Standard Technique

International Standard Technique

Dance Frame

The Frame - Big Topline

A big topline increases the amount of space you appear to occupy as a couple and makes it easier for the couple to balance and turn. 

Lady's frame

  • Line up 4 blocks of weight: head, shoulders, ribs (torso), hips. 
  • Create long back/spine. The look to achieve is flat long back/spine with head.
    • Pull the spine, stretch the neck up. Think of the spine being pulled from both ends: head/neck being pulled up (not forward) to ceiling; tailbone pulled down.
    • Back of neck is elongated. Tension/tone in spine.
    • Shoulder down, connect shoulder down to hips.
    • Pick up internally: pull tummy muscle back (but breathe), i.e. pull back the center. 
    • Butt cheeks compressed, with feeling of string pulling butt to ground, hips tilted up toward partner (don't stick butt back/out).
  • Head: it is heavy and is a critical element in balancing the body. If the head is too far forward, one will tend to lurch forward on forward movements, and crowd one's partner's space. If head is too far back, it will appear back weighted.
    • Stretch the back of the neck, but do not bend/break the neck, do not lean head back. Do not stick head forward either (this is often unconsciously done)
    • Keep head balanced on top of the spine. Head weight is over ball of feet. Spine is not straight up and down, though. Head follows the line of the spine, 
    • Head "over" arm. Image: think of high jump and try to not touch the bar.  
    • Because the upper body is arching back, the head should follow that bent back line (without breaking back neck) to create more volume.
    • Lady turns her head (do not break neck), look along her (imaginary) watch on left wrist. When there is extra extension, look along left elbow or over the arm. Lady won't be able to see her right hand. Avoid "strained" look.
    • The head going left is counter-balanced by the left shoulder going forward (not up)
  • Hand: 
    • Lady's left hand: Dance "at" the man's arm (a little more to front). Hand very lightly on "at" man. a bit "turned out", make a line with arm
    • Be light on Man's arms: think of dancing holding a cup of water, hold your own arm/weight, be consistent, body absorbs bounces.
    • Lady's R hand: palms touch, no gap, close/wrap fingers, lady's R thumb to Man's L thumb. Don't twist wrist funny. It should be in a position to feel the tone/pressure). The pressure in hand comes from back, not from squeezing hand tighter. Keeping the tone helps Man to know where his partner is.  
  • Shoulder and arms
    • Both sides of shoulder blades roll back, down & out & diagonally forward. Neck/head stretch up, while shoulder down ("contra"). Body is engaged, energy is up, light on Man. Do not tense up shoulder blade muscle.
    • Left shoulder: down and "out" to left (diagonally forward toward L elbow). Do not drop left shoulder. Fill the space Man's R arm created. Stretch left arm even more to left, which is counter-balanced by stretching left side of body/chest more forward and UP to Man. But do not turn R side away from Man. R side has to keep with Man.
    • Keep arms and elbows front of the body, never let it go behind.
      • Both shoulders should be down (which makes arms more "upward" toward man). 
      • Keep both elbows "stretch out", make a strong line in the back. Give the forearms to the Man.
      • Lady's left arm maintains pressure on Man's right arm, not heavy, but not too light either. It needs to have some energy.
      • Keep L elbow high as shoulders
      • R elbow not down, but a bit out (not as much as in Tango.), slightly lifted. Keep elbows up and in front of shoulders, especially when Lady is turning left. 
      • Instead of putting arms strictly to the side to make frame wide, think of making it round, holding a big ball in front of you using the arm and body. Keep it that way throughout the figures.
      • One place where shoulders come up easily is outside partner. pay attention there to keep shoulders down, use CBM.
  • Legs and feet: 
    • Keep knees in front of body.
    • Lady's R leg should be close to Man's R leg (instead of Man's L leg). Often Lady's R thigh touches Man's R thigh.
    • Timing is controlled by the feet. If you have control of your feet, you have control of your timing.
    • Compress glute (butt cheeks): "Engage", but not tensed up and locked up such that it can't move.
    • Lift the hips to Man. When hip is more forward to Man, it helps to produce bigger top line frame. If hip is not forward, the whole torso is more straight up and down, then frame is small.
  • Stretching
    • Lady: lift up sternum and shape/extend from bra point up and over. Rib cage dances "diagonally forward and up", while head dances "diagonally back and up". Head simply turns left on top of spine. Head extends, but needs to look soft.
    • When stretching more, lady gives ribs and hips more to Man, and arm is extended more (don't pull Man, extend arm to allow more extension), arm needs to breathe and stay with Man without pulling. 
    • Sometimes, the left and right side of body are working in two different directions inside the body. 
  • Three Curves: In closed position, lady does not stand with spine straight up and down. Lady has 3 curves:
    • Curve left: We place our weight on our left foot. In balancing, the spine will naturally tilt left. Maintain this position, straighten/leveling out the shoulders and arms in frame so that they are horizontal.
      • Left side stretch diagonally left and forward.
      • Keep body line: head, upper R body and leg one straight line, tilted. Level shoulder (compress R side)
      • Do not break the body line (do not do Latin separation). just "curve" body left.
    • Curve back: We bend/curve back slightly between the 6th and 7th thoracic vertebrae ("up and over" bra). Think of suspending yourself from sternum, to get the right alignment.
      • Really stretch the front (opening up each rib) and contract back muscle to curve back, without sticking out tummy.
      • "Counter balance": to bend/curve back more, send knees and lower body more forward.
    • Spiral Up: It is common in competitions to also include a slight twist of the spine to the right. (Some coaches prefer the shoulders squared.)
      • Stretch lady's left side to left and forward, upper body slightly turned to R, relative to hips (do not turn hip, Man doesn't turn, so body contact should be the same, hips should be parallel to Man), which makes' Lady's body to fit in Man's R arm more naturally without Man having to "break the wrist" (curving his hand) in order to hold Lady.
      • Because of the twist, R shoulder will be further away from Man, but leave R arm in front with man and don't pull Man. R shoulder joint is not locked to make arm flat with shoulder.
      • "Counter balance": when left arm stretch diagonally forward and left, the muscle connecting L arm and shoulder stretch the opposite way. 
  • Frame is kept at all times, to left, strong, but soft, not stiff, not limp. It is not locked, frame needs to "breathe" which makes it look softer. Upper body is flexible and responsive.

