Lead/Follow from the Wrong Hand

West Coast Swing Online Grab Bag

From the day as started favoring one hand when reaching for a toy as infants, we have been developing our physical abilities unevenly. Unless you are one of the few ambidextrous people, some things are easier to do with one hand than with another. This is a natural part of the developmental process, and it recurs whenever a new skill is learned—whether that is dribbling a basketball or using a chef’s knife.

In WCS, we naturally develop a comfortable side for leading and following. Followers are much more used to being led from their right arm than their left because all of the basics are taught from that position and hence they get a lot more practice developing those movement-response patterns. Leaders generally get more experience using both of their hands, since right-to-left connections are relatively common, but leading the follower from her left arm is much less common and leading from a left-to-left connection is downright strange.

This drill aims to correct this imbalance. Followers, it is particular important for you to learn to follow from your left because you don’t have much choice of what hand connection the leader asks for. Leaders: it is important for you to learn how your follower’s frame changes when you pick up a different connection because that changes the way you need to lead her movements.

The Drill: With a partner, pick one of your basic moves and lead it from a normal hand connection. Let’s take a side tuck as an example. Notice how the follower’s body is asked to move and what in the connection causes that to happen. For instance, the follower is asked to shape the leader during the triple because the point of connection is brought in towards the leader’s shoulder, and the follower is asked to compress into the connection because of both the hand position (open, pointing slightly down the slot for an outside turn) and the leader moving his center towards the connection point to build compression.

Now pick up a different connection—let’s say right-to-left. What changes? Well, from the leader’s perspective the hand needs to come towards the leader’s right shoulder rather than his left. This means that the point of connection can’t go as far down the slot during 1, 2 or the follower will be led past the leader. The point of connection is rotating the follower’s left shoulder, which means that less rotation is needed in order to make the follower shape to the same degree. The point of connection needs to move in a wider halo during the turn because the leader is now leading the outside shoulder of the follower, rather than the inside shoulder. From the follower’s perspective, she needs to also practice keeping frame from her left rather than her right, providing compression through her left side, and following an inside turn (yes, this has become an inside turn!) with her left hand. These are just a couple of the adjustments that need to be made: you will no doubt discover more.

The drill is to practice leading and following basic moves from non-standard hand positions until you both can figure out what needs to change and then to practice those movements, along with your standard mechanics like frame and connection, from the new hand positions.

Bonus Variations: Push break, left side pass, right side pass, whip, side tuck, inside roll. Left-to-right, right-to-right, right-to-left, left-to-left. That’s 24 combinations right there. If you really need more to practice, see what moves work from the really weird hand positions. Right-to-right, connect left-to-left above. Left-to-left, connect right-to-right above. Two hands and lead a tuck. Two hands and lead an inside roll. Good luck.

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