Swing Discussion Boards > A beginners question on frame

Discussion in 'Swing Discussion Boards' started by Vamos, Dec 14, 2008.

  1. Albanaich

    Albanaich New Member

    The confusion I think lies between 'what is the correct amount of tension' - which is much heavier than in other forms of partner dance and 'am I forcing my leader to use arm leads to maintain the tension'

    If the follower is early, the only way the correct tension can be maintained is through an arm lead - and dancing then becomes hard work.

    As d nice points out, if the follower is late she will force the lead to pull her off the blocks (this is common amongst non-dance experienced learners) or, if she is an experienced dancer, particularly ballroom, she will have to get used to what seems an extreme amount of tension or she will start early.

    Both result in the leader 'arm leading' (being heavy) instead of 'body leading'

    Most Lindy leads prefer a 'heavy follow' or a 'well grounded follow' which means someone who maintains a high degree of tension - which is not the same as a follow who needs a high degree of arm control who may, in other respects seem very easy to move.
  2. kayak

    kayak Active Member

    I agree with you. There is no reason to be heavy. I think both dancers can anchor by settling back their lower centers while still being on the balls of their feet.
  3. kayak

    kayak Active Member

    Yes, I think you are right. The challenge for me learning the ladies part is making sure I don't blur my traveling turns and in place spins. For me, controlling my momentum in a single spin isn't too bad, but not drifting in multiple spins is tough. It is easy to become really heavy if I lose my alignment during a turn.

    When I am leading, experience has taught me to move with my partner a little and that takes the edge off the out of control momentum. Then I just settle my own center to achieve the amount of leverage I am looking for.

    Each of you might play with shadow dancing their part? As a leader, I almost always find that if I can not shadow dance the steps and lead, then I will mess it all up with a partner. I am finding the same thing with the lady's part. I can rehearse the turns and see that I am falling off my center during a turn.
  4. Steve Pastor

    Steve Pastor Moderator Staff Member

    Kayak won't be surprised by this comment (just as anyone who has been around for a while won't)

    It depends on the music and what you want to do. And, to a lesser extent, it depends on the preference of your partner.

    Regarding music...
    Have you ever danced to a song such as "Steam" by Ty Herndon?
    Here's a url where you may be able to listen. (Rhapsody does work for me.)http://www.cmt.com/artists/az/herndon_ty/163121/album.jhtml
    It's slow, languid. Notes and phrases are often "stretched out".
    Well, to me, the way to dance to this is to draw out your steps. The way I do this with a partner, if she gets it, is to increase the "tension" in our outstreched, connected arms. She helps accomplish this by "making herself heavy", ie by resisting the forward movement so we can stretch it out to go with the music.
    Many women don't get this. I treasure the ones who do.

    If you dance WCS to the same kind of music all the time, slow, and expecially songs that have little variation in the phrasing of the song, it might take longer to develop and appreciation of how to use "tension" and "heaviness" to make the dance nore interesting. I throw this out because of the too frequent comments that WCS is danced to "slow blues" and such.

    For the women...
    How do you let the man know you want to take some extra time at the end of the slot in WCS to do what we call "embellishments" in Argentine Tango: kicks, taps, a body wave, whatever.
    One way to do it is to "make yourself heavy" and resist the lead to step forward. If he is paying attention to you, he will ease up and give you time.

    I seem to be "odd man out" on this way of thinking, but around here (Portland, OR), there seems to be a small group of women who go along with me on this. It seems that the more mature women have more of a handle on it. But I know several young women (20s?) who also "have it". And that works for me.
  5. kayak

    kayak Active Member

    Hi Steve, I think there is a difference between asking for a little extra play time in WCS and being a heavy follower. A good test is what if the leader says No to the request for a couple extra beats. Good WCS dancers can instantly flip to coming forward on 1 or hange out in leverage. Being heavy would usually mean she isn't balanced correctly to come forward when the leader chooses wouldn't it?
  6. Steve Pastor

    Steve Pastor Moderator Staff Member

    Well, as usual, our words aren't really adequate.

    I wrote the above because people seemed to be in agreement that the follower should "never" be heavy. I agree that, for the most part, she should not be heavy.
    But, I think there are notable exceptions.

