Dancing can be defined as movement to music. West coast swing is famous as a dance in part because of the variety of music that works for the dance. It’s so obvious that dance and music belong together that it can be bizarre to think about dancing without music.
Today, we’re going to be bizarre.
When we dance with a partner, we tend to use the music as a shared metronome. We figure out where we are in the beat, or the pattern, by first identifying where we are in the music and then asking whether our partner is there with us. As a result, we can lose sight of our partner’s timing. It’s hard to listen to when your partner is moving if your default reference is the song.
The Drill: To really hone in on our partner’s timing, your drill is to dance with a partner, without music. This is not your typical music-free practice when you go through moves slowly and pause to figure out how the pieces work. For this drill, you are going to do honest-to-goodness WCS dancing, but the only music will be the beat in your head.
Since you don’t have a shared timing device like a metronome or a song, you will need to pay attention to your partner much more than normal. Each role has a slightly different responsibility during this exercise:
Leaders: Your lead needs to accomplish two things.
- You need to establish what the beat is in your head. To do this, your body needs to communicate your timing clearly. Your footwork, center movement, and even styling all need to send a consistent message about where the beat is.
- You need to tell the follower when to prepare for the lead.
Followers: You have two major responsibilities during the no-music dance.
- You need to “hear” the leader’s timing. Pay attention to his center movement, his footwork, and his connection in order to zero in on when the beat is hitting in his head.
- You need to identify when the leader is asking to lead. To do this, you need to stay responsive through all your movements. Maintaining your frame, paying attention to when the post is established, etc. are all part of being prepared to receive a lead.