Swing Discussion Boards > Trouble leading a WC Swing whip

Discussion in 'Swing Discussion Boards' started by MPLSguy, Dec 16, 2013.

  1. MPLSguy

    MPLSguy New Member


    I'm taking classes at a studio which doesn't teach the 'J-hook' to lead a whip. Since I'm a student there I won't respectably be able to take any J-hook advice for this question due to their methodology. Thanks in advance.

    Their method of leading the whip is to redirecting the follower somewhere between 1 and 2 by causing compression with the hand/wrist while swiveling your body to the side.

    My question is...I'm having a super hard time with it. We rotate followers constantly and sometimes I feel that I can lead it almost effortlessly and then I have followers who get confused and basically stop moving mid-pattern. It's difficult to tell what I'm doing right or wrong because the follower might be breaking frame or generally confused, or might be hyper sensitive and basically back leading to some degree to make it a success.

    I know this is a hard question to answer, but what I'm looking for is any tips on how to lead this better.
  2. vit

    vit Active Member

    Is this video of any help ? That's basically how we are doing it

  3. snapdancer

    snapdancer Well-Known Member

    Your studio wants you to lead with your body, not with your arms (which is what the "J" lead is). And from what you describe as the reaction of some of your followers, you're probably not getting out of the slot and are blocking their path to the other end. The other followers are probably compensating for your misdeeds by going out of the slot to get around you. I hate it when I get a new follower who goes outside of the slot on her own after being conditioned to do so by new leaders.

    Let's break this pattern down:

    On count 0, (the last count of the prior pattern), the follower should be anchored on her left foot and poised to step forward on her right after you give her a lead.

    On count 1, the follower needs to get a lead to step straight down the slot onto her right foot.

    On count 2, the follower's weight is on her right foot. She needs to get a lead for a rotation to the right, net effect is that she does about a 1/4 turn to her right and steps sideways relative to her body and down the slot with her left. Since her left foot needs to go where you were when the pattern started, you'd better be off to the side of the slot if you want it to be a whip.

    On count 3, the follower's weight is on her left foot. She needs a rotational lead so she faces back up the slot.

    So let's break this down for the leader. The leader is responsible for creating a clear invitation of the lead to his follower, and then getting the heck out of the way so she can do it. To make a smooth lead, lead as much as possible with your body, moving your arms only as necessary.

    On count 1, your connection point is at the hands (your left, her right). Your left hand needs to move the connection straight down the slot toward the other end. Accomplish this by stepping back on your left foot down the slot without moving your arms. Later on, you can improve this lead with a slight motion to your left as you step back, combined with a slight rotation of your body to the right (still without moving your left arm) so that your left hand continues to lead straight down the slot.

    On count 2, your connection point is still at the hands. You cross your right foot in front without moving your arms. This accomplishes 2 things: (1) gets your carcass out of her slot so she has a place to step on count 3 and (2) moves the connection to her right. Since you're out of her way, and she's getting a lead to her right side while her momentum is down the slot your follower gets a rotational lead.

    On count 3, you still have the connection point at the hands, but between counts 2 and 3 you've also established a connection with your right hand on her back (scapula under her left shoulder). Rotate your own body to your right as you step back into the slot. Since you have the connection on her scapula, she will finish her rotation. And she's moved past you to the other end of the slot. The partnership is now set up to follow the "3" with the "&4".

    Notice that I didn't talk about moving the left arm or hand relative to your body. That's because it doesn't, not much anyway. There is a small motion of your hand relative to your body which occurs between counts 1 and 2. But not until the lady is clearly moving straight down the slot. And then your hand is in a sense following hers with a relaxed connection that continues to move straight down the slot until her weight is on her right foot (if you lead her rotation before her weight is on her right foot, she won't like it).

    One technique I use to avoid leading with my arms instead of my body, is to imagine myself in a body cast that immobilizes my frame at the moment I want to change my follower's rotation or movement. My frame is clearly set up at this point. Then I move my body to perform the lead. Once she is doing what I've lead, I stop leading (lazy me), until it's time to lead the next thing. (Break the imaginary body cast, and set up for the next lead).

