Playing With Waltz
Timing -- Spin and Twist
by Harold & Meredith Sears
The timing of a
measure is one, two, three -- right? With a nice strong downbeat:
two, three. But many figures flow better, feel better, and look
better when you depart -- just a little -- from the stated timing.
The standard timing
Spin Turn is
closed position usually facing reverse line of dance, the man begins
left-face upper-body rotation, he steps back on his left foot (L),
toeing in a little to anticipate the turn, and he brings the lady
forward on her right foot (R), between his feet. We pivot 1/2 to face
line of dance and begin to rise through stretch in the leg and frame.
On beat 2, he steps forward R (lady bk L) between the lady's feet,
rising up into a hovering action onto the ball of the right foot as
the lady brushes R to L, and continues the turn. This is the "spin"
of the Spin Turn. On beat 3, he recovers side and back L (lady fwd R)
to closed position. The standard figure turns a total of 5/8 and ends
with the man facing diagonal line and wall. An Overturned Spin Turn,
or simply Over Spin Turn, turns 1/4 more to face diagonal reverse and
wall and can turn all the way to face reverse.
Now, what about
timing? The first step is a preparatory pivot into the spin -- less
important. The third step is the exit into the next figure -- still
less important. Of course, the core of the Spin Turn is the spin --
step 2 -- and here we could use a little more time to make something
out of it and to show it off. So, let's stretch that beat 2. Spend
more time there, on our trail feet. We are rising, with body rise,
leg rise, and foot
rise. We are pausing or hovering up there like an eagle on an
updraft. And we are spinning smoothly. The lady is drawing her lead
foot in to her balance point like a ballerina. We've got quite a
display going here, a peacock spreading his plumes. Take the time to
give the full
Where do we get all
extra time for this "performance-art display"? Well, it's
not a huge amount of time. We've been exaggerating a little in order
to paint the picture. We only want one or two moments, and we get
them from beats 1 and/or 3. If we dance step 1 just a little faster
than we might otherwise, then we arrive at step 2 a little sooner.
Take step 1 on beat 1 but turn it a little faster so you're ready to
take step 2 before beat 2 strikes. That way, you are on your trail
feet and you have not just "the rest of beat 2" but the
whole of beat 2 to do your spin, your hovering action -- your
display. Then out you come on beat 3.
You can also borrow
beat 3, instead of or in addition to borrowing from beat 1. If you
are into your display and into your spin, and especially if you are
overturning the spin to reverse and wall, then you might want to let
it intrude into beat 3. The man definitely needs to control the
amount of spin and the stretching of beat 2. He delays the taking of
step 3 depending on the feeling in the music, depending on how you
both react to that, on your balance, and depending on subsequent
choreography, too. The lady allows him to stretch out this display by
remaining on balance and by not even thinking of taking her third
step until she feels him begin to take his. Again, all this is
especially useful if you are dancing an Over Spin Turn. That figure
can feel as though you have a long way to go. The idea of
"stretching" beat 2 lets you simply ride the spin until you
get where you want to be.
Let's put this into
numbers (optional paragraph :-). If we wanted to dance a Spin Turn
into a Box Finish, the timing on the cue sheet would probably be 123;
123. What we're suggesting here is that you might feel better with 1
ah spin &; 123; -- using the "ah" or the end of beat 1,
the whole of beat 2, and even the first part of beat 3, up until the
"&" of beat 3, all for the spin. The man steps L on
beat 1, steps R on the last quarter of beat 1 and begins the spin
(the "ah"), continues to spin through beat 2 and into the
first half of beat 3, and only exits L on the second half of beat 3
(the "&"). You'd really want to soar to take all that
time, but the point is that we can
find a lot of extra time. Very often, it feels good to use at least
some of it and s
t r e t c h that beat. Sometimes, we are
dealing with the practical
matter of waiting for our partner to finish a step or an action, and
sometimes we are aesthetically
expressing a slight pause or feeling in the music.
In other ways, we
feel free to depart from the "standard" timing of a figure.
Continuing in the Spin Turn family, the Spin
and Twist is a Spin Turn overturned into a
Twist Turn. So, we are usually in closed position facing reverse line
of dance with lead feet free. The man steps back commencing a
right-face pivot 1/2, and the lady steps forward R between his feet.
