Direction and Alignment, Part 2, Alignment – by Chris Bruce

Chris and his wife Monika at a Dancesport competition.

Direction and Alignment, Part 2, Alignment


DW. Bkg LOD. Fcg DC ag LOD. Has the cat been walking across my keyboard again?

No, not on this occasion. Using a combination of ‘dance jargon’ and abbreviations I’ve been documenting a ballroom routine, and these hieroglyphics record the direction and alignment of each step.

In the first part of this article we looked at direction. Let’s now examine alignment and see how it differs.

What is an alignment?

The technical definition says an alignment describes where the feet are facing, backing, or pointing in relation to the room. This is in contrast with direction which says where the foot is travelling in relation to the room.

Let’s look at some examples, starting with the simple ones.

If we move forward, we have a facing alignment. Facing LOD, facing DW, facing DC against LOD, etc. In the diagram below the alignment of each step is Facing LOD.

If we move backward, we have a backing alignment. Backing against LOD, backing DC, backing DW against LOD, etc. In the diagram below, our alignment is Backing DW.

Let’s make it more difficult. What about when we step to the side or when we close our feet. Now it depends where we are going next. If we dance a Progressive Chassé along LOD in Quickstep, the lady steps forward on step 1 (a facing alignment), then to the side and close on steps 2 and 3. What is the alignment of these steps? Remember we are talking about the lady's steps in this example, and the lady steps side and slightly back on step 4. Steps 2 & 3 are therefore backing steps (backing W and backing DW).

What, then, are pointing alignments? Pointing means the foot points to a different direction than the body is facing. A classic example is the back half of the Natural or Reverse Turn in Waltz. On step 2 for the lady or step 5 for the man, the moving foot points to the new alignment while the body is facing between the old and new alignments.

The following diagram shows step 2 of a Reverse Turn for the lady. Note at the end (the outlined footprints) the left foot is turned out to ‘point’ to the new alignment.

The technique manuals speak mostly of alignment, but occasionally to make a step clearer both alignment and direction are specified. An example is step 1 of the Progressive Chassé from Promenade Position in Waltz. The diagram below illustrates the man’s step (from the Whisk Position) which the manual describes as Along LOD (direction), Facing DW (alignment).