Swing Discussion Boards > Dear leaders, (letter from a newbie)

Discussion in 'Swing Discussion Boards' started by Peaches, Nov 12, 2010.

  1. Peaches

    Peaches Well-Known Member

    Dear leaders,

    I appreciate you asking me to dance. Really, I do. I beats sitting and watching all evening, although that has its merits. But a little request, please.

    Please anchor. Or at least let me anchor. No funny stuff. My connection is spotty, at best, and I need that in order to reestablish things and get my bearings. Please don't go doing something interesting with that. Especially when I tell you explicitly that I'm just a beginner.

    I realize that it's boring. I understand that it limits your creativity. I'm sorry about that. If it's too bad, just don't ask me...I won't take it personally. But please, for the love of Pete, just do a nice basic anchor for me to come back to.


    Your pal,
  2. ldavila

    ldavila New Member

    Hi Peaches,

    I think the term 'newbie' may be a bit relative...

    So for my education... What the heck is an 'anchor'?

  3. Peaches

    Peaches Well-Known Member

    Maybe that's not the right term. (It's what I've heard it called.) The last 5&6 of the basic push, or basic pass, where you're both facing each other and kind of settling away. Well, barring something else.
  4. Peaches

    Peaches Well-Known Member

    Yup. Seems to be, I warn that I'm a beginner, OK, a push or two into things I get the comment that I'm not, or I get a question about what else I dance.

    Well, yeah, I've been dancing for a while. But not terribly seriously, all things considered. And Argentine Tango, which is such a different animal. (To me, at least, at this point.) Yeah, I can kind of connect...more than someone who's never ever danced...but it's spotty. And when I feel it I don't know yet what to make of it and how to translate what I'm feeling into what I should be doing. So...yeah...still definitely a newbie.
  5. pygmalion

    pygmalion Well-Known Member

    Great letter, P. Some swing dancers love their embellishments (not what they're called in swing dance, I bet, but I don't know what they're called, so what the heck? ) so much that they don't remember to stick with the basics.

    IIRC, Vince (remember him?) said that swing dance comps even have rules requiring so many basics per something-or-the-other (measure, pattern, phrase? Don't remember.) I'm guessing that rule wouldn't have been written if there weren't a need for it. :cool:
  6. fascination

    fascination Site Moderator Staff Member

    I will never fathom (in this lifetime) why men in general continue to think that women want to do the fancy stuff...answer = not unless you are awesome, and maybe not even then
  7. Peaches

    Peaches Well-Known Member

    Embellishing is fine. Embellish 'til the cows come home. Just let me anchor if that's what you're going to do. Be-gin-ner. Tone it down, please. Please don't go throwing crazy stuff at me. I can work with 6-count or 8-count timing, but after that I get lost and confused. I realize that, ultimately, the idea of pattern timing goes right out the window...but I'm not there yet.

    I should add that I'm not trying to bash the leaders. There are just certain things I found frustrating last night. But there was also one leader who, for some reason, I could follow decently and had a lot of fun with. I was screwing up right, left and center, but he seemed to be able to work with it well enough without holding it against me. But...and this is the basis for the thread...he always came back to a simple anchor step. No matter how much he played around with other things, he always kept the anchor step nice and simple. And that's when I realized how much I appreciated it.

    (I realize that he could have been bored out of his skull. Not much I can do about that, so meh.)
  8. pygmalion

    pygmalion Well-Known Member

    There's always room for the basics, P. Unless swng is unlike any other dance I know, there are ways for a more experienced dancer to entertain him/herself while dancing with a noob. Playing around with syncopations is a good example. You can syncopate with your feet til the cows come home and still land in the right place and time for an anchor step (or basic whatever, depending on the dance.)
  9. pygmalion

    pygmalion Well-Known Member

    Another example: body rolls and isolations

    Your feet can be doing just the basic patterns, while your mid-section, shoulders, etc are dancing a symphony. My opinion only. :cool:
  10. toothlesstiger

    toothlesstiger Well-Known Member

    Your complaint is understood, but please don't paint all leaders with the same brush.
  11. Sagitta

    Sagitta Well-Known Member

    If you did stuff like body rolls and I'm just a beginner who is feeling awkward with just the basic it might highlight to me how really wide the gap is between us and make me feel more uncomfortable. And if we are connected I can feel all this crazy stuff you are doing and it may provide me with extra feedback that makes it harder for me to concentrate on my basics. However if my partner just does the basic with no syncopations I can feel what I should feel without the extras... Once I know the basic and you do a bodyroll or something else I see how to feel the basic when it is overlayed with the extras.

