Modern Dancing by Vernon and Irene Castle Chapter 6
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VI
THE TANGO BRÉSILIENNE, OR MAXIXE—THE TWO STEP—LES À-CÔTE—THE SKATING STEP

THE Maxixe Brésilienne is, up to the time of writing this, the latest modern dance. There is only one great question to be decided, and that is how do you pronounce the name. Should it be pronounced Maxeks, Maxesse, Mattchsche, or Mattchsche? I know how to do the dance, but the name I have not yet quite mastered. I only know that nearly all the South American pieces of music have “Tango Brésilien” written on them, and a few have the mystic word “Maxixe.” The Brazilians themselves pronounce the word Mashish, with a slight accent in the second syllable.

But the dance, which is the main thing, is beautiful, and, like most beautiful dances, requires a considerable amount of grace. The steps themselves are not difficult; on the contrary, they are childishly simple; it is the easiest dance of all to do, and I think the hardest of all to do well. My advice to the beginner is to start by being very conservative about it. Get the steps and figures so that you do not have to think about them, and acquaint yourself with the music and rhythm of the dance; after this you may sway the body and try to be graceful. If you feel easy and graceful, you probably are; but if you feel stiff or awkward, go back to the way you first learned and do the dance simply and plainly. For, let me assure you, this dance, with all its bends and swaying, will make a woman appear very attractive or very ridiculous. Done simply, it is like the Tango, Two Step, or any other good dance, and everybody who can dance at all can dance them.

I am dividing the dance up into figures to simplify matters, but after they are learned it does not follow that you have to adhere to this notation. The Maxixe is like any other dance—you do the steps as they occur to you. Personally, I don't think any steps should have names, but I know that the majority disagree with me, so I am giving them the names they usually go by in France and America.

FIRST STEP—THE TWO STEP

To begin, the gentleman holds the lady as in all other dances, and commences as usual by walking a few steps. Thus they break into a Two Step; this is usually the same as the old-fashioned Two Step except that it is done more slowly and with a perceptible swaying motion, so that when you take a two-step to the left your body sways to the right a little, and vice versa. As to the feet, you do the entire dance as much as is comfortable on the heel; don't make any effort to do this, because if it is an effort it is bound to look bad. Sometimes you see people jamming their heels down like pickaxes: this is not pretty; neither do such people dance well.

We will suppose, now, that you are doing a Two Step, which must be done quietly, and turning as much as possible.

SECOND STEP—THE SINGLE. LES À-CÔTE

The next thing to do is a Single Step, which is a kind of slide sideways done on the heel of one foot and flat of the other. The man goes sideways, or nearly sideways, advancing his left heel and bringing his right foot up to the heel of the left, In this way the left foot is always ahead of the right, and the weight of the body is on the right foot, and the step is a “Single Step.” The lady is facing the gentleman, and does the same step, but with the opposite foot. During this step you must change the position of the hands, which is done in this way: The gentleman lets go of the lady's right hand, which has been held out, and she slowly puts it behind her back, just above the waist-line. When it has arrived there the gentleman takes it in his right, which is already at the lady's waist; and with his left takes her left and holds it above her head. The single may be done in either direction. This effect is shown in the photographs which illustrate this dance. When the hands are changed, before going into. the third figure, the partners go back first to the Two Step, which is the basis of the whole dance.

THE SKATING STEP, OR LE CORTA JACA

This step in New York is called “Skating.” It seems to be a very good name for it, as the position you take is exactly the same as that taken by skaters when they are skating side by side. You get into the step in this way: When we left off, we were doing the Two Step. Now, if the gentleman will do a single step and still keep his partner doing a Two Step, he will find that she turns around so that she is side by side with him. As soon as she is in this position, and he finds that he is on the same foot as she is—that is, in step with her—he resumes the Two Step down the room (but he is naturally at the side of her instead of in front). He must always remember to pass his right leg in front of the lady when going forward just as her left passes in front of him. The correct position for the feet and body can be seen by the photographs. There is a dip to this step which you can put in or not as you please. It is a slow dip made after you have taken the step with the right foot and is finished as you are taking the step with the left foot.

