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Rotary Waltz: Transitions between cuddle and hammerlock, in a 16-bar sequence

This is the rotary waltz sequence demo'd and taught by Rick Lightbody and Carol Johnson at the Mostly Waltz event on Sunday, May 26, 2019 at Felinton Hall in Broomall, PA (near Philadelphia).

Thanks to Peggy Leiby & Ret Turner for creating and sustaining this wonderful monthly event and dance community, and for inviting us to be part of it.

The music in the video is "Movin' Along" by Toss the Possum, from their album "Waltzing the Possum Round the Room".

A description of the dance sequence can be found below.  For leaders who want to make the sequence flow beautifully (and thus to maximally impress your followers!), please also refer to the Tips & Technique section further below.

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Each numbered item below represents the moves for two bars of music. The entire sequence is 16 bars long,  and the sequence is repeated twice in this video, with an improvised "intermission" (turning basics and side-to-side balance steps) done for 8 bars between the two repetitions.

NB: If you click the "CC" (closed caption) icon on the bottom of the video frame, which will appear after you start the video playing, the numbers will be displayed in the video at the correct times, making it even easier for you to understand the breakdown of the sequence.

1. A turning basic, opening up to promenade position (PP) -- 6 counts total.

2. Waltz-walk forward along Line of Dance (LOD) in PP for counts 1-2-3; then continue, with a special downward "prep" movement of the connected hands on count 4; then a counterclockwise (CCW) turn for the follower (F) into cuddle (aka, "cradle") on counts 5-6.

3. Waltz-walk with F in cuddle for 6 counts.

4. Clockwise (CW) turn for the F for 6 counts, moving from cuddle into hammerlock.

5. The couple wheels around CW for 6 counts (one full rotation).

6. A compound turning movement for 6 counts: Leader (L) revolves CW all the way around follower, while he leads her to rotate CCW a half turn, from hammerlock back into cuddle.

7. Waltz-walk with F in cuddle for 6 counts

8. F's double CW turn out of cuddle for 6 counts. At the end of F's second turn (which is the end of the sequence), the L picks F up to go into a turning basic (which could be the beginning of another iteration of this sequence, or else some other move).
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Leaders, if you get pretty comfortable with this sequence, and your follower is very comfortable with all the turning involved, you may want a little additional excitement. If so, try taking out #3, and then #7, from the above sequence. These waltz-walks, even though they flow quite well with the rest, can be thought of as optional "padding", giving the leader time to collect his thoughts and both partners a chance to get re-oriented. But if you and your partner don't need the breather and you'd like more "whoosh" in your ride, try it without the padding. You'll need some additional technique, and your shortened sequence will no longer fit the musical phrase. But I suspect you'll figure things out nicely.

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Numbers given below refer to the numbered parts (each two bars long) of the waltz sequence shown and described above.

ONE:  T&T for specific parts of the sequence

A. In part #1, the turning basic into promenade position, the F is led to move pretty much the same as she would in a normal turning basic, counts 1-6.  The leader, however, holds back about 1/8th of a turn or so on count 6 and allows the frame to open up a bit into a "V" facing down LOD.

B. In #2, on count 4, the special "prep" movement (L's and F's connected hands moving downward) not only looks and feels distinctive and nice, but it helps the L to wait until count 5 to give the lead for the F's CCW turn into cuddle.  Otherwise, the L may be tempted to start the lead for the turn on count 4 (since that's a downbeat), but the F would be on the wrong foot for the turn.

C. In #2, on count 5, we recommend that the L give the F a gentle but solid nudge forward with his right hand.  This will help her start the CCW turn quickly, which helps her to complete the turn in only two counts (5-6).  Then the L's same hand needs to "trace" down the F's left arm to her hand, as she turns, to achieve the cuddle.

D. In #4, as the L takes the F into hammerlock, he needs to keep the "his-right-to-her-left" hand connection as low as gravity can naturally take it (without trying to force it down) before bringing the F's left arm and hand into the actual hammerlock position.  This is not only for the smoothness of the move, but more importantly, for the safety of her arm and shoulder.  And the F needs to collaborate here by letting her arm be very flexible as it momentarily hangs down.  But when her arm goes into hammerlock, she has the right to actively place her hand right where it will feel comfortable and not at risk, preferably on or near her lower back.

E. #4: This is a finessing of the previous technique.  In addition to keeping the right-to-left hand connection low as the F goes into hammerlock, if the L keeps those connected hands at a bit of a distance from his own thigh (maybe 10-12 inches away), that will help calibrate the distance between the L's and F's bodies so there'll be plenty of room for the F's bent right arm to pass through the "window" created by the left-to-right connection, without the F either clocking the L in the face with her elbow or having to contort her arm to avoid doing that.

F. In #4, the L should make sure to keep facing approximately forward LOD the whole time, while turning F into hammerlock for 2 bars.  And at the end of #4, the F should be facing backward LOD.

G. At the end of part #5, the wheel-around, the partners should be facing the same way, relative to LOD and to each other, as they were at the beginning of this part.

H. In #5, the axis of rotation/revolution—which had been within the F's body in #4 and will be again in #6—is between the partners' bodies.

I. In the last half or so of #6, the compound turning movement, the L can do two things to help the F orient properly as she finishes her CCW turn coming out of hammerlock and into cuddle:

    1) When the L's raised left hand, which is mostly in front of the F's forehead during her turn, reaches a point directly down LOD from her forehead, he should try to stop that hand's motion, and "post" it there in space; and

    2) When the L's low right hand is slightly down LOD from the follower, near the end of her turn, he can apply a slightly increased amount of tension downward (but don't overdo it), helping to "post" their connected hands in space as well.

Both of the above techniques will increase the chances that the F will be facing LOD at the end of #6, and will reduce any feeling of ambiguity and disorientation for her.

J. In #8, on count 1, we suggest that the L use a gentle but solid nudge with his forearm on the F's back, to help her start the turn and to make clear that travel down LOD during the turn is desired.

K. In #8, leaders, be sure to accurately track your follower during her double turn, as she moves forward along LOD, so that you're in a good position to pick her up in a closed hold at the end of her turn and to flow directly and smoothly into a turning basic (which comes after the sequence ends).

TWO:  T&T for the whole sequence

L. We recommend, for the several F's turns in this sequence, that the L provide a gentle and skillful stirring or "halo-ing" action with his raised (left) hand, rather than just providing the F with a fixed pivot point over the top of her head. But do NOT forcefully crank the turn lead.  However: If a L can't skillfully, collaboratively "stir" for some reason, then providing a fixed pivot point is far preferable to cranking.

M. Generally speaking, when the F is being lead in a one-hand-connected follower's turn, the F should attempt to keep her hand roughly in front of her forehead during the turn.  That idea is sometimes expressed as the F's guideline to "follow the hand".

N. Notice the amount of travel along LOD that occurs in different sections of the sequence.  Heading into the sequence from a turning basic, and for #1, #2, and the first part of #3, it's nice to be traveling at a decent speed.  But #4, #5, and #6 need to travel very little, if at all, so it's important to decelerate in the second part of #3.  (And this means, of course, that the leader needs to be very conscious of other dancers who may be traveling closely behind in the LOD, before deciding to execute this sequence on the social dance floor.)  Then, at the end of #6, it's nice, to provide additional contrast, for the L to use his forward momentum as he finishes his CW revolution around the F and comes up along side her, to bring the couple's speed along LOD back up to a good clip.