Learning to move like a professsional

West Coast Swing Online Footwork

Learning to use the sending foot is crucial to controlling your center, creating power in your dancing, and connecting to the floor. In this drill, we’re going to practice using the sending foot in your core WCS patterns.

Whenever beginners are taught to dance west coast swing, the instructor teaches the footwork based on which foot is moving. For leaders, their first step is back on the left; for followers, forward on the right.

This method of teaching makes sense for a lot of reasons, but it overlooks the role of the sending foot in creating the movement. So, we’re going to fill in the gap. Instead of thinking about which foot is moving, we’re going to concentrate on the foot that is stationary. By concentrating on what that foot is doing—pressing off the floor in order to propel the center until it can be caught by the moving foot—we can make the dance much more grounded and controlled.

The Drill: On your own, practice dancing your basic patterns slowly. The key to this drill is thinking about the other foot: the foot that is not moving. So, for leaders, you are thinking about pushing off your right foot on 1, pushing off your left on 2, etc. Followers, you are pushing off your left on 1, pushing off your right on 2, and so forth.

During your triples, you will focus on sending with the supporting leg. For the triple on 3&4, leaders will think about sending with their right on 3 and again on 4; followers will focus on sending with their left on both 3 and 4. For the anchor triple, leaders will send twice with the left and followers will send twice with their right. What you do during the & count is more flexible, and what you choose to do will depend on whether the triple is moving, changing directions, or staying in place, as well as what kind of styling you want to create.

In general, the two options for the & count are to move the center on the downbeat and then treat the &upbeat like a ball-change, so the center stays over the new leg, or to use the moving leg as a check step on the downbeat, and to finally move the center over the new leg on the upbeat. We’ll look more at these two options in another post; for now, concentrate on pushing off the supporting leg on both the downbeat and upbeat and don’t worry about the & count as much yet.

As you repeat this drill, you will probably discover that there are lots of times in which you are not fully transitioning your weight onto the new leg, and so it becomes difficult to use the sending foot on the next count. When this happens, think about using the sending foot more before that count, so you can fully transition your weight. For example, if you are having a hard time using your sending foot when pushing from 6 to 1 of the new pattern, you probably aren’t adequately sending your center to your new leg on count 6, so concentrate on using your sending foot on 6 (leaders pushing off your left, followers pushing off your right) so your weight can be in the correct place to send from 6 to 1.

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