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OUTLINE OF FOXTROT STEPS

by Dance Instructors Barbara Bernstein and Michele Kearney

     Here is a description of some basic Foxtrot steps, in case readers want to try a few moves.

     Note that in the description below, a "quick" step gets one beat and a "slow" step gets two beats. If you are not confident of your timing and want to be sure you are practicing correctly, you can get a CD that I produced with Michele Kearney titled "Rhythm Reminder." It has Foxtrot music with a voice over that calls the "quicks" and "slows" for dancers. Then the same music is repeated without the voice over so you can practice keeping time without that assistance. More information on this CD is available by clicking here.

     Most of the steps described below are done in the "slow slow quick quick" rhythm. But the box step is an exception. That step is done in a "slow quick quick" rhythm. So dancers move from the basic rhythm to this "box step rhythm." Then they move back to the basic rhythm as soon as the box step is done.

     Your steps are done by alternating which foot you are stepping onto---the right then the left, then the right, then the left, etc. This is the same as what you do when you walk. If you think this sounds obvious, let me tell you why I mention it. I know from experience that beginning dancers sometimes make the mistake of taking two steps in a row with the same foot. So as you practice, keep an eye out to be sure you are switching which foot you step onto continuously.

     Another helpful hint is to lift your foot slightly off the ground as you step onto the other foot. Again, this is the same as when you walk. What you want to avoid is putting your foot down to take a step without actually shifting your weight to that foot. The way to be sure you have shifted your weight onto one foot is to lift the other foot slightly off the ground.

     And here is an interesting side note just for fun. If you take a look at the basic rhythm for both Single Swing and Foxtrot, you'll see that they are the same ("slow, slow, quick, quick"). This makes it possible to move from either of these dances into the other smoothly as long as the tempo of the music is appropriate. So for example, if you are dancing to a relatively fast Foxtrot, then after the promenade step, you can go directly into the basic step of Single Swing. Then you can do some other swing steps and from there go back to the Single Swing basic. This enables you to switch directly to the Foxtrot promenade step again, and resume Foxtrot. (Click here for a description of Single Swing steps.)

     This switch from one dance to another is exciting and looks very fancy, yet it is easy enough for complete beginners to do! I have taught this transition successfully in an introductory dance class.

 

Basic Step    

The man's basic step for foxtrot is as follows:
   
Walk forward with left foot   (slow)
Walk forward with right foot   (slow)
Side step with left foot   (quick)
Close the right foot next to the left foot   (quick)

The woman does the opposite as shown below:
   
Walk back with right foot   (slow)
Walk back with left foot   (slow)
Side step with right foot   (quick)
Close left foot next to right foot   (quick)


Promenade
   

This step is designed to travel sideways. That is accomplished by the man turning his head slightly to the left and then walking in the direction he is turning.  As always the woman follows with a mirror image movement.
   

The man's footwork is:
   
Turn head and upper body to left and walk with    left foot in that direction

 

  (slow)
Take a second step in the same direction with the right foot passing the left

 

  (slow)
Step side with left foot while turning back to face partner

 

  (quick)
Close right foot next to left foot while still facing partner   (quick)

The woman's footwork is:
   
Turn head and upper body to right and walk with right foot in that direction

 

  (slow)
Take a second step in the same direction with the left foot passing the right

 

  (slow)
Step side with right foot while turning back to face partner

 

  (quick)
Close left foot next to right foot while still facing partner   (quick)


Left Turn (also called "Ad Lib")
   

This step enables you to change direction while dancing.
   

The man's footwork is as follows:
   
Walk forward with left foot

 

  (slow)
Step back with right foot

 

  (slow)
Step side with left foot and rotate 1/4 of a   turn to the left  (1/8 of a turn is also ok)

 

  (quick)
Close right foot next to the left foot   (quick)

The woman's footwork is:
   
Walk back with right foot

 

  (slow)
Step forward with left foot

 

  (slow)
Step side on right foot and rotate as led by partner

 

  (quick)
Close left foot next to the right foot   (quick)


Box Step
   

Most dances have some steps that involve a change in the underlying dance rhythm. Here we have included only the foxtrot's box rhythm as a variation on the basic rhythm pattern. In foxtrot, so many steps are done in the box rhythm (Slow-Quick-Quick) and the box pattern is so fundamental, that we felt it should be included.

The man's footwork for the box step, which is done in the box rhythm, is as follows. Note that he is taking steps that outline the shape of a box.


