When it comes to spinning, most dancers have a stronger side and a weaker side. To improve, good dancers will practice spinning in both directions. But did you know that there are actually four directions that you should practice?
When you spin, you have two sets of variables. The first is which leg is supporting you during the spin: your left leg, or your right. But there’s a second variable: which way are you spinning?
In west coast swing, most spins start by moving in the direction of the standing leg. When the follower turns to the right on a tuck or double outside turn, she is on her right foot. When rotating for an inside roll, she rotates towards her left and starts rotating after count 2 (i.e., on her left foot). In other words, we are used to turning in the direction of the supporting leg.
But, not all spins occur like that. A dancer who only practices turning to the left on their left foot, or turning to the right on their right foot, is only practicing what are called inside turns (or en dedans in ballet) because in both cases the dancer rotates in the direction of the supporting leg. The other direction (en dehors) occurs when the dancer rotates away from the supporting leg: rotating to the right when on the left leg, or rotating to the left when on the right leg.
The language of inside and outside rotation can be confusing because west coast has inside and outside turns. In this article, whenever you see a reference to an inside or outside turn, I’m referring to whether the dancer is rotating towards (inside) or away from (outside) the supporting leg.
Because most spins in west coast start as inside rotations, dancers neglect practicing their outside rotations. This creates challenges down the line: advanced spins like fouettes tend to be outside rotations, as do spiral turns and telemark turns. More importantly, chaines turns have an outside rotation in the middle of the turn, and dancers that don’t practice their outside rotations will lose speed and balance during the turn.
In future posts, we’ll go into details for how to improve your outside rotations. But, the basic principles of spinning are the same no matter which direction you rotate. So, as you practice your spins, remember to practice all four directions:
- On your left foot, rotating to the left,
- On your left foot, rotating to the right,
- On your right foot, rotating to the right, and
- On your right foot, rotating to the left.