This workshop is designed to assist you in perfecting your turns. The workshop will consist of exercises that you can do both alone, and with a partner to help you to turn smoothly with balance and style.
The workshop is based on the timing and technique for Cross-Body Lead On1 (On2) style rather than Cuban.

We are teaching only the method we favour; other teachers may advocate other techniques.

The different turns

  1. Pivots or ‘stepped’ turns
  2. Axle turns (referred to as spins)
  3. Travelling turns

These are the turns most commonly used.
1. Single ‘stepped’ turns technique to the right or left……………..
Dancers may choose to step their turns in order to learn better control over their movement (especially over changes of direction) or, in order to get more spinning practise, for styling, or because it may fit the music better, may spin a single turn. A great drill to help practise the skill of stepping through turns, changing weight on each step and requiring control over the exit from the turn:
Solo exercises
Pivots to the right (Ladies timing)
Start your basic step on counts 1, 2(6, 7) and on count 3(1) cross the right foot over the left and open the left leg to the left on count 5(2). On count 6(3) replace the right foot turning to the right 360º and on count 7(5) exit the turn backwards to complete the basic step. Make sure to lift and replace each step, don’t drag and ensure you are spotting throughout.
Pivots to the left (Ladies timing)
Start your basic step on counts 1,2, 3, 5, 6(1,2,3) and on count 7(5) cross the left foot over the right and open the right leg to the right on count 1(6). On count 2(7) replace the left foot turning to the left 360º and on count 3(1) exit the turn forwards to complete the basic step. Make sure to lift and replace each step, don’t drag and ensure you are spotting throughout.
Try the above from a cross-body step and a cross-body with an outside or inside turn for a real challenge!

2. Axle spins | technique for multiple turns…………….
These are the four key elements to spinning successfully:
By count 1 (6) weight should be on the turning leg (right), left leg slightly forward, knees slightly bent, back straight, chin level, abdominals tight, legs tightly drawn together from the knees upwards, right hip turned towards your partner/front and left side of the body drawn back ready to power the turn on the count when lead, often on the count of 5 (1) but sometimes as early as 3 (8).
Ideally the follower’s hand should be no higher than the top of her head and L-shaped (the higher the follower’s arm goes the less control they have over it). Tense the armpit (create a connection between the chest and the shoulder), hook the hand with the thumb resting along top of forefinger or completely open, allowing the hand to move freely around the man’s fingers (imagine gently holding a tiny umbrella to avoid the wrist going slack and your hand going too far from your head) without closing your grip or putting tension into the rest of your arm, other hand in front of stomach palm down. Whip with the upper body and a release of tension from the legs to power the turn. Don’t get into the habit of using your arms for power since often the leader will have both your hands held, nor should you power by pushing with the left foot either at the beginning or during multiple turns.
Preferably eye level (spot leader’s chest ideally) head moves last and arrives first, spot your partner ie. where you will usually end your turn
Weight on ball of right foot, left foot hovering LOW, use hovering foot to brake by bringing it down

*This technique is the ideal, it relies on the floor being smooth and easy to spin on, your partner turning you correctly, your shoes being suitable to the dance surface and most importantly, excellent balance. This technique requires lots of practice and in most cases you will have to put the hovering foot down occasionally to help your balance especially if the turn is lead too slowly. Try to refrain from pushing-off slightly (pedalling) as eventually this actually slows the turn as the momentum is interrupted. Instead practise getting enough speed and control into the turn to keep the left foot hovering over the floor until you use it to help brake. The turn should be initiated from a whip of the upper body and a release of tension from the legs whilst maintaining contraction in the torso throughout.

