Lent 2021 Ballroom & Latin


Week 1: Thu.21 Jan.2021

Waltz

Within the waltz family of dances, only the slow (English) waltz is safe to fit into a domestic room. The fast Viennese waltz and even the mid-tempo old-time waltzes travel too much.

You can find some suitable practice music via our HTML list of tracks with tempos or YouTube playlist.

Basic LF Box
countleaderfollower
1forwards on left footbackwards on right foot
2sideways (R) on right footsideways (L) on left foot
3close left foot (near right)close right foot (near left)
Basic RB Box
countleaderfollower
1backwards on right footforwards on left foot
2sideways (L) on left footsideways (R) on right foot
3close right foot (near left)close left foot (near right)

Reverse Turn (1st half)
countleaderfollower
1start to rotate frame left before
forwards step on left foot
react to frame rotating left into
backwards step on right foot
2large sideways step on right foot
continuing left turn round partner
small sideways step on left foot
when on the inside of the turn
3close left foot (near right)close right foot (near left)
Reverse Turn (2nd half)
countleaderfollower
1start to rotate frame left before
backwards step on right foot
react to frame rotating left into
forwards step on left foot
2small sideways step on left foot
while continuing to rotate left
large sideways step on right foot
when on the outside of the turn
3close right foot (near left)close left foot (near right)

Whisk to Promenade Position
countleaderfollower
1forwards on left footbackwards on right foot
2sideways on right foot
but rotate frame to right
sideways on left foot
and react to frame rotating R
3cross left foot close behind right
but head-line still to left
cross right foot close behind left
and turn head-line to right
Wing (from PP to "banjo" position)
countleaderfollower
1forwards on right footforwards on left foot
2rotate frame left to lead partner
round while bringing left foot ...
forwards on right foot
walking closely around partner
3... close to right foot but
without changing weight
forwards left foot outside partner
on left side and looking left

After the wing, the leader's next forwards step on the left foot will have to be outside partner on the left side (very unusual in modern syllabus waltz!) but can otherwise continue into any of the 3 pairs of figures above.


Week 2: Thu.28 Jan.2021

Rumba

This is the ur-dance of the whole Latin American family but is actually African derived. It used to be a mid-tempo dance but has become much slower over the decades. So mambo and then salsa became the new names for the mid to fast tempo versions whereas cha-cha is an artificially created mutant designed to be easier for beginners. These dances don't travel much and hence are ideal for domestic rooms.

You can find some suitable practice music via our HTML list of tracks with tempos or YouTube playlist.

Basic LF for leader
countleaderfollower
2forwards on left footbackwards on right foot
3replace back on right footreplace forwards on left foot
4&1sideways (L) on left footsideways (R) on right foot
Basic RB for leader
countleaderfollower
2backwards on right footforwards on left foot
3replace forwards on left footreplace back on right foot
4&1sideways (R) on right footsideways (L) on left foot

To lead the opening out on the arm figures (or hand-to-hand when not in close hold), the leader needs to push follower away to one side. Follower will always be stepping backwards. Leader has the choice of also making backwards steps (side-by-side with follower) or remaining along the same line and at a right angle to follower by dancing cucaracha steps. In both cases both partners will let the free arm flow out and back in again ready to swap sides. The follower must not turn more than ¼ into the back step each side or they will be dancing *behind* the leader's cucaracha footwork line instead of along it.

Simple Opening Out (PP)
countleaderfollower
2turn ¼ L, step backwards on left footturn ¼ R, step backwards on right foot
3replace forwards on right foot, turn ¼ Rreplace forwards on left foot, turn ¼ L
4&1sideways on left foot, facing partnersideways on right foot, facing partner
Simple Opening Out (CPP)
countleaderfollower
2turn ¼ R, step backwards on right footturn ¼ L, step backwards on left foot
3replace forwards on left foot, turn ¼ Lreplace forwards on right foot, turn ¼ R
4&1sideways on right foot, facing partnersideways on left foot, facing partner

Advanced Opening Out with Cucaracha (PP)
countleaderfollower
2step sideways on left footturn ¼ R, step backwards on right foot
3replace weight sideways on right footreplace forwards on left foot, turn ¼ L
4&1close left foot near right footsideways on right foot, straddling partner
Advanced Opening Out with Cucaracha (CPP)
countleaderfollower
2step sideways on right footturn ¼ L, step backwards on left foot
3replace weight sideways on left footreplace forwards on right foot, turn ¼ R
4&1close right foot near left footsideways on left foot, straddling partner

The best way to finish a sequence of these figures is with an Alemana turn. The leader holds left hand up as a stop signal. Follower sees this, takes the hand with their right hand and performs a spot turn to the right under the linked arms. This allows the leader to start something else - eg getting back into normal hold.