    Lot of things going on here. I suggest you play back the video that Vit gave, use your space bar to toggle between pause and play and look for these elements as the couple demonstrates the pattern. Then, before your next class, set up some kind of line on the floor in your home as a reference to represent the slot and step slowly through the first 3 counts of the pattern. Note where your left hand is in relation to the line (slot). It should travel straight down the slot on count 1. Once you get your body motions figured out, practice the motions without looking down at the floor. Then try it out with a real person.
    twnkltoz and vit like this.
  4. twnkltoz

    twnkltoz Well-Known Member

    Snapdancer gives a FANTASTIC explanation. From a trouble shooting standpoint, I'll just add that you should make sure you aren't stopping her somehow--either the connection stopping or you being in her way. However, you could be doing everything right and the lady is not carrying her momentum properly--she could be anticipating that your'e leading her back to closed and stopping herself, or she's not sending her energy to the other end of the slot--making you drag her every step.
  5. snapdancer

    snapdancer Well-Known Member

    Thanks, twnktoz.

    From the perspective of an experienced lead who dances with a lot of newbie followers, I would say that the fault probably is with the leader if the follower stops in the middle. Maybe on the social floor with a newbie I'll have to give a little extra in my lead if she doesn't know what to expect, and maybe by now I do that automatically without having to think about it.

    But in a class situation I doubt that's going to happen. The followers are preconditioned to move to the other end of the slot from listening to the group instructor's explanation. What's more likely to happen in my experience is that the follower will move ahead of my lead based on what she had to do the last time during the class rotation with a newbie lead. Or in the case of a newbie lead who doesn't get out of the slot she'll go out of the slot to get around him, and then she'll do it with me when she rotates to me even though she doesn't have to (nor do I want her to do that; it makes my job as leader if she's not where I expect her to be).
  6. Steve Pastor

    Steve Pastor Moderator Staff Member

    Yah, sure, I think we need more information.

    There is more than one way to do a whip. So...

    Let's forget hands and all for a moment, and tell us where you step, etc, for count 1 and count 2. And, if you know, what the woman is supposed to be doing on those same counts, as taught by your instructors.

    PS 2 years in Superior, 2 years near the Soo.
  7. Partner Dancer

    Partner Dancer Well-Known Member

    Others have offered good suggestions, but you might want to consider what the ultimate goal of the lead-follow connection should do, and consequently feel like.

    Since the follower is supposed to travel forward "down" the slot, do an about-face, travel forward "up" the slot, do an about-face, then travel backwards "up" the slot, the "obvious" connections would be directed "along" the slot (down or up) with minimal "lateral" (sideways) force. Looking at the video, the "interesting" connection moments occur around 0:15, 0:17, and 0:18.

    At 0:15, neither a J nor any "active" compression is really needed (at the lead hand), since the follower's forward motion would cause her to turn if the leader simply "posted" (held at strategically placed spot) his left hand. The compression the follower has is simply from her body "walking into" her own right hand (at a slight angle from slot, so her body "deflects" itself off the hand connection point).

    At 0:17, the partners "leverage" weight against each other, primarily through the right hand/arm of the leader to the back of the follower. If done well, the follower should have some "slinging" motion.

    At 0:18, the follower's changing from forward travel to backing travel will somewhat be similar as at 0:15, except the partners are in closed hold, so the connection point is primarily between the leader's right hand/arm and the follower's back.

    There are actually many different ways the footwork can be done, so I'm only addessing the lead-follow body dynamics. I'd even suggest trying (as exercises) doing the whip with a "tighter" rail (leader being closer to follower, the two using a narrower slot [track+rails]) than as demonstrated in the video, to get the feel of the along-slot motion/momentum with minimized/reduced lateral-to-slot motion/momentum. Lindy dancers do their whips with much greater along-slot momentum (followers really travel), in what WCS dancers would call (super) power whips. The "exaggeration" is actually helpful in one's understanding of how the "whipping" action occurs (although of course the ultimate goal is to use "just enough" or "minimal" intra-partner force for comfort and efficiency).

