Creating great lines

West Coast Swing Online Styling

Everyone starts learning to dance WCS with their feet, but great dancers expand so that they are dancing with their entire bodies. In this exercise, you’re going to practice continuing your dance all the way through your arms, hands, and even fingertips.

The goal of this exercise is to develop the feel for having your entire arm dancing, and not just being dragged along with the body. This is an exploration—you will almost certainly do things that would throw you or your partner off balance in a real dance. That’s ok, because right now you’re trying to discover a feeling so you can learn to control it later.

The Drill: On your own, start dancing your basics. As you do so, focus on where your arms and fingers are in space: are they hanging limp, stiff, indicating a direction, folded back on themselves, etc.? For now, don’t try to change anything; simply become aware of their positioning and intention (or lack thereof!). Just doing this part of the exercise for a while will be valuable because it improves your own kinaesthetic awareness.

Once you have brought your extremities into focus, it’s time to become intentional. Visualize a beam of light that begins at your center, continues through your shoulder to the elbow, from the elbow to the wrist, and from the wrist through the hand and out the tips of the fingers. Dance again while maintaining this visualization. Think about having each joint in that path directing the beam of light to the next joint. This does not mean that the joint needs to be straight. You want to maintain intention without tension. Stiffness is bad because it freezes the energy that you are creating with your body’s natural movement, and limpness is bad because the energy you are creating leaks out the limp joints. Experiment to feel that space in which your entire core-to-fingertip pathway is active but relaxed.

Now your arm is dancing, but you are still limited to your own body. Great dancers managed to fill the room with their presence, and doing so requires dancing beyond just the physical endpoints of their body. The next part of this drill is to visualize the beam of light extending from your core to your fingertips and continuing on until it hits the wall. You are now visualizing that your energy is projecting as far as it will go. As you dance, think about keeping that beam of light energized even after it has departed your body. Your fingertips are no longer an endpoint—they are now responsible for continuing the path just as your elbow is responsible for sustaining the energy from the shoulder to the wrist.

This exercise was inspired by a visualization in 10 Things Dance Teachers Say.

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