Alemana (underarm spot turn)
countleaderfollower
2L arm up, step backwards on right footturn ¼ R, step forwards on left foot
3replace weight forwards on left footturn ½ R, step forwards on right foot
4&1lower L arm, sideways on right footturn ¼ R, step sideways on left foot


Week 3: Thu.04 Feb.2021

Rumba (cont.)

After an alemana turn the leader can: catch the follower on a side step to return to basic figures; catch the follower with a closing step to dance cucaracha opening out figures; or reject the follower with a closing step and left hand held high to indicate rope spinning.

The follower needs to dance basic steps and pay attention to whether the leader has suddenly left a gap to move into, transferred angular momentum (opening out) and/or lifted the joined arms to indicate a turn, eg alemana or rope-spinning.

In the rope spinning figure, the follower walks all the way around the leader in a clockwise direction (with optional spiral turn on entry) while the leader faces the same way throughout and dances cucaracha footwork.

Rope Spinning entry
countleaderfollower
2from closed feet, step sideways on left footforwards on right foot passing leader's R side
3replace weight sideways on right footforwards on left foot behind leader
4&1close left foot near right footforwards on right foot approaching leader's L side
Rope Spinning exit
countleaderfollower
2step sideways on right footforwards on left foot passing leader's L side
3replace weight sideways on left footforwards on right foot in front of leader
4&1close right foot near left foot*fwd/sideways on left foot ready for next lead

A closed foot end for the leader will flow best into the opening out on the arm while a final side step for the leader would be best for going back to basics (but even then it isn't disastrous to end in closed position).

A natural top is a continuous clockwise rotation for leader and follower staying close together as a couple. So it's another figure which fits well into a domestic living space as long as you use a close hold entry instead of the usual open position. The footwork is quite demanding (cuban crosses with feet at right angles, toe to heel, to enable the tight turn) but any small steps will do.

close hold entry to Natural Top
countleaderfollower
2back on left foot to create spaceback on right foot
3replace fwd on right footreplace fwd on left foot
4&1fwd-sideways on left foot turning Rfwd on right foot between leader's feet
Natural Top continued
countleaderfollower
2cross right foot closely behind leftfwd-side on left foot while turning R
3fwd-side left foot continuing to turn Rfwd on right foot crossed in front of left
4&1cross right foot closely behind leftfwd-side on left foot while turning R
Natural Top continued
countleaderfollower
2fwd-side left foot continuing to turn Rfwd on right foot crossed in front of left
3cross right foot closely behind leftfwd-side on left foot while turning R
4&1fwd-side left foot continuing to turn Rfwd on right foot crossed in front of left
natural exit from Natural Top
countleaderfollower
2cross right foot closely behind leftfwd-side on left foot while turning R
3fwd-side left foot continuing to turn Rfwd on right foot crossed in front of left
4&1close right foot to leftfwd-side on left foot while turning R

The Natural Top can most easily be followed by opening out on the arm. The leader's angular momentum is imparted to the follower on closing the feet.


Week 4: Thu.11 Feb.2021

Social Foxtrot

This is the ur-dance of the whole swing dance family. It used to be a mid-tempo dance but developed into the modern slow foxtrot, the quick-time foxtrot & charleston (shortened to quickstep) and even RnR & jive. One upsetting feature of this whole family is that the figures don't match up with exact bars of the music - typically taking 1½ bars each instead. Although social foxtrot travels around the room, it's compact enough to fit into a domestic setting (unlike the elongated modern foxtrot).

