Breathe With Your Movement

West Coast Swing Online Styling

The breath can be a powerful cue for movement. Breathing creates dynamics within your body: the expansion with the in-breath, the power of the exhale. In this exercise, you will practice using the breath to add life to your movements.

There are a lot of ways to use the breath during your dance. For this exercise, we’re going to focus on creating contrast during your leading or following. We’ll work with the push break, but you can apply this concept to any movement within the dance.

The Drill: You can do this drill by yourself or with a partner. Having a partner is valuable because you can get feedback on how your breathing affects your connection, but you should be able to create this contrast on your own.

Dance a push break. For the first phase of this exercise, focus on breathing in time with the compression. As you come into compression, inhale. Feel your body expand with the breath—especially through the chest—and use that expansion in your movement. Leaders, you can visualize yourself actually using the breath to bring the follower into compression. Followers, you can imagine pulling yourself into your leader with your breath. For both partners, use the expansion to absorb and build the compression of the movement.

As you practice inhaling, remember that there’s a difference between expanding the body and puffing the chest out. You should still be maintaining good posture while you breath in. If your ribcage becomes disconnected from your torso or you have to bend your spine, you are artificially forcing the chest out instead of letting it fill naturally.

When you finish breathing in, your should feel a lot of energy in your compression. Now it’s time to use that energy. As you release the compression on count 4, exhale. Leaders, imagine using your breathe to push your follower away. Followers, think about powering yourself away from the leader with your breath. You should feel a much more dynamic push break than before you focused on your breathing.

Once you can reliably create the dynamic within your push break, think about other places you can use the same concept. Are there other places that you are moving in towards your partner, or bringing your partner in to you? Try inhaling. If you and your partner are moving away, add an exhale. Use exhales for settling actions, power, and movement. Use inhales for builds, preps, and holds.

As you experiment, remember that these ideas are guidelines, not rules. Some movements may demand other breathing patterns. If a particular method of breathing doesn’t feel right, try the opposite. You may find some movements where either an inhale or an exhale will work; if that’s the case, pay attention to how each option changes the feel of the pattern. You can then choose which breathing technique to use as a stylistic choice.

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