HowtoWriteaStepSheet A proposed vocabulary for line dancers byPeterBlaskowski You have choreographed the perfect dance. It fits the music and your personality. It is interesting, creative, and a sure-fire hit. Now you want to develop a clear textual description of the dance, which we call a step sheet. Perhaps English is not your native language, and you want to write a step sheet in English that makes sense to English-speaking people, without errors from computer-based translations. Perhaps you wonder why some step sheets are easier to read than others. You notice one portion of a step sheet is easy to read, while another portion of the same step sheet is totally unclear. Why does that happen? In this article I would like to address a few characteristics of step sheets that affect the reader's ability to understand what is written, and propose a concise line dance vocabulary that can be used for nearly all line dances ever written (so far). What makes a step sheet readable? A step sheet can never fully describe a dance. It can give a sense of how a dance should go, not describe it completely. Adding more words won't help. Just as a sculpture, river, or person cannot be fully described in text, neither can a dance. Accepting this, we can still wonder why one step sheet can be so much easier to read than another, in spite of the complexity of the dance described. Here are a few characteristics of easy-to-read step sheets. Simplicity Simplicity means using the fewest and most descriptive words possible. The step sheet vocabulary proposed in this article uses only 80 English words, all of which were chosen to be descriptive without confusion. This limited vocabulary was then organized into a structure that describes a line dance in the simplest possible form. This combination of simple vocabulary and simple structure is a very powerful tool for writing step sheets. Consistency Consistency means saying the same thing the same way every time. This is sometimes called using a "single voice" throughout the step sheet. Any instruction in a step sheet can be written multiple ways: Page | 1 "left foot - step to side", "left foot step left", "left foot step to left side", "left foot step to left", "left foot step to the left", "left foot to left side", "left foot to left", "left side step", "left side", "left step left", "left step side left", "left step to left side", "left step to side left", "left step to the left", "left to left side", "left to left", "left to side", "left to the side", "side step left", "step left foot to side", "step left foot to the left side", "step left with left foot", "step out left", "step to left with left", "step to the side with the left foot" All of these different voices (and many, many more) have been found in descriptions of a step to the left in actual step sheets at Kickit. In some cases, two or more different voices have been found in a single line of a step sheet: 1&2 Step left forward, step the right foot together, step forward on left Notice how stepping forward with the left foot happens twice, but is described in two different ways. This inconsistency decreases readability. When a step sheet seems understandable in one section, but unclear in another, the most likely cause is lack of consistency. The proposed step sheet vocabulary will help a step sheet writer to keep a consistent voice throughout a step sheet. Organization Organization means using words in a specific order to make the meaning clear. In the proposed step sheet vocabulary, steps are organized in an "action-subject-direction" format. For example, "step right forward" indicates the action is a step, the subject of that action is the right foot, and the direction of that step with the right foot is forward. By organizing all step sheet instructions the same way, we further enhance the step sheet's simplicity and consistency. Specificity Specificity means using specific words to mean specific things. All of the 80 words in the proposed step sheet vocabulary were chosen to make the meaning as specific as possible. Conventions Conventions are "rules of thumb" for applying the vocabulary to your step sheets. These conventions allow a step sheet writer to use the proposed vocabulary with a certain amount of flexibility, while staying within a framework that makes the step sheets easier to read. The conventions for this vocabulary are described later in this article. The Step Sheet Vocabulary Let's look at the proposed vocabulary, offered in its entirety on the last page of this document. Page | 2 The tables The vocabulary is organized in four tables, with each representing a class of line dance steps and patterns. The two at the top of the page are Weight Change (for actions that cause the dancer's weight to move from one foot to the other) and No Weight Change (for actions that do not cause the dancer's weight to move from one foot to the other). The two at the bottom of the page are Combos (for step combinations that are universally recognized by experienced line dancers), and Turns (for turns). As mentioned above, tables are generally organized in an "action-subject-direction" format. The Weight Change table, for example, starts like this: Actions that cause a weight change (step, rock, slide/step, sweep/step, stomp, lunge, cross, cross/rock, recover, etc.) are listed in Column A. Subjects of those actions are the right and left feet, toes, and heels, listed in Column B. Note that the vocabulary does not include the word "foot". When we say "step right forward", it is obvious that we intend to step the right foot forward, so we don't need to include that word. Directions indicate the final destination of the weight changes, and are listed in Column C. We will now look at the tables in more