Stretching the &a1

West Coast Swing Online Connection

The stretch, of elasticity, of west coast swing is one of the defining characteristics of the dance. Learning how to stretch the &a1 before each pattern is an essential skill to master in order to understand the connection of the dance.

The Drill: With a partner, connect in anchor position and put your weight on the your non-anchor foot (leader’s left, follower’s right). You are about to do an anchor, slowly.

Take the first step of the anchor triple with your weight on the ball of your anchor foot. (Let’s say this is a six-count pattern, so you are stepping count 5). As you replace your weight onto the forward foot for count 5&, again place your weight on the ball of the foot. Finally, step on the ball of your back foot on count 6.

Stop at this point. You should both have your weight over the front part of your back foot. Although there will be some energy in your arm connection because of the distance, your centers are not yet pulling away from each other.

Now it’s time to stretch.

Elasticity is generated by the partners’ centers moving away from each other without moving the point of connection. We’re going to generate that elasticity all the way from the anchor to the beginning of the new pattern. That means we need to fill the entirety of the time from 6& through the &a and up to the 1.

Slowly transfer your weight from the front of the foot to the front part of the heel. Imagine every inch of your foot slowly taking your weight as you settle backwards. When you are done, your weight should be on your heel, but you should still be perfectly balanced over your foot. If you feel tipsy, you went too far back on your heel, so try again and don’t roll as far back.

Concentrate on controlling your movement so that you can take a long time to complete that final roll. You and your partner should be able to start and finish the stretch at the same time. Specifically, you should be able to feel your partner’s center moving backwards through the foot, which results in the body moving away from the point of connection, and you should try to match that rate of motion on your side. When done correctly, you will both be able to move continuously and reach the end of your motion (when your heel is weighted but you are not tipping backwards) at the same time.

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