Selling the Music

West Coast Swing Online Styling

In the WCS musicality partnership, one person (generally the leader) is responsible for setting up accents, and the other partner (generally the follower) is responsible for doing something with the opportunity. Last week, we looked at how the leaders could set up accents by lining up the natural accents of their patterns with the musical phrases. This week, we’re going to help the followers to sell those accents.

The Drill: Followers, you have a lot of options for selling an accent. In general, accents stand out because of contrast—changes of direction, height, speed, etc. We’re going to talk about creating contrast with the sequence that the leaders created last time.

As a quick reminder, the sequence starts on the 1 of a musical paragraph and fits the 32-beat phrase perfectly:

  • Left side pass (on repeat, slingshot side pass) with the accent on the step down the line (count 1)
  • Sugar tuck with the accent on the tucking action (count 3)
  • Whip with the accent on the sendout (count 5)
  • Inside roll with the accent after the spin (count 5), and
  • Left side pass with the leader spinning on the anchor, to set up the accent on the next 1.

On the side pass, we need to call attention to the step down line on count 1. An easy way to do that is to lead with your right hip when stepping forward. As you step onto your right foot, push the right hip forward. Your upper body will rotate a little to the left, but don’t allow yourself to turn to the left. We want this accent to be on the one, so make sure that your hips are squared up to the slot again for count 2. Practice this motion so that you can fluidly transition from your anchor to the hip accent and back to the walking action on 2.

On the sugar tuck, we need to accent the tucking action on count 3. We’re going to make that big and open, so start the pattern with your arms quiet and close to your sides. As you compress in on count 3, let your upper body rotate left to create a shape with your compression, and let your left arm go out from your center to the left in order to create a line that accentuates the rotation. Again, practice this motion, making sure that you are still balanced so that you can step back on count 4. If you would like a more advanced version of this accent, try not moving your feet after count 2 (your right will be behind you, and you will step onto it on count 4) or adding a small height change as you compress in.

For the whip, we need to call attention to the 5. We’re going to do that with distance. On the coaster step (counts 3&4), keep your feet very close throughout the whole coaster. On count 5, take a larger step down the line and then make your 6 very small so that you don’t end up overextended. As you practice, you’ll discover how to adjust your spacing so that you seem to explode out on count 5. To further emphasis the movement, try delaying your step onto 4 as long as possible and then spend more time on 5. You can even slowly drag your right foot underneath you to fill the space during count 5 and make it look like you went even further.

Next up is the inside roll. The accent falls on the start of the anchor (count 5), which is immediately after the spin. To create contrast, we’re going to make a sharp transition between spinning and the end of the spin. Practice by doing the spin slowly through 3&, then step count 4 as you finish your spin. Your goal is to make your 4 as controlled and stable as possible, because you’re going to syncopate the anchor with a tap step. On count 5, tap your left foot at a back diagonal before gathering into your normal anchor position for count 6. (You are replacing your triple with a single weight change on 6). The sharp linear action of the tap will contrast with the spin.

Finally, on the left side pass when the leader spins, leave your dancing neutral so that the hip accent stands out on the next 1.

Bonus Variations: This exercise is a primer for how to take advantage of the accents your leader sets up within patterns. But, you should play with different ways to sell those accents. As your dancing improves, your vocabulary of ways to sell accents should expand.

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