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Foxtrot -- Let's Get Smooth

by Randy Lewis & Debbie Olson

A good frame and body mechanics can make your dancing smoother, more comfortable, and more enjoyable -- not just in Foxtrot, but in Waltz, Quickstep, Tango, and other rhythms, too. How do we get smooth? It truly begins with the Closed Position Frame. Dancing with a proper frame will make your dancing life so much easier.

Creating Your Frame starts with the 5 points of contact -- begin standing facing your partner, slightly offset -- your right side should align with the partner's mid-line (think shirt buttons).
  • Lead Hands -- gently joined, no higher than eye level of the lady, equidistant between partners, arms should have tone (no wet spaghetti) and have a slight curve to them with elbows held up and level, not drooping.
  • Man's Right Hand -- gently but firmly on the ladies left shoulder blade. (I like two fingers on the shoulder blade and two fingers just under the shoulder blade.) Fingers should be together and angled down towards the ladies right hip. This helps keep the right elbow up, with tone in the muscles of the upper arm.
  • Man's Right Wrist -- under the ladies left armpit but not pushing her shoulder up.
  • Lady's Left Arm -- gently lays on top of man's right arm, no downward pressure making the man hold you up.
  • Connect At the Torso -- this is probably the most important point of contact and the one least often used. Contact may begin as low as the knees, up through the thighs, the front of the right hip, the tummy, up to the bottom of the rib cage. This connection is where the man initiates his lead and the lady follows. If there is no connection here, the lady will have no idea what the man wants her to do. Do stay on your own side, as if there were a pane of glass between you and your partner. Don't lean into your partner's space.
Knees and Ankles -- Next we need to soften the knees slightly. This will put your weight slightly forward on the balls of your feet and aid in the torso connection described above.

Body Stretch -- Take a deep breath, stand up straight, let the breath out, but don't collapse again (upward stretch). Both add a little extra right-side stretch and a little backward stretch, away from partner. This should give you a nice top-line separation, such that you should be able to hold a medium-sized book between your collar bones.

Heads Turned Left -- super important, repeat, Heads Turned Left -- both of you -- not just your eyes looking left. It's as if you are lying down in bed and your head gently rolls to the left. That is where it should be. No gazing in your partners eyes. If you dance nose to nose, then you will assuredly dance toes on toes -- Ouch. No one will be happy. Keep that head left.

Keep Bodies Parallel -- Bodies (shoulders, hips) should be kept parallel as much as is reasonably possible.


CBM (Contra or Contrary Body Movement) is upper body action where one side of the body turns towards the moving foot without producing turn in the foot. CBM is most often used to initiate a turning figure. The man initiates CBM, lady follows.

The man initiates the figure by compressing, commencing upper body rotation, bringing the knee through, pointing the moving foot in the line of direction of movement, stepping straight forward on the foot with no turn of the foot. The moving foot precedes the body core moving forward. CBM will cause thighs and knees to connect. Again, keep shoulders parallel.

CBMP (Contra or Contrary Body Movement Position) is about the feet -- it's a foot position where the moving foot dances on or across the line of the supporting foot, while maintaining the upper body line.

From clinic notes prepared for the ICBDA Convention, 2017, and reprinted in the Dixie Round Dance Council (DRDC) Newsletter, April 2022.


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