Diagram of Man's Box
Step 1: Walk forward with left foot                           (Slow)

   
Step 2: Step with right foot diagonally forward and to the right                         (Quick)

Step 3: Close the left foot next to the right foot        (Quick)

Step 4: 
Walk back with right foot


  (Slow)

Step 5: 
Step with left foot diagonally back and to the left


  (Quick)

Step 6: 
Close right foot to left foot


  (Quick)

                            Repeat     


  Diagram of Woman's Box
The woman's footwork is exactly the same but again is the mirror image of the man's:

Step 1: Walk back with right foot                             (Slow)

   
Step 2: Step with left foot diagonally back and to the left                             (Quick)

Step 3: Close right foot next to the left foot            (Quick)

Step 4: 
Walk forward with left foot

  (Slow)

Step 5: 
Step with right foot diagonally forward and to the right

  (Quick)

Step 6: 
Close left foot to the right foot

  (Quick)

                           Repeat     




The Park Avenue Step

Another very nice step is called the "Park Avenue."  In this step, the man turns his body at a 45 degree angle to his left and steps forward in that direction with his left and then with his right. The right foot passes the left so it is like walk.  This is on the two slow steps. For the two quicks, he steps sideways to his left with his left foot and then the right foot meets the left foot. This is referred to as "side together" since you are stepping to the left side and then bringing your feet together.  The two slow steps are easiest done by stepping outside of his partner.  She is led to move in the natural opposite as always, so she is stepping back and at an angle to her right starting with her right foot and then continues walking backwards in the same direction with a step on her left.

These two slow steps can be done with the man stepping into his partner as well. But I highly recommend stepping "outside partner" as it looks and feels cleanest that way.  Note that for the "side together" steps on the two quicks, the partners are facing each other as he moves left and she moves right.

Then the next slow slow quick quick completes the Park Avenue pattern.  The man turns 45 degrees to his right and steps back with his left and then with his right foot. (The right foot passes the left just as it does when he is walking backwards.)  Again the side together is done by turning back (to the left) 45 degrees so the partners face each other again for the man's step to his left with his left foot and then the right foot comes next to his left.  He is moving "outside partner" again on the two slows and she is doing the "natural opposite" of his moves as always.

The Park Avenue is a very pretty step and if you think of the basic step moving the man forward or "north," then the Park Avenue step moves the couple to the "west" or sideways with angular steps so its creates a lovely pattern. As always, at the end of the 8 steps in this move, the man is facing his partner and ready to step on his left foot so he can do any of the step patterns above as they all begin with the man's stepping on his left foot.  I think it segues well into the "ad lib" step personally!

Note these nice embellishments to some of the above steps:

1.  On the Promenade step, the man can turn the lady to her right on the two quick steps. She has to turn rather quickly to be stabilized for the next slow step, so it may take some practice. What the lady must remember is that she turns a full 360 degrees, so she faces her partner after the two quicks.

2.  On the Box Step which has the rhythm change (to slow-quick-quick), the man can lead an optional turn in this step as well.  He turns the lady to her right beginning on step 5 in the box pattern above. He continues the box pattern and she turns all the way around, meeting him (i.e. facing him again) by step 3 of the box pattern.  So the leader continues stepping back on his right for step 4 and finishes the box.  It is also common to do the turn where the man moves (turns) part way to meet the woman. In this case, he is facing her by step 2 in the second box pattern.  Again, they finish out the box pattern before going into another move.

3. On the basic step, instead of doing the side together for the two quick steps, the leader can keep moving forward so it is like a steady walk forward in slow-slow-quick-quick rhythm.  (In fact, if someone is doing a wedding dance, this might be a sweet way to enter from the edge of the room and move to the middle of the floor or stage area.)

4.  Similarly, on the promenade step, the leader can keep moving in the same direction on the two quick steps rather than coming back to face the lady for the "side together" steps.  However, to end the promenade step and move into another step pattern, you need to do the "side together" facing each other.  So for example, a couple can do one or two promenade steps in the manner, moving progressively in the same direction on all steps and then the final promenade step in a series would need to be the standard way so that the dancers can segue into another step such as the "ad lib" or basic.

5.  On the box step, each time the man takes his "slow" step, he rotates a little to his left.  This "turns" the box so it looks much more interesting and advanced, and that rotation feels good to the dancers as well.

6.  With either the SSQQ or SQQ rhythms, Foxtrot could be done in a "progressive" step, going forward for the leader in a straight line, but stepping in that rhythm.

WEDDING DANCE SUGGESTIONS-       For Foxtrot and Beyond!

Many people take dance lessons in a traditional dance such as Foxtrot to prepare for the "First Dance" at a wedding party.  However, increasingly, couples are opting to do a dance of their choice---which is sometimes a livelier, Latin dance such as Salsa.  DanceInTime has been called upon to prepare couples for a wedding.  (See final comments on using Salsa for a First Dance at the bottom of this page.)  When the preparation is in Salsa, it's just a matter of teaching  steps the couple can do comfortably.  But in the case of Foxtrot or Waltz, even if you know the steps well, these dances can be tricky because they "sweep the floor" (unlike Salsa).  So leading either of them at a wedding reception requires not only knowing the moves but some "navigational skills."  In other words, the movement of many steps is  progressive so you don't stay in one spot.  You move across the floor broadly if you keep on doing basics or if you keep on doing promenade steps.  Then you essentially are getting near a wall (or a wall of people) and you have to (artfully) change direction. 

