Do You Brush? And I’m Not Talking About Your Teeth

Lori Woods Gay
Fellow/Examiner USISTD

Most of us brush our teeth because our mothers told us to and that was good advice. Many dancers brush (one foot “to” the other)  because someone told them to. I find this  superfluous brush  about as grating as squeaking chalk on a blackboard especially when I see it in high level competitors.

In the Ballroom syllabus there are two types of brushing presented.  One is the brush “to” the other to brush “towards”.  Typically Brushing “to”  occurs on a turning action  and brushing “towards” occurs when we change direction.

Even though clear examples are set out in the figures as a guide,  in practical terms , to brush or not to brush, should be determined first and foremost as a  result of our speed, balance and momentum in that moment.  These elements all being strongly influenced by the tempo of the music.  Simply put, even the same figure can vary somewhat depending on the speed of the music.

Most important is that the purpose of a brush is to collect the leg under the body when going from one open position of the feet to another.  If we don’t use some type of brushing action we will get there too quickly.  Not to mention look like we lost our horse.

We use a brushing action by and large for balance and control and in turn to have a polished look to our dancing.

Sometimes we brush earlier and sometimes we brush later.  Sometimes we brush “to” and sometimes we brush “towards” Here are two examples:

  1. Brush earlier on any figures that have a hover.  For example the Hover Telemark.  In the technique the brush is included as part of step #2. Because you want to create a feeling of hovering you don’t want your free foot hanging about outside your body.  You step and brush (“towards”).
  2. Brush later on the lady’s part of the Natural Spin Turn. I often see the ladies brush too early on the Natural Spin Turn.  The lady’s part of the spin turn is a later brush because she rises at the end of step two she should not feel inclined to brush until this rise encourages her to collect her right foot under the body.  This is why this brush is mentioned on the next step “right foot diagonally forward having brushed “to” left foot.  You brush and step.

I hope this answers some of your  questions  on when and why we brush in our dancing.  Brush your teeth twice a day,  brush the floor when it needs sweeping,  brush your hair when you need grooming, but only brush in your dancing in order to collect your leg under your body to better facilitate the timing and balance of the movement, not because someone told you to.

Here is a list of some popular figures that incorporate a brushing action for either the man, lady or both. Check them out in the technique book:

  • Natural Spin Turn
  • Closed and open Impetus
  • Turning Lock to Right
  • Hover Corte
  • Natural Turn ( Foxtrot)
  • Hover Telemark (Foxtrot)
  • Natural Telemark
  • Natural Twist Turn
  • Natural Hover Telemark

Practice exercise

By way of example let’s take a very simple popular step we all use in the Foxtrot whether we dance International style or American Style – the Hover Telemark or the Silver Twinkle.  On the second step after the man steps to the side he will  brush the left foot “towards” the right foot (lady natural opposite).  This should occur naturally as the momentum is checked and the direction changed.  It will help us to keep dancing  through the movement and use all of the music.  If the music were faster there would be little to no brush and if the music were slower or the movement held for an additional measure of music, the brush would continue to brush either “to” or almost “to”.