detail, and reveal some of the conventions for their use, beginning with directions. Directions To explore the possible directions in which actions can happen, let's imagine we want to write about stepping with the right foot. If the dancer is standing with feet together and the right foot free, there are a limited number of directions in which that foot can step. Forward, side, and back (with variations) The three most commonly used directions are forward, side, and back, as shown in the following three pictures. For each picture, we assume we start with the feet together and then step with Page | 3 the right foot. (The text below each picture shows the correct way to describe the step using the proposed vocabulary.) step right forward step right side step right back Each of those three can be adjusted slightly to create new directions. A. step right forward and across B. step right slightly forward C. step right forward and slightly side A. step right side and slightly forward B. step right slightly side C. step right side and slightly back A. step right back and across B. step right slightly back C. step right back and slightly side Steps toward the corners Steps toward the corners of the room are described as either diagonal or cross steps. If the right foot is moving rightward toward a corner, it is a "diagonal" move. If the right foot is moving leftward toward a corner, it is a "cross" move. That is, I do not say that the right foot steps "diagonally left", nor that the left foot steps "diagonally right". If either foot crosses over the other, it is called a cross step, not a diagonal step. A. step right diagonally forward B. step right diagonally back Page | 4 A. cross right over left B. cross right behind left Together, in place, and home There are three other directions found in Column C, each of which is difficult to show in a picture. Together – This indicates that the free foot moves next to the other foot, regardless of where it started, and is written like this: step right together In place – This indicates that the free foot does not move at all -- it stays exactly where it is -and is written like this: step right in place The term "in place" has historically been ambiguous in step sheets. Some use it as described here, with the foot staying wherever it is, regardless of where it started. Others use it to mean the foot moves next to the other foot, which this proposed vocabulary calls "together". Others use it instead of "recover" in a rock-recover pattern. Convention: To eliminate ambiguity, avoid using the phrase "in place" unless you mean to indicate that the foot begins on the floor and does not move at all, but stays in the same place on the floor. If it follows a "rock", call it a "recover." Home – This is an odd one. There is a common line dance step pattern than can be described as "out-out-in-in", where the feet move separately to the sides, then come separately together in the middle. The first and second "out" steps can be described as "step right side" and "step left side". But how do we describe the first "in" step? We are not stepping together. We are just stepping the right foot back to where it came from before the "out-out". I have chosen to use "step right home" for the first "in" step. The complete pattern would be written like this: step right side, step left side, step right home, step left together Home can also be used in line dancing's familiar "V" step: step right diagonally forward, step left side, step right home, step left together Actions and the subjects of those actions We have now seen how each of the directions can be specified when the action is a step with the right foot. Next let's look at all of the other possible actions that can be taken, one table at a time. In the Weight Change table, with a few exceptions, actions are used to move the dancer's weight from one foot to the other. step - You know. Step. By including the optional word big, you can indicate that the step is taken larger than usual. For example, here is a nightclub basic. 1-2& Big step right side, rock left back, recover to right Page | 5 cross - Cross is also a step, but with the stepping foot crossing over or behind the other foot. We have already seen an example of the use of cross in the direction discussion above. Here is another example, in this case a weave. 1-4 Cross right over left, step left side, cross right behind left, step left side rock, lunge, cross/rock, recover - A rock is a step with a weight change, but with the weight soon returning to the other foot without moving that other foot. Just as the word big is used to indicate a larger-than-usual step, a lunge is a larger-than-usual rock. A cross/rock is a rock that crosses over or behind the other foot. Convention: If an instruction starts with rock (or lunge or cross/rock), then the subsequent instruction must start with recover. If an instruction starts with recover, then the prior instruction must have started with rock (or lunge or cross/rock). Only a hold can separate rock from recover. 1-2 Lunge right forward, recover to left 3-4-5 Rock right back, hold, recover to left If there is a turn between the two, then it is not called a rock-recover. It is a step-turn with a weight change, 1-2 Step right forward, turn 1/4 left (weight to left) not 1-2 Rock right forward, turn 1/4 left and recover to left slide/step, sweep/step - If the path the foot takes while stepping is sliding along the floor in a straight line, you can call it a slide/step. If the path is sliding along the floor (or slightly in the air) in a curved line, you can call it a sweep/step. 1-2 Slide/step left forward (sweep right back to front), sweep/step right forward stomp - A stomp is a step with enough force to make a noise as the foot lands on the floor. It differs slightly from other actions in the Weight Change table because it may or may not actually cause a weight change. For example, in 1-2 Stomp right together, stomp right together it is clear that the weight does not change to the right foot on the first stomp, since the right foot must be free to make the second stomp. You can add more information in parentheses to indicate what happens to the weight on the second stomp. 