Man's frame

  • Do not  lift up chin to improve posture, do not break back of neck. Keep head upward with body. Stretch the neck.
  • Stretch chest to get wider bigger frame. Keep R elbow up. (It tends to drop as dance goes on.)
  • Man adjusts arm height to a comfortable level suitable for Lady's height.
  • The relative positions of all the parts of the leader's body above the waist are maintained throughout the dance.


  • First priority, Lady's whole right side to Man's right side, ribs & hips (imagery: think about overlapping ribs with Man), sometimes upper thigh. Keep at all times for closed position.
  • Man needs to feel where his partner is at all times, critical to maintain right side connection. Especially when lady steps back, don't lose R side pressure. Keep same resistance.
  • Connection with partner may move up and down, but in general, try to keep the connection in hips. Ladies: use the hip connection to sense Man's rise and fall.
  • Depending on partner heights, contact maybe of right thigh to right thigh (you will need to have knees forward and frame extended to make that happen), it could be higher as well.
  • Lady's feeling: lifting up chest, compressing back. 
  • Man feeling the connection coming from under his chest (also lifted) and energy going up. 
Maintaining consistent posture, frame and connection throughout the dance is very important.
  • When music is fast (such as Quickstep), it's very easy for body to get tensed up. Lady tends to clamp their hands on Man's arms, left hand goes up and upper body gets too straight. All these makes frame smaller. Pay attention to keep the frame wide.
  • Remember to breathe, which makes body less tense and move with ease. 
    • "Breathe and be softer. Don't spend energy for nothing." Work a lot in the body, but looking "light" and not working. 
    • Body should not be locked. Upper body may shape independently from hips.
  • Stay left - it's easy to slide and get into Man's space especially after a turning figure. Remember to stay very left. 

