Monday, August 1, 2011

Why don't we do courtesy turns? And what is a courtesy turn, anyway?


A courtesy turn is special way of performing a left hand turn that is very pretty, but entirely out of the period that we are recreating. We don't "do" courtesy turns in our vintage balls because they hadn't been invented during the nineteenth century. If the people of the nineteenth century had been doing something as pretty as a courtesy turn, some dance master would surely have described it. As it is, the first mention that I've been able to find is in the 1950s square dance community.

I am now going to describe a courtesy turn, so that you'll be able to recognize when others perform one, and refrain from performing one yourself!

The lady and gentleman take left hands. The gentleman reaches his right hand to rest it low on the lady's back. He applies only a gentle pressure. His right hand guides the lady forward while he steps backward. They are both facing the same direction and move around a pivot point that is between them.

What should you do instead? Why, a left hand turn. In this turn, the lady and gentleman take left hands and walk in a little circle. The pivot point is just where their hands meet, and each one is walking forward in an arc. When the lady reaches the place she needs to be, the man makes a tiny turn to face in the same direction as the lady.

It seems to fit the aesthetic of the 19th century that both the lady and gentleman walk forward. If you are used to that concept, it might seem a little affected that the man would scoot backward to "assist" the lady around.