Basic Compression in Unusual Places

West Coast Swing Online Connection

Just like basic leverage principles show up in all kinds of moves, basic compression principles likewise apply to more than just push breaks and tuck turns. This exercise aims to get West Coast Swing beginners thinking about compression even when the situation looks very different from your standard push break.

The Drill—Compression: Our example pattern will be a 6-count roll-in/roll-out pattern. From a leader’s right/follower’s left connection, the leader brings the follower down his left side and preps her for an inside turn. He holds her hand as she turns into the arm and steps further down the slot on 4, then unwinds for her anchor. This move is used all of the time in various handholds: it can be down as a wrap, as a cuddle from a two-hand lead, to a fold or sweetheart position from a right-to-left connection, and more.

What connection should the partners have on count 4? Believe it or not, this is a compression connection. On count 4, the follower is stepping away from the leader. In fact, step 4 of this move is almost exactly like 4 on your basic push break, except the follower is facing down the slot rather than stepping backwards into her anchor and the leader is on the side of the slot rather than in the middle.

In order to create compression, the centers of both partners must be closer to each other than their feet. For the leader, who is on the side of the slot, this means that his center needs to be slightly further down the slot than his feet. For the follower, her center needs to be closer to the leader than her feet, which means that she can’t be standing directly over her feet on 4 (and certainly can’t be pitched forward!). Instead, the follower should be connecting her back into the arm wrapped around her (or the arm on her shoulders in sweetheart, or the fold on the small of her back, or…).

If you have a partner, try this move in two versions. In the first version, have the follower stay back slightly on 4 so that she is staying into the arm on her back. In the second version, have the follower stand straight over her 4 foot. Which feels better? It should be the first version: that allows the follower to feel how far she is stepping on 4, whether she is rotating, how fast she is moving, etc.

Practice going through this pattern, either on your own or with a partner, and pay attention to where your center is located for count 4. Make sure that you are putting yourself in a position to offer compression, rather than being in neutral or leverage.

Bonus Variations: Just like in the leverage drill, go through your patterns and identify moments in which the follower is moving away from the leader. What can you do to make sure that your center is positioned to generate compression at that moment? Practice doing those moves with compression and see how much better the move works.

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