Starting a Dance - Getting Into Hold

When starting a standard dance - make this a ritual: (could be less dramatic for social occasions)
  1. Man assumes a dance posture, standing in upright position, lifting his ribs, weight toward the balls of the feet, rolling shoulders back. He raises his energy.
  2. Lady responds in kind.
  3. Man steps right foot forward, raises his left arm forward in front of him just below the shoulders height, and his right arm to side, offering his left hand to invite the lady, particularly the space between the thumb and forefinger.
    • When Man steps forward with RF, LF is behind front foot (RF). This creates a longer line.
  4. Lady steps forward toward Man, keep 4 feet in separate tracks. Lady places her right hand in the man's left hand, thumb to thumb, and they both close their fingers. No gap between Man and lady's palms. 
    • The tone in the hand comes from back/shoulder.
    • Lady's hand has a slight twist to the right, such that the the thumb and arm form a line.  Lady's R arm is in front of her body.
  5. Man draws his left elbow straight back, drawing the lady in, left hand at eye level, elbow making slightly more than 90 degrees. Forearm is about 45 degrees from floor.
    • Man:
      • Man's left elbow should be even with his shoulder, not forward (which will make lady's arm go behind her back), not back (which will pull the lady).
      • Let Lady decides her comfortable position before Man settle his R arm position.
      • Left forearm bending degrees: Some coaches say: 91 degrees for all dances, except for Tango: 89 degrees :) - this depends on the height difference between partners.
    • Lady: 
      • The lady stops with some separation between her feet and the Man's to allow for extension. Do not get too close.
      • Foot position for Lady: do not turn LF out. LF should be parallel to Man's foot.
      • Be careful not to "draw Man in". Man draws Lady in, not the other way around. Lady "gives" and projects "forward" and "up",
      • Lady starts with R arm in front, keep that position when Man draws his L elbow back, i.e. lady should not move upper body forward making R shoulder/upper arm start going back. Do not break right shoulder joint. Keep right elbow naturally curved (not down, but a little lifted), avoid having the whole R arm straight and stiff.
      • Lady's left arm is out to the side, but do not put it down till Man places his R hand (next few steps).
      • The whole arm should not break at shoulder joint. It should make a smooth curve. Roll shoulders down. Energy is "lifting up"
  6. Man places his right wrist under the place where the lady's arm meets the back of her shoulder.
  7. Man places his R hand under the lady's left shoulder blade, with all five fingers closed together (including big thumb), and the lady connects her body to Man.
    • Lady when making body contact:
      • Keep feet and head position, slightly flex knee forward and move the part from knee to 6th vertebrae forward toward man and make body contact.
      • Head weight counter balance the weight of middle part. It looks like the lady is bending backward a lot, but in fact, lady is quite 'forward' toward man. Weight is on balls of feet.
      • Avoid keeping leg/knee position and just bending back backwards, it shifts the weight backward and become heavy for man.
      • Lady lifts hips "up and forward" toward Man (remove gap between Lady and Man).
    • Some coaches prefer stronger body contact, and make the arm/hand contact very light.
    • Man's right hand: cup lady's shoulder, like a bowl, the hand is not straight up and down, it's slanted like a bowl.
      • Man's right hand: shouldn't need to curve his fingers. (Lady projects diagonally forward, spiral up - which will make Man's hand fit better without curving.)
  8. Lady places her L hand on the man's bicep, just under the deltoid, with the thumb parallel to the man's upper arm. Man's right elbow rises to make contact between the lady's upper arm and his forearm.
    • Man's frame should be such to allow the lady's elbows and arm to be even with her shoulders.
    • Some coach's preference: The man's left arm and the lady's left arm should make a straight horizontal line across the top. The lady keeps her own elbow high enough to make the line, and the man lifts his right elbow as necessary and appropriate to provide the points of contact for the lead.
    • Lady:
      • Preference: to make frame wider, Lady's L hand could be lower on Man's arm, closer to his elbow.
      • Lady's L hand has slight twist to left (wing outward), such that the left thumb making a smooth line with left arm. The palm is perpendicular to Man's arm.
      • Lady's left hand option: thumb and middle finger touch Man's shoulder, index, ring finger and pinky are all "lifted up" slightly. 
      • Lady's upper arm should be quite "light" on the Man with some tone, do not push down on Man's arm. Dance "at" the Man, not grab or be on top.
    • If Lady is much shorter, Man should still keep elbow at reasonable height, while lowering R forearm put R hand around Lady's shoulder blade.
  9. Once Lady is in frame, Man steps to his left starting preparation step. A lot of shape. Keep hips forward and shoulders down. 
  10. Man steps to his right. Shape. Start the dance.
Five points of contact:
  1. Man's left hand to Lady's right hand
  2. Body contact with Lady on Man's R side. Hips forward. If hips go back, connection moves up to ribs, and shrinks the topline.
  3. Man's R hand cupping Lady's shoulder blade
  4. Lady's left upper arm on Man's forearm
  5. Lady's left hand below Man's bicep.


The legs are the engine that drive the dance, the body above the waist stays in a fairly fixed (but attractive, not stiff) position, and goes along for the ride. 

