What’s the deal with Swivels? – by Cassie Tucker

What’s the deal with Swivels?


Swivels; one of the most common and challenging actions we face while dancing! Swivels make an appearance in so many New Vogue dances (Merrilyn, Gypsy Tap, Evening Three Step, Lucille Waltz, Excelsior Schottische, Carousel, Tango Carnaval, Barclay Blues, Charmaine, La Bomba, Parma Waltz, Tangoette, Tango Terrific, Tracie-Leigh Waltz, Twilight Waltz just to name a few!), that it is actually more challenging to find a New Vogue dance that does NOT contain a swivel than one which does. Swing Waltz alone has no less than 11 swivels for the Man and 13 swivels for the Lady in a single routine!

So, what exactly is a swivel? A swivel is an action; it is a turn made on the ball of foot to change direction, whether it be moving from a sideways direction to a forward direction (e.g. Gypsy Tap), or simply taking two forward walks on different alignments (e.g. Merrilyn).

It sounds easy enough, so why do we find swivels so challenging? Because it is not normal behaviour. When you walk forward and suddenly decide to turn left or right, you would never swivel. The standing foot remains planted and you would simply rotate your body and step over yourself, or do a more gradual turn over a series of steps. If someone snapped a photo of you while stepping across yourself, it would not be a pretty snapshot, but it would be functional.

Dancing, on the other hand, is all about aesthetics. Swivels have the dual purpose of making every transitional action looking smooth and collected, as well as protecting knees and ankles from damage. When swivelling, our whole body turns and nothing gets left behind. Depending on the type of swivel, the non-standing foot will either release the toe preparing to step (sideways to forward), or be drawn in under the body, cleanly passing the swivelling foot before taking the next step (forward to forward).

If you struggle with swivels, here is a tip I learnt from one of my teachers which works wonders for me: Instead of trying to actively turn on the ball of the standing foot, focus on turning the heel. Imagine you have a handle attached to the heel of that foot and someone grabs that handle and turns it to left or right like a tap. Focussing on turning the heel makes swivelling so much easier!