1-2 Stomp right together, stomp right together (weight to right) In the past, some have used stomp up & stomp down or stomp & stamp to indicate whether the weight is supposed to change, but those terms were never universally accepted. lock - This is a step in which the feet are placed as close together as possible with the legs crossed at the ankles. For example, here is a locking chassé forward. 1&2 Step right forward, lock left behind right, step right forward Lock is normally used only when moving forward or back, but can also be used for the first count of a cross-unwind. 1-2 Lock left behind right, unwind 1/2 left (weight to left) hop - This a weight change in which the weight begins and ends on a the same foot, but temporarily leaves that foot as the foot hops off the floor. 1&2 Step right forward, hop right forward, hop right forward Page | 6 drop - Drop is used exclusively for toe struts and heel struts. The first count of a strut is a step with heel or toe, and then it ends with a drop. 1-2 Step right heel forward, drop right toe 3-4 Step left toe side, drop left heel Note that the first part of a toe strut or heel strut is a step, taking partial weight. Therefore, drop does not actually change the weight from one foot to the other. It does, however, change the way the weight is applied to the floor. That's why it appears in the Weight Change table. sway, bump - There is a dance action (used in smooth dances like foxtrot and waltz) called a sway, in which one side of the body is stretched longer than the other so the upper body sways to the side. Line dance step sheets also use the word sway to indicate a smooth hip motion to the side, with bump indicating a sharp hip motion to the side. To avoiding ambiguity and inconsistency, use these terms as follows: sway - a smooth (legato) motion to the side, forward, or back bump - a sharp (staccato) motion to the side, forward, or back Convention: Bump is the default action for hips and shoulders, so "bump hip right" is the same as "hip right." In all cases, you must specify what is being bumped or swayed (body, shoulder, or hip). Example: 1-2 Step right side and hip right, hip left (weight to left) which could also be written as 1-2 Rock right side (hip right), recover to left (hip left) skate - A skate is a standard line dance action that is a step curving to diagonally forward as it advances. If starting facing forward, a right skate is done by beginning to swivel both heels to the left as the right foot slides forward. The path of the right foot curves to the right as the heels swivel more to the left, and ends with the dancer facing the right diagonal with the right foot forward. This is often followed a left skate, which turns to the left diagonal (by swiveling the heels right) as the left foot slides a curving step forward. There are only two ways to skate; right and left. 1-2 Skate right, skate left In the No Weight Change table, actions are taken without changing the dancer's weight from its current location. touch, cross/touch - These are the same as step and cross, except there is no weight change. Convention: For any touch action, the default is a touch with the toe, so "touch forward" means to touch the toe forward. Convention: For a temporary touch action, where the foot only touches the floor momentarily and then leaves the floor (sometimes called a tap), include the styling information in parentheses. 1-2 Touch right forward (tap), step right together In the past, some have used point instead of touch. Point has been omitted from the vocabulary to keep the word list as short as possible. kick, cross/kick - Kick actions are similar to the touch actions, except off the floor, usually initiated with movement from the hip and knee. To add styling to a kick, include the styling information in parentheses. 1-2 Kick right forward (low), step right together Page | 7 hook - A hook is done by bringing the ankle of the free foot to contact slightly below the knee of the weighted leg. When done in front, the back of the ankle contacts the shin. When done behind, the front of the ankle contacts the calf. 1-2 Touch right heel forward, hook right over left flick - A flick is a back kick, done by bending the knee, rather than by moving the hip. To describe additional styling for a flick, include the styling information in parentheses. 1-2 Flick right back (behind left), step right together drag, slide - These two words are nearly synonymous, though a drag is done with more force into the floor than a slide. hitch - A hitch is performed by lifting the knee. There are only two hitch commands: hitch right knee hitch left knee To add styling to a hitch, include the styling information in parentheses. 1-2 Hitch right knee (across left), step right together brush - A brush is done by sliding one foot forward or back, next to the other, and close enough that one shoe brushes against the other. Depending on the style of dance and rhythm of music, the toe, sole, or heel of the foot may simultaneously brush the floor. This action was formerly called a scuff. sweep, rondé - These two words are nearly synonymous, though a sweep is done with the sweeping foot in contact with the floor while the rondé may be either on the floor or aerial. Both are rounded, curving motions. The description of the action will include the locations of the start and end of the curve. For sweeps that last more than 1 count describe the counts in separate parentheses. 