He steps forward R between her feet continuing to turn, and she steps
side and back L and draws R to L. On count 3, he steps side L turning
to face diagonal reverse and wall, and she closes R to L. During this
first measure, we are dancing an Over Spin Turn. Now the trail feet
are free and we are ready for the Twist Turn in measure 2. The man
crosses behind and unwinds. The lady runs right face, unwinding him
(1&23). We usually end in closed position facing diagonal wall,
wall, or even diagonal reverse and wall, depending on the
choreography, having made a 1 5/8 to 1 7/8 total turn.
Let’s look at this
Turn a little more closely. A Twist Turn really begins with upper
body rotation to the right, flowing out of the Spin Turn. The man
on his right foot. The rotation gives the back step a crossing-behind
component (we don't want a tight "hook"). Then, using
pressure into the right toe and the left heel, he unwinds to a very
neat side-by-side foot position, rises to the balls of the feet, and
changes weight to the right foot. The count in waltz is 1/&.
During the “1” half of this beat, he is evenly weighted on both
feet and unwinding. Toward the end of the “&” half of the
beat, he shifts weight fully to his right foot. The lady has stepped
L/R to the outside of the man in a right-face arc. She is on the
balls of her feet. On beat 2, the man continues to turn on the ball
of his right foot, and the lady steps forward L and turns with him.
On beat 3, he steps side and back L, and she steps forward R between
his feet to closed position, trail feet free again. Notice that there
are two weight changes for the man and four for the lady.
That is our
timing -- 1&23 -- but waltz syncopation is especially fun to play
with. Try &123 for a noticeably different effect. Remember, this
is the timing of the lady's "run." If she steps out with an
"&," she is really using the last half beat of the
previous measure, leaving the whole second measure for a more
"waltzy," 1-2-3 unwind. Somewhat similarly, we often like
to do waltz syncopation with 123& timing. Again, we get a stately
1-2-3 turn; then the exit step is almost an afterthought that shoots
immediately into the next figure. I don't think we can recommend
dancing the Twist Turn 12&3, because the "2" is just
where we want to rise and maybe hover a bit before our exit, and we
don't want to cut that short.
We’ve always been a
little skeptical of those who say, “the music tells you what to
do,” but the music often does
tell you when to do it and so helps you to choose among these
syncopation options. And you do have the option. Don't feel that you
have to dance every beat or every measure exactly the same or even
exactly as written.
Finally, let's have
quick look at the Spin and Double Twist.
In this figure, we dance a Spin and Twist overturned to face reverse
and add a second Twist Turn. This would give us 2 5/8 to 2 7/8 total
turn over three measures. The standard timing is 123; 1&23;
Those are the steps for the lady. The man steps 123; 1, -, 3; 1, -,
3. The hyphens here represent the "&2" during which he
is unwinding with no weight change and she is running.
But -- a problem
in this "Double Twist Turn" lies in the long side step with
the man’s left foot that overturns the first Twist Turn and
prepares him to do the second Twist Turn. It can become an abrupt
leap that disturbs the smooth flow of the waltz, but we can fix it by
playing with that standard timing. Again, a Twist Turn for the man
involves two weight changes. He crosses his right foot behind his
left. She unwinds him. He steps side L on beat 3. The man can smooth
out a Double Twist Turn by taking four weight changes, just as the
lady does. On beat 1, cross the right foot behind left taking weight
and step L as she begins to unwind you (1&). On beat 2, step
forward R between her feet and pivot right-face in a maneuvering
action, and then step small
side L to set up for the second Twist Turn. The count becomes 1&23;
and the flow is so much smoother than the usual "cross/unwind,
-, leap." Jim & Bonnie Bahr used this smoother, progressing
version of the Double Twist Turn in their Red
River Waltz and again in their Our
Love Melody, where they specifically call the
figure Spin and Double Twist With Pivot. It flows so well that we
think even a Spin and Triple Twist
would be comfortable.
Changing the man's steps
from 1, -, 3; to 1&23; is certainly bolder than simply stretching
a beat or moving an "&" from one beat to another, but
it's okay. It can feel very good. If, sometime, you find yourself
dancing a wheel 4 (12&3) as a wheel 6 (1&2&3&), don't
apologize. It might express your feelings trippingly and be exactly
A brief version was
published in the Washington Area Square Dancers
Cooperative Association (WASCA) Calls 'n'
Cues, 6/2011. This longer version was published in the DRDC
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