Learning to move smoothly

West Coast Swing Online Footwork

Great WCS dancers create body flight by pushing off of the floor on each step. Beginning dancers tend to reach for each step instead, which takes away from the power of the movement. In this exercise, we’re going to practice working through the floor to propel the body through space, just like a speed skater.

In speed skating, the skater pushes off the ice with the back leg and then glides on the new foot before gathering their weight and propelling through the next step. On a dance floor, you can’t glide like a speed skater, but you can create the same action of pushing off the floor in order to generate power. In west coast swing, we describe this action as using the “sending foot.”

The Drill: For this drill, you want to make sure that you are not on a sticky surface or wearing shoes with a lot of grip. Wood, linoleum, or tile surfaces work well, and you can wear socks to make sure your feet don’t get stuck.

You are going to move side to side, thinking of pushing off the floor and then gliding. Even though you won’t glide far, you should think about having enough energy that your receiving leg will want to move slightly in order to keep up with your body.

You should feel your movement through the sending leg, and especially through the ball of the sending foot (which is what pushes off the floor) and the ankle of the sending foot (which extends in order to create the force that pushes the ball of the foot against the floor). Concentrate on the feeling of pushing off the floor. The receiving foot should be relaxed on each push; while you will use the ankle to control your landing, all the power should come from the sending foot.

When you have established the feeling of using the sending leg, start to make your push smaller. Your eventual goal is to create that same pushing energy when taking dance-sized steps, but don’t try to shrink the distance too quickly. Focus on keeping the feeling the same. If you watch yourself in a mirror or on video, your upper body should appear to glide as if you were skating on ice—because that is the feeling you are replicating.

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