Partnering Skills: Mirroring

West Coast Swing Online Styling

Watching pro WCS dancers play is amazing in part because they are so good at mirroring each other and building on their partner’s ideas. This drill is designed to build your own mirroring skills in two respects. First, it will help you build the habit of observing your partner and matching what they are doing. Second, it will push you to find ways to build on what your partner is doing.

The Drill: Stand facing your partner, at a normal open dance position distance, but do not connect to your partner. Take turns having one of the partners do a 2 or 4 beat movement (e.g., kick ball change or a pair of triple steps). The initiating partner should continue to do the same movement while waiting for the reacting partner. The partner who did not initiate the movement should react by first, watching to determine what the initiating partner did, and second, by mirroring that movement.

After both partners are doing the same movement for a few repetitions, the reacting partner becomes the initiating partner and moves into a new 2 or 4 beat movement. The new initiating partner should make his or her new movement a modification of the original movement. For instance, the new initiator might choose to take the kick ball change but alter the direction of the kick, or to slowly rotate in place while performing the kick ball change. If the original motion was a pair of triple steps, the new initiator might turn the normal triples into cross and side triples. Again, the new reacting partner should observe in order to pick up on the new movement before mirroring it. Continue trading back and forth!

A key to remember is that you and your partner are on the same team! Your goal is not to trick your partner, so don’t select movements that are overly complicated for you and your partners’ skill level. For instance, the kind of footwork variations that would be appropriate for experienced shag dancers would be quite different than the kind of footwork suited for newer, WCS-only dancers. Push yourselves, but give your partner a fighting chance.

Bonus Variations: There are many elements of the dance that can be integrated into this activity—body isolations, arm movements, and footwork patterns are all fair game! Be sure to practice transitioning between stationary and traveling or rotating movements, as well as rhythm units with an even number of weight changes and rhythm units with an odd number of weight changes; these transitions can be tricky because they change your body’s ending position and so will require extra practice.

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