One-Beat Leads

West Coast Swing Online Connection

Although all lead-follow dancing in WCS is based around the ideas of leverage and compression, there are many ways to implement those concepts. The two most popular connection methods are one-beat leads and constant connection. This post will focus on the fundamentals of one-beat leads.

The idea of a one-beat lead is that the leader should initiate the follower’s direction and momentum on 1, but let the connection shut off entirely (i.e., go to neutral) by beat 2. The partners re-establish connection on the post/anchor, or whenever a redirection is required.

This method of leading can create a light, airy feeling and can give the follower a lot of freedom. It’s definitely worth having this tool in your toolkit, because it is great for relaxed movement, for independent styling, and for accentuating the elastic look of the dance. However, it is difficult to lead complicated moves with this method, and you lose the ability to work off of your partner’s connection. There’s always a tradeoff.

This method of leading is also sometimes taught as a corrective for overleading. To that extent, it’s good for making sure that the leader is not dragging his partner through the pattern. However, it is important not to overcorrect and eliminate connection entirely. There are many situations in which you want to be able to lead your partner in the middle of a pattern, so it’s important to distinguish being connected from dragging your partner to the next beat.

The Drill: With a partner, do side passes with one-beat leads. You should be connected through the anchor and beat 1, but physically break the connection on beat 2 by letting go of your partner. The follower should maintain the momentum and direction of the movement, but must power herself through the side pass. Reconnect at the other end of the slot for the post/anchor, and repeat.

Once you and your partner are comfortable with what it feels like to physically break connection, do the same thing but continue holding hands. From beats 2 through 4, your connection should be in neutral; it should feel as if you had let go, although you are still physically connected. Practice both the shift to neutral at beat 2 as well as the reestablishment of connection on the post—both should feel smooth rather than abrupt.

Bonus Variations: With a partner, practice leading and following the quantity of energy in a one-beat lead. The leader should vary the amount of energy in the lead, while the follower should attempt to match the distance being asked for. One way to check is to have both partners close their eyes during the side pass. If you can comfortably reconnect on beat 4, you probably moved the distance that your partner was expecting. If you are either too close or too far away, then there was a mislead/misfollow with respect to the energy asked for.

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