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The Yoyo in Excruciating Detail!

The yoyo is one beginner moves that is rarely danced correctly.  This move brings out so many issues that are applicable to other moves, that it is analysed in considerable detail below.

You will notice that most of the "whole counts" are a state where you are not moving, but stationary, often under tension or compression as there is a change of momentum.  All half-counts and "turning counts" involve motion and are differentiated from stationary counts by a slight indentation and lack of a grey strip.  At the end is an animation to see it all together.


Nauseating detail


  [This is the end of the previous move or the start of the dance]

On exactly count 0. Some suggest that, when you start a dance, you start circling your right hand (for a right to right hand grip move) in a clockwise manner. Otherwise no action is required.

  • You must be close together. If you are not close, you will end up so far away on the next count that you will have to let go or look all gangly and bent.
  • Keep a light grip, fingers over fingers, thumbs well out of the way. Beginners will feel a natural tendency to grip on for dear life! Resist - what's the worst that can happen?!
  • LADIES: Do not lead the circling hand-movement.  Just let your hand be lead, it is a signal TO you, not for you to perform it.
  [This is also the end of the previous move or the start of the dance]

By count 0.5. You should be stepping apart.

  • Keep your bodies vertical as you step back rather than keeping your feet still and leaning back.  Forgetting to step back can cause this lean.
  • MEN: Push lightly against the lady's hand to push her away. She does not move by magic!
  • LADIES: As you feel the push, push against his hand with slight pressure so your hands are kept symmetrically between you. Do not do this by watching him (blind ladies can be lead perfectly well), but by feel otherwise you will feel like a limp lettuce to him!
  On exactly count 1. You should be stationary, apart, right to right hand-grip.
  • Keep your hands at waist level.  Beginners are tempted to bring their hands high.
  • There should be some tension in your hands as it is this tension that stopped you moving.
  • Use tension in your elbow to stop you leaning back and hold you upright.
  • Keep that grip loose - thumbs well out of the way.
  • Keep your elbows bent to keep your step-back small in crowded conditions. Indeed a straight arm does not look cool anyway.  Somewhere between 45 and 90 is great.
  • LADIES: Face your partner squarely.  Twisting to face your left can (wrongly) release the tension between your hands & arms.
  • LADIES: Most ladies have stepped back on their right foot on this count as this allows a regular stepping throughout the move.  However the left can also be used but some form of foot change manoeuvre will be needed to be on the right foot for count 2.5.

The most important aspect is getting some tension.


  By count 1.5. You should be stepping together, the lady travelling in the direction to the right hand side of the man.
  • MEN: Your should start raising your right arm to aim for your left shoulder.
  • LADIES: You should not start turning at this point but pretend you are walking right past his right hand side (but likely to bump shoulders!).
  On exactly count 2. The lady should be stationary, the lady to the man's right hand side.
  • MEN: You must keep hold of her fingers, otherwise she will think a hatchback is coming (for which the man places his palm flat on his shoulder and the lady's hand flat on his hand). You do this at shoulder height by his left shoulder.
  • LADIES: You should end up with both feet together in preparation for the next turn.

The most important thing is for the lady not to anticipate the next turn

  By count 2.5. You should be turning the lady 180 clockwise on your right hand side.
  • MEN: You should step forward as the lady steps back otherwise his right arm clashes with her neck.
  • LADIES: You should rotate clockwise 180 on your left foot, this foot staying in position right till count 4.
  • LADIES: You should place your left hand on the man's nearest (right) shoulder for stability.  The man feels you are strangely remote if you do not.

The key aspect is for the lady to positively turn through half a turn, not less.

  On exactly count 3. She should be just behind you on your right hand side.
  • If she turns less than half a turn (man not leading or lady not following), this will not make things easier (even though you may know she is turning back again!), because the timing will go wrong and the man will not end up doing the work for the lady!
  • There should be some tension as the lady has just been swung round backwards because the man's hand is exerting a force forwards to stop her going backwards further and falling on the floor!
  • Don't forget to beam a big smile into each others' eyes!
  • MEN: It is usual to be stepped forward for the yoyo (and back on the First Move)
  • LADIES: Your right foot should be well behind your left foot.


  By count 3.5. You should be swinging the lady back to face you.
  • MEN: Imagine you are stirring a cauldron of sticky stew in order to circle your hand round to be in position for the next count.
  • LADIES: You should be rotating about your left foot.
  On exactly count 4. You should be stationary under some pressure from a palm to palm grip.
  • Elbows are encouraged to be at right-angles and touch (strictly not necessary providing there is the pressure between the hands, but it encourages this pressure).
  • MEN: Your hand should be at shoulder height to signify a turn, rather than a spin.
  • MEN: Make sure you step back just the right amount to help the lady get into position.
  • LADIES: You should turn the full 180 anticlockwise to face and possibly be twisted slightly more to give this hand pressure.  If you stop turning by yourself, you will remove the pressure on the hands and spoil the timing of the next stage by having less distance to turn.
  • LADIES: You should provide pressure against the man's hand, building up to maximum on the exact count. This enables you to turn following this count.
  • LADIES: You left hand must be off the man's shoulder and above waist height and it is best to keep it close to your body or it might get in the way of the next part, especially if more complicated options follow.

