Swing Discussion Boards > How do I take my WCS to that elusive "next level"?

Discussion in 'Swing Discussion Boards' started by SlowDancer, Apr 19, 2007.

  1. SlowDancer

    SlowDancer New Member

    Got an e-mail a couple of days ago from my former country-WCS pro saying, hey, let's enter the swing contest together at the next country comp...it was exciting and flattering, and I'm going to do it, but I feel that my WCS is stuck at that competent, intermediate but boring stage...I see people doing all these miraculous syncopations, and I always think "I could do that"...but of course, I don't.

    I think most of the problem is, I don't really get to do much WCS. I live in a fairly small dance community and my only exposure to high-level west coasters is at the occasional out-of-town comp. Or videos. Any advice on kicking it up a notch or two, in a couple of months?
    ocean-daughter likes this.
  2. DancinAnne

    DancinAnne New Member

    Watch videos.

    Let go and learn to play.

    Experiment. See what works and what doesn't. When you have a leader who leads basic stuff, it is a great time to try things out. Shimmy. Body roll. Wiggle your butt. Vary your triples. Be sexy. Smooth your hair. Listen to the music. Dance with the music. Play.

    Don't be afraid to screw up.
    ocean-daughter likes this.
  3. Vince A

    Vince A Active Member

    When you can do this . . . you will be there!

    Ditto . . .

    Once you forget about "what you have to do," and can play . . . you'll feel that growth . . . just remember, that once you do start playing, it will open up a new WCS world for you, but you have to be there for the leader . . . insure that once you've stopped playing, you settle in, anchor - signaling the lead to "press on." And be fair . . . don't play so much that you're constantly taking away his/her lead! Let the music dictate what you do . . . respond to the music . . . get in the groove of the music . . . feel it . . . learn the music . . . know how to hear the count 1, etc . . . you'll be amazed how different it can be!
  4. SuzieQ

    SuzieQ New Member

    Great advice from both DancinAnne and VinceA!
  5. bastet

    bastet Active Member

    AHHH- WCS...my other love! (Along with Argentine Tango)

    I agree that letting go and learning to play really will make a difference for you. I would sometimes try out all sorts of things at home with my favorite partner (the back of a chair) to work out something that I wanted to try when I knew I had a triple to play with, or side passes. This changes even the most basic patterns in to WOW!
  6. Vince A

    Vince A Active Member

    Great suggestion . . .
  7. Dancelf

    Dancelf Member



    get a bunch of slips of paper. on each, write down a fundamental synchopation (example - "kick ball change"). fold up the slips, and put them all in the fish bowl.

    Now, every time you go dancing westie: reach into the fishbowl, and find out what synchopation you are going to be doing that night. For example, if you draw "kick ball change", then that night, on every single pattern, replace the "walk walk" with a kick ball change. Yes, you are supposed to be sick of it before the first dance ends. keep at it anyway.

    However - don't try to do the same kick ball change every time.

    experiment with kicking in different directions, or using different kinds of kicks, or whatever. You are looking for some variation that works for you. Some of them will only work with some patterns, others will be more universal.

    Doesn't have to be footwork, of course; you can beat the other dimensions of the dance into submission using the same approach.
  8. SlowDancer

    SlowDancer New Member

    What great advice from everyone...there does seem to be a common thread, and that is to learn to be spontaneous and play with the music. I like Dancin'Anne's advice: don't be afraid to screw up.

    One thing I need to remember is that all those spontaneous-looking things I see ladies do have probably been practiced dozens if not hundreds of times. Somehow it seems a little contradictory, to practice being spontaneous, but I think that's what you guys are trying to tell me to do.

    I really appreciate all the suggestions and plan to start working on this little project when I go out social dancing this weekend.
  9. SuzieQ

    SuzieQ New Member

    Let us know how it goes!
  10. SlowDancer

    SlowDancer New Member

    I will! I'm going to a Latin party and the DJ usually plays quite a few WCS songs. So maybe I'll have a chance to start tonight.
  11. Vince A

    Vince A Active Member

  12. SlowDancer

    SlowDancer New Member

    Vince, it was a pretty good night of dancing, except that there weren't many WCS songs played. Very frustrating. However, I did try to "play with the music" as much as possible. There just wasn''t much music to play with. Tomorrow night is country night and it should be better. Stay tuned....
  13. Vince A

    Vince A Active Member

    I'm still tuned in . . . how did it go?