How to Move Better

  • 3 phases of movement: lower - move - swing
    • We lower to gain speed, move on the slow step, and slow down as we rise and swing.
      • Lowering is always controlled, no "drop" heavy feeling. e.g. Pivot, lowering to move forward and come back up. 
    • Bend knees, lower and drive forward, (use supporting leg) to initiate and drive big steps with power. 
      • Movement should not be initiated by leaning the body over. Bigger movement comes from using standing leg to push.
      • Moving foot should not "prepare" for the step and go before the body. Bigger steps do not mean stepping faster.
      • Bigger step: pushing off the standing leg all the way, so that it's pushing the hips forward.
      • Good idea to increase flexibility in hip flexor - starts each practice swinging a leg forward and back to stretch the hip flexor.
    • Slide each step to gain more inches! for bigger movement.
    • Movement goes in circles; send your weight back (towards your heels) to move forwards; send your weight forwards (towards your toes) to move backwards.
  • Keeping both feet in contact with the ground at all times is required for balance in the swing dances. Without this contact, there is a tendency, particularly when coming out of a rise, to come down abruptly and not smoothly.
    • Always track foot/leg under body, no rondes. Especially when closing foot from side position (e.g. step 3 on Natural Turn), close with toe in contact with floor.
  • Side step: Use inside edge of ball sliding to the side, not whole foot, for greater balance. It is more grounded.
  • Knees are never fully locked. When straightened, it is still 5% flexed.
  • Hips: keep hips underneath the body. Hip is "connected" with foot - always perpendicular.
    • Standard dancers are two people moving as one. This is only possible if the hips can be isolated from, that is, move independently of, the ribs. One needs to be able to point the ribs and the hips in different directions.
    • Hips have both sway and rotation. For Waltz Natural Turn, 123, Lady's R hip is higher (sway) and L hip is "behind" (rotation, relative to feet), it's the wind up for next 123. 1 is when it's dissolved and go the other way.
  • Shoulder should be flexible for CBM, shaping.
  • Lady should always wait to commit her weight until after Man commits his. If she commits her weight first, then, in effect, she is leading.
  • Precision in footwork is very important.
    • Generally, 1/4 rule - the feet can never turn out more than 90 degrees from the standing leg to the moving leg (when there is no pivoting or swiveling in rotation).
    • Always collect foot at end of each figure.
    • Step relative to where you are now, not where you will be. For example, in the Waltz Natural Spin Turn the man's first step is forward, and then after placing his right foot he turns 1/4 to his right. Some might be tempted to turn the body and hips before the step, so that it goes DW against LOD, or the foot is placed turned out, which is not correct.
    • Dragging toe/ball of foot vs. dragging heel (toe release)- when moving back: (example below is for Lady)
      • If a previous step's footwork is TH (say, in Quickstep, after the 1st step in Forward Lock, which is TH on LF for Lady), that LF is already lowered to heel, after stepping RF back on 2nd step, you will drag the heel of LF on the floor before crossing LF in front of RF.
      • If a previous step's footwork is T (say, in Quickstep, after 3rd step in Progressive Chasse which is T on LF for Lady, the chasse part), LF is on toe when stepping RF back/slightly side on 4th step, when settling on 4th step, you will drag the toe/ball of LF back to collect (not heel of LF).
    • Footwork when moving forward:
      • If previous step is on toe, next step's footwork will be toe lead.
      • If previous step has lowered to heel, next step's footwork is most likely a heel lead when it's a driving step. (There are exceptions.)
    • Feet stay parallel (to avoid collisions and other such problems, no ballet turn out).
    • Feet stay on the floor - don't lift the feet completely off the ground. Glide, roll through the feet. Articulate through each step.
  • Think about actions, rather than figures, such as Natural Spin Turn action, or Feather action, as figures are composed of actions, and the actions should feel similar across the different figures that use them.
  • Movement goes in circles
    • Moving back: it goes to toe first before moving back. (Knee bent)
    • Moving forward: it goes back to heel first, then moves forward.
  • The key to moving better is to be balanced on your own feet before making shape or moving bigger.
    • If you are not balanced, you are falling back or leaning forward which will make movement smaller. 

3 Planes of Movement

Frontal Plane - the spine
  • Spine moving forward, back.
Rotary Plane - the side
  • Practice: head stays in center, looking forward, arms and body rotate to left and right, start with high, then get down to knees.
Sway Plane - the hips
  • Spine doesn't need to be straight up. it can be curved/slanted block of weight.
  • Practice:
    • Setup: L arm up and on the side, R arm in front of belly button.
    • "Pulling" left and right arm to opposite sides, and wing R leg to R side, keep R side of body in one slanted line
    • leg ahead of body, don't drop on left side - no broken sway
    • can practice getting feet together at the end. 
When dancing, one needs to balance 3 planes.

Best practice: turning Waltz box

Ranges of Motion

Range of motion is rotation/turning of the thighs, hip and torso. This is Man's steering mechanism. For both forward or backwards steps (except for from PP), there is range of motion (may be different amounts).

