Reacting to Your Partner’s Surprises

West Coast Swing Online Styling

With all the styling variations, play, and syncopations in WCS, you need to be able to react when your partner does something unexpected. How do you practice reacting to a surprise?

You remove the surprise. By practicing the right response when you know exactly what’s coming, you develop the capacity to respond when you don’t know when that response will be needed.

It seems counter-intuitive that you can get better at dealing with surprises by removing the surprise, but experts in hundreds of domains would concur. Top-level fencers hone their counters to specific thrusts by having their training partners make that movement at specific times. Martial artists drill their movements against particular attacks when they know that attack is coming. Basketball players rehearse their defenses against an offense set over and over, until they can defend that set instinctively.

The only time you should practice responding when you don’t know what’s coming is when you already can respond successfully when you do know what’s coming. If you try to combine both, you are overwhelming your brain’s capacity to solidify new skills.

The Drill: With a partner, decide on a specific play to practice. Followers, you might choose to work on styling when a leader unexpectedly takes an extra two beats on the anchor or when he suddenly asks you to play on count 3 of a side pass. Leaders, you might when a follower hijacks a side pass beginning on count 3 or when the follower extends a free spin by an extra two beats.

The person who is being “surprised” should decide how to react in that situation. Then, they should practice that reaction as their partner consistently executes that “surprise.”

Once the “surprise” reaction comes automatically, the partners should dance the pattern with no surprises. At some point, the surprising partner should throw in the variation and the reacting partner should endeavor to respond appropriately.

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