1-2 Sweep left front to back (over 2 counts) swivel - A swivel is done by moving just the toe or heel of one or both feet to the side. The dancer puts weight on the heel of the foot to swivel the toe to either side, or puts weight on the toe to swivel the heel to either side. In addition, the vocabulary includes knees under the swivel action, so that knees can be turned in or out (usually accompanied by the heel swiveling in the opposite direction). As we will see in the actions done in the Turns table, a swivel may be used to initiate a turn. swivet - A swivet is a special swivel, in which the heel of one foot and the toe of the other simultaneously swivel outward, usually returning to the starting position. bounce - A bounce is equivalent to a heel drop used in toe struts, except the heel is raised immediately after striking the floor. Meanwhile, the weight remains on the opposite foot. Bounce is often used to "mark time", with the heel possibly striking the floor hard enough to make a sound. 1-2-3 Touch left toe forward, bounce left heel, bounce left heel hold, clap, snap fingers - These are the "do nothing" actions. They are usually interchangeable with each other, and there is no reason to combine them. For example, you don't need to say "hold and clap", because "clap" says it all. Convention: You can use clap or snap fingers on an '&' count, but do not use hold on an '&' count. The Combos table lists a few combination step patterns that are so commonplace in line dancing that they have universal names. The table has an extra column for counts. This is meant to show the usual Page | 8 timing for each of the combos, but it is possible to change the timing on most of the combos. In general, actions in the Combos table should only be used when writing step sheets for dances higher than the beginner level. Let's look at the actions in column A of the Combos table, with descriptions of each combination named. vine - A vine (or grapevine) is a non-turning 3-count pattern with actions of "step side, cross behind, step side", generally followed by a 4th count action to make the counts even. Line dancers have historically used the term vine to include some turning patterns as well, so those patterns are included as well. - vine turning 1/4 (side, cross behind, turn 1/4 and step forward) - vine turning 1/2 (side, cross behind, turn 1/4 and step forward, turn 1/4 and do the 4th count action) - vine turning a full turn (turn 1/4 and step forward, turn 1/2 and step back, turn 1/4 and step side) Some possible vine combinations are as follows: 1-4 Vine right, touch left together 5-8 Vine left turning 1/4 left, step right forward 1-4 Vine left turning 1/2 left, step right side 5-8 Vine left turning a full turn left, touch right together rocking chair - A rocking chair is a pair of rock steps forward-and-back or back-and-forward, usually done over 4 counts. The description starts with the name of the foot that rocks forward or back for the first rock step. 1-4 Right rocking chair forward and back & Step right together 5-8 Left rocking chair back and forward open jazz box, closed jazz box - A jazz box is a 4-count pattern for which the first three counts are "cross-back-side". For a closed jazz box, the 4th count is "together". For an open jazz box, the 4th count is "forward". It is also possible to turn a jazz box 1/4 between the 2nd and 3rd counts. Note to new choreographers: A turning jazz box that starts with the right foot crossing over must turn right. A turning jazz box that starts with the left foot crossing over must turn left. That is, 1-2 Cross right over left, step left back 3-4 Turn 1/4 right and step right side, step left together can be simplified as 1-4 Closed jazz box turning 1/4 right Page | 9 Monterey turn - A Monterey turn is one of the few combinations that is unique to line dancing (not shared by other dance styles). It is typically a 4-count pattern done as "touch side, step together, touch side, step together" with a turn occurring between counts 1 and 2. The turn can be any amount, but the most typical amounts are 1/4 and 1/2. 1-2 Touch right side, turn 1/2 right and step right together 3-4 Touch left side, step left together can be simplified as 1-4 Monterey turn 1/2 right If the 4th count is "touch left together," it becomes 1-4 Monterey turn 1/2 right with touch ending Note to new choreographers: A Monterey turn that begins with the right foot touched to the side will always turn to the right. A Monterey turn that begins with the left foot touched to the side will always turn to the left. triple in place - A triple in place is a non-traveling combination of three weight changes, usually done over 2 counts using 1&2 timing, with steps of "together, together, together". 1&2 Step right together, step left together, step right together can be simplified as 1&2 Triple in place right-left-right A triple in place can be done with various amounts of turn. The description of the turn follows the description of the triple in place. 1&2 Triple in place right-left-right turning 1/2 right chassé - A chassé is a traveling combination of three weight changes, usually done over 2 counts using 1&2 timing, with steps of "step, together, step". The starting and finishing steps travel in the same direction as each other, which can be any direction other than across. 1&2 Step right forward, step left together, step right forward can be simplified as 1&2 Chassé forward right-left-right A chassé can be done with various amounts of turn. The description of the turn follows the description of the chassé. 