Practice WCS On Your Own
To get better at dancing, it takes more than taking a lesson and social dancing once or twice a week. Here are some drills you can do, on your own, that will take your dancing to the next level. The goal is to make these concepts natural enough that you no longer have to think about them.
To be sure you are doing the drills correctly, talk to an instructor.
Dance Around The ConnectionStyling
A big part of styling in West Coast Swing is playing with body angles instead of always directly facing your partner. You must be able to do this without affecting your partner. This drill will help.
Place a water bottle–or something else you can fit your hand around–on the corner of a table. Wrap your hand around it without actually touching it. How much can you twist and move around without letting your hand touch the object?
Rolling Through Your FeetStyling and Connection
First, there are two ways we can take a step: a toe lead and a heel lead. As the names imply, a toe lead means your toes are the first to contact the floor and a heel lead means your heel is.
In each of these steps, our goal is to make contact with the smallest possible part of the foot and then roll meaningfully through the entire arch, one cm at a time. This rolling action should be down into the floor keeping your head completely level.
With that in mind, there are also 5 directions we can step: forward, back, left, right, and diagonal. Practice stepping in each of these directions, with each foot and each type of step, as slowly as you possibly can. Only speed up once you have mastered it when moving more slowly.
Lastly, take turns focusing on the receiving foot and then the sending foot. The sending foot (the one you are stepping from) should always be sending from the ball of the foot. As it sends, it should peel back up off the floor leaving the ball of the foot as the last part contacting the floor.
Dance in Your UnderwearMusicality
Ok the underwear part isn’t strictly necessary. But, you should put some music on and dance around – with purpose. Go through the following progression.
1. Up and Down Beats
Find the up beats and snap or clap along with them as you move. Also start tapping or stomping on the down beats.
2. Primary Rhythms
Switch between the two primary rhythms, walk-walk and triple, freely but deliberately.
3. Incorporate All Directions
Start moving all over the room, stepping in all different directions (still deliberately).
4. Rolling Through the Feet
Start concentrating on rolling through your feet. (See the Rolling Through Your Feet section for details)
5. Dance to the Music
Start listening to the music and let it drive your movement choices. Pick an aspect of the song (words, lyrical rhythm, beat, melody, etc.) and tune your dancing to it.
Rhythm VocabularyMusicality and Versatility
When social dancing you should not be counting out rhythms because you should be focusing on your partner and the connection. However, you can make more advanced rhythms more natural by practicing them on your own. Then, when you know something is coming up in the music that you want to emphasize, you can do so with minimal thought.
Types of Rhythms
All rhythms can be framed in terms of how many actions we take in two beats of time.
|# of Actions||0||1||2||3||4|
|Timing||–||1 or 2||1 - 2||1 - & - 2||& - 1 - & - 2|
Notice that when doing 4 actions we steal the ‘and’ beat from before the down beat.
Types of Actions
An action can be one of three things:
- Step (●) – A transfer of weight
- Tap (○) - Marking time without transfering weight. (This can be done with any body movement but most commonly it is done with the feet.)
- Hold (×) – Doing nothing (simply marking time mentally)
Note: From now on when writing out a rhythm, I will use the symbols instead. For example, a tap-step will become ﴾○ ●﴿ and a hold-step-step will become ﴾× ● ●﴿
Even and Odd Transfers of Weights
You can peform any number and order of actions you want, but you should take note of the number of actual weight transfers. An even number of weight transfers will mean you end up on the same foot you started on. An odd number will mean you end up on the opposite foot. This is how you know how it can replace a standard rhythm.
For example, a Sugar Push normally starts out with walk-walk which is a double where both actions are steps. You can easily replace that with ﴾○ ● ●﴿. This allows you to emphasize the triple rhythm of the music but still has you finish on the same foot you normally would. Alternatively, you could do ﴾● ● ●﴿ and you would end up on the opposite foot. This is completely fine but you will want to modify the second two beats of the pattern to still move on your correct foot. You could use any rhythm with an even number of weight transfers like ﴾● ●﴿ or ﴾○ ● ●﴿.
Exchange Triples and Doubles
The first step is to start exchanging triples and doubles within basic patterns while trying to maintain
the same number of weight transfers so you end up on the standard foot after each 2 counts. Make all doubles
into ﴾○ ● ●﴿ and all triples into ﴾○ ●﴿.
6-count patterns become: ﴾○ ● ●﴿﴾○ ●﴿﴾○ ●﴿
8-count patterns become: ﴾○ ● ●﴿﴾○ ●﴿﴾○ ● ●﴿﴾○ ●﴿
Exchange 6-count and Whip Rhythms
In this modification, try continous 6-count patterns with whip rhythms. Essentially dance to the following
music doing only 6-count patterns and match each drum beat with an action.
8-count Rhythm►8-count Swing Rhythm►
This means you will do two 6-count patterns before you get back to the normal foot:
﴾● ●﴿﴾● ● ●﴿﴾○ ●﴿ – ﴾○ ● ●﴿﴾○ ●﴿﴾● ● ●﴿
Notice the number of actions are going 2-3-2-3 repeatedly, just like normal whip timing but you are mixing in taps so you don't make too many weight transfers.
Also try continous whips to 6-count rhythms.
6-count Rhythm►6-count Swing Rhythm►
Now you will have 3 version of the whip timing.
﴾● ●﴿﴾● ● ●﴿﴾○ ● ●﴿﴾○ ●﴿ – ﴾○ ● ●﴿﴾● ● ●﴿﴾● ●﴿﴾● ● ●﴿ – ﴾○ ● ●﴿﴾○ ●﴿﴾○ ● ●﴿﴾● ● ●﴿
Notice the number of actions are going 2-3-3 repeatedly.