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The spacing between the partners on beat 2 is critical for the execution of any complicated pattern. On beat 2, the follower has just finished her walk walk and needs to be prepared for any pattern. If the pattern rotates the follower to the right, for instance (as in a whip or a barrel roll), the follower needs to feel that rotation on the &a before the 3. If the follower is being asked to do a triple rhythm (as in any basic pattern), she needs to feel the acceleration before the 3 in order to produce the triple step.
Spacing on count 2 of the pattern is the key
The biggest mistake that happens on beat 2 is that the follower is too far down the slot, relative to her leader. If the follower progresses too far, she won’t be able to maintain an away connection through beat 2, which is what makes possible the communication of rotation, speed, and rhythm during the next two beats.
Since spacing is the responsibility of both partners, there are solo drills for each partner as well as joint drills to work on together.
Leaders often create the spacing problems on beat 2 by moving against the follower. This is most common on moves where the leader crosses in front on beat 2, such as right side passes and whips, but can occur on any pattern if the leader’s center does not continue to move down the slot on beat 2.
To practice staying back on 2, the leader should stand in between a door frame in an anchored position. Step back for beat 1 as normal. As the leader crosses on beat 2 for a right side pass, the leader’s body should stay behind the door frame. If the leader steps in between the frame again (or passes to the other side of the frame), he has cut short his follower’s spacing and has forced her to lose connection.
In accelerated moves, the leader can share the distance on beat 2 in order to help the follower hit the end of the slot earlier. However, the basic movement should always maintain an away connection on beat 2.
For followers, the key is to keep the center behind the ball of the foot during the first two beats of the pattern. To practice this, stand in an anchored position and use the left foot to push the right foot forward. Let the heel of the right foot make contact with the floor first and roll onto the right foot as the weight lands on the forward foot. However, do not let the body center move over the ball of the right foot; pause when the right foot has all of the body’s weight but before the center moves in front of the ball of the foot. This position should feel like an anchor right before the stretch—your weight is slightly back of the foot. Do the same as you push off your right foot to send weight to your left for count 2. Keep practicing this drill until you can comfortably pause your center behind the ball of your forward foot.
Practice going from an anchor position to beat 2 of any basic pattern. During the entirety of the first two beats, concentrate on maintaining an away connection by keeping the center slightly behind the ball of the weighted foot.