Observing and Exploring Your Movement

West Coast Swing Online Grab Bag

Have you ever had a coach tell you, “Relax! You’re trying too hard!”? As we’ve all unfortunately experienced, trying to tell your body how to move can easily lead to tensing other muscles, becoming stiff, and ultimately not succeeding in executing the movement. But what is the alternative?

Formal instruction has an important role in learning dance. But equally important is the ability to let your body discover how it can move. This exercise aims to cultivate your ability to observe what your body is actually doing. If you can just observe, without judging, your body can often discover, on an unconscious level, how to move more effectively.

The Drill: For this exercise, pick a movement that you want to refine. It could be an arm line, a foot placement, or a body isolation.

Do that movement at least five or ten times, and simply observe what your body is actually feeling. The key is to do so without judgment: you need to hold back the mental chatter of, “That was ugly,” “That didn’t work,” or even “That was great!” If your inner voice starts talking, simply direct your attention back to your body: what exactly is your arm/foot/whatever feeling at this moment?

Now that you have an idea of where your body is going, start exploring how you can modify that movement. Can you start the isolation earlier or later? What happens if the leg is in closer to the body, or further away? If you change the speed of the arm, what happens? If you explore thoroughly enough, you will eventually stumble upon a little tweak that makes the movement feel right. It may take a while, so don’t get discouraged!

Once you’ve explored the movement and discovered a way to tweak it, the final step is to get feedback on the movement from a trusted source. It could be a coach, a practice partner, or even the video camera—but someone should confirm that what feels good also looks good.

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