West coast swing, unlike most partner dances, encourages play between the partners. The leader can give the follower the freedom to do whatever she feels at a given point in the song, and the follower can request time to interpret the music instead of being led through a movement. This interaction, or “play,” is one of the reasons that WCS is such a creative and personalized dance.
This series will help you to play better within the dance. A couple of clarifications will be helpful before we jump in.
- Play can happen both within and outside of the traditional WCS structure. Many dancers think that play is simply freestyle dancing. That is just one version of play. It’s also possible to play within WCS patterns with extensions, pauses, or breaks.
- Play can be solo or tandem. It’s possible for play to occur on just one side of the dance, with the other dancer simply marking time. But, great dancers will find ways to include their partner in their play.
- Play is not hijacking! Hijacking occurs when the follower takes over the dance without warning. Play is consensual—both partners know it is happening and give permission for it to occur.
- Likewise, play is not an excuse for not leading! When giving followers the opportunity to play, leaders are responsible for setting up the play and (hopefully) doing so at a time when there’s something for the follower to dance to.
- Finally, play should always enhance the dance. Play is not a substitute for WCS. It is a method to compliment the WCS conversation, and should make the dance more fun for both partners!