Forward range of motion:
  • When moving forward, body opposite of moving leg moving forward (opposition)
  • Even for linear step, there is still range of motion. More strong range of motion for bigger turns.
Backward range of motion:
  • When stepping back, release hip.The body of side of the leg that is stepping back will be dancing forward.
  • Rotation is from hip girdle area. Hip is rotating, but keep side positive relative to the hip (not flatten out side/shoulder with hip)
The person moving back is the person inside of the turn, always curve to the side to make space for the person going forward.

While doing range of motion, make sure to keep blocks of weight lined up, do not lean either forward or back. 

Preparation Step

Example is for Waltz:
  • Normally, preparation step starts from weight on Man's RF and Lady's LF
  • Hesitation to Man's L (1 2 3):
    • Man step to side with LF. Shaping to Left. Slight turn to R.
    • Lady step to side with RF. Stay on inside edge of left foot. Swing hips to right (follow Man) and leave your head behind (increase volume/layout).
    • On 2, extend and stretch, then keep that stretch. 
    • Slight rise. Keep knees flexed.
  • Hesitation to Man's R (1 2):
    • Man: Shaping to Right. Slight turn to L.
    • Keep the big volume/layout, move whole upper body as a unit
    • Lady's LF slides/steps to left side (it helps to stay on Man's R side, Lady to left). 
    • Lady's R side, rib and hip to Man even more. On "5": need to keep extend/rotate to left. But, do not get in front of Man, Lady's body will slide slightly to her left in order to both rotate, keep extension and stay on Man's left.
    • Stay with bent knees, do not rise, no foot rise, stay low. Left heel is down.
  • Step 3 Man stepping forward:
    • Lady: twist upper body to left some more (more CBM), keeping shape till Lady's LF foot passing RF, that's when hips/body becomes flat, before continuing CBM for next step. (For more advanced dancer, this can even be delayed further.)
    • Lady: Don't lose R side pressure to Man.
    • Take a big step (toe on floor first), preparing for very strong powerful first step.
    • Be careful not to steer foot to Man's left, keep this step straight forward for Man, Lady backward.
  • Start with first figure (for example, Waltz Natural Spin Turn).

Forward movement

Think about diagonals and how back muscle moves diagonally when walking forward.

Example of moving forward with heel lead:
  • Start with feet together (after settling), weight on LF.
    • Settle/collect: lady using settling time and sense what Man is leading for next step. The amount of settling should match between Man and Lady.
  • Initiate the movement by compressing (bending) the knee forward, keep body aligned.
    • Four joints through the leg: hip, knee, ankle, toes. Movement is initiated by compressing the knee of the standing leg.
    • Knees don't just bend "down", it should be "down & forward", moving them forward of the toes, and maintaining proper body alignment, delay lifting the back heel which will make stronger and more powerful movement.
    • Do not initiate movement by leaning forward or backward, which will throw partner off balance.
  • Roll through LF, pushing for bigger steps. Right heel glides on floor. straighten the leg to gain more distance. Keep body straight up. It comes to a point where weight is evenly balanced between heel of right foot and ball of left foot. Back knee slight flexed. Split weight, do not sit on back foot.
  • Continue rolling forward/push off left foot/leg to transfer weight to a bent right leg. It is only when the foot goes out to its full extent that we stop sliding and transfer weight. Should feel hip flexor working. Bend R knee when landing on floor. 
  • Use center, press up with the thigh and through the right knee to bring the feet together, front toe will lower as body moves forward. Tighten up the center. Back leg should be straight, dragging toe, then, ball of foot skimming floor until feet are level, then foot flat. 
  • It feels like body weight is more hanging back when moving forward. Don't take upper body forward too fast.
  • Use range of motion, but upper body is moving smoothly forward (there is no forward and back motion). 
For toe lead:
  1. With feet together, after pressing up through the knee, continue pressing up through the feet, getting the heels as high up over the balls of the feet as possible.
  2. Step forward with the right foot, landing on the ball of the foot, keeping the heel off the ground.
  3. Bring the left foot to the right foot, and do not let the heel of the right foot touch the ground until the left foot is even with it.

