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Modern Dancing by Vernon and Irene Castle Chapter 3
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UP to the present moment by far the most popular of all dances is the One Step. There are many reasons for its popularity, the chief being that it can be learned in a very little time by any one, old or young, who is able to walk in time to music—and, I might say, by many who cannot. Another reason is because the music is rag-time. People can say what they like about rag-time. The Waltz is beautiful, the Tango is graceful, the Brazilian Maxixe is unique. One can sit quietly and listen with pleasure to them all; but when a good orchestra plays a “rag” one has simply got to move. The One Step is the dance for rag-time music.


This is the way to dance it: The dancers stand directly in front of each other, the lady's right hand in the gentleman's left. The elbows should be slightly bent, not held out stiffly, like the bowsprit of a boat, as this not only looks awkward, but is uncomfortable and often dangerous to the other dancers. The gentleman's right hand should be a little above the lady's waist-line, more or less over her left shoulder-blade; but this, of course, depends upon the size of the lady. All I would say is: Don't stand too close together or too far apart; be comfortable, and you stand a good chance of looking graceful. The lady's left hand should rest lightly on the gentleman's right shoulder. She should not curl her arm tightly around his. The gentleman usually starts forward and the lady backward—the reason being that the lady is generally more graceful and can go backward with greater ease, and a man can also see where he is going and thus prevent a collision with other couples.

Now to begin with the dance: the gentleman starts forward with his left foot, and the lady steps backward with her right, walking in time to the music. Bear in mind this one important point: When I say walk , that is all it is. Do not shuffle, do not bob up and down or trot. Simply walk as softly and smoothly as possible, taking a step to every count of the music.

This is the One Step, and this is all there is to it. There are very many different figures, but they are in this same strict tempo. It is simply one step—hence its name. I am going to try to explain the different figures, more or less in the order in which they should be learned. This will make the dance comparatively simple even for those who have never tried it—if there are any.


First of all, walk as I have already explained in the One Step. Now, raise yourself up slightly on your toes at each step, with the legs a trifle stiff, and breeze along happily and easily, and you know all there is to know about the, Castle Walk. To turn a corner you do not turn your partner round, but keep walking her backward in the same direction, leaning over slightlyjust enough to make a graceful turn and keep the balance well—a little like a bicycle rounding a corner. If you like, instead of walking along in a straight line, after you have rounded your corner, you can continue in the same slanting position, which will naturally cause you to go round in a circle. Now continue, and get your circle smaller and smaller until you are walking around almost in one spot, and then straighten up and start off down the room again. It sounds silly and is silly. That is the explanation of its popularity!


The Eight Step is really a Tango step. From the plain One Step, in which both partners are facing each other, the gentleman, who should be walking forward, turns the lady so that she is facing in the same direction as himself. It is not necessary to change the step or to stop walking. They then walk forward two steps on the first step of the figure—the gentleman on his left and the lady on her right. Without loosening the hold any more than is necessary, they both turn on the third step, making a revolution toward the inside. After that the arms, which hitherto have been extended straight in front of them, are at the back, and they look over their elbows. Then they walk two more steps, the lady leading with the left foot, the gentleman with the right foot. On the third beat of the music they turn as before, but this time the movement is toward the outside, and again with only an almost imperceptible loosening of the hold. This brings them to the first position of the step, which they may continue any number of times.

To learn this step correctly a little patience is necessary. I advise doing it very slowly at first, so as to get the exact position of the feet and body. Do not let your partner walk away from you, but keep opposite each other as much as possible, and do not turn abruptly. The figure should be danced in a square. If you take the four walls of the room as your guide, you will find the step much easier to learn. The gentleman should keep his right hand very loosely at the lady's back, so that she can turn with ease.


This is probably the most important step of all, yet there are very few people who do it correctly. One main point you must bear in mind, and that is only to spin on one foot. A peg-top could not spin well if it had two pegs, and it is the same with us. It is absolutely necessary for both lady and gentleman to use the right foot. Now both these feet must be close together. With the left foot you propel yourself round—the gentleman holding his partner closely and bringing her round with a steady pull.

Of course, I need hardly say that you must keep time to the music. As can be seen by the photograph which illustrates this step (and which, by the way, was taken by flash-light in the 160th part of a second, and shows Mrs. Castle and myself whirling at a very great speed), you can either spin on your toe or your heel. It does not matter which. I personally always spin on my heel on a slippery floor and on my toe on a carpet or “dead” floor.


This is a step which can be done at any time during the One Step. It is simply stepping out at the side of your partner so that instead of walking in front you are walking a little to the side of each other. I will explain in this way:

The gentleman is walking forward and the lady backward, as in the ordinary One Step. Now the gentleman holds the lady a little distance away from him and steps out to his left so that, without changing the direction at all, his right foot is at the side of her right foot instead of being between her feet. You walk several steps this way, and a half turn or spin to the right will bring you to your original position.


Here is another way of doing this step, which is a little more difficult, but much more effective. In this the gentleman is going backward and the lady forward. Now the gentleman holds the lady a little distance away, and turns her so that she takes a half-turn backward, and he takes a half turn forward, still going in the same direction as they originally started. The fact of your having held the lady away from you during the turn will have caused you both to be walking at the side of each other instead of in the front—and there you are! A careful study of the reproductions of the moving pictures which illustrate their steps, as well as all other steps described, will make them quite clear.


This step is somewhat on the order of the Step Out, and the position is just the same. The man steps out to the right side of the lady, starting with his left—1 and 2—swishing the lady to his right. That is, he swings the lady to one side as though pushing her out of the way.

He steps back to the side so that he is in front of her—3 and 4. On 4 his right foot is between the lady's feet. This step can be continued as many times as desired and can be finished with a turn. The lady simply walks backward from side to side.


The regular position is assumed, the man going forward and the lady backward. The man steps out to the right side of the lady with his right foot. He then steps to side with his left, draws the right up to it, completing the Draw to the left. The Draw Step is danced in front of the lady. To do this the man steps to the side, one count—that is, when he crosses his foot over his left. Now he brings the lady directly in front of him, continuing the step in that position the three remaining counts. This step can be combined very easily with any of the other steps, as it is simply a walk. The lady starts backward by crossing the left foot in back of the right. She steps out to the right side with the right, draws the left up to it, completing the Draw Step.


The man starts forward by stepping to the right side of the lady with the right foot. He continues two more steps forward on the right side. He then steps to the left side of the lady, crossing the left in front of the right, continuing forward two more steps, thus giving the effect of rolling from side to side. The lady stepping backward left, crossing it in back of the right, etc. To make it more effective the dancers can bend on the first step. That is when the man crosses the right over the left and when he crosses the left over the right.


We now come to a little step which is quite new, very effective, and very easy. The gentleman, for the sake of argument, we will say, is Castle walking forward and the lady backward. What happens is this: take a little polka skip, one, two, three to one side, and one, two, three to the other; directly after that continue to walk . It is led into by the gentleman, who gives the lady a slight lift, just before doing the step, which he begins with his left foot, like this:

These steps are naturally taken to Polka time, which is double time to the ordinary walk. And skip the 1, 2, 3. Do not walk it.


This step, while very simple, is hard to explain. The lady backs away from the man a few steps until her right and his left arm are outstretched at arm's-length in front of them. The gentleman “turns to left” in the same spot while the lady walks around him at the left side until she comes face to face with him again, which winds her right arm around his neck. In describing this step it loses its charm, but if it is properly done it looks very pretty. As soon as the partners are face to face again they let their hands go and take the same position, with the arms as in the start of the dance.

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Modern Dancing by Vernon and Irene Castle Chapter 3

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