By Barry Gasson
There have been more words spoken and written about the Waltz Natural Turn than any other twenty steps combined.
Back in 1974, Michael Barr and Vicki Green visited New Zealand. In the time available it was impossible to accommodate all the requests for lessons, so it was decided that they would lecture from 9a.m. till noon, and 1p.m. till 5 p.m. Monday to Friday. At the end of the second day, Michael said “We have now been talking for fourteen hours and we are still on the Waltz Half Natural Turn. It ends now!”
One bar of music, three steps consuming two seconds in time, and yet in that one movement the quality of the couple can be instantly assessed.
In the normal order of things it is the man who shoulders the blame when things go wrong, and as men have broad shoulders and are generally patient, long-suffering individuals they seldom complain. However, within every man there is a spark of rebellion, and they are often heard to pluck up courage and ask “Is it always my fault?” Gentlemen, there are two aspects of technique that, if ladies do not understand, will make your life a misery, and cost you a fortune in lessons.
Firstly, the understanding of what ‘Inside of Turn’ means. In my experience, most couples have a knowledge of the principles involved in the inside of turns, but do not necessarily have any understanding of how to implement this knowledge. And I am specifically referring to the ladies. When dancing the first half of a Natural Turn most ladies understand the necessity to point right toe to the Line of dance (next wall) on step two. They do not necessarily realize that when the second step with right foot is in position, the weight is held completely on the left foot, the heel of which is down. What is necessary to understand is that the left heel must remain on the floor until full weight is taken onto the right foot. This much later than most ladies would expect.
I have often explained this in lectures and workshops, on one occasion I was bailed up by a group of young professional who wanted explanations as to why I was trying to teach something that wasn’t held in technique. They were a little abashed when I told them that the principle was called “No foot rise”. They had not really understood what it meant. Many ladies point the toe to LOD, and then extend the distance sideways, with a push from the left foot. This is like moving the goalposts as your partner steps, trying to get past your massive body!
To make this work, I always recommend that the lady shapes her upper body to the left so that her hips can move rightwards, and her vertical line is completely over the left foot.
There, that’s half the problem sorted. The second important point needs a good description from me and a little patience from you to understand the principle involved. The direction of travel for the Waltz Half Natural Turn is diagonal to wall. Imagine a painted white line that is 45 degrees to the wall.
The Lady’s first step would deviate from the white line as the person going forward has the right of way.
The second step should land on the white line with right toe pointing to the Line of Dance.
Most ladies will close their feet on step three with a sideways action which is completely wrong.
When the second step is in position, the body is facing diagonally to centre, while the right toe points to the Line of Dance.
This means that the lady’s right hip is further down the room than the left hip. In order to close her feet she must rotate her hips and hopefully contact the man with the left thigh area. This is called “Body completes turn!” I know we, and they, understand, but until teachers monitor these two technical aspects, we will continue to hear men complaining about Ladies being heavy. And quite rightly.
Of course, teachers and coaches need to be diplomatic here. It is advisable to tell the Lady that she will achieve a better body line and head position by body rotation than by stacking out in his arm like a crew member on a yacht! We must never, ever tell them that there dancing is in any way faulty.