Ballroom Dance > Begin at the beginning - step 1 of the NT for lady....

Discussion in 'Ballroom Dance' started by spatten, Sep 20, 2004.

  1. spatten

    spatten Member

    I had discussed with two highly respected coaches the ladies footwork for the 1st step of the Natural Turn and received very different answers as to the alignment of the foot or amount of turn.

    I know the book indicates something like a quarter turn between 1 and 2. However, I have found it much easier to dance with little to no no turn between 1 and 2.

    I find it easier because, the lady is tracking directly with the man and there is no tendency for the lady to collapse to the inside of the turn. The coach who suggested a healthy amount of turn between 1 and 2 indicated this allowed the lady to open the swingline for the man better.

    I am just curious what some of the women dance - and what have you heard?

  2. Chris Stratton

    Chris Stratton New Member

    I'm a little confused by what you mean by little to no turn between 1 and 2.

    Most English teachers I have encountered (of either style really, but especially Eggleton tradition) have both partners place the first step with the foot essentially aligned to the direction of travel, with at most a little toe in for the person going backwards. In contrast, many American (and perhaps continential European?) teachers place that foot rotated in the direction of turn.

    Straight foot placement on 1 requires that the person going backwards open their hips to achieve nearly 135 degrees - the full 3/8 turn - between their feet on the pointing alignment of the 2nd step. In contrast, if the first step is placed rotated, the hips open less. The rotated school usually has the person going backwards step further off the track in order to make space for the forward partner - space the straight school makes by opening the hip.

    There is a perhaps also an intermediate approach the places the first step with the foot aligned, but rotates while leaving it. This may feel natural, but the English teachers seem to advoate dancing directly over the toe of that foot without rotating it until the weight has entirely transferred to the other.

    If I understand it correctly, the Irvine tradition curves the foot and body somewhat into the first step, but also places the foot aligned with the instantaneous direction of travel. This does mean there is less turn to make during the rest of the figure, but since the foot is still aligned with the motion it doesn't look as different from the Eggleton approach as some other common practices do.
  3. msc

    msc New Member

    I've learned much the same, that there are two schools of thought, as Chris detailed. My instructor prefers the straight forward and straight backward step. Admittedly, it is more physically challenging to use this style, but I feel it produces a bigger stride and stronger motion.

    On the forward step of a natural, I'll lead the right side with the right foot, keeping the left side neutral. That creates a rotational potential that, when unleashed, helps power the CBM for the full quarter turn.
  4. Chris Stratton

    Chris Stratton New Member

    I could be misundertsanding what you are describing, but this sounds a lot like an (allegedly) problematic habit I was struggling with around this time last year. Basically, I would carry an opposing windup all the way through the first step of a turn, so that the right foot and side landed ahead of my body on a natural. Then I'd pull my body forward and past the foot - almost 'rowing' myself down the floor.

    The problem though is that by delaying the rotation until the foot was already placed, it no longer qualified as contra body movement - since by the time I was rotating it was my left foot that was free. And although I have no trouble dancing myself through what I think is the backwards complement to this action, in practice it tended to really confuse partners.

    It's my current understanding that the contra body motion to iniatiate the turn must be taken before the first step is placed. By the time my right foot lands, my hips should have rotated to neutral or even to the point where my left hip is slightly in advance. Although this shortens the step compared to what is possible with a right side lead, it's actually what is called for to set up the rest of the figure. Perhaps it works because the first step is more about preparing for a swing that will result in travel on the later steps, than it is about placing that first foot far down the floor.
  5. Larinda McRaven

    Larinda McRaven Site Moderator Staff Member

    I tend to agree and dance what msc is describing. It really isn't negating cbm, no one said to leave the left side behind or out of the equation. It is just that the right side is on the inside of the turn for you and it has a smaller circumference so that it will feel and appear the be ahead in the rotation.

