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Thinking Outside the Box

by Sandi & Dan Finch

Reverse fallaway and its cousins—reverse fallaway and slip, and three fallaways—are among the most troublesome figures we teach. Part of the problem is understanding what fallaway means. Part is where to put the rise and fall, if any. And once you learn it, you may believe that is the only way to do it. Not so. Even the Roundalab (RAL) Manual of Standards gives a flexibility in how to do the figures.

You may also believe that the reverse fallaway is always followed by a slip or slip pivot. Look at the wild variety of options available with that one figure, and it is easy to see why it is one of the most misunderstood and most often requested for review.

That may also explain why the figure appeared as the central teaching point in two unrelated lectures at the Blackpool Congress this year. The Congress is two days of lectures by world class dancers in the middle of the Blackpool Dance Festival in late May each year.

Fallaway is a position, defined as both partners moving backward in semi-closed position. You see it most frequently in phase III jive as the start of such figures as fallaway rock and fallaway throwaway. Both rock back into semi before going forward into the basic jive rock or throwaway.

It is likely that the fallaway you learned in jive was never connected to the next level, the reverse fallaway (phase IV). This figure consists of three steps, from closed position Man stepping forward and turning left face (a reverse action) side and back, achieving a fallaway position. Then he crosses left slightly behind. Lady steps back three steps with left shoulder lead. The man has opened himself to semi-closed position, moving backward.

Jonathan Wilkins, former US national champion, in a lecture on Ballroom Harmony at the Congress, had a simple way of describing going to any semi, including the reverse fallaway. A partnership is like two doors, he said. One has to open to go to semi-closed position. When turning right, the man opens the Lady; when turning left, he opens himself. A telemark, for example, is a left turning figure and once Lady does her heel turn, Man leaves her alone and opens himself to semi. Same with an outside change to semi. For an impetus to semi, a right turning figure, Man opens Lady to semi. The reverse fallaway is a left turning figure, thus the man opens himself to semi You don’t want both to open, or you’ll have the dreaded hip to hip position.

What can you do from a reverse fallaway besides a slip? How about a reverse fallaway (no slip) to a forward Lady swivel? You find that in Randy & Marie Preskitt’s phase IV Night and Day.

How about a foxtrot reverse fallaway to back feather? Dance three steps of the standard reverse fallaway (SQQ). Man, with slight body turn to left, steps side right. Lady turns left and steps side and forward left. Man then goes back L in Banjo, Lady forward R; then back R down LOD. Follow with feather finish to end diagonal wall.

Wilkins had a couple do an entire routine of fallaways to demonstrate what he called the “artistry” of fallaway. Three fallaways with feather ending into reverse fallaway and slip pivot, bounce fallaway with feather ending, checked fallaway into running finish, curved feather, fallaway with right slip, running spin, dropped fallaway with ronde, and syncopated fallaway. Even though it was a routine, it flowed and had the “harmony” of working slightly different leads for each of the fallaways, with changes in rise and fall.

Christopher Hawkins, a former English champion, used the fallaways in waltz to show how a change in where to rise made the figures different. The standard reverse fallaway and slip will have rise on &3 (12&3). The three fallaways can be danced flat, with no rise, but using rise on 2 creates power for lady to her first slip. Putting the rise at the end of a fallaway gives power going into the next figure, like a hesitation change.

This didn’t make it any easier, but maybe more fun.

From a club newsletter, August, 2016, and reprinted in the Dixie Round Dance Council (DRDC) Newsletter, March 2019.


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