    So, the two important connection elements are the follower's forward-to-back "turn" (deflecting off her own right hand) and the "end-of-slot sling" (leverage off her back/rear). Pretty much all dances have/use these actions, in different degrees.
    twnkltoz likes this.
  8. vit

    vit Active Member

    As about "compression", out teacher is strongly discouraging it in WCS (with some rare exceptions like sugar push), even in form of passive one (like holding the hand at fixed place so that follower runs into it). I don't know is it universal rule, as I live far from the States, but it feels nice to me, after I got used to it (in latin and salsa, we didn't use that kind of leading, but we are using similar leading in brazilian zouk)

    So the whole idea is to give the follower a movement down the slot, stop her on the other side and return her back. I usually do the first step a bit diagonally (as suggested by snapdancer), then a kind of rock forward to LF without moving it much leftwards / crossing it in front of RF. I start turning my body during the first step (that's why it is diagonal). Follower gets direction down the slot, steps RF in front of my RF and then, as she is turning, with LF around my RF (which doesn't move much). As she is passing to my right side, I gradually catch her back with my right arm and don't use my left arm for leading her further (or ever release it). Then I make a triple step with some back weight, so that the weight of my body stops her during her triple step and sends her forward again, to the place she came from. This whole interaction of two bodies takes some practice until it can be done really comfortable and with minimal force used, and of course, you need to adjust to the weight and the way of movement of every partner. Important point is, as others suggested, that lady is moving practically straight, while the man is just giving her space to move, by moving himself first to one, then to other side of her "trajectory" - there is no rotation around some common center like we are doing in jive (although even there, more "linear way" of leading is also in use, at least recently)
    Last edited: Dec 18, 2013
  9. vit

    vit Active Member

    Note - I mixed LF and RF in the description of my first 2 steps
  10. Partner Dancer

    Partner Dancer Well-Known Member

    Depends on what your teacher is defining as "compression."

    A general physical description of compression is simply that two points or reference are getting closer (even if they are both travelling in the same direction, but with different speed) while some force "binds" them, such that the two points affect each other. (If they are getting farther apart, then it's just expansion/extension).

    Without the "stop" of the lead hand, which correlates with compression felt by the follower, there would be no reason for the follower to flip around from going forward to backing out (except if she's just "walking the pattern"). The backing-out correlates with extension. Note that the leader doesn't need to "force" anything (active compression), as the follower "runs out of space" and must flip. It's akin to a car hitting the guard rail on its front right corner, where the corner catches the rail, and the car flips around (especially on ice).

    In Latin dancing, compression is "the rule" as a significant amount of movements/motion result from partners "coming in" to each other. In WCs, extension/leverage is "the rule" as a significant amount of the movements result from partners "going away" from each other.

    A push break is a case of "full" compression, where there is no deflection but direct reflection. It's akin to a full-frontal collision (with good shock-absorber spring bumpers).

    This doesn't explain why the follower "flips."
  11. Dancelf

    Dancelf Member

    Another approach: learn to lead a pattern with more rotation. A whip starts with a right half rotation for the follower. If you over rotate the front of a whip, you get a spinning side pass (follower gets one and a half rotations of free spin, instead of only a half rotation).
  12. vit

    vit Active Member

    Well, explanations of the dance teachers are frequently in contradiction with what's really going on from physical standpoint. In WCS, I actually didn't spend much time for analysis of these things, unlike in ballroom. I was satisfied, when I got "the right feeling" or at least thought it was something like it

    Anyway, if I try thinking how I lead the movement of the follower during the whip, it's like this: My movement starts back down the slot during the first step, and then to the side (so the first step actually goes a kind diagonally), to give follower the space to move straight down the slot. So when I start moving this way, she gets a "pull" through our left to right hand connection, which is first straight forward (from her standpoint), and then force gradually turns to her right side. So she starts moving forward and a moment later she starts gradually turning to the right. Once I start transferring the weight to my RF again when doing the 2nd step, my left arms becomes essentially relaxed. I expect from her to just continue moving the same way (down the slot and turning). So she doesn't get a force that would be directed towards her right shoulder / compression - it's only force "pulling" forward and then gradually turning to the side and then diminishing. After she is past the point where we are closest (approximately at the end of the 2nd step), my right hand takes over the leading, gradually stopping her moving down the slot by gradually applying a force directed to other direction (into I'm moving during the triple step). Her rotation just continues until the end of the whip