    If you really go back to basic semantics...cbm ON 1, not before. So I should not be turning my left side towards my right foot until I am ON 1. And commence to turn on 1, 1/4 to right btwn 1 and 2. So if I bring my left side fwd to my right foot as my foot is moving, my body is doing quite a bit of rotation earlier than is being described.

    But there are two very strong camps with very different interpretations of this action... I just belong to the "progessive/dominate side" camp as opposed to the "early cbm" camp.
  6. Chris Stratton

    Chris Stratton New Member

    CBM is defined as the rotation of the opposite side of the body towards the moving foot, generally to initiate turn.

    If you wait until the moving foot has become the standing foot, then this definition no longer strictly describes what you are doing. An argument could be made that 'moving foot' really just means 'foot that is the subject of the step', but I think there's more to it than that.

    CBM taken while the moving foot is free is a pushing action that must be powered by the standing leg - most likely from the ankle when going forward (thought we'd probably describe it as the knee). In contrast, CBM taken once weight has transferred to the formerly moving foot would have to be created via a pulling action of the inner thigh.

    If we think about tango for a minute, it's pretty clear that the CBM there must occur before the weight transfer, so it has to be a standing leg action. Would an action bearing the same name and definition be performed with muscles on opposite sides of the body in tango vs. the swing dances?

    Also while I can't be sure about it, it's my guess that creating CBM via a pulling action of the formerly moving thigh is likely to cause the new moving leg to pass before the new standing heel can release to create a clean hip-first swing.

    The situation where I do think it's beneficial to hold onto a 'dominant side' or side lead longer is in a pivoting action. There allowing the moving side to come through would transfer the rotary motion to a linear swing. Since continuous pivots need to conserve rotational momentum, it makes sense not to let the outside side achieve advance, and with no swing to generate there's no need to worry about swing-generating foot actions.

    Interstingly enough, if I do a natural after an outside spin, I really have to fight to make it not come out as a pivoting action rather than a CBM & swing natural...

    It's my understanding that the book explicitly describes turn of the feet rather than the body. CBM in the swing dances does not necessarily imply turning the feet - I hardly turn mine into step 1. Going forward I do around 1/8 turn between 1 and 2 - a bit less than the official amount, and going backwards I do nearly 3/8 turn between 1 and 2 which is the official amount.
  7. spatten

    spatten Member


    I enjoyed your description of two schools of thought. Glad to know I am not going slightly mad. I must say that I do feel the less turn in the first step feels much better to me.

    Further it is in reading discussions like these that I am reminded how difficult it is to describe the correct action in words - but how easy it is to feel in the body when it is correct.

  8. msc

    msc New Member

    Interesting discussion.

    On the forward half of a natural, my right foot lands well ahead of my body. In fact, when the heel establishes, I'm just about split weight (1). Then, as the music progresses, my body passes over the right foot (end of 1), and I drive to the left foot (2.) Note that these are simply time samples of a smooth, continuous process.

    Now my left side is about even with my right side as I pass over the right foot, so I already have a substantial amount of CBM/rotational energy at this point. Basically, the unleashing of the potential energy stored as I enter "1" is released as I progress through to "end of 1." That makes it much easier to rotate smoothly into the quarter turn.

    I like this technique, because it follows the notion of prepping in the opposite direction of the motion. That's a fairly common technique throughout all dances and all styles to increase motion and volume. You can actually use the very same technique to make the Feather Step just fly across the floor.

    Under no circumstances do I reach and "pull" with the heel. Rather, I drive hard off the supporting leg (making sure the hips are well tucked under the body,) then dig the heel as I establish it. I don't pull with the foot so much as I press hard into the floor. Compression generates more than enough momentum anyway. FWIW, I use the opposite technique while backing, driving off the front foot (which cause the toe to release naturally if the hips are tucked and you roll through the foot as you drive) and digging the back toe, but never really pulling with the back toe, just digging hard into the floor.

