Moving smoothly down the slot

West Coast Swing Online Grab Bag, Styling

In this exercise, you will practice moving forward and backwards using your center. This exercise will improve the quality of your body flight.

The human body is not symmetrical from front to back. The spine is not in the middle of the body; the head, ribs, pelvis, and feet stick forward from the spine. As a result, the body’s movement is different when moving forward and when moving backwards.

When moving forward, the body maintains a slight pitch forward. The head leads the foot, but in mid-stride the foot accelerates to catch the head (and the rest of the body). Walking forward is actually very similar to a controlled fall, with the feet landing underneath the body just quickly enough to keep from hitting the ground.

Walking backwards works differently. Because the feet, ribs, etc. extend in front of the spine, the body is extremely unstable leaning backwards. So, the body needs to maintain a forward pitch, even when moving backwards. That changes the mechanics of movement. When moving forward, the head leads and the feet follow. Moving backwards, the picture is reversed: the foot needs to move, and then it is in position to catch the head when the head follows.

The following exercise will help train you to move forward and backwards with the correct body mechanics.

The Drill: Find a space where you can walk back and forth. Put your hand in front of your rib cage and point forward as you walk. Think about your body being pulled forward from the hand in front of your rib cage. This cue helps you to move with a natural lean forwards.

Then, turn your hand around and poke your finger just below your belly button. Walk backwards. The poking action encourages you to maintain your natural forward lean, and as a result your foot will lead your head during the entire backwards step.

Alternate walking forwards (pointing forward from the ribcage) and backwards (poking yourself below your navel). Feel how your movement differs between the two directions.

If the difference isn’t clear, try doing it the wrong way. Walk forwards from your navel, using your finger pointing forwards as your cue. It will feel awkward, like an overdone swagger. Try walking backwards by poking at your ribcage. That will feel unsteady, like you are just about to tip over.

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