    It really is a matter of connecting with your partner and seeing what will work. The guideline of simplicity is great, as a guideline.

    I know how newbies feel. I danced with a beginner last night and she was grateful that I just did the basic - this for salsa, but it still applies - saying that the others threw her around! Not nice! On the other hand there are many beginners out there who do want to do/experience some of the "fancy" stuff. So, I mix it up and push it a bit some times during the dance but I always make sure to come back and put in the basic to reorientate. It seems a good compromise that makes many happy. I do feel when someone doesn't want even that and accede according as I did with this one beginner lady last night. Actually, there were two last night, of the beginners I danced with, that I just kept to the simplest elements.

    And there is beauty in that. Just keeping things very simple and clear and clean, without syncopations, emblishments....whatever you can call it. Something soothing if you do it really well. A really good feeling. A good dancer does not need the crutch of more than the basic to have a great dance if his/her partner is uncomfortable with that.
  12. pygmalion

    pygmalion Well-Known Member

    I hear what you're saying, Sag, and respectfully disagree. There's only so much focusing on technique one can do, to keep things interesting. I dance with a lot of newbies and enjoy it. But I'd rip out my own fingernails if all I could do was the basic with nothing else. Or else I wouldn't dance with newbies. I'd do what everybody else does, and try to dance "up" whatever that means.

    Ones embellishments shouldn't be distracting, no. I agree with you on that. I do think there are ways to dance both for me and a less experienced partner at the same time. But heck. I've been dancing for ... a bunch of years. I go social dancing to have fun, not give free beginner lessons.
  13. Sagitta

    Sagitta Well-Known Member

    Pyg. Perhaps you misunderstood. I said that one must listen to one's partner and respond accordingly and that means just focusing just on the basic stripped of everything else sometimes. And I'm careful what songs I choose for that as what I do depends on the song as well. (I have at times told someone not this song, and asked if I could get the person for another.) For example, yesterday night I danced with 10-15 newbies. For only two I just did the stripped down basic. For the rest I did more of the other stuff depending on what worked for our partnership for that song.

    I too wouldn't be able to just do the stripped down basic the whole night or the majority of the night because I want to more fully express myself as that is why I have come out. If that was what I felt I needed to do I wouldn't partner dance as for me dancing is about both partners fully enjoying themselves, and depriving myself does not a partnership make.
  14. jennyisdancing

    jennyisdancing Active Member


    What is more specifically the complaint?

    Are you saying you are dancing with more advanced leaders who do nothing but moves where the the anchor beats are eliminated on purpose? (i.e., they completely cut out doing anything for "5&6" or "7&8" and just go straight to another move.) It would be somewhat unusual for a leader to do this all the time. Even at advanced levels, the anchor timing is still there for many moves, although the footwork or styling can be optionally changed.

    If the leader is just doing some funky syncopations on his anchor, you are not required to follow suit. Footwork doesn't need to mirror. You can keep to basic steps on your anchor, until you are more comfortable doing something else. If he's literally cutting out all the anchor timing throughout the dance, then maybe he's trying to do hustle. ;)

    Or is it that the leader's timing is just "off", where they are not with the music, or not allowing you to finish your anchor before leading you on "1"? Some leaders do make the mistake of leading too early into the next move. In that case, as with any other dance, not much you can do but follow as best you can.

    The way I was taught, is that leverage ("settling away" as you put it) is a defining feature of WCS. If a leader is unintentionally not allowing this to happen, then he needs to work on technique.

    p.s. excited that you are trying WCS! I do think that AT dance skills are helpful even though they are different styles.
  15. Steve Pastor

    Steve Pastor Moderator Staff Member

    The term "ANCHOR" was coined by the Golden State Dance Teachers Association in the early 1960s to clarify the difference between the "resistance" desired at the end of a West Coast Swing Pattern, and the lack of resistance caused by the 1961 version of a "Coaster" Step. This is one of the major milestones that changed the face of West Coast Swing.[2]

    An Anchor is danced on the last two beats (last Unit) of each basic, fundamental Step Pattern in West Coast Swing. A feeling of body leverage balances the resistance of both partners. Each partner is responsible for establishing their own individual anchor.[2]

