Staying back in your anchor step

West Coast Swing Online Beginners

Now that you know how to perform an anchor, the next skill to master is staying in the anchor position. For leaders, stopping the forward momentum into the anchor is a challenging skill. Because the leader is traveling towards the follower right before the anchor, it is easy to continue towards the follower, which eliminates the follower’s ability to settle into the anchor. For followers, the momentum flows into the away connection of the anchor. The challenge for followers is thus to avoid bouncing out of the anchor early. This usually happens when the follower doesn’t control the away momentum and runs out of room in the connection. The following drills are designed to help both partners control their momentum through the anchor.

The Drill—Leader Version: Do the leader’s footwork for a push break right in front of a wall or door. Start the pattern so that your step on count 4 takes you directly in front of the wall, with your left foot about to go into the wall. (On a push break, you are stepping directly towards the follower on count 4. For side passes, you are stepping back into the slot, but there is still a slight movement towards the follower. In either case, count 4 is the furthest you will step down the slot.)

Stop on beat 4 and gather your right foot to your left, without passing the right foot in front of the left. You should be able to settle your right foot into a third foot position without ever bringing the right foot level with the left.

Repeat this exercise, making sure that no feet move closer to the follower than your left foot on beat 4. There are three checkpoints for this drill:

  • On beat 5, your right foot should be behind your left.
  • On the & of beat 5, your left foot should not move forward from where it was. No inching towards the follower!
  • On beat 6, again your right foot should remain in third position behind the left.

By stepping beat 4 directly in front of the wall, you have an immediate warning if you try to move towards the follower at any point during the anchor.

The Drill—Follower Version: The follower’s version of this drill is slightly more complicated because the follower has to pay attention to both foot positions and distance. If trying to think about both elements at once is too challenging, first do the drill without the sink and just paying attention to the foot positions. Then, add in the sink part to replicate having your arm connected to your leader.

Do the follower’s footwork for a push break while holding onto the edge of your kitchen/bathroom sink. On count 4, when you step away from where your leader would be, you should have a slight bend left in your elbows.

Stop on count 4. At this point, your weight is on your right foot. Your right foot is not allowed to travel any further back during this drill. Gather your left foot behind your right, in third foot position, and perform your anchor triple. The key is that you must perform the anchor triple without moving the feet out of third foot position, without losing the bend in the elbows, and without bending forward. There are three checkpoints for this drill:

  • On beat 5, your left foot should be behind your right and you should still have a little bit of slack in your arm. If you are overextended, it will be extraordinarily difficult to keep your 6 back.
  • On the & of beat 5, your right foot should not move at all. If you moved towards your leader, it is a sign that your step on 5 was too far back or that your 4 needed to be closer in order to leave a bend in your elbows. If you moved backwards, chances are good that you pitched forward!
  • On beat 6, again your left foot should remain in third position behind the right. If you ran out of elbow room earlier in the anchor or if you shuffled your right foot backwards on beat 5&, your left foot will no longer be in third foot position.
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