Backward movement

  • Backward is initiated by lowering first, sending the standing knee forward in front of the foot while maintaining upper body alignment.
    • Do not start by leaning back head and shoulders, falling into the step. Also do not stick butt out leaning forward. 
    • From sternum to coccyx (tail bone) is pretty upright. Extension/shape is from sternum up.
  • When starting with on LF, bending L knee, extend the thigh/leg back to gain more length, put the tip of the right toe down first. Stride, really stretch hip flexor, fully extended, use thigh muscle to really reach back, that will gain a few more inches. Do not break the hips and gap with partner, though. (The follower should show someone behind her the whole sole of her shoe.)
  • Roll down onto ball of the RF, keeping body poised forward. (Body weight feels more forward on backward movement.)
  • Upper body does not travel quickly. 
  • Weight is then equally divided between ball of back foot and heel of front foot, back knee slightly flexed and front knee straight. Check weight by dropping back knee to floor to see if body is centered. 
  • Tighten up center and pull back the left foot, dragging the heel along the ground. Avoid back-weighted posture: 
    • Use core to pull back center (belly button), and do not let upper body fall back.
    • keep knees+hips in front of feet, keep weight more forward.
  • Keep the heel of the right foot and the toe of the left foot off the ground until the feet are together. The forward poise of the body is required to keep the heel of the right foot off the ground.
    • The back heel should lower very slowly and with control.
    • Back heel lowers when both feet are together (level).
  • When moving backward, the body as a whole is moving backward, but chest/middle of body can (and should) still be forward to Man, not pulling away from Man.
  • Arms extend more forward, especially when moving back.
  • When stepping back (inside of turn), there is no foot rise (NFR).
  • When stepping back, make it slightly to the side, but not changing direction of travel. This is to make room for partner's R leg to step in.

Rise and Fall

  • Ladies never "fall down" - they move "across". It's different look and feel.
  • Rise and Fall works "opposite" what one may naturally think.
    • When rising, the feeling is heavier suitcase, shoulder connecting more down. Do not open the ribcage, instead breathe out. Do not push down on partner.
    • When "falling", breath in, "internally" it's going up.
  • 3 types of rises:
    • foot rise: lift heel, which does not necessarily cause overall body rise, it could be absorbed by bending knees.
    • leg rise: from bend knee to straight knee
    • body rise: extension, stretch

Head movement

For Lady:
  1. In Natural turning figures going backwards, the body turns first, and the head stays behind (i.e. keep head position and let body turn underneath the head). This will result in a big extension to left.
  2. In Natural turning figures going forward (e.g. 2nd half of Natural Spin Turn, or Closed Impetus), think of extending the nose past the left elbow. This will result in a long stretch from foot to left elbow.
  3. In Reverse turning figures going backwards, the head starts and leads the turn. Stay very left of Man, don't get in front of him. Note that the body is not part of it (otherwise, you'll pull the Man and after the turn, the body will be too straight.) Examples: Double Reverse Spin.
  4. When there is body tilt, the body sways and rotates underneath the head, the head stays still. (e.g. Outside Change with Promenade Finish.)
After every extension, the head returns to neutral at the end of a figure, except in rule #4 above, where you are usually going into promenade position. Lady does not maintain constant extension. During extension (when head and shoulders are more away from Man), lady should not pull the arms, instead lady should extend arms more forward to Man (arms are more straight than normal position).

Both Lady and Man should not cross to
each other's spaces. They keep their heads in their own quadrant. This is particularly important when getting into promenade position - lady needs to stay back behind Man. Though Lady's head turns to look right, the head weight still stays left, always in its own quadrant. Shoulder should stay even and don't tip. At the beginning, the correct positioning may feel weird, crunched, and/or twisted.

Shaping and Extension

  • Man and Lady have to use each other to support each other and create more shape. When Man gives more ribs/body, Lady responds with more body as well, match the tone and not fall back. (e.g. Waltz on 2. On 3: Don't lose R side body connection.) 
  • Extension/shape is from sternum up, do not bend from lower back to create shape.
    • Head does not move off spine. Neck: one side long, the other side longer. no "short" side.  
    • When turning head, don't bend neck back. Extend from sternum, "up & over".
  • Extension needs to be "fluid" - there are changes in the amount.  There is the "normal" position (on Man's right, head left), then extended, then extend to the max.
    • More extension would require the feet to be more apart from partner. Middle of body need to have enough counter pressure with partner.
    • Extension is all about using counter-balance. Head weight is always aligned with foot with middle of body forward. Do not take head beyond foot - that will be back-weighted. Do not break neck/head to gain more extension. 
    • Head should keep same line as body, do not beak head to gain more extension.
  • Sway is used to maintain balance when stopping or changing direction. Sway has to go with turn and it is not done on its own. No broken sway.
    • Body (head, torso and leg) form a diagonal, unbroken line.
    • Shape and sway in sync with Man, keep the connection, don't be stiff in your upper body, be responsive and fluid.
    • Shaping should be smooth, no edges. 
  • Head turning is a result of shaping change. Head turning shall be gradual, not abrupt, no edges.


