Pivot turn

The term pivot turn or simply pivot refers to certain turning dance steps which may differ in different dance styles, with common character that the turn is a rotational movement of the whole body around one's own vertical axis, as if around a pivot. During the turn the foot swivels on the floor (or other dance surface). Pivot turns may be with the support on a single foot and on both feet, with both swiveling in place and staying as they are. In the latter case the turn is also called twist turn.

Pivot turns are common in ballroom dancing, folk dancing, ethnic dances. In ballet, with its elaborate terminology, a full (360 degrees) pivot turn on one foot is called pirouette. There is a wide variety of pivot turns in terms of varuous actions and amounts of action during the turns.

Ethnic dances

A Native American pivot turn, as described by Bessie and May Evans (1931), is performed standing on the ball of one foot and tapping with the other foot, accompanied with small turns on the standing foot with each tap. The full turn requires about 16 taps.

A Russian pivot turn, as described by Bessie and May Evans, is performed as follows. The right foot is placed flat and the left foot is placed with the toe by the right heel and the left heel raised and this relative position basically maintained during the turning. The turn starts with the right foot raised from the floor. While continuously revolving, on each strong beat (downbeat) the right foot is stepped flat and on each weak beat (upbeat) the left foot is stepped on the ball (by the right heel).

Ballroom technique

In International Standard and American Smooth pivot turns are used in the following named dance figures, each having its own technique.

  • In Waltz (Inernational Standard) syllabus
    • Step 4 of the Natural Spin Turn, with pivot taking 1/2 turn
    • Reverse Pivot
    • Slip Pivot
    • Step 3 (toe pivot) of man's part of the Double Reverse Spin
    • Man's step 1 of the Outslide Spin
    • Chains of pivot turns of various length


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