Leading Underarm Turns – by Cassie Tucker

ballroom dancing medal

Subtle Signals: Leading Underarm Turns

Today, DK Instructor Cassie Tucker looks at how a gentleman (leader) can indicate to his lady (follower) dance partner when to execute an underarm turn...

I am sure on occasion you would have heard your teacher use the phrase “Left hand up in a Stop Sign,” when instructing a Man to lead a Lady’s underarm turn to Right.  Why a Stop Sign?  Two reasons:  First, this is what you might call the “International Sign of Turning” in dance.  In almost any dance in which this hand signal is used, a Lady with a little dance experience will instinctively know that she is about to be lead to turn, or at very least, expect that something is about to change in the routine.

The second reason is that the Man’s arm and wrist are placed in the optimal position to guide the lady to turn clockwise.  The palm placed forward is designed to stop the Lady’s momentum, then, forward pressure is used to commence rotation to Right.  The turn itself is further developed by gently circling the Left hand, fingertip contact only, clockwise over the Lady’s head.

So what happens when you need the Lady to turn to Left?  In this instance a different hand signal is used; “Left hand up, Thumb Down,” which is simply the Stop Sign rotated 90 degrees to Right.  In this position, the left elbow will be pointed to the side.  Again, the forward-facing palm stops momentum, however, providing forward pressure in the hand will result in the lady to turn to Left.  Gently circling the hand in a counter-clockwise direction completes the turn.

We most commonly use Stop Signs and Thumb Down hand signals to lead turns in Latin American dances, such as Cha Cha, Rumba and Jive.  But the great part is that they also carry over into other dances such as Salsa, Merengue, Rock and Roll and so much more!

Cassie