Improv With Your Partner

West Coast Swing Online Styling

You’ve seen the pros suddenly break out into a freestyle dance and immediately start mimicking each other. Whether you want to “break it down” for a few beats or want to respond to your partner’s decisions, one of the great teamwork skills is being able to improvise together.

Because partner improv is a skill, it can be improved through practice. For this exercise, you’re going to get funky with a partner. Close the shades so you won’t be embarrassed by your neighbors, and prepare to improvise!

The Drill: With a partner, put on a song and start a good distance from your partner, facing away from each other. Take about a major phrase to start dancing “interpretively” on your own. Whatever you feel, do it! This is not the time to be restrained by what you can make look pretty. Feel free to try things, even if they turn out ugly.

After about a phrase, turn to face each other. As you continue to dance interpretively, pay attention to what your partner is doing and find ways to mesh your individual interpretations. You might modify the style of your movement to dance to the same instruments, or you might pick a piece of the song that compliments what your partner is doing. You might change the type of movements you use, or you can even try to mirror your partner. Again, this is about experimentation, not about looking good.

As this phrase continues, move closer to your partner. Go right from your interpretive dancing into west coast swing. You don’t want to stop the interpretive dancing in order to do a starter step—in fact, you can start the WCS in open position to keep the movement going. As you dance WCS, try to keep the feel of the partnered interpretive dancing going. You should be paying attention to what your partner is doing, trying ways to make your dancing compliment his or her styling, and in general experimenting with the dance.

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