Pivot turns for west coast swing
Pivot turns keep your feet in a straight line as you pivot around the weighted foot and then transfer your weight to the free foot before continuing. These are usually used for half rotations.
Learning this skill is an important step in improving your west coast swing spins and turns.
There are 2 types of pivot turns to learn. The forward & backward pivot.
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Forward Pivot Turns
This is a fundamental turn in west coast swing. Learning it will help you develop the core of balance and stability that will be the bedrock of great spins.
The Drill: Start with your feet in an open third foot position with your left foot forward; your heel of the left foot is still in line with the instep of the right foot, but now there the feet are about hip width apart.
Put your weight on the three toe base of the left foot, and rotate your right shoulder back to match the angle of your hips and feet. This rotation is the source of the energy for your pivot.
Keeping your legs together—think about squeezing your upper thighs to each other—let your shoulders and core unwind, and use that energy to pivot on your left toe base ¼ turn. At the end of the pivot, pause with your weight on your left toe base, then let your right foot make contact with the floor.
Repeat quarter turns until you are comfortable with quarter turns. Then, work on half turns. Be sure to practice both with left foot in front (turning to your left) and with the right foot in front (turning to your right).
TAKE ACTION> Download our pivot drill video
Backward Pivot Turns
Backward pivot turns feature the same technique as forward pivot turns, but they are harder because you need to avoid settling onto your heel as you step backwards.
The Drill: Step backwards with your right foot, in open third position, but do not allow your weight to move past your toe base of your right foot. This should feel like the position you were in after you completed a forward pivot around your left foot (from the previous article in this series), but now your weight is on your back foot.
As you step onto your right foot, pull your right shoulder back in order to create rotational energy in your core. Unwind your core and let the rotation pivot you a quarter turn to your left (i.e., your left shoulder is going backwards) while you are on your right toe base.
When you land, make sure that you can pause while on your right toe base; you don’t want to be falling out of the pivot.
After you can comfortably do quarter turns, move up to ½ turns.
Combining Forward & Backward Pivot Turns
Now that we’re practiced both forward and backward pivot turns, it’s time to put them together in a sequence.
For this drill, we will use the follower’s inside roll, which contains three pivot turns on counts 3, the & of 3, and 4.
The technique principle for this exercise is true for all turns: there is no such thing as a traveling spin.
Every spin that travels is broken into two motions: spin, then travel. If you try to do both at the same time, then you are rotating around a stationary object (your supporting leg) while simultaneously trying to shift your center down the line, away from your supporting leg.
We have a word to describe when your center is not over your support—falling!!!
There are A LOT of things to know to improve your turns!
What’s the best way to learn them all? Pick up our video course “The Ultimate Guide to Spins & Turns” Inside we cover all of it.
The Drill: Step forward with your left foot in open third position and let your right shoulder rotate back to match the line of your feet and hips. This is count 2 of a follower’s left side inside roll if the follower has been prepped for the spin.
From this position, take three pivot turns to the left, going halfway around for each pivot. Your first pivot is a forward pivot around your left foot. Pause at the end of that pivot while your weight is on your left toe base to make sure that you are not falling out of the spin. From there, step backwards onto your right toe base, making sure that you do not settle onto the right heel.
Do a backwards pivot on your right foot (still rotating to your left), and again pause at the end of the rotation. Step onto your left toe base and do one more forward pivot. Once more, pause after the pivot before settling back on your right foot.
The goal of this drill is consistency, not necessarily speed. You want to be controlled at each point through the pivot so that you can step and hold the position prior to the turn, you can turn while staying balanced, and you can hold the position at the end of the pivot before settling onto your free foot.
If you feel like you are falling off balance, make sure that:
- Your center is tight;
- Your weight in on your toe base of the right foot (and not the heel or the outside edge of the foot);
- Your left thigh is pressed to your right thigh so your free leg is not flailing;
- You are not throwing yourself into the turn with your upper body. Think about unwinding the core rather than pushing with the core.
Be sure to practice with both feet. When your right foot is behind, you are turning to your left. When your left foot is behind, you are turning to your right.