Many dancers complain, “I don’t have a practice partner!” This complaint seems to make sense: shouldn’t you need a partner to get the most out of practicing a partner dance?
Surprisingly, more often than not the answer is no.
The value of practicing west coast swing alone, with no partner
Fundamentally, all social dancing requires you to execute your own part.
A great dancer can adjust to make a less skilled dancer feel like they are dancing better, but it’s an illusion.
At the end of the day, each partner needs to dance their part.
This is true even for dips and other social tricks: if you can’t dance the dip on your own, you are relying on your partner to support you, which is not a good position to be in unless you really know and trust your partner!
It’s true that some moves are easier to do with a partner because you can work off that person’s energy.
Even when you are doing a move that relies heavily on working off your partner, you need to have enough body control of your own mechanics to be able to channel that energy.
Pot-stirs work much better when the leader can maintain a consistently pulsed halo and when the follower can balance on the toe base. Mastering you own body mechanics is what makes it possible to work off of your partner, rather than relying on them.
Perhaps most importantly, your ability to dance is something you can develop on your own.
In fact, it’s usually easiest to work on the technical elements of your movement without a partner. Whether you are learning to roll through the feet, body isolations, or dancing to musical phrases, it is much easier to develop your skills in an environment where you don’t have to worry about what your partner is doing.
The bottom line is that solo practice is immensely valuable.
Even when partner practice is helpful, you will get the most out of your partner practice if you have put in the solo work beforehand.
So, don’t stop practicing just because you don’t have a practice partner!
Instead, think about what your responsibility is for the part of the dance you want to improve, and find a way to work on your responsibility.
That way, you’ll become a better dancer for yourself—and a better practice buddy for your future partner.
How to practice west coast swing alone
The open secret of partner dances like WCS is that you don’t actually need a partner to practice.
Ask any pro, and they’ll tell you that they spend lots of time working on their dancing alone because that’s what they need to get better.
For whatever reason, many of us think that advice isn’t important at our level. In reality, solo practice is even more valuable to newer dancers because they aren’t executing moves that require the partner to power through or stabilize.
What can you practice on your own?
No one else can help you move your feet. When you’re on your own, you have the ability to repeat a movement as much as you need, at whatever tempo you want.
TAKE ACTION>> Watch our Rolling through your Feet video
Your body alignment is great material for solo practice. Whether you are working on un-rounding your shoulders, tucking your pelvis under, or just lengthening your spine, you can concentrate on that element without being distracted by what a partner wants to do.
TAKE ACTION>> Watch our Balance & Posture Video
Rolling through the feet, delaying your body flight, and using your sending foot are all great skills to practice solo.
TAKE ACTION>> Download our #1 Footwork Drill Video
Stand on one leg for 30 seconds. When that’s easy, stand on something unstable (like a pillow), close your eyes, or move your body around while you are balancing. Working on your balance solo is a two-for-one, because the better your balance is on your own, the less you will need a partner to make it through moves.
TAKE ACTION>> Watch our Balance & Posture Video
Learning how your body can move is a lot easier on your own. Yes, you will eventually want to put this into a dance with a partner, but building your own repertoire of movements before trying to partner dance will help tremendously.
TAKE ACTION>> Read our Styling Checklist Blog Post
Hearing sets of eights, phrase changes, and accents is something that your partner can’t help you with. Learning how to count music (not just patterns) is what we call counting straight 8’s. It’s the biggest key to musicality! Just throw on some music and start counting 8s all by yourself.
TAKE ACTON> Download our video, Counting Straight 8’s
There’s no shortage of material to practice on your own. So don’t let the excuse that “I don’t have a practice partner” stop you from getting better. You can work on your dancing by yourself and become the person that everyone else wants to practice with!
West Coast Swing Linedance (perfect for solo practice)
In this video Brian B and Mario Robau deliver the ultimate practice routine. You’ll have to dance the leaders and followers footwork in a line dance format. If you can complete this, you’re well on your way to some awesome dancing!