    There is play time in all music . . . listen for things that are not necessarily the "music."
  14. kayak

    kayak Active Member

    Hey, what trick do you guys use to find the major changes in the music? I do pretty good finding sets of two measures. Still, if you watch really good WCS dancers, they are able to change the whole dance at the right point in the music. I can sometimes do it with music I have heard a million times, but I have a much harder time with new songs.
  15. Steve Pastor

    Steve Pastor Moderator Staff Member

    OK. First, I'm not claiming to be a "really good WCS dancer", but a couple of things come to mind.
    Most music follows pretty standard patterns. Once your brain has latched onto those patterns, it can do things for you that you aren't consciously thinking about. (How often do you step up onto a curb or a step, and screw it up?) So, listening and moving to music (hopefully in time) builds these pathways in your brain. Darn, I think they call that practice.

    One thing to keep in mind is that when you watch someone dance, you have no idea how many times they have heard a song.

    Breaks are the most obvious thing to hit.
    Have you noticed that many songs announce their breaks with a build up of intensity, culminating in the break?
    Listen, listen, listen. Does the music get softer? Does it get louder and have more energy? Is there a part with "syncopated" percussion, or a guitar solo?

    Being able to keep time, take your own steps, and lead your partner, then be able to listen to and react to the music ain't that easy.
    Having a good partner, who also likes to experiment, knows her side of the dance (so you aren't always wondering if she will get this), doesn't care if things go "wrong" sometimes, and helps you put things back together again when they do go wrong, is hugely important.
  16. Dancelf

    Dancelf Member

    Nuts, I thought I had answered this yesterday - must have forgotten to submit it.

    The short answer that was immediately useful to me, many moons ago: "music has rules".

    A slightly more practical short answer (though less complete): betting on a major change every 32 beats of a contemporary song has high ROI, as does betting on a major change every 48 beats in blues music.

    A hint at a longer answer: with practice, you can learn to hear the tells that the music gives just before a change, which allows you to (a) stop counting and (b) match the music.

    The longer answer really does require its own thread (although I think you can find a bunch of pieces of that answer posted on this board already).
  17. Plainswalker

    Plainswalker New Member

    One trick that I used to practice is to count the music, but dance the steps. It forces you to "hear" the music and its intrinsic 8-count structure while dancing six- and eight-count basics. I find it helped me understand where I was in the music and figure out idiosyncrasies in the song (some songs would add a measure here and there, for example).
  18. kayak

    kayak Active Member

    Cool, I will give those ideas a shot. I know accenting the right places in the music will be a major improvement. It took a little while, but not too long, to find beats 1 and 5. So with a little patience, I ought to be able to find 32 and 48 :D
  19. SlowDancer

    SlowDancer New Member

    It went moderately well...still not enought WCS songs to suit my taste, and it was an "off" night attendance-wise, meaning there weren't many leaders to dance with.

    Another thing I've discovered during this brief experiment thus-far: I really can't tell how I look doing my new stuff unless there is a mirror, which means only at studio parties...not knowing how I look is definitely a hindrance to my progress. We all know that just because something feels good doesn't necessarily mean it looks good.

    I'm thinking about getting someone to video me dancing WCS in the very near future so I can watch objectively and see what's working and what isn't. And I plan to take a WCS lesson with a visiting pro whom I admire and trust the next time he's in town and have him objectively evaluative what my WCS needs and how to get it there.

    Practicing with the refrigerator door is great as far as it goes, but some real live flesh and blood WCS leaders would really help--but they are few and far between here.

    But I very much appreciate all the great suggestions and I'm not giving up the experiment until I can see some real progress.
  20. kayak

    kayak Active Member

    Hope you didn't mind my thread drift. It seemed like kind of the same subject.

    I suspect you will really like using a video. It was watching a video that I realized I blissfully passed right over some big changes in the music. Nothing particularily wrong, just that I could really make a jump if I matched up with the music better. Besides, it is actually kind of fun to see that there are way more things going right than wrong.

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