    One more note, the key to pivots, in my experience, is to stay way the heck off to the left. For goodness sakes, don't look at your partner while you pivot ... that will kill the pivot in a heartbeat.
  9. Chris Stratton

    Chris Stratton New Member


    A body action. The turning of the opposite side of the body towards the moving foot which is moving forward or back, generally to initiate turn.


    A foot position where the foot is placed on or across the line of the supporting foot, either in front or behind to maintain body line.

    It's often said that if you start in a neutral body position and take CBM on a step, that step will land in CBMP. In this school of thought, the only way to have CBM without ending in CBMP is to start in a wound-up position, so that the rotation of CBM serves merely to restore a neutral position as the foot is placed.

    While I like to start wound up, I'm not sure I aim to be only neutral at the conclusion of the step. So I'm going to propose a different theory.

    I'll start with the idea that CBMP is a foot position, not a body position. It doesn't matter how far your body is rotated, if the moving foot does not fall on or across the line of the standing foot, then it has not been placed in CBMP. For example, if you draw a foot-long line on the floor and place your left foot with its inside edge along the forward end and your right foot with the inside edge along the back end, you are not in CBMP. Rotate your hips to the right and you have a nice 'left side lead'. Rotate your hips to the left and it's as if you took the step with a lot of CBM, but as long as you don't pivot your feet to align them, you are not in CBMP.

    How could we have an opposite side lead but not place a foot in CBMP?
    I think there are three potential escapes.

    - The classicaly recognized one is to take the step diagonally forward rather than truly forward. Officially this doesn't occur on something like the first step of a natural, but practically the necessary sideways component would be extremely small.

    - Recognize that the functional width of the hips is a lot less than it appears. The ball-socket joint is not located over the upper end of the thigh bone, rather it is displaced diagonally upwards and towards the body center. So rotating the hips is not going to overlap the foot tracks nearly as much as one would think it should if judging by their external width.

    - Use our knees. It's a commonly recognized that the knees usually veer slightly inwards. Simply by having the knees over the inside edge of the feet, it should be possible to seperate the feet by enough to prevent the moving one from falling on the track of the standing one.

    But why would you want to achieve an opposite side lead by the end of a step that should not be placed in CBMP? I think initiating swing actually requires this. In a natural turn, the first step is taken with strong CBM, but is on its own track rather than in CBMP. The second step should be a swinging action, initially foward that will become sideways as it concludes. As the feet are passing between the first and second steps, the swing is just starting to develop in a forwad & up direction. Since swing is a hip-first, leg-trailing & unwinding action, the left hip must go in advance of the left leg. If at the moment of foot passing if the left hip is going to be in advance of the left leg, it must also be in advance of the right hip. If you believe that CBMP is a body position, then you would be just barely in it at this point. But if you consider CBMP to be a foot position, then you are clearly not, as the right and left feet are obviously on seperate tracks.

    There's also an interesting Alex Moore note on the foot placement in a natural turn: "The Right foot must move straight forward, or, if anything, cover in slightly in front of the other foot." Does this 'covering' meet the modern definition of CBMP? (Alex Moore used a slightly different definition - placing the moving foot across the front or back of the body without the body turning)
  10. spatten

    spatten Member


    I agree with your last post, and I believe it is quite easy to demonstrate a step with CBM that is not done in CBMP. I am also inclined to think your third "escape" is the most correct.

    But let me ask you about another statement you made in your post. You state:

    We know the 1-3 of Natural Turn has sway given as SRR. I fail to see how right sway can be achieved if the left hip is forward the left foot. I would agrue that the swing (at least for the left side of the body) starts from above the waist and continues to the hip all the way down to the foot - but it is my impression that my foot is in advance of my body. Perhaps I misundertood you - any thoughts.

    Also, slightly on topic, does any feel that CBM is achieved differently between the forward half and second half of the Natural Turn. It seems to me that going back the CBM is more in the hips where going forward the CBM is in the shoulder. Perahps CBM should be broken into 2 seperate terms to describe this difference?