1&2 Chassé side left-right-left turning 1/4 left The art of combining turns with chassés is a big subject. Please see the section of this document that deals with the Turns table for more information on the particulars of describing turning chassés. locking chassé - A locking chassé is a traveling combination of three weight changes, usually done over 2 counts using 1&2 timing, with steps of "step, lock, step". The starting and finishing steps travel in the same direction as each other, which must be forward, back, or diagonally. 1&2 Step right diagonally forward, lock left behind right, step right diagonally forward can be simplified as 1&2 Locking chassé diagonally forward right-left-right Page | 10 crossing chassé - A crossing chassé is a traveling combination of three weight changes, usually done over 2 counts using 1&2 timing, with steps of "cross, together, cross". A crossing chassé will travel sideways or diagonally to the left or right. 1&2 Cross right over left, step left together, cross right over left can be simplified as 1&2 Crossing chassé right-left-right (Technically, the middle step of a crossing chassé is not a step together. It is more like a "step slightly back" or "step side and slightly back." But rather than pick nits on the details, it is simpler to use the vocabulary and call it a crossing chassé.) behind-side-cross - A behind-side-cross is a traveling combination of three weight changes, usually done over 2 counts using 1&2 timing, with steps of "cross behind, step side, cross over". A behindside-cross will always travel sideways to the left or right. 1&2 Cross right behind left, step left side, cross right over left can be simplified as 1&2 Behind-side-cross right-left-right kick ball change - A kick ball change is a non-traveling combination of three actions, usually done over 2 counts using 1&2 timing, with actions of "kick forward, step together, step together". 1&2 Kick right forward, step right together, step left together can be simplified as 1&2 Right kick ball change Technically, a right kick ball change could be more correctly described as "kick right forward, step right slightly back (3rd pos), step left in place". That is the correct footwork for a kick ball change. But rather than pick nits on the details, it is simpler to use the vocabulary and call it a kick ball change. kick ball step, kick ball cross - These two patterns are identical to a kick ball change except for the final action. A kick ball step ends with a step forward. A kick ball cross ends with a cross step. mambo step - A mambo step is a combination of three weight changes, usually done over 2 counts using 1&2 timing, with steps of "rock, recover, step together". The rock is done forward, back, or to the side. 1&2 Rock right side, recover to left, step right together can be simplified as 1&2 Right mambo step side Page | 11 coaster step - A coaster step is a combination of three weight changes, usually done over 2 counts using 1&2 timing, with steps of "back, together, forward". 1&2 Step right back, step left together, step right forward can be simplified as 1&2 Right coaster step Line dancers have historically used the term forward coaster step when the steps are "forwardtogether-back", so that pattern is included as well. 1&2 Step left forward, step right together, step left back can be simplified as 1&2 Left forward coaster step Convention: Coaster steps do not turn. To describe a combination that resembles a coaster step, but turns, describe each individual step. 1&2 Step left back, step right together, turn 1/4 left and step left forward scissor step - A scissor step is a combination of three weight changes, usually done over 2 counts using 1&2 timing, with steps of "side rock, recover, cross over". 1&2 Rock right side, recover to left, cross right over left can be simplified as 1&2 Right scissor step Page | 12 sailor step - A sailor step is a combination of three weight changes, usually done over 2 counts using 1&2 timing, with steps of "cross behind, side, side". 1&2 Cross right behind left, step left side, step right side can be simplified as 1&2 Right sailor step It is also possible add a turn to a sailor step after the first count. The typical amounts of turn are 1/4 and 1/2. Note to new choreographers: A turning sailor step that starts with the right foot crossing behind must turn right. A turning sailor step that starts with the left foot crossing behind must turn left. That is, 1&2 Cross right behind left, turn 1/4 right and step left side, step right side can be simplified as 1&2 Right sailor step turning 1/4 right and 1 Cross right behind left & Turn 1/4 right and step left side 2 Turn 1/4 right and step right forward can be simplified as 1&2 Right sailor step turning 1/2 right A note about technique: A sailor step begins and ends on exactly the same spot on the floor, except with the weight on the opposite foot. For example, if the sailor step begins with the right foot at Point A on the floor, the cross behind with the left foot moves the dancer to the right slightly, the step to the side with the right moves the dancer slightly more to the right, and the final step to the side with the left is meant to land exactly back on Point A, where the right foot began. When doing a 1/4 turning sailor step, the last step is still to the side to return to Point A. But when doing a 1/2 turning sailor step, the last step must be taken forward to return to Point A. Try it yourself and see. Cool, eh? The Turns table, though short, represents an important facet of line dance step sheets that is far too complicated to explore here. To simplify, here are the conventions for describing turns. Convention: A turn and an action (especially a weight changing action) cannot happen simultaneously. One of them must happen before the