If you watch almost any sports professional, you’ll notice that they have a common stance. Baseball, basketball, football, soccer, tennis, or volleyball—and dozens of other sports—have a similar posture because the human body is built to move in a specific way, and these sports have developed a ready position based on how the body can respond quickly and effectively.
The video below provides a quick introduction to the athletic ready stance:
In west coast swing, we want to be balanced and able to react quickly, so our dance posture is also based on the athletic ready stance. In this drill, we’ll use the ready stance as a method to find a good posture for WCS.
The Drill: Start by getting into a standard athletic ready position. Stand with your feet just slightly wider than shoulder width apart. Your toes should point forward or have a slight turnout—no pigeon toes!
Your knees should be soft. Lower into your knees slightly so you have a lower center of gravity. Let your hips hinge to counterbalance the forward bend in the knees, but do not rotate the hips.
Your back should be straight, but not upright. A straight back means that, if you put a stick along your back, it would remain in contact with your back all the way from the hips up to the shoulders and head. But, your hips are tilted forward a couple of degrees, so that stick will not be perfectly vertical. That slight forward pitch is important: if you try to get rid of it, your weight will be stuck on your heels, which is bad for balance and agility.
Check that your shoulders and head are in line with your back. If your shoulders or head slump forward, or if you let your chest collapse, your weight will fall too far forward. If you push your chest out too much or try to pull your shoulders or head too far back, you will feel uncomfortable.
When you’ve worked through your whole body, go back to your feet. Is your weight balanced on the balls of the feet? You should be able to lift your heel, but you also don’t want to be so far forward that your heels are coming off the ground.
This is the default athletic stance. Right now, you are much lower than you would be when dancing because your feet are apart (in second foot position). You may also have more bend in the knees and hips than when dancing; this is because most sports want a lower center of gravity for increased stability, but dancers prefer to have cleaner leg lines. So, bring your feet together and decrease the bend in your knees to a slight angle (but do not lock the knees!). This posture is your neutral, “ready” dancing position.
Practice going into the athletic stance and then standing up into your ready position for dancing. You should practice standing up by bringing your left foot to your right foot, as well as the other way around. It may be helpful to gently bounce on the balls of your feet before bringing one foot to the other in order to better feel how your body is balanced.