Solo Exercises
1. Prepare on counts 1,2 (6,7) spin once 360 on count 3 (1) (spin earlier if you feel balanced) spin to the right to face front then step back on your left leg on count 7 (5) continuing with the remainder of the basic 1,2,3 (6,7) etc
2. Repeat as before with 2 spins
3. As before with 1½ spins (remember to spot where you will finish your turn)
Partnering Exercises
1. In partner hold, practise 1 and 2 spins to right (spinning once can either be used for styling, if lead, can allow for the leader to also take a turn or you could just step to 2 o’clock and pivot) using the timing above.
2. In partner hold practise initiating the turn earlier as the follower begins to gain balance and preparation earlier.
Notes for the leaders
1. Turn the follower with two fingers preferably no more.
2. Imagine the follower is wearing a halo no higher than four inches above their head, and you are polishing it!
3. The movement of turning the follower comes from your shoulder but to avoid burn out think of driving from the elbow, NOT your fingers/hand/arm
4. Allow the follower’s hand to move freely around yours, don’t turn the fingers or grasp the follower’s hand – it hurts! Same applies to followers, don’t hang on to the leaders fingers!
5. Always watch your own hand, rather than the follower, what is going on around you or worse, who has just walked into the room! This will help you maintain the shape of the lead around the follower’s head as well as a constant hand height.
6. Try to make a smooth circle around the follower’s halo at a constant speed rather than throwing your arm. It is important that you take no more than 1 count for each turn (sometimes you may even take less!). Taking even a split second more will mean that the follower tends puts her hovering foot down, which will slow down the look and feel of the turn and interrupt the momentum.
7. If you think of leading turns like driving a car it may help to remember that accelerating and then braking abruptly can feel uncomfortable for the vehicle! The last turn you want the follower to perform should be just a guide with the hand rather than powered. This signals the end of the turns to the follower and enables her to come to a comfortable stop. It also may allow for styling.
8. Remember you are not forcing the follower, but guiding and signalling them. They should maintain their own balance (followers do not hang on for dear life, practise finding your own balance). It is also worth noting that as the follower performs more and more turns, the power requirement to drive those turns gradually transfers to the leader as the follower is losing momentum from their initial whip.

3. Travelling turns technique for turns that travel
The rules for axle spins also apply for travelling turns, in particular the need for the correct posture, arm position and spotting. The key difference, of course, is that you are not spinning on the spot but rather you are moving in the direction led by your partner. Therefore, you must ‘walk’ your turns.
1. 1 x chenee to right and hold (repeat left) step 1,2 as you turn, wait on 3, 4, repeat on 5,6
2. 2 x chenees to right and hold (repeat left ) step 1,2,3,4 as you turn, wait on 5,6,7,8 repeat
3. Wall to wall chenees (repeat left) continually step on counts 1,2,3,4,5,6 etc, as you turn
4. Inside turn (repeat outside) In partner-hold practise 1 ½ turns turning left from CBL
5. Also try travelling inside (left) turn on 5,6,7 (1,2,3) to an immediate set up for a right spin on 1,2 (6,7)
6. Practise free travelling turns, for example from an “Copa” (leaders be gentle, no-one will thank you for firing them into another couple!)
Notes for leaders
Again, the rules for leaders that apply for axle spins also apply for travelling turns, the main difference is that the turns are moving off the spot. It may sound obvious but this means you need to move with the follower as they travel. Don’t try to merely elongate your reach. Stay close to them as they move, in addition if you are also adding a turn yourself try to spot your follower to be able to gauge the distance between you as you both move and remember to keep the leading hand over the followers head as they rather than your own. This will allow you to properly lead and guide the spin without pulling the follower off balance. The second key point is to make sure you are not leading the follower into a collision. Check before you begin a travelling turn that there is space into which the follower can move safely.
4. Hot tips!!
wear a leather/suede soled shoe for most surfaces, rubber gets hot and sticky! Avoid dance sneakers if you really want to spin well.
practise in the same shoes you wear for club dancing or performing so there is no need to adjust your weight
if the floor is slow or tacky, apply a little talc to either your shoe or the dance surface, then be careful!
get your practise in with a lower-heeled shoe, it will prevent you getting lazy about staying on your toes
dance away from flashing lights, it plays havoc with your orientation
if your leader is shorter than yourself, bend your knees a little more
if the floor is too slick, you can buy stick-on grip soles to use in an emergency, but a little hairspray or Coke on your soles also does the trick
your partner will thank you for being sympathetic to the conditions, if the floor is tacky don’t use excessive force in the hope that the follower will still perform multiple turns!
build up the number of turns you lead slowly, it allows you both to get used to each other, and helps you gauge the follower’s ability
As you and your partners perfect these techniques you may very well find yourself with extra time after the preparation to turn. Spinning your partner earlier allows you to get more turns to a bar/s however this relies on your partner having prepared comfortably – check first!

• Without practising regularly your technique does deteriorate, so practise, practise, practise!
• Followers, spinning with control allows you a better set-up for the next move the leader will lead you into; it will allow you to keep to your own dance space meaning fewer collisions; and will allow you to dance a greater range of “moves” with more partners.
• Leaders, a good lead will help your partner feel more comfortable and will give a better flow to the dance. Leading spins well is an essential skill, good technique and timing will attract good dance partners over uncomfortable flash moves.
I hope you find these notes helpful, if you did, please feel free to pass them on to a fellow student. I would very much appreciate your co-operation however in not reproducing the notes, in whole or part, for teaching or commercial purposes. Please feel free to contact me if you wish to host a workshop.
Emma Moore