other. Convention: Combine turns and actions into a single expression that replicates the order in which they happen. Example: The dancer should turn, and then step. 1 Turn 1/4 left and step left forward not 1 Step left forward while turning 1/4 left (wrong order, step described before turn) and not 1 Turn 1/4 left, step left forward (two expressions, split by a comma) Page | 13 Convention: The turn always get combined with the action that follows it, never the action that precedes it. Example 1: The dancer should step, then turn, then step. 1-2 Step right forward, turn 1/4 right and step left side not 1-2 Step right forward and turn 1/4 right, step left side (combined with preceding action) Example 2: The turn happens after the last step of a set of 8 counts Move the turn to the start of the next set of 8 counts 8 Step right forward (toe turned out) 1 Turn 1/4 right and step left side not 8 Step right forward (toe turned out), turn 1/4 right (combined with preceding action) 1 Step left side "Aha," you think, "What about when the turn is at the very end of a dance?" That's a special case that rarely happens, but when it does, I like to see an extra line after the last count. 8 Step right forward (toe turned out) Turn 1/4 right to begin the dance again I have seen other solutions to the turn-at-the-end situation. A few step sheets show the turn at the beginning, before step 1, and then a note that says omit the turn on the first repetition of the dance. I think that adds more confusion than the turn at the end of a dance. Convention: If the action that follows a turn is only a weight change, without moving either foot, put it in parentheses. Example: 1 Turn 1/2 right (weight to right) Convention: For a triple step in place that turns, tell which feet to use and then the amount and direction of the turn. Example: 1&2 Triple in place right-left-right turning 1/4 right Convention: When a chassé is turning, tell the direction the chassé will travel (forward, side, etc.), then which feet to use, and finally the amount and direction of the turn that will occur during the chassé. Example: 1&2 Chassé side right-left-right turning 1/4 right Different dancers will dance this chassé differently, depending on their own body structure, ability, and balance. Some will turn sooner and some later, or spread the turn out over the entire chassé. With this turning chassé, you might see the following: Dancer 1: step right side, turn 1/8 right, step left together, turn 1/8 left, step right forward Page | 14 Dancer 2: step right side, step left together, turn 1/4 right, step right forward Dancer 3: turn 1/4 right, step right forward, step left together, step right forward Dancer 4: step right side, step left together, step right side, turn 1/4 right Each of these dancers accomplishes "Chassé side right-left-right turning 1/4 right" in their own way. Note that Dancer 3 did a "chassé side" without ever doing a side step. That is okay, because "chassé side" describes the direction the chassé travels (to the side), not the types of steps taken during the chassé. If you want the dancers to dance a specific combination of steps and turns, then you should describe those individual steps and turns. If you say a "side chassé right-left-right turning 1/4 right" you leave it open for some dancer interpretation. Convention: There is no "pivot" in the vocabulary. It has been superseded by the word "turn." Line dancers curiously use the term "pivot" for two completely different turns. Both of the following are called pivot turns by line dancers. LINE DANCER PIVOT TURN 1-2 Step right foot forward, turn 1/2 left and shift weight to the left foot at its current location ACTUAL PIVOT TURN 3-4 Step right foot forward, turn 1/2 right (or left) and step the left foot back The rest of the (non-line dancing) dance world uses the term "pivot turn" only for the second one. Notice that the line dancers' pivot turn (counts 1-2) has separated thighs and both feet stationary after the initial forward step, while an actual pivot turn (counts 3-4) has thighs locked together and the free foot moving to a new position on the floor after the initial forward step. This is no small difference, so step sheets that use the term "pivot" for both types of turns are often unclear. To eliminate the ambiguity, "pivot" has been eliminated from the proposed vocabulary. For nearly all turns, use "turn". If both feet stay in place after the initial step, you could also use "swivel". There are a few other options in the Turns table as well. The appropriate expression for describing the "Line Dancer Pivot Turn" shown above is as follows: 1-2 Step right forward, turn 1/2 left (weight to left) Since this turn is a found in many (if not most) line dances, the format shown here will become very familiar to all who use this vocabulary. step right forward, turn 1/4 left (weight to left) step left forward, turn 1/4 right (weight to right) The amount of turn may vary slightly, but these two examples represent nearly all of the "Line Dancer Pivot Turns" in every step sheet written so far. With those conventions in mind, let's look at the actions in the Turns table. Page | 15 turn - A complete discussion of how to describe a turn is found above. Examples included: 1 Turn 1/4 left and step left forward 1-2 Step right forward, turn 1/4 right and step left side 1 Turn 1/2 right (weight to right) 1&2 Triple in place right-left-right turning 1/4 right 1-2 Step right forward, turn 1/2 left (weight to left) spiral turn - A spiral turn begins with a step forward and across. The dancer then swivels 3/4 or more, keeping the non-weighted foot in one location on the floor as long as possible. Soon after the swivel exceeds 1/2, the non-weighted foot will begin to move from its location and that leg will hook over the front of the weighted leg. This position will continue for the rest of the spiral turn. Indicate the final weight distribution in parentheses. Spiral turn is rarely used in dances below the intermediate level. 