Dancing Smoothly in West Coast Swing

Moving smoothly is a key to looking good on the dance floor.  Let’s cover some of the core concepts of movement that will set the foundation for smooth movement and great styling!

How to dance smoothly in west coast swing?

In this section, we will cover:

  1. Walking like a dancer
  2. The difference of Forward vs Backward movement
  3. Moving smoothly forward
  4. Moving smoothly backward

Walk Like a Dancer (single tracking)

Single tracking refers to the relative placement of the feet while progressing down the slot.

In general, the heels of the feet should remain in a straight line, as if you were walking on a balance beam.

This technique creates clean leg lines and allows for much better control of the center’s movement.

If both feet remain on separate tracks, the resulting movement will waddle between the two tracks—which is neither pretty nor efficient.

The Drill: Without a partner, practice walking forwards and backwards while keeping your heels on a straight line. The feet should brush past each other on every step

For Leaders: Single tracking creates clean lines, but doing it constantly creates a feminine look.

For Followers: Femininity looks elegant so single tracking is the core of your dancing.

On the leader’s side of the dance, it looks submissive and unconfident.

As a result, leaders are allowed to cheat slightly when single tracking. It’s ok to have a slightly wider base between the feet on the leader side of the dance; the feet don’t have to literally brush past each other.

Double tracking looks like a sore cowboy rather than a confident leader, so don’t let your feet extend outside of your hips on normal steps. You are still single tracking—you just have a slightly wider track to work with.

TAKE ACTION> Watch a video where we talk about single tracking in different places.

Forward vs Backwards Movement

When dancing, you need to switch between moving forward and moving backward regularly, especially in a non-progressive dance like west coast swing. However, there is a difference in how we move in each direction.

Before we can master moving smoothly, we need to understand the difference.

So, let’s start their first…

The Drill: Find a space large enough to walk in a circle, and begin walking forward using the point technique: finger pointed forward from your rib cage.

Continue walking as you turn around so that you are now going backwards.

As you do so, flip from a point to a poke: finger poking into your navel.

You should feel your feet moving earlier than your upper body so you can maintain your forward pitch as you move backwards.

Switch back and forth between the two directions, pointing when you are moving forward and poking when you move backward.

The goal of this exercise is to train yourself to adjust your body mechanics automatically when you move in a different direction, so keep practicing until it becomes second nature.

How to Move Forward Smoothly

We often describe great dancers as having “body flight,” but what does that mean?

Body flight is hard to define, but you can see it when the movement of the center is perfectly controlled during the entire process of moving from one foot to another.

There are a lot of skills that go into creating great body flight, including rolling through the feet and using the sending foot.

This drill puts a number of these skills together.

You will practice controlling your center’s movement as you go incrementally through the foot and to the next foot, using both your sending and receiving legs to control the flight of your body’s center.

TAKE ACTION> Watch this video on ‘Rolling Count’ for WCS.

It will help you move more smoothly when you dance.

The Drill: Find a space where you can walk forward in a straight line.

Start with your feet together and put all of your weight on one foot.

Throughout this drill, you are going to imagine that there is a laser pointing straight down from your center to the floor so that you can see where you weight is.

Right now, the laser dot showing where your weight is should be in the middle of your foot on the front-to-back axis and centered or slightly towards the inside on the left-to-right axis.

Use your supporting leg to slowly move the dot forward, towards your toe base. As you get to the toes, let your free leg move in front of you and place it down, but do not commit any weight yet. The dot should still be over the toe base of your rear (supporting) foot.

Now, continue to push through the rear foot while simultaneously using the front foot as a brake to your movement. You should be able to move the dot so that it rests just in front of your rear foot. In this position, you are literally split weight—your center of gravity is hovering between your legs.

Now using your rear leg to push you forward and your front leg to control the energy, continue to slowly move the dot forward until it reaches the heel of your front leg. At this point, there should be no weight on the rear leg.

Slowly move your weight forward from the heel up to the toe base of your supporting leg, and as you get to the toe base let the trailing leg move forward past the supporting leg.

Repeat this drill as you continue to move forward step by step. 

How to Move Backwards Smoothly

Previously we worked on controlling our center movement during forward steps.

Now it’s time to extend that drill so that we can have just as much control when going backwards.

In this drill, we’re again going to imagine that there’s a laser pointer aiming straight down from our center to the floor, and we’re going to watch how the dot on the floor moves through out feet.

If you haven’t read it, take a look at the previous section for details.

TAKE ACTION> Watch this video on ‘Rolling Count’ for WCS. It will help you move more smoothly when you dance.

The Drill: Start with your weight fully on one foot, and visualize the dot that represents where your center is over the foot.

Adjust your positioning so that the dot is directly over the ball of the foot (front to back) and either in the center of the foot or slightly inside of center (left to right).

Slowly move your center backwards, visualizing the dot moving from the ball of your foot through the middle of the foot and all the way back to the heel.

When the dot reaches the front edge of the heel, continue to slowly move the dot backwards as your free leg brushes past your supporting leg and then reaches back.

As the toe base of your free leg makes contact with the ground, the dot should be around the center of your front heel.

Using the toe base to control your motion, continue bringing the dot backwards until it is just behind your front foot.

You should feel like your back leg is bracing you, although the weight is closer to the front leg.

Control the motion of the dot as you smoothly transition your center through the space between your feet.

You should feel like you are working the toe base of your back foot.

As the dot reaches the toe base of your back foot, you should be able to release your front leg. Leave the leg in place, but without any weight, as you move the dot through the new supporting leg, and finally gather and move the leg backwards as the dot reaches the heel of the new supporting leg.

Improve your spins with this drill!

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