Musicality: Accenting the 1 for Leaders

Musicality in West Coast Swing for leaders comes down to this… Your ability to connect your patterns to the music. Once you’ve learned to hear musical phrases, the next step is to start matching those phrases with the patterns you lead. This drill is designed to ingrain some simply accents into your dance memory.

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The Drill: Put on a song with a clear, repetitive accent on the 1 of each musical phrase. Fill Me In, Pt. 2 by Craig David works well for this exercise. With or without a partner, stand in an anchored position and count until beat 6 of the phrase. On beat 7, begin leading a sugar tuck; the accent on the 1 should naturally fall onto the compression of the tuck.

Immediately after leading the tuck, reset into an anchor position for the next beat 7. If you or your partner don’t get into position in time, skip that phrase and wait until the next beat 7. The goal of this exercise is to teach your subconscious to select a tuck if you are starting a new pattern on a 7; the exercise loses its value if you don’t start on the correct beat.

Bonus Variations: The tuck has a natural accent on the 3 of the pattern. Practice doing the same thing with patterns that have natural accents on the 5 or 7 of the pattern. Barrel rolls or inside rolls have natural accents on the 5, so you would start those patterns on the 5 of the previous phrase. A side pass with the guy spinning on the anchor into a throwout works well to accent the 7, so you could practice leading those two moves beginning on the 3 of the music.

Eventually you will want to go through all of your patterns and identify where the natural accents are so you have multiple options, from different starting hand connections, that orient towards the audience depending on what side you are. Whew! For now, drill yourself to have at least one option when you start the pattern on the 3, 5, or 7 of the music.

Watch our video on Accenting the 1 in the music

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