Combining Foxtrot and Swing

NOTE: this article is by Phil Seyer who offers private dance lesson in Roseville, Sacramento as well as the Bay Area. If you’d like some private lessons, please contact Phil by Phone at 925-888-4392.

In this post, I’ll describe some simple Foxtrot steps and show you how you can move from Foxtrot to Swing within the same dance tune.  To help you make sure you’re getting the basic ideas, I’ll offer some “Progress Checks.”  Below each progress check you will find a dashed line – - -.  Don’t peek below the line until after you’ve answer the question. Then check your answer.  I trust you my friend, so please honor that trust and DON’T PEEK!

Slow swing music is often suitable for Foxtrot style of dancing. Also faster Foxtrot music is generally works with a swing style of dancing.  So often the choice is yours whether to dance Foxtrot or Swing.  Even if the ballroom where you are dancing posts a sign that says “Foxtrot” you can disobey it if you want to be creative and dance swing for a while. However, be sure to observe these guidelines.

If you are dancing in a Foxtrot style, be sure to dance clockwise around the dance floor. If you want to dance swing, move to the center of the dance floor and dance mainly in one spot, that is, do not progress around dance floor.

Swing Step in Foxtrot
Foxtrot has a step called, oddly enough, the Swing Step. Despite the name, it’s really part of the standard Foxtrot repertoire.

To do this step, the leader should face the wall and start by stepping with left foot to the side (down the line of dance).   Here’s a break down beat-by-beat.

1.  Leader steps side with left foot changing weight to left foot.
2. On the 2nd beat of music, the leader draws his right foot to his left foot, but does not put any weight on this right foot.  (Together beats one and two constitute one step since leader only changes weight once. Beats 1 and 2 are often counted as “SLOW.”)
3. On the 3rd beat, the leader steps back onto his right foot.
4. On the 4th beat, the leader draws his left foot to his right foot (with no weight).
Beats 3 and 4 may also be counted as “SLOW.”

5.  On the 5h beat, the leader steps to the side with left (changing weight to left foot).
6. On the 6th beat, the leader brings right foot to left foot (changing weight to right foot.)

Again, beats 1 and 2 are often counted as “SLOW” since there is no weight change on beat 2.  The leader can think of just taking a slow step with his left foot since the right foot is just “collecting” to the left foot and not really stepping.

Beat 3 and 4 are also counted as “SLOW” since there is no weight change on beat 4.

Beat 5 is counted as a quick.
Beat 6 is count as a quick.
The whole Foxtrot swing step pattern is SLOW, SLOW, QUICK QUICK.

This  pattern causes the couple to gradually move down the line of dance as the quick quick steps are taken on beats 5 and 6.

To change this to a real “Swing” pattern instead of a “Swing step in Foxtrot” the leader may do a rock step on beats 5 and 6 and lead his follower to do the same.  Notice that by rocking back on 5 and 6 you would not progress down the line of dance (counter clockwise around the ball room)

How to do a Rock Step. NOTE: to do a rock step, step back (changing weight) and then replace your weight back on your front foot. It’s kind of like a rocking-chair action as you go back and then spring forward again.  Usually it is best not to let the heel of the back foot touch the floor, but at the same time it’s important to really change weight when stepping back — don’t just  touch the foot stepping backward to the floor, but change weight on to it. By the same token, you should not fall backward onto the back foot since your goal is to spring forward putting weight back on the front foot.

Progress Check

1. The Swing Step in Foxtrot moves down the line of dance. (True or False?)

2. Whats the rhythm for the Swing Step? (pick one)

  • a) Quick Quick Slow
  • b) Slow Slow Quick Quick
  • c) Both
  • d) Neither

3. How many beats are their in the swing step pattern?

4. Do you change weight on both beat 5 and beat 6?

5. Why are beats 1 and 2 counted as a slow?

6. Does Swing (not the Swing Pattern in Foxtrot, but swing itself), progress down the line of dance?

Check your answers below the dashed line. If unsure of your answers, please reread the information above before checking your answers.

- – - -

1. Yes, the swing step in Foxtrot moves down the line of dance.
2. The rhythm is SLOW SLOW QUICK QUICK
3.  There are six beats in the Foxtrot Swing step as described here.
4.  Yes, there is a weight change on both beat 5 and beat 6.
5.  We count beats 1 and 2 because the leader does not really step onto his right foot but merely collects (or closes) his right foot to his left with not weigh on it.
6. Swing does not progress down the line of dance.

Now if you are dancing Foxtrot and you want to change to swing, I suggest you first do the Foxtrot Swing pattern I’ve described above — then it will be easy to transition to a real swing dancing style. Before switching to swing, though, remember to dance to the center of the dance floor so you don’t block dancers who are trying to move dance clockwise around the ballroom in Foxtrot style.

Progress Check

When dancing Foxtrot and then changing to swing style, first do a Foxtrot_________ pattern. ( fill in the blank)

- – - -

First do a Foxtrot Swing step.

When doing a swing step (not a Foxtrot Swing pattern)

Shaping During the Foxtrot Swing Pattern

When doing a swing pattern in Foxtrot its fun and looks good to stretch the side of your body that corresponds to the stepping foot.  In other words, when stepping with the left foot to the side, stretch your left side (causing your left shoulder to go up and your right shoulder to go down. In doing so, don’t think of lowering or collapse your right shoulder, but think of stretching your left side.

At first, leader will stretch his left side as he steps on his left foot and follower stretch her right side. On the second step, the leader will stretch his right side as he steps on his right foot; the follower will stretch her left side as she steps on to her left foot.)

(I’m assuming, here that leader is male and follower is female. In the ballroom world this is usually, but not always the case — especially in San Francisco. In San Francisco, teachers would never refer to ladies and gentlemen, but to leaders and followers. I was shocked when I first came to Sacramento to hear teachers always refer to leaders as gentlemen and followers as ladies.  I was also shocked — when I was told, “what are you doing here? You belong on that side of the room with the men”   After a while, I enjoyed replying with an accent I had learned so well in San Francisco with an inner smile, “Leave me alone!  I’m gay!  I can be a follower, too.)  But I digress.)

When doing the quick, quick steps both leader and follower “level off.” and do not stretch their sides.  When they again commense the slow step they again doing the shaping action by stretching their sides.

Progress Check

During the Swing Step in Foxtrot, when leader steps on the slow with his left foot, the leader stretches his _____ side. (Fill in the blank)

- – - -

The leader stretchs his left side when stepping onto a slow with his left foot.

When does the leader level off and not stretch his side?

- – - -

The leader levels off and does not stretch his side when doing the quick-quick steps (side together to the left)

This finishes this tutorial. Check back again for more lessons. If you would like private lessons, give me a call: 925-888-4392.

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