Swing Discussion Boards > Lindy Hop: Improving the "Swingout"

Discussion in 'Swing Discussion Boards' started by Apache, Jan 15, 2009.

  1. Apache

    Apache Member

    So after a year of Swing Dancing mainly East Coast Swing and Lindy Hop one thing has bothered me, which is the inconsistency of my Swingout to the point that I have considered once I get the money to throw down the money for private lessons to fix it.

    While my swingouts have at least been in the range of mediocre to sometimes good at my local scene where I dance, I have found the few times I have traveled out of town they go from the range of horrid to mediocre.

    Until I save up enough money on the side to invest in some private lessons my question is does anyone have any advice how to improve the swingout in general?

    Or does anyone have any advice on how to work on the issues I have below?
    1. During the swingout I tend to step or move forward on the second count, something I have tried to fix several times but subconsciously creeps back.
    2. Often I will for some reason rush the steps and make the swingout very rushed.
    3. For some reason during the 5th and 6th beat of the swingout sometimes the follow will get offbalance and moving her back to her original position will feel very awkward.

    Yes, I know most of this can be fixed by practice which I have been doing and am willing to do more. I am just curious if anyone has any suggestions on what to change, focus on or any advice that would make my practice more effective.
  2. Lyndee

    Lyndee New Member


    Well, I'm not exactly an expert lindy hopper myself, and I'm not a lead, so I can't offer very much helpful advice.

    But, as far as rushing the swingout, I've danced with a lot of guys that have done that very thing. One thing that might help is counting along with the song. You might feel silly doing it, but it'll help you be in the right place at the right time.

    Fill up every count. If you're feeling the music and counting with it, it'll help you to make each count full, and then it'll be the right rhythm.

    I hope that made sense...I'm somewhat bad at putting into words what I'm thinking.

    Good luck, and keep practicing!
  3. tangonuevo

    tangonuevo New Member

    It took me perhaps two years of dancing Lindy before I felt comfortable with it, and after 15 years I am STILL messing with it.

    To help with the rushing, try this - and it may help to let your follow know what you are working on so that she can help: Lead her 1,2 in switches and only then lead her to come in on 3. Or lead 1, 2 as a rock step. with her coming in on 3. Then, as suggested by Lyndee, try to fill the rest of the full eight counts with the swingout.

    To help with the awkwardness on 5,6, do the swingouts way down tempo, like 125 BPM, and use NO FORCE anywhere. Let your follow manage her own balance and get a feel for how it is working. Then, as you ratchet up tempo to real dance tempos, contually ask for feedback so you can see just where it starts to fall apart. My regular partner and I can easily handle 200+BPM tempos with little force because 1. she can move, and 2. I am patient and fill out the whole 8 counts. Little force is required except at the moments of my follows changes of direction.

    But getting a solid swingout is a long adventure!!
  4. Steve Pastor

    Steve Pastor Moderator Staff Member

    Although many people belittle "counting", it can be very helpful. So you want to practice doing your steps, as quicks, slows, whatever, S L O W L Y. ala tangonuevo's suggestion.
    It is unfortunate, but true, that repetition is the key to developing "muscle memory", which doesn't mean that your brain isn't guiding things, but that you aren't consciously thinking of what you're doing.
    And you want to do it to music, too, which many of us think is very important. You do, too, apparently.
    These things you can do on your own. The more doing your steps in time to the music is "in your body", the more you will be able to pay attention to a partner.

    I've been trying to learn to play some keyboard for year, and finally found a couple of songs I could stick with: Blue Suede Shoes, and Boot Scootin Boogie. I have FINALLY gotten to the point where, sometimes, when I sit down stuff just comes out, and I think "Hey, I'm doing it!"
    But I keep practicing the same "tricky" passages over and over again, especially what for me are different rhythms/phrases in the vocal, treble, and base lines.

    It was the same way when I struggled to learn Argentine Tango.

    Meanwhile, if you have never looked at the book by and about Frankie Manning, you might google "frankie manning their swing-out was different", and click on the first link which will take you to google book search.
    or try this url
  5. Apache

    Apache Member

    I'd like to say thank you for the quick and informative responses. I will try to take all your advice to heart when I practice.

