Dance Through Water

West Coast Swing Online Musicality

Great dancers have the ability to move between the beats—they keep their body moving from point A through to point B, instead of hitting A and then suddenly arriving at B. One way to cultivate the skill of dancing through the beat is to imagine that you are dancing through water.

When you move through water, the water resists your motion and so you have to work all the way through the movement. That’s exactly what you want to happen when you dance through the beat. You want to show that you are moving through all the space and time between your position on one count and your position on the next count. The mental image of dancing through water can therefore be helpful to dance through the beat.

The Drill: Pick a movement to practice. A movement can be anything from a two-count styling variation to a full pattern. Because you are focusing on your own body movement, this drill can be done without a partner (although there’s nothing wrong with dancing with a partner).

Put on some slower music and dance that movement. As you dance the movement, pretend that you are dancing through water. Because the water will resist your movement, you need to keep sending energy to the parts of the body that are moving. Really focus on keeping that energy up between the beats of the movements and when there are transitions. Just like in the water, your arm will never flop into position: you have to deliberately place it where you want it. Likewise, your body can’t make any abrupt changes underwater, so you shouldn’t make any abrupt changes during this drill. If you need to change directions, you should feel your body slowing, then redirecting and accelerating in the new direction just as if you were pushing off the edge of the swimming pool.

As you become more comfortable in sustaining the energy through your movement, increase the tempo of the music. The trick is to keep the same level of deliberate energy without slowing yourself down. This is challenging, and it will require many repetitions before you start to feel comfortable at faster tempos. That’s ok. Be patient with yourself, because this skill will transform the way that your dancing looks and feels.

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