    And, of course, your example of "asking for" but not getting time to "play" at the end of the slot is and example of the hopefully subtle communication that goes on between the partners.
    I dance with some women who have enough body mass and control that they AREN'T going anywhere when they don't want to go. Most of the guys are like deer in the headlights at that point.
    Last week during a break in the music when I paused, my partner declared that I had to move her as she stepped forward on her own. I'm wondering if I should try to explain the whole thing to her, but I seem to remember deciding not to bother her again for some reason (I think she asked me to dance this time), so I don't know if it would be worth it.

    So, yeah, I agree on the light thing for a general rule. But being able to turn it up and turn it down in response to your partner and the music is where I want to go because it adds such a rich dimension to dancing with a partner.
  7. kayak

    kayak Active Member

    I think Elise is pointing out there are more similarities than differences in the partner connection between rhythm ballroom dances and swing. Take a ChaCha basic. There is leverage on the break steps and compression on the ChaChaCha portion. The partner responsible for creating the leverage even flip flops depending on which direction the break step is going.

    A few posts back, you mentioned that ballroom momentum is usually in the same direction. I think partner pivots and spot turns would be examples in ChaCha and other partner dances in which the momentum of the partners is right at each other and the challenge of the move is all about controlling the generated momentum. The lead in a cross body lead pattern is quite similar in my mind to WCS leads. Plus, partner pivots are really fun moves to add in the middle of a WCS pattern.

    I would still be extremely proud leading WCS in either of your video examples. Given that they are from the same studio with the same leader and probably the same choreographer, the differences are going to be primarily musicality and choreographic choices vs good/bad dancing aren't they?

    For me, it helps if I imagine the reason for the lowered body position of Lindy is to help ground both partners and keep their momentum from becoming heavy. I bet Dnice can explain it so much better than me :)
  8. Albanaich

    Albanaich New Member

    I never said that the dancers in the video's were not very accomplished - quite the opposite, what I said was that one dance was 'Swing' the other was not.

    It's a matter of personal perspective and dance experience.

    I disagree completely with Cha-Cha being anything like Swing.

    What makes Swing is the music and the musical interpretation. I would say you are looking for physical similarities, which are there, but completely missing the musical emphasis.

    I can dance Modern Jive to Swing music but it doesn't make it Modern Jive into Swing. I can even dance Modern Jive (or LA Salsa) in a slot and it still won't be Swing.

    Dancers tend to be either physically driven or musically driven. I think our perspective is different in that I am musically driven rather than physically driven.

    That's not good or bad - its just the way it is.

    Or to put it another way, when I'm dancing well I'm never thinking about where my feet are or how I am balanced. I'm totally focused on the music. Is this a bridge coming up? Is this 12 bar blues? How can I syncopate to this? My body and lead are totally driven by the music, I'm not dancing and trying to fit what I do to the music.
  9. kayak

    kayak Active Member

    I suspect Elise already knew the answer to her questions on connection and balance and is just helping carry the discussion the right direction :cool:
  10. Albanaich

    Albanaich New Member

    I tend to be with Steve on the tension - compression thing.

    It's uncontrolled or difficult to manage 'heaviness' that is the issue, not the tension - compression itself. If we don't manipulate the tension the dancing becomes flat and accentless (however skilled it is) - like the second of my two examples.

    As I said before, its this manipulation of the tension - compression in time to the music that makes Swing dance, Swing dance.

    If it ain't got that swing - it isn't Swing.
  11. elisedance

    elisedance New Member

    :kissme: :)
  12. Albanaich

    Albanaich New Member

    What was the expected answer?

    That Swing dance would not be Swing dance without the variations in compression - tension?
  13. kayak

    kayak Active Member

    That leverage is not heaviness, but a movement of our lower centers away. Each dancer is responsible for being balanced and ready to move. If we are creating leverage by feeling heavy, then there is an issue with balance in our basics.

    For example, you have probably already solved the balance challenge of skipping two steps in a WCS anchor, creating leverage and not subtly pulling the lady forward just a little too early by being just slightly out of balance on 6.
  14. elisedance

    elisedance New Member

    gee, you put that better than I could K...
  15. Albanaich

    Albanaich New Member


    I never actually thought about what I was doing - but now I realise that I achieve the leverage by coming up on my toes and then sinking backwards on my heels with my knees bent.
  16. Steve Pastor

    Steve Pastor Moderator Staff Member

    Let's talk about this.