    Different types of anchor will leave the partners in one of three positions: 1) the dancers are not individually centered (with an away resistance), resulting in a heavy active connection (sometime referred to as leverage; 2) partners will be individually centered, resulting in a passive connection; 3) the follower's center point of balance will be slightly forward of being individually centered - resulting in a passive connection.[3]

    Lord only knows what people are teaching now a days. I can say for sure that from the earliest written records there's never been only one way to do "Western Swing", and then West Coast Swing.
    There is one caveat about this sentence "the lack of resistance caused by the 1961 version of a "Coaster" Step". Laure Haile expressly had NO forward steps in her "Coaster Step". Other people worte wrote, howver, did. And Skippy Blair remembers being taught the "step forward" version of the Coaster in the Long Beach Arthur Murray studio, but not by Laure.

    Anyhow, I'd tell anyone who would listen to use the anchor as the dance equivalent of a period in a sentence.
    If you are following, I think you should at least try to do an anchor when it feels like the end of a pattern. You can't create "leverage" (an unfortunate but long term dance term) or "away resistance" by yourself; just like you can't do AT apilado by yourself. You can only suggest to your partner.
    If you are leading...
    Well, I'll admit to substituting a feel for the momentum and balance of my parnter for "school figures". But I've been making a serious effort to get back to basics.

    Still, any time I would get "lost" I would wait for, or do, an anchor to get back with my partner.
  16. Peaches

    Peaches Well-Known Member

    I'm not even so sure that I intended it as a complaint. Just a request...if there are leaders reading the thread, maybe just something to keep in mind when dancing with a beginner.

    I don't know enough yet to always be able to tell when an anchor (or coaster, or whatever you want to call it) has been eliminated on purpose. I don't really know what to make of a syncopation...or if I should follow it or not. I don't know if I should be doing something else. That's just it...I'm too much of a newbie to know one way or the other, so to me that anchor step is very important.

    In response to someone else, I didn't mean to tar all of the leaders with the same brush. There were some gentleman who were wonderful--kept it simple, smiled (faked it? I appreciate that too.), were able to give quick little tips that helped me out. And anchored (or coastered, or whatevered...what is the term to use?). But others did not, and seemed to keep screwing around with the anchor. I appreciate that that's a possibility, but honestly as a newbie, it's just very confusing. And confusion=>thinking more=>following less=>more mistakes=>more anxiety=>more mistakes...and that's not fun for either of us.

    I don't expect a free lesson, or guys to have fun with just the basics. Which is why I said, if they're not interested in dancing like that...it's cool with me. But just as a thought...for leaders reading this...if you're dancing with a newbie don't underestimate the importance of giving her something recognizeable to come back to.

  17. Peaches

    Peaches Well-Known Member

    Heh. And perhaps I just spend so much time feeling lost is why I like the idea of the anchor so much, lol.
  18. Steve Pastor

    Steve Pastor Moderator Staff Member

    If you step forward on the last (third) step of the second triple, it's (now) known as a Coaster Step.
    If you DON'T move forward you are anchoring.

    For me, it's like AT. The woman takes her own steps and she can do what she wants as long as she follows the broad outline of what I've lead with her body.
    An example would be if she wanted to just step step instead of doing a triple on her anchor. As long as she gives me that away feeling on that final step, it's going to work.
  19. waltzgirl

    waltzgirl Active Member

    I'm pretty much a beginner at wcs and the best advice I've been given for following was "walk til he stops you, then anchor." That seems to apply pretty much all the time. The hard thing about wcs for me is that the leader and follower can be doing such different things, none of the nice mirror image movement of ballroom. So, right or wrong, I seem to be learning to go where I'm sent but to manage my own footwork on my own without much regard for the leader's footwork. So I pretty much move when I'm led to and anchor when I'm not, and it seems to work out OK.
  20. pygmalion

    pygmalion Well-Known Member

    Yeah. It's kinda sucky, 'cause you can if you want, but you don't have to if you don't want. I remember the first time I danced WCS with someone other than a teacher. Let me just say that it was NOT one of my stellar dance experiences. AKA. I had no freaking clue of what he was doing. He seemed to be having fun though, despite the fact that I spent an inordinate amount of time standing there and looking at his inexplicable feet. *grin*

    Agreed. And I hope I didn't sound (too) obnoxious earlier. I just think that, like a bunch of other things in life, it's a balancing act. Experienced dancers deserve love, too, but also *hopefully* have the dance maturity to know what to throw at a noob and what not to throw. I don't think that a recognizable basic, every so often, is too much to ask.

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