Turning Movement & CBM

  • Terminology: "Turn" is the foot direction/alignment. "Rotation" is hip relative to feet.
  • Turn is initiated by CBM. Though upper body is turning, it does mean moving foot will turn out (relative to leg/hip). Sometimes, toes is turned in.
    • CBM on a forward step: the person (either Man or Lady) that does the forward step is on the outside of the turn and travels more.
      • The step itself should be straight on the line.
      • The opposite shoulder would be turning toward the moving foot (remember to keep shoulder level, no dipping). The rotation started from leg, hip, body and then shoulders, twisting up. Aim for shoulder line to be on parallel line to leg, spine keep going forward. 
    • CBM on a back step: the person would be on the inside of a turn.  Hip and feet are "connected" together. When foot turns, hip also turns. Foot is perpendicular to the hip. 
      • Curve off track on a backward step. Give enough room in between legs for partner to step through.
  • When hips turn with body, it's not CBM anymore, so you may be doing CBM less than you think.
  • Windup: Competitive dancers often give the illusion of winding up before a turning figure, to give it more power. The way they achieve this is through underturning their bodies on the preceding figure.
    • For example, in the Natural Pivot Turn in Quickstep, if Man doesn't turn his frame all the way to BLOD on step 3, and  instead, perhaps, between BLOD and BDC, it will have the effect of a windup, without incurring the overhead of leading and following a windup and a turn.
  • "He goes, then she goes" - going through your partner
    • In many turning figures, instead of thinking of going around, the technique will improve if one thinks of going through one's partner.
    • On a Natural Turn, for example, the man steps straight through, stepping toward the lady's right shoulder, while using CBM to make room to get past her.
    • Similarly,  the lady steps straight at the man's right shoulder when she's moving forward, where CBM creates room for her to get past. He goes, then she goes.
  • When doing reverse turn, Lady keeps left side lifted, vacate that space the last, not undo the twist too quickly, have head lead the left turn, shoulder leaves last, otherwise, it feels like shoulder is peeling off Man, pulled away.

Spin and Pivot Turns

On pivot turns, the leader keeps his legs in a line so that, for example, on a Quickstep Natural Pivot Turn, he ends with his right foot on the same track as his left foot (like he was on a balance beam). This prevents the leader from essentially crashing into the follower's legs as he turns. The follower, on the other hand, always maintains two tracks for the feet on a pivot turn, so that the leader can step between her feet for the next figure.
Spin turns and pivot turns both involve pivoting on a foot bearing weight. It is important that the dancer be balanced over that foot while turning.

The partner on the outside of the turn (the person stepping forward) need to get around (actually "get through" is a better description) their partner without stepping into their space. One might try to imagine shaping away from the turn (extend nose pass left elbow) rather than leaning into the turn. Body transfer/move or rotate faster/more than the hip. 

Heel Turn

Heel Turn can be turning left (e.g. Waltz Double Reverse Spin for Lady) or turning right (e.g. Foxtrot Natural Turn - step 2 for Lady)

Example: Heel Turn to the left
  • Step 1:
    • Start with with weight on LF, left side poised forward.
    • Lower, extend R leg,  drive and step back (with toes slightly turned in). Start on the ball of stepping foot, then continued on the heel.
      • Right shoulder and side connect down. Anchor right shoulder.
      • Even though, you are turning to left, upper body is rotated to the right side. This helps to stay with your partner.
      • Focus on reaching and stretching forward through the left side and arm.
      • Do not involve shoulders. Upper body should travel slower than lower body.
      • Left side will rise (distance between L shoulder and head reduces) for a quick moment. Man is raising his R side to make the side lengthen which helps to get Lady's foot underneath and close feet instead of making a step. This applies to Waltz Double Reverse Spin, Telemark, etc.
      • Head leads the turn.
    • As weight is being transferred to the back foot, pull the front leg in
      • Rise will stop momentum, especially when there are lot of turn (like in Double Reverse Spin), one should not rise much.
      • Lengthen the center, do not lock the knees, keep them soft.
    • The left foot should come straight in to the right foot, dragging the heel, and the right foot should not start turning until the left foot is even with it. The turn should be executed smoothly on the heel of the right foot using the momentum of the left foot coming in.
    • Always turns on the supporting foot.
  • Step 2:
    • The closing foot is kept parallel throughout. When turning, there is no weight on the closing foot. Both knees flexed. 
    • Weight is transferred on to the foot that has closed as turn is completed.
    • On last 1/2 beat "&": After turn is completed, weight is transferred to balls of both feet, do foot rise (using both feet which will make it more stable), both knees flexed to absorb foot rise with knee without changing overall height.
    • Upper body keep rotating to give it more continuous look.
  • Step 3:
    • Push off back foot, the other foot push forward, big step (feet not leaving floor, same forward movement principle).
    • Lady rises as she steps forward, and lowers as she completes the step. The rise and fall should be gradual.
  • Step 4:
Man leading heel turn:
  • Some coaches recommend Man does early (or faster) rise to lead a heel turn - as Man rise early, Lady keeps the leg relatively straight and does heel turn, instead of swinging to back.
  • It is very common for the lady to feel like the man is knocking her over. This is because he is turning his body too soon. Use CBM.
  • Man has to step around (actually, "through" is more accurate) the lady, before he turns her.