THE BACK TWO STEP

This is the same as the ordinary Two Step except the position of the lady is reversed and she has her back to the gentleman instead of facing him. You go right into it from the Skating this way: The man, instead of placing his right foot in front of the lady, keeps it behind, and at the same time folds his hands over hers and leads her into a Two Step. Care must be taken to hold the lady as far away from you as possible, as this gives her more freedom. The position is a trifle awkward, and the greatest amount of freedom possible must be given. This step is kept up as long as desirable, and it is finished by the gentleman holding the lady a trifle firmer and leading her into a Single Step. Now for one of the prettiest parts of the dance, the turn.

THE TURN

This step consists of the lady, who is dancing with her back to the gentleman, turning around and facing him. There are several ways of doing it. I will explain the prettiest. Let us suppose we are doing the Back Two Step, which, as I have already explained, ends with the Single. The gentleman slowly raises the lady's left hand (which is held in his left) above her head (the right hand for the time being remaining where it is); he gently pulls it toward her right shoulder, which, properly done, should give her the cue to turn around to the right and. face her partner. Now, in order to get in step with him, she must change onto the other foot, which must be done by missing out one step and deliberately changing onto the other foot. After the change is made the hands will naturally come in front of you, palms together, just above the shoulders; you must bring them slowly up above the head and around in a semicircle, single-stepping all the while; and when the man's right hand is on a level with the lady's waist he must release her left hand and take her waist as in the first position of the dance. Then two-step, and repeat the same steps or other ones as your fancy dictates.

THE SKATING STEP ELABORATED

A very pretty addition to the Skating Step is when the couples turn around, change position, and continue dancing in the same direction. It sounds rather complicated, but it is not so at all. Let us imagine we are doing the Skating Step; the man is on the lady's left-hand side; now, to make the turn he leads the lady as though he were going into the Single, but instead of doing so they both two-step around and continue in the same direction. It is absolutely essential that the gentleman hold the lady very loosely, otherwise they will surely go into the Back Two Step, but if they are apart from each other when they turn it will have the effect of leaving the man on the lady's right instead of her left. To go back again to the original position, the man, when he is about to step with his left foot, must do so behind the lady, so as. to take him to his correct side.

The steps I have explained so far are all that belong to the original version of the Maxixe. There are all kinds of fancy steps, but unless you are dancing for exhibition I do not advise you to try them in the ball-room; and, as it is the aim of this little book to teach the ball-room dances, I shall make no attempt to explain how you should boost your partner up in the air on one knee without the aid of a net.

A GOOD ROTATION OF MAXIXE STEPS

While I do not advise a fixed order of steps for any ball-room dance, I feel that in the Maxixe it will make it a great deal more interesting for beginners to know what they are going to do; and after they are used to the dance it will be an easy matter to lead a partner into any steps the dancer may fancy. The following is more or less the rotation of steps as I teach them to my pupils:

MAXIXE ROTATION

One last word about the Maxixe. Let your steps be as even and as gliding as possible. In using your hands just touch the finger-tips; don't cling to your partner's hand, Look where you are going as in all other dances, and don't bend or twist unless you are sure you look graceful.

THE HALF AND HALF

There is little or no difficulty about this dance except the time, and that is a little difficult because it is entirely new to dancing. It is 5/4 time, which means there are five beats to the bar. In Waltz time there are six, and you usually count 1, 2, 3, 1, 2, 3; but in the Half and Half you count 1, 2, 3, 1, 2.

And now for the dance. The ordinary position is assumed, the gentleman holding his partner a little farther away from him than in the Waltz; and on the first three counts you take one long, slow step, and on the next two counts you take two steps For instance, supposing the man starts off forward with his left foot; he in a way hesitates on this foot for three counts. Then he takes two short steps for the other two counts—right, left; now the right foot comes forward for three counts, and so on. The lady does the same step on the opposite foot. This is the Half and Half, and when done smoothly looks like something between the Tango, Lame Duck, and Hesitation. It is a very quiet and pretty dance, and I hope it will become popular.

The steps you can do in this dance are unlimited. For instance, the gentleman can turn the lady so that she is going in the same direction as he is, and they can do the Eight Step—of course, always keeping the 1, 2, 3, 1, 2 time.

If you wish to spin you must do so on the slow step, continuing forward on the last two counts.

All of the modem Waltz or Hesitation steps fit in delightfully after one has caught the rhythm.


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Modern Dancing by Vernon and Irene Castle Chapter 6

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