Fixing your footwork in west coast swing

Inevitably, you will end up on the wrong foot at the end of a pattern. It’s ok! This drill will help you correct your footwork in time for the next pattern.

How to fix footwork in west coast swing when you’re on the wrong foot.

To fix your footwork, simply add an extra weight transfer before beginning your next pattern. Every pattern in WCS starts with a leader’s back step on the left and a follower’s forward step on the right, and both occur on beat 1. On the & count immediately before the 1, take a step in third foot position to correct your footwork. If you are doing a six count pattern, you will thus step 6 (on your wrong anchor foot—leader’s left and follower’s right), the & of 6 on your correct anchor foot, and then your normal 1 immediately on the next beat.

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The Drill: Put your feet third foot position, with your weight on the leader’s left foot or follower’s right foot. This is where you would be if you ended the pattern on the wrong foot. This is count 6. On the & of 6, step in third foot position with the leader’s right/follower’s left. This frees up the leader’s left/follower’s right for a normal 1. Finally, step your 1 with the correct foot.

The trick is to get comfortable with this sequence, because the weight transfers happen quickly when you’re actually dancing. Normally, the last step of the anchor is a whole beat, so you have some time before you need to step for the next pattern. Now, we’re inserting an extra weight transfer into that beat, so you don’t stay on 6 as long and you have less time before you step your 1.

Once you are comfortable with the sequence, try it to music. Simply wait for any upbeat in the music (where you would clap or snap) to step your 6 with the wrong foot, then fix your footwork on the & and take your normal walk walk for the next two beats. Reset; when you are ready to go again, listen for the next upbeat and repeat.

Footwork: Dancing on the Wrong Feet

Because west coast swing encourages footwork variations, inevitably you will end up on the wrong foot. The goal of this drill is to be comfortable dancing on the wrong foot at any point in a pattern. If you know how to finish the pattern off from the wrong foot, it becomes much easier to confidently insert your own footwork variations.

The Drill: Without a partner, practice dancing your basics entirely on the wrong foot. For leaders, that means that you will start the whole pattern on your right; followers will start moving onto their left. Pay special attention to any motions that require unusual foot positions or body rotations (e.g., stepping across on the 4 of a whip for leaders, stepping out on the 4 of a left side tuck for followers). Throughout the entirety of the pattern, focus on keeping the movement of your center exactly the same as in the normal footwork version.

Bonus Variations: If you are comfortable dancing the whole pattern on the wrong feet, the next step is to practice dancing the wrong rhythm units. The easiest way to practice is by dancing your basics in a sequence:

  • All double rhythms, starting on the correct foot
  • All double rhythms, starting on the wrong foot
  • All triple rhythms, starting on the correct foot
  • All triple rhythms, starting on the wrong foot

By working through all of those possibilities, you should be prepared to dance any 2-beat increment, starting on either foot and ending on either foot. Again, focus on making sure that the body flight of your center remains constant, no matter what your feet are doing.

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