Building a Play Vocabulary

West Coast Swing Online Grab Bag

You can get into play and you can return to the normal dance. Now what?

This is the part of the process that is different for everyone. In short, you need to develop your repertoire of movements that fit you and your dance style so that when you want to play, you have a dance vocabulary to draw from. This drill is the first step in discovering the movements that make sense for you.

The Drill: This drill is done without a partner. Actually, it’s done without anyone: get away from the kids, close the door on the pets, and draw the blinds. You may also want to have a glass of wine on hand.

Put on a song that makes you want to dance and freestyle. Whatever comes to mind, do it. This is not the time for self-censorship: if you have an urge to air guitar or booty shake, now’s the time. There’s a reason you closed the blinds earlier.

About 80% of what you do will be awful. If over half of what you’re doing is not bad, you’re not trying enough new things. Again, this is not the time to hold back—dance like a fool.

As you try a thousand different moves, most of which will be awful, you will eventually stumble upon something that’s not half bad. It’s probably not good, but you will feel like that might be cool, someday. Figure out what that movement was and make a note of it. Voice recorder or videocamera apps can be useful, but make sure you’re only recording the good stuff: you don’t want to fear preserving your 80% of awful moves.

By the end of your private dance party, you should have found one or two movements that have potential to become part of your dance. What you will want to do eventually is polish those movements. Congratulations—you have discovered something you can do when you play!

Keep putting on songs from a broad range of genres, and you’ll slowly discover the movements that make up your dance. This will be the vocabulary that you draw from when you play.

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