So to make a Foxtrot First Dance easier, I have constructed a series of moves using the steps described above which keep you more or less in a central area since it turns the couple around.  Literally, I worked this out with the help of my wonderful ballroom coach, Garrey Stinson, at his suggestion dancing around a pole in the studio where we practice. 

As he pointed out, the routines below alter the couple's direction so they don't get close to the edge of the room which is very important. Moreover, the steps below also force the couple to rotate so if they are ringed by friends and family who are watching, they'll face everyone at one point in the routine.  These routines enable everyone to see them dance (and no one is watching someone's back the whole time) as well as preventing the couple from getting too far from the center of the room.

                        WEDDING DANCE ROUTINE I--SUPER BASIC

Here is a set of moves for beginning dancers who want the simplest possible routine:

-------------------------

Two Basic steps
One Ad Lib step
To Basic steps
One Ad Lib step
Two Basic steps
One Ad Lib step
Two Basic Steps
One Ad lib step
Repeat

----------------------------
Note that if the "ad lib" step rotates 1/4 of a turn then you can think of the first two basics moving you "north," the next two moving you "west," the next two moving you "south," and the next two moving you "east."  Then the final ad lib gets the couple moving north again.  So you are making a square more or less in the center of the dance floor and you won't bump into any walls.  This involves only two simple steps and would be easy to execute but look nice.

                      WEDDING DANCE ROUTINE II---MEDIUM BASIC

The sequence below is still relatively basic, but it has a little more sophistication and uses more steps than "routine I" above.

-----------------------------------

Two Basics
Two Promenades (note you can throw in an optional turn for ladies on the two quick steps)
Two Ad libs
Two Basics
Two box steps (note you can throw in an optional turn for the lady as described in the embellishments)
Then keep doing the box step with the rotation until you are facing the direction in which you began the dance, and then repeat this sequence again.

------------------------

Note that box steps are always done in the altered rhythm of slow-quick-quick (rather than the basic foxtrot rhythm of slow-slow-quick-quick.

Note that if you want to dance onto the floor, you can do the basic step as described in embellishment #3 above.  That would dress up the wedding dance significantly and be exciting for the "audience!"

               WEDDING DANCE ROUTINE III--INTERMEDIATE LEVEL

The routine below is the more sophisticated than those listed above and it would look beautiful. Remember that you can dance onto the stage as suggested in embellishment #3 above and that would look super sharp!

------------------
Two Basics
One Ad lib
One Park Avenue
One Ad lib
Two Promenade steps (Note the second one can include an optional turn for the lady)
Two box steps (Note at the lead's option, these can rotate as in embellishment #5)
Additional box steps can be done if needed with the leftward rotation for the man (see embellishment #5 above) until the couple is facing the direction they started, and thenrepeat this sequence.
-----------------------------
WEDDING DANCE ROUTINE #IV---SOPHISTICATED INTERMEDIATE

Two Basics
One Ad lib
One Half of the Park Avenue Step (just the part where the guy goes forward and side step)
One Promenade Step
One Ad lib
Two Promenade steps (Note the second one can include an optional turn for the lady)
Two box steps (Note at the lead's option, these can rotate as in embellishment #5)
Additional box steps can be done if needed with the leftward rotation for the man (see embellishment #5 above) until the couple is facing the direction they started, and thenrepeat this sequence.

----------------------------

Note that all we did to change from Routine III to Routine IV is change the full Park Avenue Step in routine III to a half of the Park Avenue and then a Promenade step in routine IV. This is a beautiful sequence and will look very sophisticated!

Final Comments on wedding dances:

There was a time when wedding dances were traditional Foxtrots and Waltzes, only.  Interestingly, the SQQ Foxtrot rhythm that is done in the box formation can easily be translated to Waltz rhythm.  The only difference is that Waltz has all three steps have the same time value while in Foxtrot the first step (the slow) lasts for two beats while the other steps last one beat each.  Because of this 3 step pattern that applies to both dances, the moves can easily be adjusted from one dance to the other.  In fact, Rumba is also a SQQ rhythm, but it's a Latin dance. So the steps are done with Cuban motion (hip sway) and the feeling of the music is Latin.  So, the steps done in Foxtrot and Waltz that have 3 steps per measure can be adjusted for Rumba as well. 

Regarding the tradition of a wedding dance, these days, couples are free to do anything they like.  I have been called upon to do Salsa classes at weddings, or to teach a Salsa routine for a first dance at a wedding as well.  So if you are preparing for a wedding and would like personal instruction on any of these dances, feel free to contact DanceInTime staff by emailing: BarbBtalks@aol.com.  And...good luck!!