Ballroom Dance > The mysteries of the contra check

Discussion in 'Ballroom Dance' started by cornutt, Jul 18, 2017.

  1. cornutt

    cornutt Well-Known Member

    So years ago, I learned how to do a contra check. Now, I don't think I have ever voluntarily led a pattern which included a contra check; however, from time to time I have had to execute one as parts of various bits of choregraphy. So I learned how to do a contra check.

    Now, the day has come that I've decided I need to learn how to do a good contra check. I worked on it some last night, and I came to this realization: The thing that I have for years been calling a contra check bears no resemblance whatsoever to a good contra check. :eek::rolleyes: So, I beg of the audience: What, to you, makes a satisfactory and satisfying contra check? What is the feel of a good contra check, and what bits of technique do you focus on in order to achieve that? What is the tao of the contra check, and why do mine not ever "snap" like the ones I see other people do?
  2. FancyFeet

    FancyFeet Well-Known Member

    Me too... because now that we've added in fleckerls, I can no longer simply avoid them. Not sure how much help the follower's perspective will be to you, but for what it's worth:

    What I've learned in the last month or so that I've been really working on them: The step is way smaller than I thought, I needed to dance it lower in the legs, and it is not a full (or even close to full) weight transfer to my back leg. And the cool 'snap' doesn't come from me shaping back, but from a shoulder rotation with a head extension. I think about a really strong core, especially when I'm not just coming beck to neutral but going to a rotating the opposite way position, because I've got a long way to travel and not much time.

    Interestingly, I now prefer the quick ones to the slower, extended version... I never thought that would happen.
  3. Dr Dance

    Dr Dance Well-Known Member

    What dance do you refer? For (International) tango, a "snap" at the extension is preferred by many. For waltz, the contra check rolls and is gentle. For each dance, the contra check has its own facets and preferences. And of course, the music does determine how much of what and when to put in.

    In general though, I tend to want to lower in place before stepping forward to check. This step has my left foot in CBMP (to various degrees depending upon the dance style), my left side withdrawing and my right side extending. I like to shape this move very much to the right while looking "longingly" in "the general direction" of my partner's eyes (depending upon which partner and how much friendship). Foot weight has varying distribution. For tango, I like 80-20%. For quickstep, I like closer to 50-50%. For waltz and fox trot, somewhere in between. If your partner is "on balance," then the weight distribution is at least good. I love to allow my partner to stretch as much as she feels comfortable. My own partner Sherri really "milks it" by stretching as far as she can. For slow checks, she'll even turn her head left to face the other way. She does not drop her heel for the check. And she isolates her balance from me while remaining connected. In other words, if I was to disengage mid check, she would still be standing because she maintains her own balance.
    flying_backwards likes this.
  4. cornutt

    cornutt Well-Known Member

    Thanks. American style here. The immediate subject was foxtrot, but I've done them in waltz, tango, and VW.

    The instructor puts a lot of emphasis on tucking the right knee up under the left knee. What is that supposed to accomplish? I'm a bit bowlegged, and I find that trying to do that causes me a balance problem.
  5. DL

    DL Well-Known Member

    Have you ever tried doing just the first half of '1' in a basic waltz box step?
  6. Dr Dance

    Dr Dance Well-Known Member

    It looks better because your feet are parallel to each other and your right knee isn't sticking out like a redneck waiting at a bus stop. Not only that, when you "back out of the check," your right foot is already in promenade position to help to accommodate your spectacular hover exit! Another option is to not back out, but "run" through the contra check into a forward hover. This becomes an amazing flourish to your open, right turning twinkle!
  7. Joe

    Joe Well-Known Member

    Your knees also help stabilize each other.
  8. DanceMentor

    DanceMentor Administrator

    Remember you are moving forward (or back) at the same time you are turning. Problems arise when you are moving but not turning, or turning but not moving. If you do both at the same time, your legs twist into a knot (right knee behind left).

    You can accentuate this moving and turning if you start with your weight far back on your heel (as man) , and you start with your right shoulder back (so wind up first). As you slowly move forward while turning, your left foot and belly button will face approximately the same direction. At the very end, you might turn the upper part of your body a little extra (more than the belly button), such that your left elbow is over your right foot.

    Try to watch your left hand reach its final destination before turning your head to the right.

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