Using Hard and Soft Accents

West Coast Swing Online Grab Bag

Not all musical accents are the same. The notes in “How Long Can a Fool Go Wrong?” demand a sharp, hard movement. Adele’s “Set Fire to the Rain” calls for a longer, softer, drawn out movements. Learning to dance the same accent in either a hard or a soft way can substantially improve the musicality of your movements.

The Drill: With a partner, dance a move with a throwout: a left side slingshot, a whip with an accelerated throwout on 5, or even a push break that quickly sends the follower all the way to the end of the slot on 5. This is going to be the move that you play with throughout this drill.

After dancing this move a couple of times to get the “normal” feel into your body, dance the hard accent version. On this version, the leader should delay an instant longer than normal before sending the follower, and the follower should stay into the connection in order to match what the leader is giving. This slight delays allows both partners to accelerate the sendout part of the move. Both partners should hit a crisp pose and freeze at the end of the sendout.

The hard accent version creates a forceful accent. The partnership moves from slight delay to rapid movement to frozen in quick succession, which makes the sendout look explosive.

Now, switch to the soft version. In this version, both partners should continue some movement even after they reach the end of the slot in order to settle their energy. Whether than be sinking into a knee, dragging to gather a foot, or letting an arm dissipate the energy in a controlled manner is up to you. This version should go: slight delay, definite but not explosive sendout, controlled settle.

Bonus Variations: Experiment with other moves to see where you can make the same movements either hard or soft. Moves that release compression are generally easier (e.g., whips, push breaks, folds); moves that rely on an away connection like side passes can be done but require solid connection skills in order for the partners to feel the difference.

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