Two-step music is written either in three-four time, with two beats in each bar, or in six-eight time, in which case the two beats occur on one and four, each bar being divided in half. It takes one bar of music in either time to do the two-step with one foot. Thus, when performed with right and left feet, the complete step occupies two bars of any two-step music. This never varies, however the dancers progress.
Sometimes, when the music is played very fast, the dancers are forced to halve their time, thus taking four bars to complete the step with both feet. Two-steps were originally very slow and smooth, with a decided dip and accent on every second beat, taken with alternate feet. But the music has grown faster and faster, and it has consequently become impossible to do the step without hopping. So, good dancers, determined to dance correctly, are compelled to adopt "half-time," which is a pity.
The easiest way to teach a beginner the two-step is to hold her left hand, the teacher standing on the inside of the room. Make her do the steps round and round the room slowly, going perfectly straight. Impress on the pupil the length of every second step by sliding your own toot forward with emphasis. When the step can be danced forward without difficulty, turn the pupil backwards. Hold her right hand, still keeping on the inside, and make her repeat exactly the same step going back.
Beginners find it hard at first to get the necessary accent on the long second step when going backwards. They usually throw their heads and bodies forward in trying to do so, which is a very bad fault. As each foot slides back make the pupil keep her body perfectly upright, and the foot will go much further. The knee of the foot which is not moving should always be slightly bent, giving the necessary spring, but the body must not move, especially not away from the foot.
The step having been learned forward and back, the teacher should take the pupil by both hands and steer her in either direction unexpectedly. She can then gradually turn her, once she has got into the swing of the step, and the beginner will find she is turning round quite unconsciously. This prevents the pupil from thinking that the step changes when turning, which, though not the case, often proves a stumbling block.
Though no rule applies to the two-step, it is usual for the gentleman to guide the lady backwards to start with, and the lady always uses her right foot for beat one and the gentleman his left. Care should be taken over this in starting, as a false start means that two inside feet move together, and probably clash. In the two-step her right foot and the teacher with her left. The dancers are now
Fig. 5. The turning step. The pupil takes a long second step with half round the circle two steps fit into Beat one, and one long step into beat two. When describing the step it is necessary to number it 1, 1a, and 2; 1a being the half of beat one. Steps 1 and 1a occupy the same length of time as step 2.
Step I (Fig. 1). The lady slides her right foot straight back and the gentleman his left foot straight forward. These steps are quite small and unaccented.
Step ia (Fig. 2). The lady draws her left foot back, and the gentleman his right foot forward, to meet the opposite feet in first position.
Step 2 (Fig. 3). The lady slides her right foot back, and the gentleman his left foot forward. These steps should present a marked difference from step 1, being very long, danced with a slight dip and accent. This completes half the step, one foot only being used. The following half is exactly similar, starting with the opposite feet in each case.
Step 3 (Fig. 4). The lady slides her left foot back, and the gentleman his right foot forward, each taking a small step.
Steps 3A and 4 are exactly similar to steps 1a and 2 with opposite feet, so illustration is unnecessary.
This step, which never varies, is alike for both dancers, one always using the opposite foot to the other. Figs. 5 and 6 illustrate the positions when turning, and show that the long step and accent always remain on the second beat.
Fig. 5 shows the lady taking a long second step with her right foot and the gentleman with his left, and the dancers being half round the circle, having done half the step, as in step 2 and Fig. 3.
Fig. 6 shows the lady taking a long step with her left foot and the gentleman with his right, as in step 4. The dancers have then completed the step and the circle, and could either start round again or straight forward. It will be noticed in these pictures that the feet of the dancers never intermingle, which is correct.
Though the genuine two-step admits no rule, there have been several variations in set form. One of these is known as the "four walks." In this the two-step is performed forward with both feet, followed by four walking steps, also forward. The takes a long step with her left foot and the teacher with her right,
Fig. 6. The completion of the turning step, in which the pupil thus completing the step and the circle dancers make a half turn on the fourth walk, so that the gentleman goes backwards and repeats the step. Afterwards the two-step is danced round four times, making four circles. This takes sixteen bars of music altogether. Another popular method is to dance the actual two-step only when going straight and to break into a hop-waltz, which fits perfectly into the music, when turning. This is done because the two-step is much easier straight than turning, and many people get into a muddle directly they attempt to turn. So they fall back on the waltz. When the two-step was first introduced the extended arm was found difficult and dangerous, and so the method of holding the arms downwards towards the knees first crept into favour.
The two-step is undoubtedly very restful and soothing, and, if correctly mastered at the beginning, is quite easy to perform.
Since it was introduced a marked change has arisen in the method of dancing the two-step; that is to say, among ballroom dancers. It is now quite usual to see six out of every ten couples standing with the lady held in front of her partner, as in any other dance. But if the steps of such couples are carefully watched, it will be seen that they are performing a series of even, unmarked steps. This absolutely does away with the character and object of American dances, and the force of calling such a dance the "American" two-step is lost by this incorrect method of holding. Since first we began two-stepping the method of dancing has steadily deteriorated, and the uncertain, characterless movements of most grown-up dancers of the day do not deserve the name " two-step " at all. The reasons why this Anglicised two-step has become general are simple-the habit of waltzing when turning. Inexperienced dancers find it hard to shift from the hip-to-hip attitude when going straight to the face-to-face position when turning, if waltzing. Of course, if they two-stepped when turning-as is correct-the need for such a change would be obviated. But as it is not possible to waltz without intermingling the feet, lazy dancers have dropped into the habit of standing face to face all the time.