Basic Leverage in Unusual Places

West Coast Swing Online Connection

One of the important things for West Coast Swing beginners to know are core patterns. The core patterns of WCS (side passes, push breaks, and whips) use leverage and compression in fairly straightforward ways. In intermediate-level patterns, these same connection concepts are used; however, because the moves look different, it can be hard to see how those connections work. These drills aim to help you apply the basic connection principles to higher-level moves.

These drills can be done either by yourself or with a partner. If you are with a partner, actually dance the move up to the connection that is being focused on, and experiment with changing the connection at that time to feel what makes the move easier and clearer. If you are doing the drills on your own, think about where you are located relative to your partner and where the follower is being asked to move next, and position your body so that you are able to create the appropriate kind of connection.

The Drill—Leverage: WCS uses leverage when the follower is being asked to move towards the leader. A straightforward application of this connection principle is the walk walk of any pattern, in which the follower keeps her center slightly behind the foot in order to feel the distance the leader is leading, whether he is creating a prep on 2, etc. (And the leader likewise makes sure his center stays behind his foot so that he’s not putting slack in the connection.)

So, let’s take a more complicated move: the basket whip. On this move, the leader does whip footwork. He is holding both hands of the follower and leads her down his right side, looking at his left wrist on 2 like an underarm turn. Because the follower’s arms are crossed, she continues straight and ends up going into whip rhythm when she feels the leader step across on 4, creating her coaster step.

Walk through this move and stop right before count 4. What kind of connection should the partners be in? The answer, surprisingly, is leverage. Even though she is facing away from the leader, the follower’s next step is going to be towards the leader. How do you create leverage in this position? Well, both partners’ centers must be further away from each other than their feet. So, the leader’s center should be behind his feet, like they normally are for 4 of a whip. But, the follower actually needs to move her center forward—which is away from the leader, because she is facing away from him—in order to create the leverage connection.

If you are doing this drill with a partner, this would be a great time to dance two version of the basket whip. In the first version, have the follower take her center further forward than normal on count 4, so she is leaning further away from the leader. In the second version, have the follower leave her center directly over her feet. The first version should feel more connected because the partners’ centers are in the correct relationship.

Bonus Variations: Walk through your pattern repertoire and identify moments in which the follower is moving towards the leader. Ask yourself where you need to position your center in order to establish a leverage connection at that moment. If you have a partner, also try dancing through the pattern and test whether that connection makes the move work better.

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