We’ve set the stage with an intro to general turning technique, as well as the 5 elements that we can change to give our dance spins a different look and feel. Now, we’re finally ready to upgrade the actual dance spins we use in our dances. Previously, we looked at the spot turn, and how to make it work. Let’s try something a little more advanced: the pivots and pivoting actions.

What is a pivot?

Although definitions of a pivot can vary, today we’ll define as ‘a turn on one foot, of up to 180º (half a turn), in which the free leg is held in front or behind the turning foot.’ In action, it looks like this:

When danced with a partner the back-stepping person needs to move their back leg more sideways, to make room for their partner’s foot and allow them to pass. As this technically deviates from the earlier definition, we call these, ‘pivoting actions’. Pivoting actions are most common when connected in closed position – the video below shows how the follower can make unobstructed pivots when the leader is further away.

How can I practice it?

As we discussed in a previous article, you have to create momentum for your dance spins to work. In the case of a pivot, your body swings from the hips, making a left turn on a left foot forward, or the opposite for a right foot. Try making a 1/4 turn in each direction, then 3/8 of a turn, and finally half a turn.

When practicing alone, focus on the pivots first. The pivoting actions are harder without a partner’s leg to step across.

The next challenge is keeping your back leg locked behind you throughout the turn. Squeezing a hand towel between your thighs causes your legs to lock in place, making it easier to hold the leg position. Imagine your free leg is like the pencil-end of the circle compass.

Finally, the most common roadblock to a perfect pivot is falling out of the turn on the end. Once you’ve made your turn, pause on the turning foot before changing weight. This helps make sure you are balanced, and can stop any time you need to.

Once you’ve nailed your balance, try changing your weight on to the back foot and continuing with the turn in the same direction.

Stay on the balls of the feet when pivoting on a back step – if you roll back to the heel, the turn will feel like you’re on stilts.

Putting it together: The Foxtrot Promenade Pivot

Time to put your practice to the test! This step is identical to the one in the video above, so use that if you do better with visuals. Here’s the short version in writing:

  1. Start in promenade with your partner. Take two steps forward, with the leader swinging right on his RF in a pivoting action to cut off his partner.
  2. The follower steps forward between the leader’s feet as he uses the momentum from the first turn to make a pivot (follower makes a pivoting action). The centre, or axis of the turn should be the leader’s RF and follower’s LF.

The leader steps in between the follower’s legs and ends the pivot in promenade, facing the starting direction.

Finish with a basic promenade.