The Alemana By Barry Gasson

Wally and Julie-Fan

The Fan position with Walter and Julie Laird

The Alemana is one of the most used, fundamental steps in the Rumba and the Cha-Cha-Cha. However, it is many years since I saw the Alemana danced correctly, as I was taught, with the exception of my own couples. I believe that this is due to expediency, part of the dumbing-down, let’s do it in the easiest possible way and never mind about style or technique. What one sees today is a Spot Turn to the right underneath the man’s arm. I shudder when I see the exposed right armpits of the ladies when they perform the Alemana in today’s dance world.

The Laird Technique tells us exactly how it should be done

But, like most techniques, the written word has to be explained to the tyro by an experienced coach or teacher.

As Walter Laird said to me “There are about ten things you have to understand to get it right, and when you have all your ducks in a row, everything works!

I will explain the technique and instructions of the six steps of the Alemana, and illustrate what currently happens when one sees it danced today. I want to take your perception of the Alemana and change it to a three-dimensional thing of beauty, without an unbalanced position. The man does not ‘lead’ the Alemana, instead he signals to the lady with his change of left hand to right hand hold and the lady takes over and uses his hand to dance the Alemana. When the Lady dances the Alemana as Laird intended, the man will not swing the Lady’s arm in a circle above her head and shoulder, throwing her off balance.

Let us commence in Fan Position

With the Lady at right angles to man on his left side. In Fan Position the man’s left hand is palm up, with the Lady’s right hand placed on his, palm down. If the man wishes to signal an Alemana, he will rotate his hand in a clockwise direction so that his left hand is palm facing the Lady, rather like a traffic policeman stopping traffic with his left hand. On receipt of this signal the lady will turn 1/8 (45 degrees) to the right on step three, while still on the man’s left side. She must not be allowed to move in front of, or level with, the man. Most ladies, at this point continue moving towards the man, and merely turn the right toe out, in the fond belief that this constitutes a turn. Not so, there must be a directional change.

If the lady is able to imagine a straight line from her Fan Position to the man’s left side, step three will turn off that straight line, then, on step four, her delayed forward walk will be taken across that line, for a ½ turn. When weight is taken onto that left foot, a further ¼ turn to the right will be made. Step five is then a forward walk on the right foot, diagonally away from the man, NOT A REPLACEMENT OF WEIGHT! A foot swivel of 3/8 of turn will then occur on the right foot, before the sixth step is taken as a forward walk towards the man’s right hip. In my studio I would face the end of the room. The corner on my left housed the toilets and the corner on my right was the entrance door. I would say to the Lady “have you ever seen, or heard of that great Latin dancer, Lou Dormie?” Most would answer in the affirmative!! I would then suggest that steps four, five and six were directional movements that were all taken forwards, first to the loo, then the door, then to me.

Loo, Door, Me!!

A wonderfully descriptive aid to memory. Step three, for lady, is held in technique, to take two beats on the counts of 4-1. The following step, taken with the left foot is supposed to take one beat on the count of 2. So when is the turn made on the right foot? It has to be made as a part of the third step, so when the lady lands on her right foot on step three she will swivel on her right foot and point left foot across body without weight in a delayed forward walk. On beat two, for the fourth step, she will take her weight onto that left foot and foot swivel to right. Step five will be a forward walk. Step six will then be a forward walk, instead of the ugly side step that one sees so often.

When the Lady is in Fan Position at the commencement of the Alemana, her right arm should be almost straight, with crease of the arm facing upwards, that is with the right elbow pointing to the floor. Then, when she moves towards the man her arm will ‘fold’ at the elbow. A common fault for ladies is to move the right elbow rightwards thereby opening the armpit. Not a pretty site! I always make sure that the lady understands that , when she dances step four of an Open Hip Twist, she must not move her right arm away from her body, rather, she must move her belly area into the right arm’ It is that oft-repeated but seldom understood

Body First

The same principle applies in the Alemana.

When the lady takes her 1/8 of turn with her third step she should be moving towards her right arm, which may not move to the right. Her head will turn to right to initiate the turn. The right arm will not lift for her to go under, rather she will move into the space between her head and her right hand. The head goes first, then upper body weight, followed by the hips and then the foot. I tell Ladies that their head will always be one step ahead of the foot. When she takes step three, her head will be looking towards the direction of step four. On step four she will be looking at the end direction of step five, on step six, the body will catch up with the head. Just as you walk down the street and turn a corner, the head will turn to look first, a perfectly natural occurrence.

If the Alemana is danced in this fashion, a movement such as Rope Spinning is so much easier as the Spiral Cross action is more easily affected from a forward walk, rather than a side step. progressive, on a forward walk the ladies feet should land underneath her bosom, this should be even more important on a rotational movement.

Dance within the confines of the man’s arms

I find this phrase to be of enormous value. I have always found that the Alemana danced in this way is more balanced, and more visually satisfying, and I recommend that Solo Spot Turns be danced using this technique. This goes right back to the old adage that you can only look as good as when you are dancing a forward walk. The basis of the Alemana is that of six walking steps.

For the Lady

  1. Close Right foot to left foot. Backward walk.
  2. Left foot forward. Forward walk.
  3. Right foot forward. Forward walk.
  4. Left foot forward. Delayed forward walk.
  5. Right foot forward. Forward walk.
  6. Left foot forward. Forward walk.

You will observe that the words ‘to side’, or sideways do not appear in that description.

Let us make the Alemana a thing of beauty and a joy forever

Barry Gasson

 

 
Contributor
Brigitt Mayer-Karakis is the author of the award winning book "Ballroom Icons", and chief archivist for the WDC Dance History project.
1 comment on this postSubmit yours
  1. Can we please see a video (or maybe a you tube link with a video) of this way of doing the Alemana? I am so confused by now as everybody does it different here in SA.

    Thank you

    Carina Cullen

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