Level Changes During Spins

West Coast Swing Online Styling

One of the easiest ways to show musicality within your basics is adding level changes to your dance. In this exercise, we’re going to practice adding level changes during spins.

Being able to change your level during spins is an important addition to your styling toolkit. For followers, you may be asked to spin while there is an important sound in the music, and being able to change your level during the spin enables you to continue following while acknowledging the music. For leaders, level changes are an easy way to increase the apparent difficulty of your spins, and open a number of options for interpreting the music.

The Drill: We’re going to use the same drill as the transition weight triple exercise, so review that setup before continuing.

The additional twist for this exercise is that we’re going to add level changes during those spins. First, we’ll go down.

Level Change Down

Leave your transition of weight on the & the same as before. But, when you step the spin on the downbeat and the & count, plié into your knees so that you are spinning at a lower level. Don’t try to lower yourself past where it is comfortable—two inches is more than enough to create a very notable effect.

As you settle into your hip and ankle on the upbeat, slowly straighten the knee to raise yourself back to your normal height. The knee should still be soft and relaxed; you simply are getting out of your plié. Do the same thing in the other direction: transition at normal height, step down the line as you plié on the downbeat, step down the line again while in a plié on the &, and then settle and return to your normal height on the upbeat.

When moving in plié, it is really important to keep your legs together when you spin. If you allow your thighs to separate, you will create very ugly lines. Think of holding a towel between your upper thighs while moving.

Level Change Up

The timing is the same for going down or going up—the only thing that changes is the direction you take your body.

Again, transition your weight on the &. Step down line on the downbeat, but land in a relevé instead of a plie. For WCS, a slight relevé produced by keeping your heel an inch or two off the ground is sufficient; there’s no need to lift the ball of your foot or to go into pointé.

Maintain the relevé as you step down the line for the & count, and then slowly lower that foot as you settle into the hip, knee, and ankle on the upbeat. Repeat for the other side.

The key to a controlled relevé is balance. Practicing this movement will help develop your ankle strength. However, you can also improve your balance by focusing on keeping your core engaged and by squeezing your thighs together during the spin.

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