1-2 Step left forward and across, spiral turn a full turn right (weight to left) pencil turn - A pencil turn is a turn on one foot while the other foot is held near to the floor, next to the weighted foot. Pencil turn is rarely used in dances below the intermediate level. 1 Turn 1/4 right and step right forward 2 Pencil turn 3/4 right and step left together 3 Turn 1/4 right and step right forward unwind - Unwind is a turn that begins with the legs crossed. Both feet remain in place and swivel in the direction that uncrosses the legs. If the right foot begins crossed behind, the unwind is to the right. If the left foot begins crossed behind, the unwind is to the left. The unwind sometimes continues until the legs are crossed again in the opposite direction. Indicate the final weight distribution in parentheses. 1-2 Cross left over right, unwind 1/2 right (weight to left) swivel - The swivel turn is done by keeping both feet in in their original locations on the floor while the heels swivel the dancer to a new direction. It is an augmentation of the swivel action found in the No Weight Change table - with the additional quality of changing the direction the dancer faces. This was described more simply above as a turn. The dance pattern 1-2 Step right forward, turn 1/2 left (weight to left) could also have been written as 1-2 Step right forward, swivel 1/2 left (weight to left) The main reason to use the word "swivel" instead of turn is to emphasize the swiveling of the feet that makes the turn (rather than the turning of the body). In the following example, the swiveling of the heels is the most significant feature of the swivel that turns first one direction, then the other. Indicate the final weight distribution in parentheses. 1-2-3 Step left side, swivel 1/4 left, swivel 1/2 right (weight to right) Conventions A simple, consistent, organized, specific vocabulary alone does not make a complete specification for writing step sheets. There is also a need for conventions for using that vocabulary. Many of the conventions of this vocabulary are highlighted above in yellow. The following are a few additional conventions that did not fit in the sections above. Page | 16 Convention: Keep styling separate from footwork by putting it on a separate line of the step sheet, or by including it on the same line surrounded by parentheses. To describe motions of the hands, arms, head, or other body parts not included in the vocabulary, write descriptions separate from the steps. Combining actions with styling may lead to confusion. For example, here is an actual line from an actual step sheet. 1 Kick left foot forward with head turning right and left index finger pointing skyward This is confusing. "Kick the left foot forward with the head"? "Turning the right and left index fingers"? "Pointing something skyward"? It becomes easier to understand once we separate the styling to a new line. 1 Kick left forward During the kick, turn the head to the right and point your left index finger skyward Another option for keeping the styling separate is to include it on the same line, but surrounded by parentheses. 1 Kick left forward (During the kick, turn the head to the right and point your left index finger skyward) When you perform and teach your dance, feel free to show the styling intended. But attempting to include it all in the step sheet may make the step sheet needlessly complex. Convention: Write 3rd position and 5th position as styling choices for other steps. You can describe 3rd position or 5th position as a step slightly back, or a step together. Include the foot position styling in parentheses. Here is the technically correct description of a kick ball change. 1&2 Kick right forward, step right slightly back (3rd position), step left in place which of course can be shortened to 1&2 Right kick ball change Convention: Use "forward and across" for the forward step in prissy walks. The differences between steps at angles are sometimes small. Two that are very closely related are the cross step ("cross right over left") and the forward-and-across step ("step right forward and across"). The difference is in the direction of motion of the body. In the cross step, the body motion is mostly to the side, as in a vine or weave. In the forward-and-across step, the body motion is mostly forward, as in Prissy Walks. PRISSY WALKS 1-2 Step right forward and across, step left forward and across Page | 17 Personal Note I believe the four tables in the vocabulary contain enough flexibility to describe every line dance ever written so far. Feel free to look through the four tables and the language conventions (especially the ability to give styling details separately) to decide if you agree. If you think of a step that is missing and needs to be added to the tables, please contact me. Keep in mind that a styling difference may not be a different step. For example, "hitch right knee" and "hitch right knee across left" are the same thing, with only a styling difference. For simplicity, the vocabulary includes "hitch right knee", but does not include "hitch right knee across left". Also, if you are fluent in a language other than English, I am seeking collaborators to translate the tables to other languages. Conclusion In this article I have cited a few characteristics of step sheets that affect your ability to read and understand them. I have introduced a simple line dance vocabulary with usage conventions that can improve the quality of dance write-ups. I hope some of this