Recently a highly respected caller coach suggested that Step Thru should not be called at the Mainstream program. However, it is in the Basic/Mainstream definitions that the term Step Thru first appears. Leave it to CALLERLAB to provide us with a term that according to some has no relevance in the program within which it was introduced. Is this simply a matter of caller confusion, or a genuine conundrum?

Vic Ceder’s website lists Jay King’s definition of the call Step Thru like this:

(Not on the Mainstream List): A modification of Pass Thru. Step Thru is done from a wave that can be either a right or left shoulder pass by depending on whether the wave is a right or left hand one.

It’s not on any other list that I could find either. In fact, it seems more of an English Directive as to what dancers should do, much like Face Right, or directions after an Arm Turn like Walk Past your Corner and on to the Next … etc. English directives are acceptable by tradition and necessity. Stars require more English than other commands, because of their ambiguity. Heads Square Thru, Make a Right Hand Star and Turn It … Heads Star Left One Full Turn, Back to Face the Corner, Do sa Do … or whatever. “Face” isn’t on any list, yet dancers have learned to do what the Caller is telling them – at least in that choreographical pattern.

So, back to Step Thru: I learned long ago that “Step Thru” meant to drop hands and step forward, adjusting to back to back couples with those in the wave who were facing in the opposite direction. It’s a modified version of Pass Thru or Left Pass Thru depending upon the handedness of the wave.

When discussing the Ocean Wave Rule, which allows some facing couples calls (like Pass Thru) to be done from ocean waves, CALLERLAB says this:

It would be improper to call Circulate from Ocean Waves and expect dancers to dance it as a Step Thru based on the Ocean Wave Rule because they would naturally apply the definition of Circulate from Ocean Waves.

What? Step Thru? What’s that even mean? Where’s its definition? Do you think Dancers could apply a modicum of common sense and at least step forward, moving through the wave? They could in the 90s. But I digress. The call Allemande Left uses “Step Thru” in its definition!

In its most general form, an Allemande Left is simply an Arm Turn by the left (plus a Step Thru as the dancers head towards their next dancer interaction).
Dance action: Dancers holding left arms or facing dancers Arm Turn by the left at least 180 degrees until the men are facing promenade direction and the women are facing wrong way promenade direction. Step Thru.

But Wait, shouldn’t we have a definition for Step Thru? That’s like telling a man who’s been blind since birth that the color Orange is kind of Red and Yellow mixed together.

There’s more!

The call Pass Thru, features Step Thru in Comments designed to give the reader a better understanding of the call and its proper uses.

Comments: Pass Thru is proper from a Right-Hand Mini-Wave because of the Ocean Wave Rule. It is the same as Step Thru.

Pass Thru is improper from a Left-Hand Mini-Wave because of the left shoulder pass. Use Step Thru instead.

Pass Thru from a Left-Hand Ocean Wave, making use of an implicit "those who can", and expecting only the centers to be active is rarely used and goes against dancer expectation. Use "Centers Pass Thru" or "Centers Step Thru" instead.

Pass Thru is improper from dancers who are further apart than directly facing, or on a diagonal with respect to each other. Using a phrase like "Boys On A Diagonal, Pass Thru", the caller can accomplish the desired dance action.

Now one begins to get a feel for Step Thru – If you’re in a Right Hand ocean wave, Step Thru is the same as Pass Thru. If you’re in a Left Handed Ocean Wave, don’t call Pass Thru! By golly, use Step Thru. Remember, it’s the same as Pass Thru. They said so just above. The last rule is also interesting, not because it has anything to do with Step Thru, but because it’s showing the explicit use of English to modify a call and “accomplish [a] desired dance action.”

So, Step Thru is a sort of modified Pass Thru, just like Jay King said. If we’re in a left hand wave, CALLERLAB recommends the use of Step Thru. Notice that Left Pass Thru isn’t even mentioned.

Did you know that the Mainstream Call Turn Thru is: Step to a Wave (but use forearm styling), Right Arm Turn ½, and STEP THRU?

Even though Step Thru does not appear on a list, apparently it’s an important part of the basic program. After all, you can’t do a Left Allemande unless you know how to Step Thru! If you’re in a Right Hand Wave, you have the choice to use Pass Thru or Step Thru: I bet you’ll have better success on an average dance floor with the latter.

Step Thru isn’t listed on any CALLERLAB program, but neither are some important terms we use to identify dancers or make things more clear. It certainly is not something that should be left until Challenge -- in my opinion. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that it isn’t part of the Challenge program. After all, Circle Left is the first call in the C2 program and those beyond.

So, be bold.

Step Thru!