The most important point is to end up with pressure between you so the lady can re-bound off the man.


  By count 4.5. Yes, she should be starting to turn before count 5, so she is already turning on count 5.
  • MEN: Pushed against her hand to impart rotation into her whole body.
  • LADIES: You should allow the man's lead to affect your hand, transfer right through your arm, to your shoulder and body by going rigid.
  • LADIES: You should be starting this clockwise pre-turn on your left foot.
  On exactly count 5. Continue turning her the full turn clockwise.
  • You should both be close together otherwise you will have to stretch and the step back next will be impossible.
  • MEN: You should lift your hand to be exactly above her head. The lady will find turning so much easier. Winding the lady like a crank handle looks awful and will put her off balance.
  • MEN: Your hand should be a slight cup, palm down, although this is sometimes difficult to arrange on a clockwise turn with some ladies.
  • LADIES: This is the main turn and you should have transferred to be turning clockwise on your right foot.
  • LADIES: You must allow the man to lift your arm with ease, help him - do not resist! 
  • LADIES: You should have your fingers loosely pressed up into the man's cupped hand.
  • LADIES:  Some teach that you should allow your free hand to "lag" behind, close to your body.  Others do something positive with it such as place it on your hips.
  • LADIES: Turn a complete turn, keep your heel (just) off the ground so you turn on your toe. Don't be tempted to just step round.
  • LADIES: Don't look down or you will go off balance!

The lady will find it better to turn on her right foot.


  By count 5.5. You should both be stepping apart.
  • MEN: If she is close to you (as she should be) then you can feel the compression as you lead her away.
  • LADIES: You step onto your left foot as you stare the man right in the eye from close range before stepping apart. This crispness makes all the difference.
  • LADIES: This left foot is placed right beside your right foot - do not be tempted to take a short cut and stepping this foot backwards.

Separating the turn from the step back adds a "crisp" feel to the move.

  On exactly count 6. You should be apart under tension.
  • LADIES: You will most likely step back on the foot you turned on, ie your right.
  • LADIES: Generally you will find that it is best not to step back too far on your right as a foot change manoeuvre is necessary next involving stepping in on the left. Indeed, as you have just turned clockwise, you can overturn slightly to build up the tension instead of just stepping back.

The most important point is to provide tension between you as on count 1.

  By count 6.5. You should both be stepping together, starting to turn her anticlockwise.
  • It is important to both step in to turn to make it look good.
  • MEN: Do not forget to start raising her hand.
  • LADIES: You finished count 6 on your right foot.  You will need to turn on your left foot on count 7.  So which foot do you use for this half-count?  Those who just step through from foot to foot on each half-count will get foxed at this point.  Thus a foot-change mechanism is required here.  Some possibilities are:

     i) take a whole count to step in on your left foot on count 7 (which can feel strange since you have just stepped on the last two half-counts and on this half-count you do nothing);

     ii) raise your left knee on this half count, then place your left foot down to turn on count 7. This action does help you still feel the beat;

     iii) tap your left foot on the ground on this half count then use this same left foot to step and turn on count 7;

     iv) perform a triple step (right left right very quickly) starting with the right on count 6, finishing with the right on this half count so you can step in with your left on count 7.

Although most ladies do not know they do it, they are performing a foot change manoeuvre!


  On exactly count 7. Continue to turn her anticlockwise.
  • MEN: See count 5. The cupping action of the hand is usually easier when she turns anticlockwise.
  • LADIES: See count 5, except you turn on your left foot.

The important point is that the lady turns left (ACW) on her left foot and right (CW) on her right.

  By count 7.5. You should be both stepping apart.
  • LADIES: You step onto your right foot as you stare the man right in the eye from close range before stepping apart.
  On exactly count 8. You should be stationary, apart, still with a right to right hand-grip.
  • LADIES: You should not over-turn this time, but face the man square-on, otherwise the tension slackens off too much.
  • LADIES: You will have stepped back on your turning foot, ie left foot.
  • LADIES: If you started stepping back on your right on count 1, then you will notice that you are now on your left.  You may therefore  need to perform the change of foot manoeuvre given in 6.5 above before executing the next move, depending whether it starts with a turn clockwise or anticlockwise.  Some say that this is why the lady should step back on her left on beat one.

Putting this all together...