    Also thank you Steve Pastor for your link, it was an interesting read. I actually want to go to Frankie Mannings 95th birthday celebration, unfortunately it may come down to a money issue if I can attend or not.
  6. tsb

    tsb Well-Known Member

    don't have to name the venue or studio, but what city is this?

    again, what city, please?

    on the swingout, there's an expectation that your body lead will prompt your partner to come towards and then go *past* you. but if she *doesn't* you may need to move towards her so that you can step around her to perform the swingout. and i have to do it more often then one would think you'd have to at one of the largest and most popular lindy venues in LA.

    if your body lead is clear on count one, your partner should move towards and past you, but if that lead isn't clear, that might be part of the original problem.

    as long as you don't step across until count 4, it can't be that bad.

    assuming you're not trying to lead a turn, try to keep your left hand low, which allows you to guide your push towards and through her hips which is where her center of gravity is located.

    some of it can hinge on how you've been taught. if there are dancers there who have a style you admire, you might want to ask them who their instructor is.

    and after a dance, ask your partner if there was one thing you could improve to make it a more fun dance for her, what would it be? most folks will be pretty gracious about it, but be prepared to take everything with a grain of salt. still, if they all say the same thing, it's a pretty good indication.

    good luck!
  7. Apache

    Apache Member

    Well the local scene I dance in State College, PA.

    However when I dance out in California I am either in Irvine or Pasadena, I either hit up the Atomic Ballroom or Lindygroove.
  8. eclipse

    eclipse New Member

    swingout success

    The forward 2 step usually happens because your body is trying to start the next step before finishing the first. There are several possible reasons why you get this and a pro would be the best idea to look you over. Until then...
    1- Let her come to you. Leading is about redirecting her energy into the direction you want her. No reaching. you do not get to triple until you have her in your cradle.
    2- Redirect your weight. Shift it back a little toward your heels. If your posture is too far forward you will 'fall' into step 2
    3-practice practice practice... do it often without music or partner, then add music...then add partner

    As a pro, that would be my advice. (knowing that I have not seen you to mend mechanical flaws)

    Eclipse Dance
  9. drejenpha

    drejenpha Member

    Part of what you're getting is the difference in swing between areas... each pocket develops slightly different from the others. The local area will seem relatively the same because of exchanges, but after some distance things change based on instructors' preferences and styling.

    If I were you I'd just grab Annabel and run her through a few asking her to pay attention to the 5 6... you'll be able to change some things to make it better but you've also got to take into consideration that several of the follows are doing it wrong (I would say differently, but they're just wrong).
  10. Apache

    Apache Member

    I fully agree on the difference between areas idea. I've noticed the first night I am back dancing in California its usually rough but the next few consecutive nights get better.

    And I have been meaning to grab Annabel or another one of the really good follows there and try to work it out, so I think I will take your message as the initiative to kick myself to do it on Wednesday.

    However your last comment about the follows is completely dead on though. There are some who when I try to start a swing out are definitely doing whatever version of the swing out pattern they were taught and not even following.
  11. Flat Shoes

    Flat Shoes New Member

    The Lindy Turn/Swingout from open position is a simple, yet difficult pattern. Although its form is simple, it requires good technique to lead an follow well.

    As a leader, you should focus on being smooth and even all the time, while maintaining a good connection all the time.

    The follower also needs to focus on the connection, and not anticipate the move but move as lead.

    No part of the swingout is choreographed. The follower does not turn herself, and the follower is not stopping on her own. Both are common follower mistakes.

    1. I'm not sure what you mean and why it is a problem. Are you shifting your weight back forward to your right foot, placing the right foot where it was on one, or are you actually olacing it forward from its original position?

    If your are lunging forward it can make it difficult to time the move and maintain connection. If not, as long as you have a good connection during the move and can time it correctly, it doesn't matter what direction you move in. You can move your right foot back to the side of your left foot, or you can step back where you came from. Both are fine.

    2. Relax and take your time. You need to feel where your partner is at all stages during the swingout. Always seek connection with your partner before leading her. If a 8 beat patterns sometimes takes 10 beats, just go with it and keep dancing from there.

    3. Do not push her with your arms at this point in the swingout. She should have all the momentum she needs from you leading her with your body from about count 4-5. It is your partners responsibility to maintain the movement and direction after you've started her in the direction she is going.

    And as others have said, a good lindy turn/swing out requires a follower who follows. As a leader you have the responsibility to lead her in a smooth and relaxed pattern. But the follower needs to let herself be led, and maintain the speed and direction given her by the leader.

    There are many ways to lead the basic pattern of a swingout, before adding variations in rhytm and adding turns. They are all correct if lead well. Focus on maintinaing connection, be smooth and relax. When you can combine these, you are doing very well.
  12. Apache

    Apache Member

    Well the problem was I was shifting my weight forward and moving my right foot forward as well. Even occasionally moving forward with my upper body which I know is bad. I've been working on fixing that.

