breakdown of the dancing in the short dance

Bournekraatzfan via fsu --

I find that some people collapse the foxtrot and the waltz because they are both slow dances but if the dances are performed correctly they should be distinguishable from one another. For one, the foxtrot is different from a waltz not only in that it involves four quarter notes per measure instead of three but also in that waltz has an accent on the first count and foxtrot usually has it on the first and third, although there is a lot of variation with the foxtrot. More importantly, the entire flavour of the movement is distinct from that of a waltz. The rise and fall is slightly different than that found in a waltz due to the nature of the steps of the foxtrot--I find it is spread out over more steps or ‘walks’ making it appear less pronounced than in a waltz (for example, in the most basic form of foxtrot you’ll rise at the end of the first and third counts, though in some series of steps you may keep rise in consecutive steps) and also, the rise sometimes occurs in the feet (lifting the heel off the ground) and sometimes only in the trunk and knees/legs. There is also a more relaxed alignment of the body in the foxtrot (the classic closed hold is slightly offset and there is more freedom to break from this hold and instead assume a form where, for example, the shoulder lines up with the opposite hip producing some of the slinkiness that is so characteristic of this dance) and the tension is carried and adjusted by the body very differently than it is in a waltz. Movement in the torso is key here, with the hip rotating slightly and coming forward.

I adore the quickstep and think it has a really interesting history, with origins in at least three continents (Africa, North America, and Europe). In one sense, it is a sped-up version of the foxtrot but it is so much more than that with various influences, one of the most prominent being Charleston and ragtime jazz. This Charleston carried with it West African dance patterns that were kept alive in the black diaspora in the U.S. as well as other popular dance styles in Charleston, South Carolina. The Harlem Renaissance also shaped the quickstep not only through ragtime music but also in the distinctive character that exaggerated kicks and knee action gave to the Charleston there along with regional social dances like the Shimmy that came to be incorporated into the quickstep. It is also interesting to note that the syncopations common in quickstep were employed in traditional West African styles and carried on in the Afro-Caribbean diaspora. Then when the dance traveled to England, the posture became more rigid and the kicking became more controlled with some of the jelly-like knee movements eliminated, but the relaxed Charleston vibe remained intact.

With V&M’s performance, something I noticed right off the bat was the compression of the knees and ankles and the seamless weight transfer that is so characteristic of foxtrot. They also alternate between long strokes and short quick steps to convey the foxtrot rhythm. Their superb edging allows them to achieve the glide and smoothness required for this dance, and they take on a variety of steps in multiple directions. Their superior blade control is on full display here. When they transition into quickstep you see them instantly change form to take on a more erect posture and go right into the promenade runs. You can see their weight is placed nicely over the balls of the feet for the hop steps in the stationary bits, for example, and in their progressive movements they are balanced such that they can carry the movement forward. Note the ease with which they transition into and out of promenade position (closed hold, both facing forward). There is no grasping or tugging to get into or change hold, they skate nice and close together, and they manage the space between them very well, with Scott rotating his hip to accommodate Tessa’s movement. And they vary not only their speed but the tension in their bodies throughout the dance to accent certain parts of the music and create variety in the movement. There is so much light and shade to this program, even in its very early stages.

Some highlights from the foxtrot to illustrate what I was discussing above with regards to the nature of the foxtrot movement:

- the clockwise swaying turns at 0:52 are created through a series of pivots that perfectly fit the timing and tension of the music, and this is achieved through leaning on one side of the other and then rapidly shifting the weight to the other while maintaining a certain amount of tension in the body

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- the skid into the grapevine at 0:59, which gains its lightness (and rise) from keeping the weight over the balls of the feet ...Tessa produces the fall by setting down the heel and getting onto her edge

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- shifting of weight backward with heel leads at 1:04

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- gentler set of pivots than the first (they purposely carry less tension throughout the body here), this time counter-clockwise, with softer hold to correspond to the tone of this particular section of music (1:07)

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- in the sequence following this, at about 1:11, Tessa produces slow counts through a smooth glide that has her changing from a right back inside edge to a right back outside edge—watch her upper body movement as she does this

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- at around 3:32 Tessa steps back lightly with her left foot and instead of placing it stepping directly behind her (such that the new step would be in line with the foot’s previous location) she moves it slightly right to place it directly behind her right foot

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- then a similar movement a few seconds later at 3:36 that she subtly adjusts this movement to make it into more of a swivel

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