Basic Rhythm Two-Step

Type    Step
Level  Level 1 Beginner
Other Names The Basic Step, Two-Step, Arizona Two-Step
Leads To    Outside TurnOpen PositionInside TurnCross-Handed Open Position, Sway Step

Description

Closed Position
Closed Position

Every dance has a basic step that helps the dancers establish the timing and character of the dance. It serves as a home base to go back to between dance moves. In some dances, it is also a way to travel across the dance floor. For Country Swing, many people use the Rhythm Two Step as the basic step.

What is Two Step?

There are several dances called the Country Two-Step. The two most common are:

  • The Texas Two Step, aka Progressive Two Step, which consists of a basic 3-count pattern that moves on “1&2, 3.” Dancers move either straight forward or backward around a counter-clockwise track and never pause in place. All turns and moves are done while continuously traveling.
  • Rhythm Two Step, aka Arizona Two Step, which moves on every half-beat “1&2&3&” with smaller steps, done relatively in place. Not every step is given equal weight (which I explain later). It is possible to travel in rhythm two-step by stepping sideways. Often, dancers will turn slowly while traveling to make the dance look and feel better.

Like virtually any other dance, the basic step can be done in any position. Beginners are encouraged to learn it from Closed Position first to promote good leading and following habits. Other positions will be covered in later articles.

The elements of the basic step (for any dance) are:

  • Rhythm
  • Footwork
  • Frame
  • Connection

Rhythm

The rhythm of the Rhythm Two Step is “Quick quick, slow (tap), slow (tap)” which may be counted “1 & 2 & 3 &,” stepping for each count and &.

Rhythm is the timing of the music’s beat. Listen to the bass guitar and drum for the most reliable measure of the tempo or speed of the music. The steps are relatively small, just about a foot-length, or shoulder-width. The faster the music is, the smaller the steps, and closer to the ground they will be, to conserve energy.

Footwork

The footwork is “Left, together, left, together, right, together” for leads, and “Right, together, right, together, left, together” for follows.

The footwork below will tell you which foot to pick up from the ground, and whether it’s a full weight transfer (FWT) or not. Many beginners will start by moving sideways, and this is okay. But once you have the footwork down, try slowly turning while stepping. 

 (In case you don’t know what is meant by “full weight transfer,” that’s when you change from one supporting leg to the other, e.g. when you walk you transfer your weight to the foot you put in front.)

The following chart is for leads.
The follow’s footwork is the same as below but switch the right and left directions.

CountStepFootNotes
1QuickLeftFWT in direction of travel
&Quick
RightFWT in direction of travel
Meets your left foot (feet together)
2SlowLeftFWT in direction of travel
&(Tap)RightNo transfer
Tap the ball of your right foot next to your left.
3Slow
RightFWT, opposite your direction of travel
&(Tap)LeftNo transfer
Tap the ball of your left foot next to your right.

Frame

  • In Closed Position the lead places his right hand on the follow’s shoulder blade, and his left hand is in extended a little to the left about eye-level with his follow. The follow places her left hand on the lead’s shoulder with that arm draped over her lead’s arm, and her right hand in his left hand.
  • The hand hold should be firm but don’t squeeze! Relax, cup your hand, and press into your partner’s palm.
  • Also, don’t let your arms droop and go limp like noodles. You should be more like the bowl than the spaghetti. 
  • Lift your chest a little, like you’re trying to show off your necklace or you just did chest day at the gym.
  • Your feet should be off-center with your partner’s feet. Whether you’re the lead or follow, it should be your left foot on the outside, and your right foot between their feet.

Connection

The connection is more easily felt than described. It is the force of pushing or pulling between partners that allows you to move as one unit together. Obviously too much pushing or pulling will lead to trouble, even confusion or injury. The lead pulls slightly (very slight!) on the follow’s shoulder blade, and the follow presses out slightly on the lead’s right shoulder and against his hand on her shoulder blade. Both partners lift their chest and lean their upper body out just a bit.

Both partners press lightly into each other’s palm on the hand-to-hand side. This is secondary in importance to the connection felt on the other side. You can dance in closed position with that hand completely free if the connection on the other side is strong.

If you’ve ever seen dancers spin together in a tight circle, that’s the work of a good connection! Forget about your feet for a minute and try just moving your follow around in clockwise or counter-clockwise motion in the frame–quickly, slowly, a little, a lot. Your right hand tells her where to be. Is she getting the message?

Tips

  • Rhythmically challenged individuals can practice finding the beat when listening to music each day. Do something to externalize the beat you hear–snap along, tap on your steering wheel to the beat… if you eternalize you can hear if what you’re doing matches or not. Later, when you are dancing you will feel the beat internally, and it will help you step in rhythm.
  • The direction and force of the move come from the lead’s right hand. The left hand is, for the most part, where you communicate changes such as a spin.
  • Keeping a strong frame and connection will allow you to move around easily and keep you feeling light on your feet.
  • If you’re having trouble with the frame and connection, let go of the hand hold and focus on the sensations on the other side.
  • Mind your space partner-to-partner. Keeping an open frame is most acceptable and formal for dancing with anyone. Closing in the space between you makes the dance more intimate. This could make your partner uncomfortable if they don’t know you well. There is a fine line between creepy and flirty, so air on the side of being a gentleman (or woman).
  • Follows, if a lead is closing in your personal space too much, press or grab on his shoulder more and push him away with more force than you would normally need for the frame and connection. This will hurt him enough to show him he needs to back off.

Variations

See the articles on these positions for more information.

13 thoughts on “Basic Rhythm Two-Step

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