Contrasting Your Partner’s Styling

West Coast Swing Online Styling

In this series, we are exploring how to work with your partner’s styling. Most of the time we think that working with your partner means you need to be doing similar things, but in this post we’ll learn how to do something different and make it blend together.

The basic idea behind contrast is that experiences stand out more when they are brought into sharper relief. We see this in other genres all the time: for instance, horror movies will limit the background sounds right before a scary reveal so that the surprise “pops” even more. Great dancers will use contrast to enhance their individual styling—if they want to draw attention to their footwork, they will simplify their footwork for a couple of counts immediately beforehand so the fast footwork appears faster.

We can apply that same idea to the image that you present as a partnership. If your partner is doing something awesome and you want to make it pop, you can do something different in order to make it stand out even more.

This method of working with your partner’s styling can be very flexible. Here are some ideas to get your own creative juices flowing:

  • Is your partner spinning or doing fancy footwork? Limit your motion so that their action stands out even more.
  • When your partner goes out of the slot, you can move in the opposite direction to make their motion look even larger.
  • Your partner starts doing footwork down the slot, and as part of that footwork does tap steps to the side. By matching the rhythm but taking your taps to the opposite side, the movement will look bigger.
  • If your partner does a level change during a pattern, can you do a level change in the opposite direction? Going opposite will make the height contrast even starker.

These are just some ideas—you are encouraged to come up with your own. Whatever you do, there are three keys to making contrast work:

  1. Be confident! If you look like you are worried about how the contrast will look, the effect will be lost.
  2. Be decisive. Contrast that is hesitant can easily look like a mistake. If you attack your motion, however, it looks intentional and it communicates that you wanted to create that look.
  3. Match the rhythm. If you are moving, you usually want to match your partner’s rhythm. Contrasting actions to the same rhythm look cool; different actions to different rhythms look like you are not on the same wavelength as your partner.

The Drill: With a partner, take turns picking actions and having the other partner create a contrasting action. Start by doing this drill facing each other, without doing WCS. Once you have some practice identifying what your partner is doing and picking a contrasting action, you can try doing this exercise while dancing basic patterns.

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