Mastering the stretch and release of connection in west coast swing

WCS has an elastic connection. Just like a rubber band that is stretched, the WCS connection will recoil as it releases the stored energy from the stretch. This will allow you to work off the energy generated by the dance instead of having to create every movement from scratch.

Learn stretch & release in connection (solo)

This drill will focus on learning the mechanics solo, in an anchor situation.

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The Drill:

Find a sturdy surface that you can hold onto as a connection point: door frames and sinks are great choices. Keep good frame and engage your lats as you hold on your connection point. Put yourself in an anchor third and roll through the foot, settling into the hip.

There is a natural elasticity to the muscles in the arm and back.

Your goal in this drill is to find that moment when your muscles are loaded, like a stretched rubber band, so that they recoil without having to manually contract any muscles.

If you settle too slowly, you won’t feel that point. Settle too fast and you’ll go past the point where the recoil can move you forward. When you get it right, you’ll feel a stretch & release as your body bounces out of the settled position and moves forward slightly.

Keep experimenting with different speeds and degrees of settling. Your goal is to be able to create a stretch & release out of any position. If you move forward by pulling your arm, you’re cheating! You should be able to create a stretch & release without using your arm to reel yourself in.

Learn stretch & release in connection (partnered)

If you can consistently create the stretch & release yourself, it’s time to extend that skill to a partnered connection.

The Drill:

With a partner, practice stretch & release with each other by going into an anchor position.

Settle into the anchor, away from the connection, and work on feeling the stretch & release when your centers naturally want to recoil

In the partnered version of this drill, there are a couple of things to keep in mind:

Match your partner’s rate of settling.

In the solo drill, you experienced how the boing is lost if you stay settled too long.

The same thing happens in the partnered version.

You both need to reach the point of maximum stretch at the same time so that you both experience the recoil.

Practice varying the rate of settling and having your partner match you.

Ride the recoil with your body, not your arm. In the partnered version, it is very easy to feel when one person is using their arm to pull back rather than letting the stretch in the body create the boing. Work with your partner to make sure neither of you is adding an arm pull at any point in the stretch & release process.

Bonus Variations:

The basic concept of this drill can be extended in lots of ways.

One variation is to have one partner blindfolded and test if they are matching the rate of settling of the sighted partner.

Followers:

this replicate what you need to do on your anchor, since you don’t know if the leader is going to lead you forward on 1 or if he is going to lead a delayed rhythm where you finish settling on 1 before stretch & release out for &2.

 Leaders:

matching your partner’s rate of settle is necessary to reestablish a smooth connection when your follower is leaving play.

A second variation is to change up the hand connections and body angles. You should still be able to create a boing from any position: left-to-left connection, left-to-right with shoulders rotated open, right-to-right with the leader shaping down the slot for a throwout, etc.

The more you play with connections and angles, the easier it will be to integrate this skill into your social dancing

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