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7.5 On Confusing Nomenclature

In Ballet, there are “inside” and “outside” turns and steps. Outside moves or turns are ones where you could think of yourself as traveling backwards; e.g. stand on your left foot and spin clockwise. Inside moves are ones where you travel forward; e.g. stand on your left foot and spin anti-clockwise.

An “outside” turn is one in which the direction of the turn is the same as the foot that you pivot on: a left outside turn pivots on the left foot, and a right outside turn pivots on the right foot. When you want to turn in the direction of the pivot foot, that first step to place the pivot foot is away from (outside) your body.

An “inside” turn is one in which the turn direction is the opposite of the pivot foot: a left inside turn pivots on the right foot and vice versa. When you place your right foot to pivot on it to turn left, you step the foot across the body, toward or past your spine, which is inside the body.

These above definitions are the ones Hutch gives in Swing Dancer. Nevertheless, you often cannot get the same answer from instructors about why a turn is called an “Inside” or “Outside” turn. Some instructors base their definition on hand/arm positions relative to the body. This means the same direction of turning has different names depending on which of hand you’re holding, and that’s silly. Hands and arms have nothing to do with it. For example, a lady dancing a figure eight in nightclub two-step dances two outside turns in a row, the first pivoting on her right foot (which she places on count 2), and the second on her left (placed on count 4). The handhold is the same throughout.

If you’re pivoting down the line of dance, you’re doing a sequence of alternating inside and outside turns. Again, it’s not a particularly useful way to think about it, but yes, it’s accurate.

Because they are so mishandled and thrown around, the terms inside and outside have become meaningless. Simply stating whether the lady turns to the right or the left and on which counts is a better way of stating direction of turn. Unfortunately, this was too simple for the people who wrote the International Style Syllabi:

Under current (Int’l style) usage, “natural” and “reverse” refer to the direction of the turn (right and left, respectively). In Waltz, for example, a “reverse” turn takes two measures and (for the man) consists of a left outside turn (counts 1 2), a foot close (3), a left inside turn (4 5) and another foot close (6). A natural turn is (at this level of abstraction) exactly the same but on the alternate foot. In this context, thinking “inside” and “outside” doesn’t help much, which is why people generally don’t.

As a completely different definition of the terms inside and outside, we can use them to define orientation relative to the couple, from the man’s point of view (as maintainer of frame and action). For example, the term “outside” in an Outside Spin (in waltz, quickstep or whatever) refers to the fact that the leader starts with a step outside his partner in Outside Partner Position. In other words his right foot steps to his left of the followers right foot instead of between her feet (inside). The terms inside and outside (of a turn) can _ALSO_ refer to the position of one partner relative to the axis of the turn. A dance couple is normally connected through the hold (frame etc.) and builds a unity (at least in standard dancing). When a couple turns, each partner moves on a circular trace around a center of rotation. This center may be inside the couple, it may also be outside the couple. For example, when dancing a natural turn in waltz, the rotation center is outside, when dancing a pivot it will be inside the couple. The partner who is closer to the rotation axis is on the “inside of the turn”, he has a shorter way to move. The other partner is on the “outside of the turn”, he has a longer way around. All actions that turn between two steps have different radii of the circular movements. The position inside or outside of the turn can change very fast and sometimes between two steps (example: double reverse spin).

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