by Harold & Meredith Sears
4 beats/measure; 40-50 meas/min
The quickstep formed about 1925 out of a marching one step, a fast foxtrot, and some of the jazzy hops and skips of the charleston, which had originated as a solo dance in South Carolina and then was promoted by Ned Wayburn in the "Follies" of 1923 in New York. In the beginning, there was a lot of playful and even dangerous kicking to the side, which was smoothed out by 1926. Rise and fall came more from the ball of the foot and less from the knee, and the dance became more progressive, more gliding, and less choppy by 1927. The chasse was incorporated as a fundamental component of the dance.
So, very rapidly, the quickstep evolved into an up, light, airy, skipping sort of a dance. However, this is not the easy skipping of a child down the sidewalk. The quickstep is the skipping of a flat stone across a pond, especially at the end of the throw, where the skips are short and fast: bip-bip-bip-bip. Stay level. Don't slide the balls of your feet across the floor, but lift each foot and skim.
Use forward poise to keep your body and especially your head over your supporting foot. The fast flow of quickstep can easily get out of control when you want to change direction; momentum can become hard to overcome. So as you move forward, keep your head a little back. As you move back, keep your head forward, and as you change from forward to back, you won't have to fight to haul your body along.
There is a little rise and fall in the feet and knees, but rise to flexed knees only. If you straighten or lock the knees, you will pop up, and again, we are striving for a skipping look, not a jumping-jack look. Try to direct your rise laterally or even forward to achieve smooth progression rather than waltz-like rise and fall. Dance with a walking heel lead that puts you on the balls of your feet, and then stay up and in flight.
Two features that make quickstep an especially interesting, fun rhythm also make it difficult at first. These are the fast tempo and the almost perverse, ever changing combinations of quicks and slows (see the first column in the table below). Not only do figures vary one from another in the number and timing of their steps, but a given figure can vary at the choice of the choreographer, and I try to describe some of this variability below. There is a general rule that can help you decide which steps should be slow and which should be quick — usually, forward and back steps are slow and closing or locking steps are quick. Usually, exceptions to this rule will be clarified in the cue. For instance, the telemark to semi-closed position consists of three forward steps for the man (see below) and so uses three slow steps. If the cue is "quick open telemark," the count would be quick, quick, slow. However, given the fast tempo, you don't really have time to think through the rule as each figure is cued. You have to memorize the timing of each figure, as well as the steps (telemark is ss; s — quarter turns and progressive chasse is ss; qqs; sqq; s — V-six is qqs; sqq;) But this rich variety is half the fun. Mr. Alex Moore, one of the foremost teachers of English ballroom dance, has referred to the Quickstep as, "a dance that can never grow stale, a dance that is unquestionably the most attractive expression of rhythm the world has ever known."
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