In a previous article, I wrote about ‘Rolls Royce smoothness’ of movement as being one of the finer arts in the The Making Of A Champion’. It is important to recognise that a competition dancer’s movement in the Standard dances is a more complex subject than the relatively simple concept of leg-to-leg locomotion flow over the floor.
You will also remember that, in the preceding article, I wrote: “As we explore the concept of smoothness of flow in dance, we find that there is not just one but four important flows of movement which need to be considered (and analysed).”
In this article I present the second type of flow which I listed. This is the rotary body flow to be found in the ‘moving’ dances; i.e. with the exception of Tango.
ROTARY BODY FLOW: The essence of this principle is that the dancer should (nearly) always have the shoulders in rotary motion. Almost all turning figures in the Waltz, Slow Foxtrot, Quickstep and Viennese Waltz start with a forward step by the Man. This first step (danced with bodyswing as mentioned in my last article) is the step during which rotary body flow is initiated; a flow which continues smoothly until the turn is completed. This principle includes all basic turns and all quicker turns such as Telemarks, Telespins, Impetus Turns, etc.
But even if the dancer is performing a non-turning figure such as the Feather Step into Three Step in Foxtrot, there should be a smooth continuous rotary body flow superimposed on the primary flow of progression over the floor: i.e. one shoulder moving into the leading position while the other, in reciprocal action, retracts into the trailing position. That is, the left shoulder flows forward in the Feather Step and the right shoulder flows forward in the Foot Three Step.
In the presentation of Travelling or Standing Spins, it is essential that the flow of body rotation – whether danced, (a) at a constant speed, or (b) with acceleration and deceleration – should have smoothness as the most important consideration in its implementation. Such figures as popular Offbeat Spins need extra careful treatment if they are not to look jerky and out of character with the music. (I would suggest that more marks have been lost than gained through the use of Offbeat Spins.)
These principles of continuous rotary body flow were firmly embedded into my mind during my formative years and were made an integral part of my practise sessions until they were indelibly embedded into my muscle- memory; that is, by my not having to consciously think about them.
To reiterate: The moments when the body is square to the direction of the dancer’s line of movement should be only brief and transitory. The body should always lead the turn in accordance with the following: Man’s ‘Right foot fwd. using CBM…Left shoulder lead’ work as a team in initiating turns to the right (or in dancing such figures as the Forward Lock).
‘Left Foot fwd using CBM…Right shoulder lead’ should be co¬-ordinated to initiate turns to the left. (The Lady’s body should turn in synchronisation with that of the Man.) In spite of what I have just stated, note that there are moments when the body is held without turn for more than one step. But if so, it is usually with a shoulder lead, as at the end of a Foxtrot Natural Hover Telemark or the Quickstep Forward Lock or Syncopated Chasses, where the Man’s body is angled, in motion, with the left shoulder leading.
However, many young dancers are now being trained to do the very opposite! That is, they are being wrongly coached in the presentation of the body as being, in the main, square towards the direction of movement. This looks at its worst when dancing Outside Partner Steps.
Let us recap. Even if the budding champion were to simply dance a Foxtrot Feather Step, followed by a Three Step, repeated ad lib, the sides of the body should be in continuous movement, smoothly flowing into (Man), ‘left shoulder (actually the left side) leading’, then in the Three Step smoothly flowing into (Man) ‘right shoulder (side) leading’. In a Reverse Turn, the champion would make a continuous flowing turn to the left throughout the six steps of the turn but should be leading with the left side at the end of the 6th step (Lady right side leading); the changeover taking place on the next bodydrive step, Left Foot forward into Three Step, Reverse Wave or whatever.
In performing a Natural Turn the best dancers would make a continuous turn to the right throughout the six steps of the turn. In a Natural Weave – a curtailed turn – there will be a flow of turn to the right on the first three steps, fading this turn out on the fourth step (CBMP), starting the flow of body turn to the left on the fifth step and smoothly continuing until the Feather Finish ending with (Man) left side leading, (Lady) right side.
In the Waltz figures, for example the Natural Turn, (which seems to be the starting movement of their routine for most dancers), the left side of the body should start to turn – this is by the use of Contrary Body Movement – in the same fraction of a second that the right foot starts to swing forward on the first step. The two actions – body turn and leg movement – should be synchronous. The 3/8ths turn over the first three steps, ending with the closing of the feet should be just one smooth flowing, seamless, action.
Not many competitors dance the 4,5,6 of a Natural Turn these days but whatever figure follows the first half: whether Pivot, Spin, Open Impetus, Continuos Turning Lock, etc., the body should continue to smoothly rotate.
But many dancers – worst of all, Juveniles and Juniors, who are at the most impressionable stage of learning – are being misled, brainwashed, by being fed the mistaken idea of normal body turn as not occuring until the second step (Man’s Right Foot to Side) of the first part of the Foxtrot Reverse Turn or Reverse Wave, etcetera, or of a Waltz basic as being danced ‘Forward, forward, close’ instead of the correct foot positioning of Forward, side, close.
The wrong concept of forward forward on the first two steps, with little or no body turn, will give a relatively abrupt turn, the very opposite to what is desirable; that is, smooth continuous body turn flow.
I repeat again: ROTARY BODY FLOW – The essence of this principle is that the dancer should (nearly) always have the shoulders in rotary motion.
So now we have analysed two of the four flows working together; the associated principles of progression and rotation. We have two more to go to make up the complete set of flows which are essential to the ‘Making Of A Champion’.
source: Dance News newspaper Edition No.1508
Harry Smith-Hampshire, Making of a Champion series