Back Spot Turns (BST) are an important part of every ballroom dancers repertoire of patterns and are usually taught between six months and the first year of dance training, depending on the student’s rate of progress. The BST is fun and flashy, and can be used in many of the ballroom dances such as Rumba, Cha-Cha, Salsa/Mambo, Bolero, Merengue, Samba, Foxtrot, Waltz and you can even use it in Swing dancing, especially if you are using Lindy-timing. There are some common issues that happen to most students when learning the BST, which cause the dancers to look sloppy and out of control. They are:
1. The man’s right shoulder tends to remain in a forward position, instead of its usual “back and downward position used for closed dance position. This happens because the man has to reach around the lady with his right arm to lead her into the BST, and it causes his right shoulder to end up in front of his body instead of in its correct position. The man will need to train his body to maintain proper closed dance position alignment while executing the BST.
2. The lady rushes forward into the man, losing the connection with his right hand on the back of her left shoulder and upper left arm. This creates difficulty for the man to lead the BST, because he actually needs the lady to settle back into his frame to allow the lead to happen. Imagine a big “bear hug” in which both partners embrace, with the lady’s arms over the top of the man’s and her face on his left side. Now imagine separating, keeping contact with the arms until you reach dance position, at which point you should start to feel the frame stretch and create tension between the partners using the lady’s left hand on the back of the man’s right upper arm while the lady settles back into the man’s right arm that is connected to her on the back of her left shoulder. The free hand, which will be the lady’s right and the man’s left, should then be replaced with a “push” connection using the palms of the hands, just like regular closed dance position. This should create the feeling of a compact, solid connection between the two that will have to be rehearsed until it becomes natural.
3. The lady dances outside partner, instead of in closed position. This happens because of the natural centrifugal motion that happens during a BST that can create the desire to dance around the man, especially when dancing the faster dances such as Cha-Cha. The lady must remember to place her right foot in-between his feet on every other step, instead of dancing around and outside of his feet. Make sure that the shoulder points of both partners align parallel, instead of at an angle. This will help position the lady correctly so that her footwork has a better chance of being in the correct closed dance position during a BST.
I like to use the imagery of “7-11” for the man’s footwork. When his right foot crosses behind the left foot, it makes the number “7.” When he unwinds and steps with his left, his feet will be parallel to each other, in the shape of the number “11.” It is this “11” that the lady needs to place her right foot between during a BST. The lady needs to turn as tightly as she can, brushing the feet in-between each and every step to insure a tight circular motion.
Back Spot Turns are fun and they can really be helpful on crowded dance floors, since they take up only one little spot to execute. It will take several, if not many, lessons to learn to correctly dance a Back Spot Turn in each of the ballroom dances that can accommodate it. It is well worth learning though, because BSTs are transferrable to so many dances and can give the dancer an advanced look on the dance floor at an early stage of their dancing, if danced correctly. Each of the ballroom dances uses a slightly different variation for the approach and exit of the BST, but it is usually preceded with an open break and the BST itself is executed with the same footwork and closed dance position no matter which dance is being performed.
Brett Long, a professional ballroom dance instructor from Virginia Beach, demonstrates a Back Spot Turn in an easy-to-understand instructional video provided with this article (upper left-hand corner of the article). Note the compact frame and closed dance position that he and his partner have during the BST, and how her right foot steps in-between his feet each time he is in the “11” position, instead of going around and outside of his foot. If you live in the Virginia Beach area and would like to learn to ballroom dance, you can contact Brett through his Facebook page, or email him at BLong206B@gmail.com.