    I've been looking a the dance books in a section of the Portland central library, and other places. Some of them go back to the 50s, and I've looked at Arthur Murray books as old as 1947. One book was published in 1969.
    As our own TangoTime once pointed out, "West Coast Swing" was pretty much unknown on the East Coast.
    Meanwhile, there is still among us someone who has been teaching West Coast Swing since before it was known by that name. Her name is Skippy Blair. (TangoTime was there, too, but Skippy's profile is much higher.) There is a 1978 book that she wrote, and in it we find the following in a chapter on "WEST COAST SWING"..."GOLDEN STATE SWING", ""Patterns in dance are taught to give someone a foundation on which to build. SWING offers usch a variety of RHYTHM and STYLE VARIATIONS that eventually each dancer develops his own unique interpretation. The only problem that exists in SWING is when someone decides there is only ONLY WAY to dance it. There is never only ONE WAY to do anything ..."

    "In the beginning" Skippy taught for Arthur Murray Studios, then went on her own. She has taught in "ballrooms" and she owned a number of studios. But remember, Lindy came from...the Savoy Ballroom.

    I can't answer for everyone in the US (and wouldn't want to based on some of the stuff I've read!), but there's at least one prominent teacher who teaches the basics while also conveying the essential don't fence me in (even though I'm staying in my slot) spirit of swing which is the antithesis of how most of us think of "ballroom".
  17. kayak

    kayak Active Member

    I would say dancers make a Retro vs Modern choice in my part of the western US. Retro is all about Lindy and the community plays classic swing music. Steve, with your interest in swing music roots, I am surprised this isn't your favorite dance?

    WCS is danced to any 4/4 music in the 80-130 bpm range from blues to country to pop. So it has a much broader look and feel. I guess I would say it is easier to argue a dance isn't Lindy than that a dance isn't WCS?
  18. real_deal_dance

    real_deal_dance New Member

    Frame and Resistance

    While your question would really be best answered in person so you can learn the proper feel, I will do my best here.

    I definitely think there IS such a thing as too much and too little resistance and getting to the sweet spot takes some practicing and work. My best suggestion would be to not let your arm collapse or extend (just a little give) when being led in or being pushed back (from sugar push for example). What I mean is do not let your elbow pass your back when being led back out.

    When you feel the lead starting to bring you in, come. Do not make him pull you around, you should be completely mobile and self motored. It is only the leads job to direct you where to go, not to "push" and "pull" you through the dance.

    Hope this helps and I recommend taking a couple privates from someone in your dance community you like the feel of. That is really the best way to learn and learn it properly!

    Keep swingin'!
  19. Steve Pastor

    Steve Pastor Moderator Staff Member

    I didn't start dancing until I was in my...., and I started in hole in the wall bars in rural parts of the country like Northern Wisconsin, and Estacada, OR. Portland was fun to go to for music, but I felt more comfortable in the divey places like in truck stops like Mr B's in Troutdale and the Drum near Gresham. And line dancing was a good way to get into things, so that's what I learned first, then the couple dances. Finally I started with West Coast.
    At the time the Lindy Hoppers were pretty fanatical about how authentic it was, and it was the providence of young, college age, and twenty year olds.
    I flirted with salsa for a few months, and then I found Argentine Tango.
    Lindy and salsa are "not me".

    As I've gotten more and more interested in various facets of the history of dance and music in the US, I've found that there is much more misinformation than information that is commonly held.
    In reading about the development of "swing" in music, one author seems to be stating that swing didn't develop until around the mid thirties (don't quote me on this one, I have lots of reading to do). Since Shorty Snowden "named" the dance in 1928, but they did "the Hop" before that, but Snowden did a breakaway, and they only did "floor steps" until around 35-36, and the Cat's Corner people did not copy each others steps.....
    I've read so many descriptions of "Lindy", and they are all similar, but not the same.
    And then there's the whole "Hollywood Style" deal....

    It seems like quite an open question to me, but I guess it really comes down to the dance not quite fitting my "character". And I am quite content with my amatuer research and the dance venues I haunt, the dances I do, the people I hang around there, etc.
    (And hey, how cool is it to come off the dance floor after doing a line dance to an Elvis song and having someone who hasn't been around for years tell you that "You look like Elvis out there"?
    OK. I'm weird. But you already knew that.)
  20. elisedance

    elisedance New Member

    Nice post for an opener RDD (we often abreviate here) and welcome to DF :)

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