it will be things garnered from my own experience as a dancer, competitor and teacher of Standard Ballroom for over 35 years. Much of the foundational information is applicable to all of the ballroom forms (Standard, Latin, Smooth and Rhythm). Others will be specific to a particular form.

In general I will

  1. Introduce a topic

  2. Identify and define specific language related to that topic

  3. Isolate and examine in detail the specific physical manifestation which that language is intended to convey (i.e. create a target or goal)

  4. Determine the movement in the body needed to create that specific physical manifestation (i.e. how to achieve the goal)

  5. Place the technique in context (i.e. where and how in various figures is that technique used)

Your thoughts are welcome, but I do not intend this to be a place for active debate, but rather a place where I can offer MY thoughts on various topics related to ballroom dancing, with a particular emphasis on HOW TO, based on a clear understanding of the technique.

In time, I hope to be able to offer short video segments to help demonstrate the various aspects of the technique that I discuss.

Please feel free to suggest topics and ask questions. I will do my best to respond to your inquiries in a timely fashion.


Richard Lamberty