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20. Grapevines
Fact Sheet
Official Name:Grapevines
Dance / Level:Full Bronze American Style Foxtrot
Aliases:Zig Zag, Grapevines to Left

Grapevines are a series of 4 steps, taken forward, side, back, and side (or alternatively, back, side, forward, side). They are also sometimes referred to as a Zig Zag. In social dancing they are one of the most flexible movements, with an almost unlimited array of possible variations of timing, footwork, rise and fall, amounts of turn, direction of travel, and dance position. This particular version is the Foxtrot student's introduction to the basic Grapevine, which travels down the line of dance to the man's left and lady's right in closed position, to the timing QQQQ.

As written in the man's and lady's charts, the most basic entry to the Grapevines is a simple LF Forward Change step to outside partner position, to the timing of SQQ. Unlike the normal Forward Changes O.P., this one has no turn, as the man must remain facing diagonal wall in order to travel down the line of dance during the Grapevines. Turn could be made if he begins facing either wall, diagonal wall against line of dance, or directly against line of dance if the previous figure has ended that way, such as the Promenade Twist Turn.

The figure as written is completed by way of a RF Forward Change from outside partner to end closed, counted SQQ. It, too, is taken without turn to end with man facing and lady backing diagonal wall. But it could also be turned to the right, which effectively makes it steps 2-4 of the Natural Turn.

What makes the Forward Change a particularly elegant entry and exit to the Grapevines is the timing, with the figure as a whole neatly consisting of a 3-measure musical phrase: The Forward Changes each take one measure of music, the Grapevines take a measure of music, and each action begins and ends exactly on the barline. However, other entries and exits are possible, and in fact there is one that is much more popular amongst social dancers: A simple walk. The man begins facing diagonal wall and steps forward with his left foot, left side leading, to the count of "slow". He then dances the Grapevines QQQQ (steps 4-7 of this figure), following with another single walk, this time forward on the RF in CBMP, outside partner, also counted "slow". This is typically followed by any figure beginning with the man's left foot forward, facing diagonal wall, retuning to an inline position. The lady's part is the natural opposite.

The four steps that comprise the actual Grapevine (steps 4-7 of this figure as written) can be repeated as desired in social and recreational dancing, but as it does move faster down the floor than most other figures in bronze and social Foxtrot, care should be taken to mind other dancers as you move. Competitive dancers should pay particular attention to the rules of the competition before repeating Grapevines, as many competitions, especially in the USA, restrict the number of consecutive "quick" counts that can be danced to 4. This means that you can only dance the figure as written.

With the Grapevines beginning with man facing and lady backing diagonal wall, they move generally down line of dance, veering slightly toward diagonal wall and diagonal center along the way. It is important in the basic Grapevines to maintain these specific aligments to keep the dance position intact and legs swinging naturally forward and back on the first and third step of each Grapevine. It is a common error to either overturn and compromise the dance position, or to underturn (or not turn at all), with the legs crossing rather than swinging forward and back as a normal forward/back walk.

The basic rise and fall of the Grapevines as written is a two-step cycle, which is fairly unusual in bronze figures, and takes some getting used to. Actually, it's a total of two 2-step cycles, since there are 4 Grapevine steps in total. During the forward or back walk, the dancer must rise immediately, and then on the following side step, use toe-heel footwork and lower immediately. Unlike most other figures in Waltz and Foxtrot that have a 3-step cycle of rise and fall, there is no middle step where the dancer remains on toes. One goes up on the first step, and then down again on the very next. But although the full height of the rise is reached by the end of the first step, the total amount of rise overall should be moderate, in order to avoid a look of too much "bounciness".

Variations on Timing, Footwork, and Position

In addition to the QQQQ timing, each two steps of Grapevines can also be danced to "Slow, and" timing, which gives the first step a value of 1 and 1/2 beats, and the second step a half-beat. This gives dancers 4 total variations of timing over the four steps:

  • Quick-Quick-Quick-Quick
  • Slow, and Slow, and
  • Slow, and Quick-Quick
  • Quick-Quick Slow, and

The basic Grapevines as written use a two-step cycle of rise & fall, however some dancers perfer to stay up on toes, dancing a 4-step cycle. This version has less drive and bounce, and more of a "drifting" or "floating" feel. Starting from step 4 of the figure, the man's footwork in this alterative version is (4) Heel-toe, (5) Toe, (6) Toe, and (7) Toe-heel, lowering at the end of the step. The lady would then use the footwork (4) Toe, releasing the toe of the front foot, then pointing the toe, (5) Toe, (6) Toe, and (7) Toe-heel, lowering at the end of the step.

The figure is normally kept in closed hold, either with or without body contact. Body contact requires considerable skill to maintain, particularly when the figure passes through the outside partner position on the left side on step 6, and is not necessarily preferred. The character of the dance can be better captured when dancers stand a few inches apart in closed non-contact hold. The frame can be maintained in the normal position, or the man's hands can be dropped to waist level. In this position it's also common for the lady to release her left hand and extend it outward, or stylize it in various ways to contribute to the characterization of the dance.

In addition to closed position, Grapevines can be taken in open facing position with a lowered two-hand hold. Less common, though still possible are other variations of hand hold in open facing position, because the quick changes of direction and rotation require an extremely high degree of skill to lead and follow. But there are technically no restrictions against using other hand holds, one popular variation being a RH-RH hold over the first two steps (4-5 of the figure as written), and LH-LH hold over the second two (6-7 of the figure as written). When dancing the figure as written and beginning in closed position, the man would extend the frame over steps 1-3, leading the lady to end in open facing position, and changing to the desired hold. Likewise, they would release all but the LH-RH hold on step 7, and resume closed hold over steps 8-10.


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