Use Momentum for Styling

West Coast Swing Online Styling

If you want to look like the pro dancers, you need to learn how to control your momentum. When the pros dance, every movement looks like it blends into the next. By contrast, amateur dancers often look like they are putting individual movements together haphazardly—and the effect is that those movements look disjointed, artificial, or just plain unpolished.

Today’s drill will help think about smoothing the transitions between your movements, but the lesson is much broader than this drill. Any time you have a transition—whether it is into the next two beats of the pattern, into a new pattern, or into a styling option—you should think about how you are going to set up that transition immediately beforehand.

The Drill: For this drill, we’re going to look at setting up an anchor variation on a right side pass. The two variations we will look at are a cross-and-side and the side-and-cross.

For the cross-and-side, the anchor foot crosses in front on 5, the weight returns to the other leg on 5&, and the anchor foot goes to the leader’s right/follower’s left side on 6. The side-and-cross goes to the same positions in the opposite order: the anchor foot goes to the side on 5, weight returns to the other leg on 5&, and the anchor foot crosses in front on 6.

Try dancing those variations a couple of times just to get them into your body. In particular, notice what count 5 feels like.

In the cross-and-side version, the body’s momentum from 3&4 continue to count 5. The body continues to across the slot, so the 5 should feel natural. In the side-and-cross variation, however, the body is going in a different direction on 5. So, let’s look at how we can make that transition work.

Try the side-and-cross variation, but this time stop on 4. (Yes, you haven’t actually gotten to the variation yet.) Although count 5 is the big change, that shift of direction actually needs to be set up now, on count 4. You need to change directions, so let’s try using the floor to power that redirection. As you land count 4, think about compressing into the floor using the ball of your foot. You are turning your foot into a spring, so the heel (and the leg) should feel like it’s ready to launch back upwards.

Using that built-up spring energy, send your anchor foot (leader’s right, follower’s left) to the side. It should feel very natural, because you have a lot of energy that is ready to recoil.

Try putting the whole side-and-cross variation together: compressing into the floor on 4, releasing to land 5 to the side, and then finishing the anchor variation.

This principle—that every transition should be set up within the body—applies throughout the dance. Just within these two variations, in fact, you need to use this technique again on count 5 in order to create the redirection for &6.

Once you understand how your momentum needs to be set up, you can make your styling appear organic. Want to have a level change? Try going down while compressing into the floor for a redirection. The way that you are controlling your momentum—in this case, floor compression—starts the movement and your styling (lowering down) finishes the movement.

What about body isolations? If you want to pop your ribcage to one side, find a motion that will gather your body on the other side to prep that motion. For instance, you can prep your ribcage to leader’s left/follower’s right on count 4 of a push break as a gather, so you can explode to the other side on count 5.

The more that you think about creating and controlling the momentum of your patterns, and using that momentum in choosing your styling, the more natural your dancing will look.

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Dance Instructor

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