You can find some suitable practice music via our HTML list of tracks with tempos or YouTube playlist and all the basic figures you need are already described in our beginners page.

Bend the forwards and backwards basics gently to the left around the corners of the room to keep the follower's back to the wall. Since the leader is more central in the room, this requires the leader to take slightly smaller side steps while the follower takes slightly larger side steps. Don't attempt to bend a promenade turn.

A slightly more advanced way of turning around at a corner (or the end of a line) is to use the rock-turn - which rotates to the right rather than the left. The leader takes 2 walks forwards into it (left, right) while the follower's walks are backwards (right, left). This puts both partners in a position with their right leg forwards of their left and the inner surface of their right knees touching each other. Rock (back left and fwd right for leader, fwd right and back left for follower) to rotate clockwise around the central axis of the locked knees. The leader should exit with 2 backwards walks (left, right), ie forwards (right, left) for the follower, when the desired orientation has been reached. The side close to continue along the new wall is then the same as usual.


Week 5: Thu.18 Feb.2021

Social Rock'n'Roll

The footwork pattern and timing of this is the same as its social foxtrot ancestor - 2 slow things followed by 2 quick things. It shares the characteristics of not matching up with whole bars of music and not being at all equal in what leader and follower do. Couples don't travel around the room but partners do swing apart slightly. Because it's not all in close hold, most of the leads are via armography. It can be danced at a wide range of tempos.

You can find some suitable practice music via our HTML list of tracks with tempos or YouTube playlist.

There are a lot of different types of footwork. The simplest slow things are the press step - putting the toe down before the heel - or the tap step - using a foot without weight before using it again with weight. For each of those options the quick things are then just a simple rock-step action - back on one foot (away from partner) and forwards again on the other foot. More advanced options include flicks, double flicks, heel pumps etc.

The leader spends a lot of time dancing just the basic steps while the follower moves around more with their footwork.

Basic (facing partner, any hold)
countleaderfollower
1,2tap-step in place with left foottap-step in place with right foot
3,4tap-step in place with right foottap-step in place with left foot
5,6rock-step (back left, replace fwd right)rock-step (back right, replace fwd left)

For the assisted underarm spin, the couple can start in close or open hold but the leader should raise the left-to-right handhold during the rock step of the previous figure and let go of any right arm hold during the spin. The follower will be spinning to the right on count 2 and should not be pushed on the wrong beat (and they can usually make it round on their own anyway!). Follower should keep right knee bent for stability and left foot close to right leg to avoid kicking partner or anyone else nearby.

Assisted Underarm Spin
countleaderfollower
1,2L arm raised, tap-step left foottap-step right foot and spin R on ball of foot
3,4tap-step right foot, lower L armtap-step left foot returning to face partner
5,6rock-step (L,R)rock-step (R,L)

The usual change of places in RnR is from left to right (leader's perspective). The couple literally exchange places with each other. The usual handhold is leader's left to follower's right. The leader raises the joined arms and pulls from left to right in front of own face. The leader turns ½ right to pass behind the follower, while the follower turns ½ left under the joined arms to pass in front of the leader with back to leader; so both are actually facing the same way at the moment of passing.

Change Of Places L-to-R
countleaderfollower
1,2L arm lead, tap-step fwd left, turning Rtap-step fwd right, turning L under arm
3,4tap-step right, facing partner, lowering L armtap-step left, facing partner again
5,6rock-step (L,R)rock-step (R,L)

The Cuddle is almost the same move but the leader doesn't change places. Instead the leader uses a double handhold (left arm high but right arm low) to bring the follower through to the leader's right-hand-side in an embrace. There the couple performs the rock-step backwards together before the leader raises the left arm again to release the follower. Follower turns ½ left under the arm arch on the way into the embrace and then turns ½ right under the same arm arch to exit back to the facing position.

The Cuddle
countleaderfollower
1,2L arm high lead, R arm low, tap-step lefttap-step fwd right, turning L under arm
3,4tap-step right, lowering L arm onto R armtap-step left, beside partner
5,6rock-step (L,R) with partner embracedrock-step (R,L) with partner
1,2L arm high lead, R arm low, tap-step lefttap-step fwd right, turning R under arm
3,4tap-step right, lowering L arm againtap-step left, to face partner again
5,6rock-step (L,R) away from partnerrock-step (R,L) away from partner

The Mooch is an egalitarian figure common to RnR and Jive where each partner performs the same steps in either direction. So it's a useful one for swapping roles midway through a dance. It is danced side-by-side and hence begins by fanning out on a rock-step.

