The Wing! Why?

by Peter Waterson
Fellow ISTD

We have some rather strange names for figures in our Ballroom and Latin dance syllabi.  How did these names originate?    Here are two examples, the origin of which are, I think, fairly well known.

THE TELEMARK:    British dancers, skiing in Norway in the 1920’s, saw the “Telemark Turn”,used in skiing to quickly change direction. They named the dance figure “Telemark”as the maneuver reminded them of the skiing turn.

DOUBLE REVERSE SPIN:   Why double?   It is only one full turn or less. However, the originator, Maxwell Stewart, always danced two consecutively;  hence “double”.

Now let us get to the nitty gritty of this article, and deal with the origin of the WING  which is not well known, and how that knowledge can help our students’ perfomance.

THE WING:   I have asked many teachers over the years, including some Ballroom examiners, if they knew how the Wing got it’s name   Only one person, Josephine Bradley, renowned (castigated by some) for creating the heel turn, was able to provide me with the answer. She explained to me that the figure was so named because the lady’s part resembled a large bird (e.g. seagull)  folding it’s wing into it’s body.   I have found that instilling this mental picture into the student’s mind achieves excellent results in most cases.   Starting in P.P. with the lady’s head turned right,  I ask the lady to turn her head and torso strongly to the left between 2 and 3, thus creating the bird’s folding wing effect. This strong body turn should ensure that the lady does the desired foot swivel on the R.F. between 2 & 3.  Remember to use the earlier Rise and Fall, viz  “Commence to rise e/o 1;  Continue to rise on 2;  Up. Lower at e/o 3”.    You should then see a beautifully executed “wing” effect, rather than the lady with her head looking straight ahead and her body facing the same way, with no relationship to her partner, so often seen at Novice level.

When the figure was created in the 1920’s,  I’m quite sure that, like many other figures, it occurred quite by chance.  Most likely, a couple found themselves in promenade position, blocked by another couple, and the man led his partner around to his left side to avoid a collision.  Doubtless, they would think “that was nice” and set about refining it.   In my early career, I had a similar experience when I was boxed in at the end of a three step.  I danced two side steps turning a half turn right and then danced 2 3 & 4 of a feather step. out of trouble.  I liked the maneuver and thought that I was so clever creating a new figure.  Imagine my chagrin when I discovered several months later that it already existed and was called the Natural Telemark.

I hope what I have conveyed here will be of some help when teaching the Wing to your students.  I have found that if they have any imagination, it helps a lot.