Complimenting Your Partner’s Styling

West Coast Swing Online Styling

You’ve practiced paying attention to what your partner is doing. Now it’s time to do something with that awareness. In this drill, we’re going to focus on how to compliment your partner’s styling.

Complimentary styling is a great way to show that you are working with your partner to interpret the music. It also is a great choice if you are dancing with a dancer whose musicality is stronger than yours, because you can benefit from their skill in interpreting the song.

So, how do you do complimentary styling? You pick some element of their movement and create the same effect in your body. This isn’t mimicry—you aren’t trying to mirror their movement. Instead, you are picking a quality of their movement and using that in a way that makes sense for your body.

Let’s take a concrete example. Let’s suppose the follower is coming in for a sugar tuck, and on the tuck she hears something in the music that she wants to draw out, so she extends her free arm to the side. The leader could try to mirror that movement, but it’s easy to look awkward in that position. So let’s try a complimentary movement instead. The follower is opening up, filling the space and extending her body. As long as the leader can find a way to create that same effect in his body, it doesn’t matter how he does it. He can:

  • Raise up slightly during the tuck in order to fill a larger vertical space,
  • Extend his free arm downward to make his body look elongated, or
  • Settle onto his right foot for the tuck and extend his left leg to the side in a line.

What about the follower? Well, let’s say that the leader has led the follower into a side pass, and during the side pass he stands on his right leg while pulsing his free knee on the beat. The quality of movement is an accent on each beat, so the follower has lots of options to create that during her side pass. She can:

  • Syncopate her footwork by doing double rhythms,
  • Do chugs down the line, or
  • Use a shoulder isolation to accent each beat.

The Drill: With a partner, take turns being the styling partner and the complimentary partner. When the styling partner creates an effect with their dancing, the complimentary partner should find a way to match the quality of movement in their body. Again, it should not be a perfectly mirrored movement—that’s a different skill—and it’s okay to pause and try out some options as you are practicing. Switch roles and try again!

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