The Mooch
countleaderfollower
1,2turn ¼ L, rock-step (L,R) beside partner on R armturn ¼ R, rock-step (R,L) beside partner on L arm
3,4flick-step leftflick-step right
5,6flick-step rightflick-step left
7,8rock-step (L,R) beside partnerrock-step (R,L) beside partner
9,10turn ¼ R, chassé facing partner, change armsturn ¼ L, chassé facing partner, change arms

Then, after changing arms, the leader dances the follower's steps while the follower dances the leader's steps; which returns the couple to the usual footwork pattern with a L-R rock-step for leader (R-L for follower).


Week 6: Thu.25 Feb.2021

Jive

The evolution of the jive includes 2 important innovations. The most obvious one is the switch to using chassés (or triple steps) instead of the single press step - which allows greater flexibility of motion. But even more significant is the re-framing of the rock-step component as the start of each figure instead of the end - putting lead & follow together.

All the steps need to be very small (up and down motion rather than travelling) in order to be danced at fast speeds of music and also not get too far from partner. The rock-step is very close, nearly ballet 3rd position (as if to pull down the sock on the other leg), rather than significantly away from partner or kicking someone else. The leader wouldn't twist much on this step but follower might twist at the hips to turn up to ¼ (to R on the back step and L on replacing forwards). The chassé may be on the spot, slightly sideways or forwards or backwards. The timing is a bouncy 2/3 + 1/3 rhythm instead of equally split beats. Eg 12/8 time signature.

You can find some suitable practice music via our HTML list of tracks with tempos or YouTube playlist.

Basic (facing partner, any hold)
countleaderfollower
1,2rock-step (back L, fwd R)rock-step (back R, fwd L)
3a4chassé left (sideways)chassé right (sideways)
5a6chassé right (sideways)chassé left (sideways)

While the basic figure can incorporate quite a lot of attitude in twist and sway, it's important not to raise the leading handhold (leader's left to follower's right) above the shoulder nor lower it towards the waist as these are the leads for other figures and hence would send mixed signals to the follower.

When turning (mostly follower but also leader), all the spin action ideally occurs at the end of the first chassé (count 4) and before the second chassé. This matters a lot for the timing when bracing for a full spin but there's still scope to fix a failed spin with the remaining steps.

Change Of Places R-to-L (under the arm)
countleaderfollower
1,2rock-step (L,R)rock-step (R,L)
3a4chassé L, raising L arm at sidechassé R, turn ½ R under arm
5a6chassé R, lowering L armchassé L, beside but away from partner

Be very careful not to get too far away from partner during the 2nd chassé. The joined arms need to retain enough flex to push into the next rock-step away from partner (and follower's twist on that rock-step to face partner's side). As follower returns, leader has the choice of regaining close hold or keeping follower apart.

Change Of Places L-to-R (under the arm)
countleaderfollower
1,2rock-step (L,R)rock-step (R,L) with hip twists
3a4chassé L, L arm up & acrosschassé R, turn ½ L under arm
5a6chassé R, lowering L armchassé L, facing partner again

Instead of immediately returning to the starting position with the reverse underarm turn, the leader can send the follower back out again in a couple of different ways.

Hip Bumps
countleaderfollower
1,2rock-step (L,R)rock-step (R,L) with hip twists
3a4chassé L, L arm lowchassé R, to bump sides gently
5a6chassé R, back to flexed armchassé L, away from partner

The contact points on approaching are successively wrist, elbow and shoulder before a slight twist to bump bottoms lightly rather than hip bones. The more enthusiastic version includes a knee lift and a raised free arm (leader's R and follower's L) in the instant of contact between the 2 chassés.