will be useful, and that step sheets become more readable over time. One final note: When a dance is submitted to Kickit, I sometimes try to convert it to the standard vocabulary, making my best guess on what is intended. I hope those who submit dances will review my re-wording and send corrections as needed, while checking their original text to see why it was misinterpreted. In the long run, I hope to see more dances submitted using this standard vocabulary from the start, so I can spend a reduced amount of time converting text. Page | 18 Appendix. Design Choices Certain choices had to be made to produce a vocabulary this robust, yet simple. Different choices would have led me to a different vocabulary. Here are some of the choices made for this vocabulary. Fractions Directional language is learned by toddlers, so everyone understands forward, back, side, and diagonal. Fractions are taught to school-age children, so nearly everyone understands 1/2, 1/4, and 1/8. Geometry is taught later, and to fewer people, so a smaller group understands degrees like 180°, 90°, and 45°. Therefore, I prefer 1/2 and 1/4 instead of 180° and 90°, and diagonal(ly) instead of 1/8 or 45°. I use the numbers 1/2 and 1/4 rather than the words half and quarter. Right/left vs. clockwise/counterclockwise I use right and left, not clockwise and counterclockwise (or anticlockwise), to describe turn directions. Why? Digital watches. Shoulders on turns In many step sheets, the text says to "turn over the right shoulder", when it could be simplified to "turn right". We don't need to mention the dancer's right shoulder to describe a right turn. A line dancer who has progressed enough to attempt reading step sheets should have already been taught that the direction of a turn is specified by which shoulder moves back. Word choice Where possible, I have chosen simpler words. Clap is identical to but simpler than Clap both hands together in front of you. In many cases, I have omitted words that are incorrect or imprecise. Forwards: I use "forward" (the direction), not "forwards" (the goal scorers in soccer). Backwards: I use "back", not "backwards." Shuffle: The word "shuffle" is used in different ways in different dance styles, so I avoid it entirely. If the pattern is moving (forward/side/etc.), it is a chassé. If stationary, it is a triple in place. Military Turn: This is a specific dance step that usually starts with a back step or touch. It's an archaic term that served its purpose 15-20 years ago, but is no longer relevant in line dancing. Page | 19 Kickit Standard Line Dance Vocabulary Weight Change No Weight Change Column A Column B Column C Column A Column B Column C [big] step rock slide/step sweep/step stomp lunge right|left [toe|heel] forward [and across | and slightly side] | side [and slightly forward | and slightly back] | back [and across | and slightly side] | diagonally forward | diagonally back | together | in place | home | slightly forward | slightly back | slightly side touch right|left [heel] forward [and across | and slightly side] | side [and slightly forward | and slightly back] | diagonally forward | together | in place | home | slightly forward | slightly side touch right|left back [and across | and slightly side] | diagonally back | slightly back cross cross/rock right|left [toe|heel] over right|left behind right|left cross/touch right|left [heel] over left|right to right|left cross/touch flick right|left behind left|right over left|right behind left|right flick right|left back | diagonally back kick right|left forward | back | side | diagonally forward | diagonally back cross/kick hook right|left over left|right drag slide right|left toward right|left hitch right knee|left knee brush right|left forward | back sweep rondé right|left from front to back | front to side | back to front | back to side | side to front | side to back swivel right|left heel right|left toe right|left knee heels | toes out | in | together | apart | to right | to left | to center swivel [right heel and left toe to] right | left | center [left heel and right toe to] swivet [right heel and left toe to] out | center [left heel and right toe to] bounce right heel | left heel recover lock right|left hop right|left|both feet drop right|left heel right|left toe bump sway [body] | [shoulder] | [hip] skate right|left forward | side | back | diagonally forward | diagonally back | together | in place | slightly forward|back|side right|left|forward|back Combos Counts Column A Column B Column C 1-2-3 vine right|left [turning X/Y right|left] 1-2-3-4 [right|left] rocking chair forward and back back and forward 1-2-3-4 open jazz box closed jazz box [turning 1/4 right|left] 1-2-3-4 Monterey turn X/Y right|left [with touch ending] 1&2 triple in place left-right-left right-left-right [turning X/Y right|left] 1&2 chassé locking chassé 1&2 crossing chassé [diagonally forward] behind-side-cross 1&2 [right|left] kick ball change [right|left] kick ball step [right|left] kick ball cross 1&2 [right|left] mambo step 1&2 right|left [forward] coaster step right|left scissor step 1&2 right|left sailor step forward | back | side diagonally forward diagonally back left-right-left right-left-right [turning X/Y right|left] hold | clap snap fingers left-right-left right-left-right Column A Column B Column C turn spiral turn pencil turn X/Y right|left [(weight to right | weight to left)] unwind X/Y (weight to right|left) forward | back | side [turning X/Y right|left] Turns swivel • • • 1/8 | 1/4 | 1/2 right|left Words in [square brackets] are optional For items separated by vertical bars (e.g., right|left), choose only one X/Y is a fraction like 1/8, 1/4, 1/2, 3/4, etc., or else the phrase "a full turn"
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