All ballroom dancers are aware that the Slow Foxtrot is the most difficult dance to master in the Ballroom genre. It requires great control of body flight and leg action. Although there is rise and fall, the emphasis is on using the energy horizontally rather than sending it vertically as you do in the Waltz. One of the things dancers struggle with most is the unusual timing in Slow Foxtrot. It’s significantly different from the other dances.
In the other dances, each step pattern generally starts with the feet together (or at least the body is firmly over one foot), and ends again with the body solidly over one or the other foot. For example, in a Waltz Natural Turn the step begins with body weight over one foot. As the foot swings through the action the body moves between the feet but ends up over the other foot at the end of the figure. In Slow Foxtrot this kind of body weight action is thrown out the window. In most figures the body is not over one of the standing feet at the start and end of the figure, but is actually positioned between feet. The figure ends the same way, with the body positioned in between the front and back feet, ready to move into the next figure.
This characteristic is why the Slow Foxtrot glides so beautifully along the floor, and also one of the main reasons it is hard to master.
But in addition to the body flight issue is that of musicality in Slow Foxtrot. A great many dancers don’t understand the way they need to use the musical timing to move through the leg action. The following information might help.
Slow Foxtrot is based on 4/4 time, which means there are four beats to every bar, or measure, in the music. It helps to break it down further so that instead of counting “1 2 3 4” you count it “1 and 2 and 3 and 4 and.” We use the same treatment in many other dances including Waltz, Rumba and even Cha Cha to assist with a clearer understanding of body and leg action on each part of the beat.
So if you have a basic combination such as the Feather Step and Three Step, the timing of Slow Quick Quick Slow Quick Quick Slow still applies but you would break it down to “1 and 2 and” for the Slow followed by “3 and” for the first Quick and “4 and” for the second Quick, then repeating this pattern for the next group through the Three Step.
Slows in Slow Foxtrot are not slower movement of the body or foot but longer movement. You are pushing at the same energy but just pushing for a longer time, allowing the foot to continue sliding either forwards or backwards throughout both beats in the music.
As you begin the Feather Step the foot pushes forward with driving action from the standing leg through “1 and 2.” At this point your body has not yet arrived fully over the front (or back) foot because you have not yet finished the entire two beats in the music. But your foot is now in position beginning to receive the body weight. The body continues to be positioned in between the feet but now the distance between the feet gets smaller as the moving foot swings through. As you reach the “and” count the body is over the now-collected feet. The moving foot continues to swing through so that it reaches the next position on the “3” count, with the body in between feet. This is a Quick in the timing. On the next “and” count the body is again over the collected feet and the moving foot swings out either forward or back to be positioned again on the next number which is “4” in the music. At that point the body is once again positioned in between the feet. The same actions are repeated in the Three Step.
Although it may be a little oversimplified to put it this way, the goal is to have your body weight generally between separated feet on the numbers in the music, with the feet collecting under you on the “and” counts as you collect and send the moving leg through to the next position. Of course, through all of this you also need to be aware of your partner, CBMP, head position, swing and proper use of heels and toes!
It can be difficult to fully comprehend this by reading about it. If you would like further insight, schedule a private lesson and we can assist you in gaining mastery over this challenging aspect of timing in Slow Foxtrot.
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