A third dimension of patterns that can be modified is the width of the slot. Wider slots feel more relaxed as the pattern drifts from side to side. Dancing in a narrow slot creates a tight, crisp look. This drill is designed to get you comfortable with changing the slot width.
The Drill—Leaders: Find a line on the floor that you can use as a reference point. With that line as your slot, dance side passes that move further away from the slot than normal. For instance, your 1 on a side pass can go slightly away from the slot, as well as down the line; likewise, let your 4 go all the way across the slot instead of stopping in the slot. Use an anchor variation that continues across the slot before coming back to the slot for the end of the anchor (e.g., a side and cross). This is your wide version of the patterns.
For the narrow version, again dance side passes with a line marking the slot. This time, every step should either be on the line or directly next to it (so that the edge of your foot is touching the line). Make sure that you open your shoulders by 2 so that your follower will have room to pass through. This is your narrow version.
The Drill—Followers: With a line on the floor marking the center of your slot, dance side passes. For the wide version, let the middle of your side pass curve off of the slot. When you post on 4, travel past the slot with your anchor before coming back to the center for your next pattern. This is your wide version.
To dance the narrow version, every step should be directly on the line. You will need to make sure that you rotate your upper body beginning on count 2 of the side pass; the contra-body rotation is what allows you to share the slot in close quarters with your leader.
Additional Partner Details: It is possible to lead pattern width. To lead a wider pattern, the leader can add a slight arc to the connection in order to encourage the follower to move off of the slot. Narrow width can be lead by keeping the connection directly in front of the follower’s connected shoulder, which asks the follower to keep her frame in line.
For the follower, it is much easier to suggest a wider pattern. During the middle of patterns, the follower can drift from side to side of the slot as in the drill above. When the follower is sent out (such as a throwout from a whip or the tuck of a tuck turn), she can use the opportunity to stay out of the slot briefly instead of immediately coming back to center. The other place the follower can create width is during the anchor; it is okay to anchor slightly off-center from the slot as long as you return to center by count 2 so the leader can put you in position for the next move. Beware of anchoring too far off the slot, as that can take away options for the leader’s next pattern choice. You should be able to comfortably return to center no later than beat 2.
To apply width variations, try dancing to “Do Nothin’ Till You Hear From Me” by Mary J. Blige:
This song features a contrast between the keyboard and percussion, which is very tight and staccato, and the vocals, which are more lyrical. An easy way to show the contrast is by dancing the A section (“Do nothin’ till you hear from me…”) in a narrow slot, with the keyboard line. When the vocals take over in the B section (beginning with, “True I’ve been seen…”), change to a wide slot.