Tonight is the last of our three sessions on Latin Waltz. I'm going to miss it.
Last week, we reviewed the first week's material with a largely-new group of dancers. Then we added the following new figures:
- basic box and turning box
- alternating fifth-position breaks
- half box to cross-body lead, inside turn, and open break
The basic box in Latin Waltz is much like the box in rumba (American style), six steps that form the corners of an imaginary box. As in rumba, to rotate the box you use commencing to turn technique: the leader will turn his foot as he steps forward or back on steps 1 and 4, turn his frame as he changes weight, and then place his foot on steps 2 and 5 on the new angle.
So - specifically - the leader who is initially facing a wall will turn his left foot up to 45 degrees to the left, toward the corner of the room to the left of the wall he's facing. As he places his weight on that foot, he rotates his frame toward that corner: that sends his follower's right foot back on the same angle. Then the leader steps to the side on his right foot, without any further change of angle (i.e., turn). As he steps back on his right foot, he will turn that right foot up to 45 degrees. Important: the toes will be turning IN as the foot goes back. As he places his weight, he'll rotate his frame toward the new wall, bringing his partner forward on her left onto the same angle. Then the leader will step to the side on his left foot, without any further turn.
In both the forward and back steps, the leader should concentrate on keeping his feet directly beneath him; ideally, the knees are brushing as he brings his feet forward and back. The follower must also be aware of her core and position, and not let her feet swing out as she moves through the box.
Commencing to turn is a handy technique when dancing in a latin frame or when not in a body contact closed position. In a smooth/standard frame, ideally the partners have slight body contact and the leader can turn his partner as he steps to the side, because she will physically read the change of shape. In an open, latin frame, this doesn't work: there's no body contact. So if the leader waits to change his angle (i.e., turn) until he is moving to the side, the follower will receive the weight change lead too late.
The cross-body lead we learned in week 1 of Latin Waltz was like a cross-body lead in salsa: the whole thing takes place in two measures - six steps - and is danced more or less on a slot. The cross-body variation in week 2 takes up a little more space and four measures. What are the big foot-position differences?
In the two-measure cross body lead, the leader's foot positions are:
- 1 - left foot forward
- 2 - replace weight to right foot; left hand goes down to hip level, close to the body
- 3 - left foot directly to the side from the right foot, with a body turn of 90 degrees to the left (counterclockwise); left hand stays down, holding lady in right-angle position
- 4 - right foot close behind left foot, toe turned out, a tight fifth position, as lady comes across
- 5 - replace weight to left foot; frame is turning as lady comes around
- 6 - right foot closes to left foot, with a body turn of 90 degrees left; returning frame to closed position
The keys to the lead are in the position changes: from closed to right-angle to lady's half turn to closed position.
In the four-measure cross-body lead, the leader's foot positions are:
- 1 - left foot forward
- 2 - right foot to the side
- 3 - left foot closes to right foot
- 4 - right foot back
- 5 - left foot directly to the side from the position of the right foot, with body turn of 90 degrees left
- 6 - right foot closes to left foot
- 7, 8, 9 - leader marks time in place, tiny little steps that do not move off the spot, but rotating 90 degrees left, LRL
- 10 - right foot to the side
- 11 - left foot in small rock step position, closing to right foot but slightly behind
- 12 - replace weight to right foot
Steps 1-3 are, obviously, the forward half of a box. The leader's frame is in normal closed latin position. Over steps 4-6 the leader drops his left hand, steps to the side opening a path for the lady, and begins to bring her past him. OF KEY IMPORTANCE: The leader must keep his left hand close to his body! If the left hand goes out into space, so will the lady. Which will make it very hard to do the next thing.
Steps 7-9, the leader is marking time with a gradual rotation. At the same time, he is leading the lady to an inside turn. "Inside" means, inside the frame - that is, a counter-clockwise turn in front of the leader. To begin this lead, the leader must move his left hand up on a diagonal between the partners, then lightly circle it over the lady's head. The lady must maintain tone into her right arm to sustain the connection.
Steps 10-12 are an open break. The lady's foot positions are the opposite of the man's - left foot side, right foot into a small rock step, and replacing weight to the left foot.
These leads and foot positions are again functionally identical to the same figure in rumba (American style). However, there are no "slow" steps! The rhythm is steadily quick-quick-quick throughout.
This is already long, so I'll return later to describe the alternating fifth-position breaks - again, copied from rumba - and new material. We'll be borrowing from samba tonight!