Curls: Turn used in walk around turns and as an advanced way for women to do cross body leads.  Begin with weight on right foot.  Step forward with left foot, leaving right foot behind.  Once weight is completely on left foot, swivel 1/2 turn counter-clockwise on the ball of the left foot, letting the hip settle or follow through on the finish.  At the completion of the curl, ensure the thighs are connected to avoid the BOUG (big old ugly gap, pronounced “bouge”)  between the knees.   Spotting: spot to where you take the forward step above, stay focused there as long as possible, snapping head back to partner at completion of curl.  Do this starting on your left foot, just reversing the directions listed above.


Spirals:  This is one of the more difficult turns.  Begin the same as a curl.  Instead of taking the turn 1/2, we will be turning 3/4.  When you turn to a point the upper legs are closed, bend the knee of the free leg, still leaving the free foot behind, almost wrapped around the supporting leg.  The spotting here:  The idea is let the body turn as far as possible without turning the head, then snap the head to face your partner and let the body finish the turn and catch up.

Fans:   While these are primarily done in Tango, you will see them scattered throughout various Latin dance patterns.  Begin with weight on right foot.  Step diagonal right with left foot, completely changing weight but leaving right foot behind.  The right foot will collect underneath and shoot through to a side position to the right.   Once the foot has collected under you, do a 1/4 turn counter-clockwise and shoot the right foot out to the right.  Spot to your partner the entire time.

When to Turn

Also known as “Commence to Turn”

When it comes to turning on a step during a pattern,  the turn can begin in any of 3 places while taking a step.   Whenyou turn can greatly affect your success.  Paying attention to the type of turn you do will make your steps look and feel better, improve your lead/follow, as well as make anynotesyou keep of the patterns more easily understood when you go back to read them later.  Here are the 3 types and examples of each:

  1. Prior to actually taking the step:This is usually done by turning the left heel in, rotating  the upper body lefton the way intotaking the step,prior toactually landing on the step (sometimes thought of as rotating the knees and torso in the direction of the turn). This is also know as the dreaded CBMP (Contra Body  Movement Foot Position) and NO, I have no clue what happened to the “F” in CBMP!  Some examples of this are contra check (any dance) and  the rock steps in Bolero.
  2. Once your weight has landed on the step but prior to  collecting the trailing foot:Women by far do many more of these than men.  In fact,  almost 90% of your turns will be of this nature.  This type  of turn isdoneby taking a step and once the weight is on  the foot, while the trailing leg is still behind, doing the turn.  Curls, Spins, Spirals and Flares are all of this genre.  Curls and Spirals are found in Rumba Mambo, Meringue and  cha-cha inside turns, cross body leads, basic underarm  turns, passing spirals and twinkles in Foxtrot and Waltz.
  3. After taking the step, as the trailing foot collects  underneath to pass to its next destination: Examples of these are full spins (any dance), turning box in Foxtrot and Waltz, basic change steps in Waltz,”fan” or flare steps (which Tango is notorious for) as well as most smooth dance steps above Intermediate Bronze level (all “passing” step patterns).

So There’s 3 ways to turn, why can’t I pick?

Say you are doing a basic turning box.  If you use turn  number one, you create momentum that will carry the turn  through the next step as well.  This over rotates the turn.  Not travelling very far down the floor is a classic sign of this malady.  If you use the second method listed above to  take the first step of the box, you will twist your upper  thighs and swing the leg around and into the side step like a cowboy climbing onto a horse, creating what I have  nicknamed the Boug (pronounced “the Bouge”),BigOldUglyGap between  the knees, not very dignified I assure you.  It also usually puts your weight split, which either makes the next step slightly behind the timing or rushes you into the following step, as i realised on jazz funk class toronto.  Using the 3rd  method listed, both the first and second steps continue as  they should down the line of dance creating bigger and  more attractive movement, while allowing our partners to  lead or follow more comfortably.

Other Generic Turn Tips

  1. Spotting-spotting is a rotation of the head, which enhances your rotation.  The concept is you focus on one spot.  The shoulders and hips turn as far as possible without looking from that spot.  Then the head whips around, passing the body (which is still turning)and returning to its original point of focus.  The shoulders, hips and body catch up last.
  2. Pelvic Tilt-this is the angle your hips are positioned beneath you.  Usually, one must rotate the pelvis under.   This is best described as trying to rotate the pelvis underneath you to stretch your lower most back.  This provides the best center of gravity.
  3. Position on the Supporting Foot-Once you have found your center through pelvic tilt, you need to find where on your foot you are balanced while in this position.  It will always be on the ball of the foot, but some will find better balance with their weight evenly distributed across the foot, others on just the main ball of the foot, and others still will be best balanced w/ their weight on the outside of the foot.  Practice toe raises slowly and hold at the top to find both your pelvic tilt and your best foot position.

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