The country/western two-step, often called the "Texas two-step" or simply the "two-step," is a country/western dance usually danced to country music.
As with other country/western dances, there are different versions of two step. Even the same dance may go by different names depending on the area of the U.S., and even in the particular dance hall. There may be no one "correct" way to do a particular dance.
The two-step is a partner dance, consisting of a "leader" (traditionally a man) and a "follower" (traditionally a woman). The leader determines the movements and patterns of the pair as they move around the dance floor. It is a progressive dance that proceeds counterclockwise around the floor.
The partners generally begin in closed position with the leader facing the line of dance. The follower stands facing the leader. In a traditional "frame" the leader places his right hand over his partner's left shoulder. In the more contemporary styling, closed position is formed by placing the right hand under the follower's left arm, and on her back. In either case the leader holds the follower's right hand in his left hand at about shoulder height.
Other dance positions include:
Sweetheart: side by side, the lead's right hand on the follower's right shoulder, and the left hands together near the left shoulder.
Shadow: side by side, the follower's right hand on the back of her right hip, Lead's right hand placed in hers, Lead's left hand at approximately hip level on his left side, she reaches her left hand across to place in his.
Wrap (cuddle): side by side, follow's left arm crossing her body and holding lead's right hand. Her right arm crosses over her left and he places his left in it.
Skater: side by side
Promenade: both facing line of dance
Reverse Promenade: both backing line of dance
Traditionally, Two-Step includes three steps: a quick step, a quick step, and then a slow step. In modern times, this is also known as Texas Polka. It can be danced to music with either a 2/4 or 4/4 time signature.
Older dance manuals specified the best effect is achieved when dancers have a smooth gliding motion in time to the music. For example, the 1939 book "Cowboy Dances" states that, "The real two-step should be smooth and beautiful to watch. But in a Western dance it is quite in kind to make it joyous and bouncy."
Modern styles however continued with the smooth style and added a slight "lilt."
This same step pattern, step, close, step, with a timing of quick quick slow was given as the definition of Country-Western Two-Step in 1983.
This Two-Step is a dance with roots in European and Mexican dance history and appeared in Germany and Hungary in the 1800s. Similar steps danced at Mexican fandangos were also an influence.
Dance positions include: an open position with the lead's right hand on the follower's left shoulder, a closed position with no space between the partners, and a closed overhand position in which the lead wraps their left forearm over the follower's right forearm and clasps their hand with the palm against the back of the follower's hand. A "side by side", "shoulder hold", "cape", or varsouviana position is also used.
Originally called the Texas Shuffle Step (or Foxtrot step), at some point this became better known as Texas Two-Step, which is now the most common dance with that name. Danced to music with 4/4 time signature, it consists of four steps with timing quick, quick, slow, slow, where the pattern of movement is often referred to as "Step-together, walk, walk." This Two-Step has been taught as early 1983.
The Two-Step can be danced over a fairly wide range of tempos, such as 130 bpm to over 200 bpm. Accomplished dancers can dance to tempos above 185 bpm. The United Country Western Dance Council (UCWDC) lists the Two-step at 180-210 BPM, while the Country Western Dance International (CWDI) lists the Two-step at 160-192 BPM.
Basic two-step consists of two quick steps, followed by two slow steps (or alternately, two slow steps followed by two quick steps). Dancing may start with either the slow steps, or the quick steps, as the local custom dictates.
The leader begins by stepping forward with his left foot. The follower begins by stepping backward with her right foot.
Formally, the quick steps are full strides, with one foot passing the other on each step. However, in informal situations, particularly when the beat of the music is fast, the second quick step may be a shuffle, with the foot that's behind after the first quick step sliding up to, but not even with, the foot in front.
This style has roots with the Foxtrot and basic two-step patterns are equivalent to those of many other progressive partner dances.
More advanced figures can be syncopated, following other patterns such as QQSQQS or QQQQSS (where Q represents a quick step and S a slow step).
Other dance styles related to the two-step exist.
In shadow dancing, a variation found in some gay country/western venues, the follower stands in front of the lead and both face down the line of dance. The lead places his/her right hand over the follower's midsection or belt buckle, and the follower places his/her right hand over the lead's hand. The lead takes the follower's left hand in his/her own and holds it loosely out to the left in a position similar to the one used in standard two-stepping.
The count is the same as for the non-shadow two-step. The follower uses the same footwork as the lead in this case, beginning on the left foot. The lead propels the follower down the floor, with bodies touching or close together, as though the lead were the follower's shadow. The pair will normally turn and weave, and the lead may turn the follower before returning to standard position. The lead may also bring the follower behind him/her, giving the appearance of having swapped roles but with the lead still in control, and the lead may then bring the follower back in front.
Other Two Steps
Rhythm Two Step
Another "two step" done almost exclusively in Arizona is also known as Rhythm Two-step, and is almost stationary. The rhythm is Step forward, Touch, Step backward, Touch, Walk Walk. Its music is in tempo between Triple Two-step and Texas Two-step.
Double two-step, also referred to as triple two-step (and so designated by the UCWDC, which classifies it as a separate competitive dance style), is usually danced to slower music. The two slow steps are replaced by two sets of triple steps. By contrast, the two quick steps are now slow steps. One way to count double two-step is "1 and 2", "3 and 4" step, step. The count is the same as that of East-coast swing.
The leader steps forward with his/her left foot to begin the dance. The follower steps backwards on his/her right. The partners embrace each other as in the basic two-step.
Double two-step is also referred to as "shuffle". Fort Worth Shuffle has the same pattern as double two-step, except that the first triple-step begins with the right foot.
The Official Guide to Country Dance Steps. By Tony Leisner. 1980. Chartwell Books. pages 16, 64, 70. ISBN 0-89009-331-8
Cowboy Dances. A collection of Western Square Dances. Lloyd Shaw. Cowboy Dances. Lloyd Shaw. 1939-1952. The Caxton Printers. page 46, 7. no ISBN
http://www.traditionalmusic.co.uk/cowboy-dances/cowboy-dance%20-%200147.htm Retrieved 1.1.2010
A handbook of novelty, country and western dances. Ray, Ollie M., 1983. Siddall and Ray Research Found. Charleston, Ill
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