Heel Pull

This is one type of heel turn. Heel Pull is always a right turning figure. Example: Natural Turn in Quickstep (step 5 for Man).
  • The turn to right is made on heel of supporting foot.
  • Moving foot is pulled back and to the side of supporting foot (slightly apart).
  • Heel first, then Inside Edge of foot, then Flat.

Dance Positions

Dance Positions:
  • Closed Position (Bronze)
    • Leader and Follower face each other, with shoulders parallel
    • Follower is to right of leader, so that leader's right foot may step between followers legs going forward, and followers right foot may step between leaders legs when she steps forward
    • Movement is directly forward or backwards, or directly side to side
  • Promenade Position (Bronze)
    • Shoulders are parallel (or a small V) as in closed position. pick up center/rib cage to partner. 
    • Leader's feet are turned 1/8 to left. Followers feet are turned 1/8 to right
    • Hips will naturally turn to go with feet. Some dancers don't turn hip till #3 in Waltz (in which case, on 2, it is just like close position except heads are turned).
    • Movement is directly to leader's left, along the line made by the shoulders
    • Leader's head faces left, as far as possible, not strained or stiff looking
    • Follower's head faces right, as far as possible, not strained or stiff looking
    • The right point of the leader's hip will be placed in the center of the follower's hips
      • This may be accomplished from closed position by rotating only the hips and feet 1/8 left by the leader (Lady rotating hips and feet 1/8 to right.)
      • Man "rolls" the contact point and the ending position is such that Man's right hip in front of Lady's left hip. Small V.
    • It is important that follower stays "behind" the leader, keep shoulder blades and arms in front, they belong to your partner, do not peel away.
    • Lady: imagine L and R arm being pulled 50/50 in opposite direction. Pick up abdominal muscle.
    • In PP, Lady keeps R side forward and give the arm to Man, keep tone, don't tip forward and drop R side. Think about L arm to side/back, head stays more behind (imaging ponytail being pulled back). (R arm/side and L side in "opposition")
    • Getting out of PP, Waltz: Lady's left leg is behind Man's right leg. swing the hips, move more. Lady has to work a lot to keep R side to Man to make it appear right side keep with Man and keep shoulder line flat, otherwise naturally Lady will lose R shoulder.
  • Outside Partner Position (OPP) (Bronze)
    • Closed position, but leader steps diagonally left, to the left (from leader's perspective) of the follower's right foot
      • Can check Outside Partner Position by closing feet, Man and Lady should end up in normal closed position.
    • With stepping diagonally, hip is naturally turned to right (rib cage stays parallel to partner)
    • Twisting starts from the knees (keep feet where it needs to go, twist from knee), then thighs, hips to partner and all the way, keep twisting (like the staircase) to body and shoulder.
      • Man: lift his right hip to partner, turn frame to right and extend left side forward.
      • Lady: lift her left hip toward Man, left side very lifted, body twisted to R.
    • Image is like a tornado, with narrow bottom, and wide top.
  • Wrongside Position (Silver)
    • Like outside partner, but leader steps diagonally right, to the right (from leader's perspective) of the follower's left foot
  • Fallaway (Gold)
    • Promenade position, but moving in the opposite direction.With still pictures, you won't be able to tell if it's Promenade or Fallaway position (except from the direction dress flows).
  • Counter Promenade
    • Like promenade, but feet and head are now pointed to leader's right and follower's left.
Different types of balances:
  • Vertically stacked up, on your own feet, each individual is balanced
  • Reshape the body, taking center forward, leaving feet and head back, still individually balanced.
  • Counter balance: partners as a whole is balanced, not individually balanced.
  • "Dynamic balance": partner's movement balances the partner. The movement of the body balances out the body.


It is important to understand the travel direction based on line of dance. When studying patterns, pay attention to each pattern's commencing and ending alignment. 

Refer to the alignment diagram


Subpages (1): Standard Lesson Notes