  11. Chris Stratton

    Chris Stratton New Member

    Although it can be done on its own, it's informative to think of sway as the result of swing.

    In the transition between the first and second steps there is swing, but it's in a purely forward direction so there is no sway yet. As the 2nd step continues, the continued rotation of the body means that swing continuing in that direction now feels more sideways, and right sway starts to develop.

    So I think the answer to your question is that there is no sway on one because the inclination is purely forward-back, but there is sway on two because the body has rotated to the point where the inclination is sideways.

    Re-reading this, I should perhaps clarify that the left hip must be in advance of the leg leg at the start of the swing. At the end of the swing, the left leg is "under" the left hip with respect to the body axis, which is inclined with a right sway. In terms of the room, the left foot is further down the floor than the left hip at the end of the swing. Swing = leg starting behind the hip and ending up ahead of it (relative to the room) or underneath it (relative to the inclined body axis.

    Yes, this difference is mentioned by Alex Moore and many others. Today though some might be cautious to talk of CBM from the shoulder, since it's so easy to hunch the shoulder forward on it's own. I think of forward CBM as curving the standing knee towards the moving one, and backwards CBM as creasing the front of the hip.

    I've also heard it argued that right and left CBM are different. Some teach righwards CBM with the shoulders turning more than the hips, but leftwards CBM with the shoulder turning less than the hips. Interesting, in that school of thought it seems that reverse actions are the mirror image of _outside partner_ natural actions (where you want to make space at the hip but leave the shoulders more square to the partner) rather than inside ones. I've been trying to decide if the foot placements are consistent with this - does the offset hold give reverse actions something in common with outside partner ones?
  12. Chris Stratton

    Chris Stratton New Member

    Or here's yet another way of looking at it:

    The first step of a forward natural turn is basically indentical to the first step of a feather*, so it looks like the 2nd step is going to be left foot forward, left side leading, and the foot swings to a placement consistent with that.

    Yet between the time when the weight is fully on the right foot and the time when it is fully on the left, the left foot/leg makes 1/4 turn to right from the hip socket. As a result, the step arrives as if it had been side and slightly back. Other than the residual sway, it has become like a back closed change.

    (But there has to be something, my guess is slightly _more_ early turn in the hips, to encourage the lady to keep her weight forward and turn out her hips to a pointing alignment, rather than roll through her left heel and take a backwards step... it's almost as if you are opening her to promenade there)
  13. spatten

    spatten Member

    Ok, now I see where you were going with this. Yet, your statements make we wonder if there is any other way to do this that what is described. Are we not simply stating something that will happen naturally - and doesn't need to be checked?

    I see what you mean about the first step of feather being similar to the natural turn and yet the second step feels quite different. I need a floor and a partner to figure out why. If I understand you then the swing has become sway due to a change of alignment in the feet/body. I agree.

    Well, I don't know if they are different - but they should be just due to the assymetry caused by the lady on your right side. However, I have found the CBM towards my right foot much harder to produce than to the left. I wonder if there is any advantage to practicing CBM by iteslf - or is there any meaningful exercise where CBM can be isolated. I tend to doubt it, but am curious.
  14. Chris Stratton

    Chris Stratton New Member

    Sure, you can practice initiating CBM on it's own. I do this a lot, about halfway taking the step, then rewinding and starting over.

    In some ways, the tango-style CBM (twist in place and then move, if you subscribe to that school) may be easier to feel this way than swing dance CBM that is superimposed on travel such that no part of the body moves in a retrograde direction. But travel aside, it's the same action.


    In terms of letting the swing and sway unfold naturally, that is of course the goal. The point of analyzing it is to check for possible broken shapes, such as letting the moving foot shoot ahead of the body axis, or sitting back on the standing leg without projecting that hip forward as your roll through the foot.

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