Stop And Go
countleaderfollower
1,2rock-step (L,R)rock-step (R,L) with hip twists
3a4chassé L, L arm up but R arm blockingchassé R, turn just ¼ L under arm
5,6rock-step (R fwd, L back) with arm downrock-step (L back, R fwd), raising free L arm
7a8raise L arm, chassé Rturn ¼ R under arm again to chassé L

The leader can send the follower out from basic hold without going underarm at all by lowering the L-to-R handhold instead of raising it and "bowling" off the right arm. The follower then turns left not right and exaggerates/acts being "thrown".

Throwaway
countleaderfollower
1,2rock-step (L,R)rock-step (R,L)
3a4chassé L, lowering L arm at sidechassé R, then turn ½ L
5a6chassé R, keeping L-to-R holdchassé L, away from partner

The leader has the option of effectively reversing roles for a change of places by turning their back on follower instead of vice versa. Because of the expected difference in heights, this involves a change of hands (literally or merely implied by breaking the linkage) rather than an underarm turn. For this Change Of Hands Behind The Back, the couple approach on the first chassé and then the leader turns ½ L while follower turns ½ R to face again. Follower must stay very close to leader's back and not drift off or turn the wrong way. If using a handhold, this must be kept low and near to leader's bottom to avoid injury. The no-hand version involves follower's right hand being placed on leader's waist or right shoulder to then trace back into leader's left hand.

The same mooch is used in jive as in RnR last week. It's led from basic hold by letting go and pushing off with the usual L-to-R handhold while keeping leader's R arm around follower's back (follower's L arm on leader's R).

There's also the American Spin, where follower and leader brace at waist level (centre of mass) for the end of the 1st chassé and follower makes a whole turn to the right before the 2nd chassé (while leader optionally spins L). Keep supporting knee bent and the free foot very close to your other leg.


Week 7: Thu.04 Mar.2021

Charleston

The "quick-time foxtrot and charleston" evolved into the quickstep on the formal side but the charleston still persists in its own right as a speciality dance. The timing is binary but the charleston has a syncopated emphasis, dividing the bar into unequal halves (3/8 + 5/8).

You can find some suitable practice music via our HTML list of tracks with tempos or YouTube playlist. Eg "Pencil Full Of Lead" is a modern Charleston, as are the faster tracks.

The character of the charleston is largely in its goofy elements - some of which depend a lot upon the theme of the music chosen. Eg animals or trains or Egyptian or Asian etc. Very few figures are leadable - it's more a matter of quickly copying partner. So having some choreography is the only way to dance it seamlessly.

The footwork has a very characteristic swivel, mostly on the balls of the feet, with body weight slightly forwards (the same as for jive and latin american styles). The knees may be knocked together or bowed out. Jazz hands are very common but some stylings call for penguin flippers or pushes.

Use alternating pivots on the heel of one foot and the ball of the other foot to travel sideways to the left or to the right, with the toes pointing outwards (heels together) and then inwards (heels apart).

With hands on knees, alternate knocked knees and bowed knees while hands cross over each time they are together. So the hands start on the matching knees and are then on the wrong knees before returning to the correct knees on the next pass.

Without swivel, the most basic charleston figure is a step and tap forwards and a step and tap backwards. Eg left foot fwd step and right foot fwd tap or kick, then right foot back step and left foot back tap. The swivel is on the balls of the feet, turning both heels outwards just before each step or tap but then turning both toes outwards on landing the step or tap (think 4th position ballet). The swivel uses up the half beats between the main beats of the music.

There are also twisting charleston walks used to make solo turns - where each step is a small one forwards with weight and still with swivel. An alternative way of dancing these walks is with knock-knees and sideways kicks upwards to touch penguin flipper hands held low.


Week 8: Thu.11 Mar.2021

Samba

The samba is a party dance - both indoors and outdoors in the street. The timing is binary with a bounce or double-bounce per half bar (ie unequal 3/8 + 1/8 divisions). Steps are counted slow-"a"-slow and many of them are taken with part weight and a foot drag. So it's like dancing with a limp but lots of attitude.

You can find some suitable practice music via our HTML list of tracks with tempos or YouTube playlist.

