Signals to End Play

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In Getting Out of Play, we suggested ending play in an anchor as a safe way to signal that you’re ready to resume the dance. This post will build on that idea by looking at the signals that play is finished.

Since we described play as a temporary deviation from the basic WCS structure (whether in terms of extending a pattern, holding part of a pattern, or doing something entirely unrelated to the pattern), play ends, almost by definition, when standard WCS resumes.

If play ends when standard WCS resumes, then there are a number of ways to signal to your partner that play is done.

  • Anchor: Every pattern in WCS ends in an anchor, so no matter what craziness happened earlier, the anchor is a time to get back on the same page. Anchoring is particular useful for signaling the end of play because it gives your partner two beats to realize play is ending and to prepare for the next move (whether that’s the leader getting time to think of a pattern or the follower having the opportunity to put herself in the right position physically to follow).
  • Square up: Squaring up is the dance equivalent of conversational eye contact. When you square up, you are telling your partner that you are listening to what they have to say with your undivided attention. Followers, ending your play by squaring up tells your leader that you are listening to what he wants to say next. Leaders, squaring up signals that you want to speak up next, and it encourages the follower to prepare for the next lead.
  • Connect: It’s a lead-follow dance, so restoring the normal connection is a simple way to tell your partner that you are ready to move on. One of the reasons the anchor is a good signal for the end of play is because the anchor connection is one of the easier connections to find in WCS. But, even if you are playing in the middle of a pattern, resuming the connection enables the partners to get back into the dance together.
  • Phrase: When you and your partner both understand musicality, phrasing becomes a way to indicate the end of play. Generally, you want to end your play at the end of the phrase so that the new move can begin with the new musical sentence. By timing your play with the end of the phrase, it makes it easier for both partners to resume normal WCS at the same time.

The pro tip for these signals is that you don’t have to choose just one. Especially if you are dancing with a less experienced dancer, combining the signals is the best way to help your partner understand when you are ending the play. If you end your play by squaring up, anchoring, connecting into that anchor, and doing it at the end of the musical phrase, it’s almost impossible to not realize that play is ending.

There is not a specific drill to practice these elements, but it’s easy enough to work on with a partner. Have one person initiate play. That same partner should then use some combination of these signals to tell that play is ending. Keep practicing until both partners are able to smoothly transition from play back into the standard dance.

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