Coloring with Arm Movements

West Coast Swing Online Styling

In WCS, arm movements are used to either finish or dissipate the energy of a move. An arm that goes goes up or out signals energy; contained arms or arms that finish downwards tend to look calmer and less busy. By adjusting your arm movements, you can ramp up the energy of a movement or take out the juice.

The Drill: Without a partner, practice arm movements that you use on patterns that create momentum, such as tucks, throwouts, and hip catches. For each movement, drill a “loud” version and a “quiet” version.

Some of the ways you can create a “loud” version include:

  • Keeping the arm parallel to the ground
  • Raising the arm slightly above neutral
  • Taking the wrist outside of your elbow
  • Moving the arm to the end of your range of motion rapidly

The “quiet” version can be created through these options:

  • Taking the arm downwards (at an angle or straight down)
  • Keeping the wrist inside the elbow
  • Moving the arm to the end of the range of motion slowly

Note for Leaders: In general, your arm movements should be more contained than the follower’s. Opening your arms wide is more dramatic on the leader side of the dance, so it’s easy to overdo it. Keep your arm variations a notch quieter than the follower’s unless you are deliberately going for a massive hit.

Leader’s Option: Leaders, you can create the look of big arms by leading two-handed moves. Two-handed moves look busy, and they also visually emphasize the open position distance between the partners; both of these factors raise the “volume” level of the movement. By leading more two-handed moves when the song is loud, you can call attention to the energy in that part of the song.

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