    This is something i've been really working on as well. I try a lot now to really enjoy and use each beat to my advantage. On a random side note, by really practicing this a lot while social dancing i've noticed how some follows will attempt to rush through steps to keep on what they think is on time, even if that true or untrue in some circumstances.

    I have really been trying to take this summation to heart because I think my problem in the past was instead of trying to practice a "swing out", what I was trying to do was practice just doing the pattern I was taught. Now, I am really focusing on the connection and feeling instead of trying to follow exactly a eight beat pattern exactly.

    But thank you for your great advice and thank you to everyone else who has chipped in useful comments as well.
  13. Flat Shoes

    Flat Shoes New Member


    Patterns are good as a frame for what you're doing. Although dance is about the connection between the people, we're not white sheets just coming together. We have a basis in the dance and its patterns.

    But to learn to do a pattern well, the focus needs to be on the connection between the partners. The follower must wait for the leader to lead, and the leader must wait for the followr to be ready to be lead. And both must seek connection and a good frame.

    And the confusing part is that the frame should have a good connection and still be relaxed and smooth. The key is understanding the difference between using force and being rigid. And yes, if you are confused by this, it is very natural. This is difficult to explaind, and difficult to understand before you actually feel it.

    But good luck, and once you're there, you'll know it.
  14. tsb

    tsb Well-Known Member

    AHHH. i understand. i've danced at both places (i live less than 10 minutes away from lindygroove in pasadena).

    at lindygroove, there are a number of follows who simply refuse go past you on the swingout - which of course makes the whip extremely difficult unless you compensate by moving towards them. with some, i will lead what will feel like an underarm pass but turn it into a reverse whip so that they can actually feel how much better it is when they continue down the slot and give me something to counter balance doing a whip. also, though no one will admit it, the lindy there is influenced by WCS to some degree.

    at atomic, since shesha took over from jerry (jordan), i understand that he actually teaches a rock step to start the swingout with the idea that the open break will actually compel the follow to come towards you more effectively than a body lead. not everybody
    subscribes to that, but the follows taught exclusively by shesha will probably be confused.

    why not try memories in whittier the next time you're here?
  15. Flat Shoes

    Flat Shoes New Member

    This is a known problem I spend a lot of time on when teaching locally. These are some reasons I know causing this:
    - The follower is afraid to crash into the leader
    - The follower walks in the pattern she thinks she's supposed to follow
    - The follower thinks lack of contionous leading means stopping

    The problem is, you can tell and show and lead this multiple times, and even if you get better result in one class, the next class they're back to old bad habbits again.

    As more experienced leaders, we have to compensate. But even if we can compensate a lot, the dance still suffers. Compensating means first trying to reestablish connection, and then start leading. This takes more time than just leading, it causes more jerking, and the dancing looses its flow and momentum.

    Are you talking about swingout from closed position?

    And I don't understand what is ment by not using body lead. But body lead is one of these ambigous terms that mean different things to different people.

    I've heard professional teachers criticize the term because you lead with both arms and body. Other teachers talks a lot about the importance of body leading.

    I like to say that we should lead from the body. The movement comes from the leaders body and is transfered to the other body, with help from the arms. This smoothes down any leading, because the arms are more jerky than the body. The arms are used a lot, but seldom without the body being behind the movement in some way.

    Body leading is not wrong to say, but the arms are used a lot too. So it's ambigous.
  16. DWise1

    DWise1 Well-Known Member

    Uh, what Shesha teaches is a body lead. For that matter, a lot of his instruction currently concentrates on using body leads with compression and extension.

    That rock step is done by the guy, though it could also be done by the girl if she's not swivelling -- and, yes, it is being done from open position. But the rock step is not being used to pull her in right then, as is the case in the WCS whip, but rather it creates the "rubber band" extension to lead her in on 2.

    Part of the emphasis he's been placing for the past few years on creating that extension on 1 to bring her in on 2 is to break us of the bad Westie habit of bringing her in on 1. There's a lot of syling that can be done in that interval between swingouts (7&8, 1(&)2 -- depending on whether you're syncopating) which cannot be done if the guy keeps bringing her in on 1. Westie gals can use a hitch kick to postpone that in a whip and, while we are taught something similar as a styling, I don't think there's much that the girl can do about it in Lindy.
  17. Flat Shoes

    Flat Shoes New Member

    A lot of leading in Lindy is like this. The connection is being built before the follower starts moving in that direction.

