Saturday, April 21, 2012

The Best Basics

I'm going to break the mold a bit and do a post on my favorite basic steps in each dance because I've wanted to list them out somewhere so that I can look back later and see if the list changes. Some of these (like the running finish in quickstep) used to be least favorite, so it's interesting to see how this changes as skill level improves. There are a few very simple figures that I just love, even though they are some of the most basic and fundamental. And sometimes, they are some of the hardest steps of all to execute properly, even if they're supposedly "newcomer" or "bronze" figures.

In case anyone is wondering, we've been having some really good practices lately, I think because we're keeping them shorter, frequent, and more focused, and a seminar with visiting coach Paul Holmes gave us some really good food for thought and ideas about what to work on. I'll post more about that soon. In the mean time...

So first we have Waltz. 

I'm going to link to basic demo videos here for each dance so you can see which steps I am talking about when I give the reference points. While I do really love a number of waltz figures, the following are some of the most basic that for some reason I especially like:

  • Natural spin turn, see 0:12-0:14. One of the most fundamental figures. You find it in quickstep too, but to me it is most characteristic of waltz. The amount of rotation, momentum, and shape you can get out of this figure is quite wonderful when you get the CBM (contra-body-movement) and balance right. 
  • The Hover, see 0:21-0:24. You knew I had to go there. Not the most basic step ever, but still, one of my all time favs. It's the place for a follow to show what she's got in terms of balance and extension.
  • Back Whisk, see 0:25-0:28. Also very basic, but when the whisk step is taken just right, under the body, in perfect time, there's something so smooth about this transition to promenade that makes me happy. 
  • Outside change. Not in the video, sadly, but so simple and so good. It gets you from closed to promenade position and has a nice shape.
And then there's Tango. Tango is not the best dance for me, but I still have some favorite basics.

  • Promenade link. 0:24-0:26. This is the characteristic tango step, and when done well, just says tango like nothing else. 
  • Natural twist turn. 1:16-1:18. I just love the way this feels when you get all wound up and then have enough torque to just snap out into the next position. I prefer it though when it ends in promenade position, which it doesn't in our routine, but does in the video.
  • Back corte. 0:35-0:36 (I think, that's what it is). Basic, but a good chance for the follow to extend, with a more comfortable position from which to really extend out using counter balance. I always get a good hip flexor stretch out of this figure!
Viennese Waltz. 

Not much to say here since there are basically four figures, except that I vastly prefer natural turns to reverse turns. (Natural turns are the ones that turn to the right). This dance is basic, and I like it very much over all. It's one of our best. Our fleckrels are quite dreadful though, but for now that's okay.

Foxtrot is quite possibly my favorite dance. 

Even at the open level, basic figures form the majority of the choreography because the challenge of this dance is more in the technique and flawless execution of them. 
  • Feather step! 0:10-0:11. The most basic and fundamental step in foxtrot, but so amazing. The smoothness, silkiness, body rotation and isolation, partner connection, it all feels so good. We've been told our feather step isn't half bad...which means there is hope for our foxtrot. 
  • Hover cross. 0:34-0:38. This one is sadly not in our routine, but I love it very much, I think because to me it represents a kind of "faux" hinge line or same foot lunge (one of my very favorite open line figures) because the line is the same, although you pass through it much quicker so there is less time for extension and shape.
  • Reverse Wave. 0:54-0:58 Feels so good when it goes well, kind of like rippling water. It's the reverse of a feather step three step combination, only with the man and lady switching parts.
  • Curved Feather. 1:16-1:18. So nice; it gives a nice place to settle and check and gather momentum to come out of the figure in one smooth motion. 
  • Hesitations. 0:24-0:26, and 1:29. Of any kind, I love these. It's a great chance to give the foxtrot that characteristic check and flow. Sigh...
And finally, Quickstep. 

Possibly my weakest of the standard dances, thought it's a toss up between this and tango. I do have some favorite basics though.
  • Running finish. 0:19-0:20. I used to hate this figure because I was terrible at following it and would crash into the guy's legs every time, without fail. Now that I've figured out how the body lead works and the transition from inside to outside partner, it's quite fun. It still does require a lead who knows what he's doing though, otherwise, crashes still happen. 
  • Natural spin turn. 0:21-0:23. Again, this is more characteristic of waltz to me, but it's lots of fun in quickstep too because of the speed, so it can really feel like you're flying around a corner if you get the rotation right. Wheee!
  • Quick open reverse. 0:51-0:52. Just a fun figure because of the momentum, and I like the way it shapes to the right when the lady is going outside, like a weave. I do not appreciate ending it in a reverse pivot as we do in our routine. My reverse pivots are sadly wanting. 
  • Hesitations. 1:10. Again. But hesitations in quickstep are like the oasis in the desert; it's the chance to settle everything back into place, look pretty, and then head off to the races again refreshed and restored in confidence. Besides, the momentum you get from the figures preceding is usually enough to really give me something to work with to get more extension that usual, and I like that. I remember one particular hesitation in a corner after Jeff took me through a whirlwind of open naturals down the social floor, and I ended up with huge sway as we banked into the check. It felt pretty amazing. 
And those are my current favorite basics. Perhaps I'll do one on my least favorites as well, though a big post complaining about zig-zags and reverse outside swivels may be a bit depressing to read. We'll see. 

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