If you’re a leader, you probably can give the count for when your lead is supposed to happen during a pattern. But can you say what your follower is doing at that time?
Although most instructors teach west coast swing in terms of counts, there’s a reason behind those counts. An inside roll, for instance, needs to be prepped on count two because the follower’s body shape on count 2 needs to be altered. Likewise, the exit for a hip catch needs to be lead on the & before the downbeat because the follower is on her wrong foot and needs that half-beat transition to fix her footwork.
Good leaders need to know what their follower’s patterns are, from footwork to connection. Knowing what the follower should be doing makes it possible to extend patterns, create new variations, and lead even basic patterns more comfortably. This drill is designed to help leaders learn what their followers are doing.
The Drill: Without a partner, lead a pattern and stop at any point. Quiz yourself: what is your follower doing? Is she on her right or left foot? Is she prepped in a certain direction? What is her point of connection? Is she in an tension or compression connection? Which of these elements changed from the last beat, and what will change by the next beat?
You can answer these questions by having a follower partner dance the pattern with you and checking, by using videotape, or by following through the pattern yourself. By repeating this quiz-and-answer process, you will develop a better understanding of how your follower is moving.
Bonus Variations: Once you’ve learned what your follower is doing on a specific count, you can go back to your lead and ask what you are doing in order to create that element. If you’re not sure, work on that element with a practice partner or instructor.