Adding Style to Your Hitches

West Coast Swing Online Styling

Last week, we looked at the mechanics of hitches. In this post, we’ll show how the hitch motion can be accentuated in order to add a specific look to the dance.

There is a meta-lesson in this exercise: good styling builds on the natural motion of the movement. For hitches, we’re going to find styling that embellishes the settling motion of the hitch in different ways. But, the same principle applies to any styling decision. If the styling flows naturally out of the original movement, chances are that it will look more polished. Conversely, if the styling doesn’t build on something in the original movement, it will probably appear forced.

The Drill: You’ve been practicing moving your center back through the hitch as you roll through the foot. Now we’re going to have the hips supplement that motion. If you’re moving the center as you roll through the foot, the hips will come along naturally. On the other hand, trying to force the hips without moving the center just results in sticking your butt out, which is not the look we want. So, if you can’t yet move the center as you’re rolling through the foot, work on that before continuing.

Because the hip is accentuating the settling motion, we want the hips to finish our movement. That means that we will start the hip movement late, as a consequence of the center moving back. Practice your hitch slowly, and as you roll onto the heel on 1, give a little bit of hip movement at a back diagonal (between 4 and 6 o’clock for leaders, between 6 and 8 o’clock for followers). The diagonal should be small: think about someone grabbing your back pocket on your jeans and pulling straight back. Your hip will rotate slightly open because the pull is coming from one side rather than the center of your jeans (leader’s right, follower’s left). You want the rotation to be an effect of that back movement from the side, rather than being an effort to create rotation.

Once you have the basic hip styling, you can change the way you move the hip in order to create different effects.

The Ooey Gooey Stretch comes from hitches that blend the hip motion all the way into the &a1&a2 of the next pattern. This is great for lyrical songs, smooth R&B, and other relaxed styles of music.

Leaders, you are stretching back, so your goal is to make the hitch’s hip motion blend seamlessly into your a2 of the next pattern. Keep your center moving continuously back and make your feet land softly so that your body is always moving. You can draw out the movement right before the a2 by slowing the rate of center motion, but your center should never come to a full stop.

Followers, it’s a little trickier for you because you need to change direction for the new pattern. Think about the 1 as a very quiet breath. You want your center and hip to go back during &a1, slowing and then reversing as gently as possible on 1 so you can come forward on the a2. Although your center will technically stop motion for an instant as you change directions, you don’t want to think about stopping because it will make you too staccato.

The Hip Pop is the other common styling with hitches. This is frequently danced to blues music, hip hop, and other music with sharp attacks on the beat. In this variation, both leaders and followers will create a small stop of their center motion as the hip reaches its maximum extension on 1, before continuing into the &a2. Think about this motion as a miniature freeze, executed only with the core region of the body (from the hips up to the bottom of the ribcage). To make this visually distinct, you can move into the freeze a little quicker than in the ooey gooey version; your goal is to create contrast between the stretch going back, the freeze, and then the next pattern beginning.

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