    When leading you can force the follower to step forward on one in the swingout by having a very strong and marked lead. But it is better to build the connection first, and then the move forward comes at the appropriate time. And it can be delayed as long as to around count 3, I think, even though that is a bit difficult.

    As a leader you need to "listen" to your partner. If she is doing some improvisations you should let her finish those, before she has to move forward. But waiting too long, and the follower will need to find something to fill the time while waiting for your lead, and not all partners like being "forced" to improvise like that.

    To summarize my take on this:
    Leading often starts before the follower actually starts moving.
    The actually step forward is lead at the appropritate time, depending on music, what the follower is doing and so forth. It does not have to happen on an exact count, like one or two.
  18. tsb

    tsb Well-Known Member

    i will defer to your explanation of what shesha is teaching. the major point is that the feel can be different from what the LA county instructors who have significant followings such as: roscoe, ben & sheri, doug silton, tip west, rusty frank, (and god help us, the march march bouncy bouncy march march place in my hometown whose following also make up a good portion of the lindygroove crowd) etc. are teaching their followers.
  19. Apache

    Apache Member

    Hey, I thought I would just post an update on this topic all the advice people in this thread have given me.

    I took a lot of your advice into consideration and usually focusing on one tidbit at a time applying it to whenever I had time to practice the swingout, whether it was in my own practice time or on the social dance floor.

    While I have noticed my swingout has gotten slightly better over the last few months, it was not something that came easy. When I first started swing dancing it felt like I was constantly learning and getting better. However it seemed in the task of improving the technique of my swingout, I had to fight tooth and nail to see myself visually improve and to actually "feel" like I improved.

    In interest of giving back to the community, here is what worked well for me in the last few months:

    1. Getting input and advice from really good dancers on the issue: Often the experienced dancers could see and feel things that I was oblivious to. This helped greatly in addressing problem areas.

    2. Traveling out of town: In the past three months I have been traveling to different places (Jam Cellar in D.C. was quite the experience!). Having a difference in follows has shown me what was lead well versus not well, in not just my swingout, but dancing in general.

    3. Practice, practice, practice: I would say the hardest part of the progress I have made at improving my swingout is taking the problem areas I discovered and practicing it differently, to fix my bad habits to the point that I didn't have to actively think about it while dancing. In retrospect its amusing to think how much time I spent practicing the 1 and 2 of a swingout, with a chair, just to fix the bad habit of moving forward on 1 or 2 and pulling in on 1.

    4. Practicing "well": This one is slightly tricky to explain. Before when I tried to improve my swingout I would try to tackle all my issues at once. But as I learned it doesn't work like that, I got overloaded so quickly it wasn't even funny. I learned to take one problem at a time and figure out how to address it in an apporpriate manner that would make sure I was not reinforcing a previous bad habit. (Because what good would practice do for me if I am reinforcing bad technique?)

    On a last tidbit two things I noticed while on my endeavor the last few months.

    First thing that I did find as an odd change is often while addressing issues in my swingout, it would temporarily get worse for a bit then better. However I attribute that for time for the fix to get subconscious/(into muscle memory) so I can do it naturally.

    Second was after fixing some issues with my swingout, it would simply stop working with some people it did in the past. Remembering what Tsb said, I believe the reason for that is I believe some of my bad habits were formed by compromising on the social dance floor on a weekly basis to make the swingout somewhat work. While I still do that, so me and whoever I am dancing with can enjoy the dance I try to make sure that I do not let that affect technique-wise how I lead the swingout.

    But to end this ridiculously long post, I would have to say I am starting to understand:

    Even after making some improvement, I am still nowhere near as satisfied as I want to be with my swingout, but I am heading in the right direction. Again, thank you to everybody who has helped me out in this topic.
  20. Flat Shoes

    Flat Shoes New Member

    Great to see you're improving. :)

    The best way to learn to lead and follow well is what you're saying; Dancing a lot, dancing with different partners and getting feedback from experienced dancers who can explain when the feeling is wrong/missing.

    When it comes to leading/following I think the two most important words are: relaxed connection.

    Both partners should always seek connection. But relax and avoid being tense/stiff. As a leader, always try to make things as smooth and pleasant for the follower as possible.

    And followers should always "hang back" just a little, always complete their moves and always waite for the leaders signals and trying not to anticipate too much.

    Apache, just continue practising, and one day you will discover that special felling/connection that tells you that you've "got it". And after that ... there still much to learn and improve on, but you'll know the feeling and know that that is what you're looking for. :)

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