Change Your Footwork for Quieter Music

West Coast Swing Online Musicality & Timing

An important skill in musicality is being able to maintain the connection while changing your footwork. In this drill, you will practice taking out weight changes in order to show lower-energy moments in the song.

Most dancers are exposed to footwork variations that replace triple rhythms with single rhythms—doing a leg sweep instead of a triple, substituting a drag-step action for an anchor, etc. In this exercise, we’re going to focus on a trickier kind of footwork variation: replacing triple rhythms with double rhythms. Walking through patterns increases the difficulty level because you will start parts of the pattern on different feet; for instance, your anchor will start on the “wrong” foot because you took out one of the weight transfers before the anchor. But, because these variations are trickier, they can be a good way to create contrast within your dance.

The Drill: With or without a partner, dance your basics with walks and no triples. Because you are taking fewer steps, you may need to position your feet differently so that your center can follow the same path as it does on a normal basic.

Focus on where your point of connection is throughout the pattern, and determine how you need to move your body in order to keep the same point of connection as if you were dancing with your normal west coast rhythm. If you have a practice partner, ask them to dance with you while their eyes are closed. Dance both straight walks as well as normal WCS rhythms, and ask them which was which. If they can tell the difference, you should keep practicing so that your body flight and connection remain consistent.

If you struggle with how to move your body or where to place your feet, think about where your center needs to move during each two beat increment. On a push break, for instance, the follower needs to move into compression and then be sent back on 3&4; the leader needs to absorb the follower’s energy and then redirect the follower back towards the end of the slot. To create that effect, how do you need to move your center? If you only have two steps, where do you need to put those steps in order to make that movement happen?

Once you are comfortable with the mechanics of taking out weight transfers, try putting on a song and dancing your normal basics. When the song goes into a low energy part, switch to doing walks for the remainder of that pattern. You should aim to show just a couple of seconds of low-energy: if you keep walking for several patterns in a row, it looks like a mistake instead of an intentional styling choice.

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