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by Harold & Meredith Sears

The hip twist is a Latin action standardized for rumba and cha. We like to think of a hip twist as any sharp swivel on the weighted foot in the same direction as that weighted foot.  So, if you were on your right foot, a hip twist would turn to the right. (A swivel in the direction opposite to the weighted foot is a spiral.)  Of course, not only the foot turns; the hips and the upper body turn too.  A second basic feature of a hip twist is that the hips turn more than the upper body, putting a momentary “twist” into the shape of the torso.

Open Hip Twist, phase V —

The Open Hip Twist begins in left open facing position or in a handshake, often facing the wall. The man steps forward on his left foot on the first “quick” (lady back right), he recovers right and she left on the second “quick,” and he closes left with tension in the joined arms on the “slow” (lady steps forward right toward man, encounters the “wall of resistance” in the toned arms and so swivels sharply to the right on the "and" of the “slow”).  Again, an important feature of this figure is that the Hip Twist is initiated through the hips and the hips turn more than the upper body.  The feet may have swiveled to line of dance, and the hips might have turned all the way toward line, but the upper body lags behind, maintaining connection with partner.

The man can strengthen his lead and increase the sharpness of the twist and the degree of the twist in her upper body by making his third step a small slipping action not quite back to his supporting foot. His third step then becomes a small forward step on the left foot — maybe just three inches.  A simple closing step creates a somewhat passive barrier, but a slip to a small forward step is assertive.  He is telling her, “give me that twist,” and the interaction, the connection between partners, becomes stronger.

Closed Hip Twist, phase V —

The Closed Hip Twist ends much as the Open Hip Twist does, with a closing step for the man and a step and hip twist turning to the right for the lady, but the beginning of the figure is quite different. As the name suggests, we begin in closed position, again often facing the wall. The man steps side and forward with his left foot and with left sway and left side lead (that is, he turns his upper body a little to the right) to cause his partner to open out.  The lady turns to the right on her left foot up to 1/2 and steps back on her right foot to end in an opening-out or half-open position, both facing generally toward wall. On the second beat, the man recovers right with right side lead, and the lady recovers left and turns to the left to face the man. On the slow count, he closes left to right with slight left sway, and the lady steps small side right and then sharply swivels 1/4 to the right on that right foot, her shoulders turning less.

Notice that the lead for the actual hip twist is a little more sophisticated than in the Open Hip Twist.  She is not stepping forward into the man.  He is not closing or slipping forward to impede her progress and so propel the twist.  Here, it is a more subtle left sway that first encourages her to open her head from the closed position of the second step, and it is left-side lead that then invites her to step a bit to the side and to hip twist to the right.

This is rumba, and we know to dance these steps “quick-quick-slow,” but let's pick it apart a little bit more and dance the figure “quick-quick-slow/and,” meaning that she takes her third step on the “slow” and then hip twists on the “and” of that slow count.  Thinking this way helps us to separate actions that really should be separated.  We don’t really want to take that third step and to swivel at the same time.  We want to take the step and only when that is done do we want to execute the twist.  This separation creates sharpness, a clean look.

Advanced Hip Twist, phase VI —

In the Advanced Hip Twist, the lady does a good bit more swiveling than in the Closed Hip Twist, and of course the man should provide a different and perhaps still more sophisticated lead to invite those actions.  Again, we begin in closed position. The man steps forward left toeing out a little and pressing into the floor. He lowers the lead hands and uses left side lead to cause her to open out, and the lady swivels fully 1/2 to the right and steps back on her right foot.  So this first step isn’t greatly different than in the Closed Hip Twist.  The man steps forward instead of side and forward, and the lady opens 1/2 instead of 1/4 or maybe 3/8.

The second step is a recover right for the man and a recover left, turning back to face, for the lady.  Where she will end this step in closed position in the Closed Hip Twist, she needs to dance the Advanced Hip Twist more into the man’s right arm because her third step will be outside the man. The man needs to loosen or extend to allow her to overturn and dance to his right side.

Finally, the man steps back left, leading the lady to step forward right outside his right foot.  He steps well under his body with a pressing or checking action so that his body weight does not fall back, and the lady too will check her forward step and turn sharply 1/4 to the right on the and-count.  As always, the hips turn fully but the upper body and shoulders hang back and remain connected to the man.

From an article originally published in the Dixie Round Dance Council (DRDC) Newsletter, January, 2007.


If you would like to read other articles on dance position, technique, styling, and specific dance rhythms, you may visit the article TOC.

Past DRDC Educational Articles archived here.

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