Friday, May 30, 2008

What Is Natural And What Is Reverse?

Beginners of ballroom and Latin American dancing will usually be confused by the terms natural, reverse, natural turn and reverse turn. Basically in dancing nomenclature, natural means right and reverse means left. A natural turn therefore means a turn to your right and a reverse turn means a turn to your left. Well and good, but why didn't the dancing fraternity in the West use the words right for natural and left for reverse. In China they use the terms right and left instead of the literal translations for natural and reverse.When they use the word reverse in Chinese it actually means taking a step backwards!

The Oxford dictionary defines the word natural as - according to, provided by, nature; normal not artificial; innate; inborn; to be expected. The word reverse is defined as - opposite or contrary (to); inverted; back(ward); travel backwards.

I vividly remembered when I first started taking ballroom lessons and was doing the waltz when my dance teacher shouted at me to do a reverse turn. In a moment of confusion I instinctively took a step backwards on my left foot because it was ingrained in my brain that reverse means backwards as in reverse gear or reversing a car. It took me a while to rewire the synapses in my brain and come to terms with the dance terminology.

So why do the dancers in the West use the terms natural and reverse when right or left would have sufficed. Beats me! I have spoken to dancers, read books and trawled the internet for answers but have been unable to get a satisfactory reply. My hypothesis is that it has something to do with the human anatomy, specifically our hands. As the majority of people in the world are right-handed it was therefore considered normal or 'natural' when referring to the right as compared to left-handed people who are the opposite or reverse of the natural (i.e. right-handed people).

Another way of looking at it would be - if a turn to the right is a natural turn, then a turn to the left (i.e. in the opposite direction or reverse) would be a reverse turn. So much for the logic and rhetoric. Does my hypothesis make sense or does it sound confusing? Is there anyone out there who can shed some light on this conundrum? I will elaborate on some natural and reverse figures in future postings.

Best Wishes,

Dance Aficionado
Dancesport Malaysia

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