Constant Connection in west coast swing

You may have found that some moves have too many redirections to keep up with using one-beat leads. So, how do you lead more complicated patterns?

The answer is the other main connection method: constant connection. In constant connection, the partners strive to never let the connection get all the way to neutral. The degree of leverage or compression can—and should!—vary, but the connection will always have some degree of one or the other.

Constant connection is great for complicated moves with fast redirections because there is no possibility that the other partner won’t match your connection in time. Constant connection also makes it possible to do led, paired syncopations, or to work off your partner’s energy (especially during fast or funky songs). The tradeoff is that solo styling becomes harder, as do extended, airy movements. Nonetheless, dancers who master constant connection have a very useful tool for working in tandem with their partner.

The Drill: With a partner, dance a left side pass. Note how much energy in in your (leverage) connection on beat 1. On a scale of 1 to 10, call that a 5. Throughout the pattern, do not allow the connection to drop below a 3. As you approach the post and anchor, the connection should work its way back up to the 5 that you started from.

To keep the connection from dropping below 3, both partners should shorten their connected arms by engaging their back muscles. Think about making your arm into a retractable dog leash: the arm retracts to take out any slack in the leash, but it does not become stiff.

When shortening your arm, you should not use your biceps at all! Engaging the bicep makes the arm stiff and locks out the connection. The skill of taking out slack without stiffening the arm will take a lot of practice—that’s ok.

Bonus Variations: Once you can dance a left side pass, try the other basics with a constant connection. Even when the hands go up for a turn, there should still be some connection (although it will be very light). Again, focus on taking out the slack from the connection rather than on tightening the arm. The arm should be loose throughout the entire pattern!

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