Basic LF for leader (facing partner)
countleaderfollower
1forwards on left footbackwards on right foot
aclose right foot with part weightclose left foot with part weight
2replace weight on left footreplace weight on right foot
Basic RB for leader (facing partner)
countleaderfollower
3backwards on right footforwards on left foot
aclose left foot with part weightclose right foot with part weight
4replace weight on right footreplace weight on left foot

This basic can be used to rotate slowly to the left - useful for turning corners.

Left Whisk for leader (facing partner)
countleaderfollower
1sideways on left footsideways on right foot
across right foot behind with part weightcross left foot behind with part weight
2replace weight on left footreplace weight on right foot
Right Whisk for leader (facing partner)
countleaderfollower
3sideways on right footsideways on left foot
across left foot behind with part weightcross right foot behind with part weight
4replace weight on right footreplace weight on left foot

Whisks are a useful figure to put between other sets of figures. There should be a small amount of turn away from partner on the cross-behind steps which gets exaggerated if the next figure is in promenade instead of facing partner.

Stationary Samba Walk (facing partner)
countleaderfollower
1forwards on left footforwards on right foot
apush right foot back slightlypush left foot back slightly
2drag left foot back slightlydrag right foot back slightly
Stationary Samba Walk (facing partner)
countleaderfollower
3forwards on right footforwards on left foot
apush left foot back slightlypush right foot back slightly
4drag right foot back slightlydrag left foot back slightly

Samba walks don't travel far even when in promenade and not facing partner. A side samba walk is used to switch back from promenade to facing position or preparing to swap sides with partner in criss-cross patterns.

Voltas can be single bar figures or come in larger clusters. They can be used to turn around on the spot (= spot volta) or to travel sideways across the floor. The left foot volta travels to the right and/or rotates around to the left. The right foot volta travels to the left and/or rotates around to the right. Combining these creates the Maypole figure - usually with follower in the centre.

Maypole = Travelling Voltas vs Turning Voltas
countleaderfollower
1across in front on left footacross in front on right foot
aside right foot turning leftside left foot turning right
2across in front on left foottwist right foot across again
aside right foot turning leftside left foot turning right
3across in front on left foottwist right foot across again
aside right foot turning leftside left foot turning right
4across in front on left foottwist right foot across again

The opposite direction of Maypole also exists. A convenient way of combining them is to use 2 stationary samba walks in between.


Week 9: Thu.18 Mar.2021

Tango

The ballroom tango is a sanitised version of the original Argentine brothel dance - using some of the same basic figures as social foxtrot but disguising them. The timing is flat binary, eg 2/4 or 4/4 time signatures. Steps are counted slow or quick and are abrupt rather than smooth. There's no rise and fall, just flat footwork without swivel. Knees need to be slightly bent throughout and touching partner. Figures don't necessarily match up with whole bars but steps are paired so leader always starts with the left foot and the follower the right foot.

You can find some suitable practice music via our HTML list of tracks with tempos or YouTube playlist.

Walks
countleaderfollower
Sforwards and across on left footbackwards and tucked in on right foot
Sforwards on right foot between partner's legsbackwards on left foot
Rocks
countleaderfollower
Qrock backwards on left footrock forwards on right foot
Qrock forwards on right footrock backwards on left foot
Back Corté
countleaderfollower
Sbackwards on left footforwards on right foot
Qbackwards on right footforwards on left foot
Qsideways small step on left footsideways large step on right foot
Sclose right foot (near left)close left foot (near right)

This figure group allows the leader to head towards a corner of the room and then back out of it into the centre again, turning ¼ L to visit each corner in turn.

Five Step
countleaderfollower
Qforwards and across on left footbackwards and tucked in on right foot
Qsideways on right footsideways on left foot
Qbackwards on left foot, partner outsideforwards on right foot outside partner
Qsideways on right footsideways on left foot
Sturn partner to promenade, tip L knee inturn to promenade (look R), tip R knee in
Closed Promenade
countleaderfollower
Sforwards on left foot in PPforwards on right foot in PP
Qforwards on right foot in PPforwards on left foot in PP
Qsideways small step on left footsideways large step on right foot (& look L)
Sclose right foot (near left)close left foot (near right)

This alternative figure group moves sideways in a zigzag manner towards the corner and then exits forwards (in promenade) to the centre again.


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