    That's at least how I thing it happens - I'm aware that the camera could reveal that it's a bit different, like videos taken at the end of all dance classes frequently reveal that teachers are dancing slightly different than they think (and explain) it. For instance, "pulling force" at the beginning is usually just a continuation of the force that stopped her and made her to do the anchor at the end of the previous figure

    Is this actually a correct way of leading the whip I don't know, but it works for me, even when dancing with beginners
    Last edited: Dec 18, 2013
  13. Partner Dancer

    Partner Dancer Well-Known Member

    You've answered the question (of whether there is compression) in your description, without realizing it. If there is a moment where the follower is "closest" to you and "further" from you (body-wise), while connected to you somewhere else (at hand), then there is "compression" and "extension" she (and you) is experiencing. It's just so light (as it should be) that you don't realize it. The "closest" moment is actually around step 1.5, where the "sideways" passing occurs, at around 0:16 in the video. If the leader's right arm doesn't get in the act, then the movement just ends up as a right-side pass, as the follower keeps backing out (3&4 is then not a coaster, as in a whip).

    The follower should be doing step-turn type of movement rather than a "continual rotation" as the "whipping" (sling) action occurs at the coastering movements (3&4) , which is along the slot. Your realizing that there is "close" and "far" pretty much says you "know" it's not "circular" but significantly "linear."

    A decent understanding of the "connection" mechanics actually allows the leader to get almost anyone (even non-dancer) to do whip action. The follower could be doing all sorts of oddball footwork and yet the whip "still works" since the leader can be quite "tightly coupled" to the partner throughout this particular "figure." Of course, the "official" footwork helps make the figure more fluid.
  14. vit

    vit Active Member

    Yes, of course we come closer together, somewhere at about 1.5 as you said, and there is a connection through our arms at my left side, but both hands go sideways at the same time and they relax, so I actually don't feel a compression (in a form of force between my left and her right shoulder). Probably some small force indeed exists, but I have a feeling that her turn is caused mostly by actually moving my left hand to the side (together with me moving in that direction) while there is still a tension in our arms a moment before that. It's actually hard to accurately explain what is actually happening (under assumption I'm doing it approximately correct). Probably a combination of both this and some compression

    We were also practicing leading entire whip using only the left hand (this however wouldn't work with beginners)

    And yes, as you said, it is "significantly linear". Once I establish connection of my right hand with her body, I leave her moving straight, gradually extending my arm and gradually applying a pulling force, so that she stops during her triple step and starts moving forward, while I'm moving to the left side, to open a slot for her again. In jive, this movement was considerably different, essentially circular (at least that's how I learned it)
    Last edited: Dec 19, 2013
  15. Partner Dancer

    Partner Dancer Well-Known Member

    This is actually not a particularly interesting/useful exercise. A whip works because the follower feels a "push" from her back for her coaster, which whips her back. If the leader leads the whip with both arms (as to a beginner), the left hand would actually "push" the follower travelling backwards into the leader's right hand/arm to effect the coaster/whip. In the single-hand lead exercise, the left hand would have to push-then-pull (to correspond to the coaster), but the follower would already have too much back-travelling momentum and be doing a right-side pass by default. The "then-pull" action would just be an uncomfortable "jerk" to the follower (without the "stop" from the leader's right arm). Whips are based on a reasonable amount of "bounced/reflected" momentum, and the push-then-pull (or only-pull) of only one hand missed the entire spirit of a whip (and also requires the follower to back up "easily" to keep from being knocked over by the "jerk").

    Also, the proper placement of the leader's right arm on the follower's back would cause the follower to properly use her hip/butt to power/bounce out of the whip (since upper body is "stopped" while lower body still "extends" a little more), something the single-hand lead cannot possibly cause. The single-hand lead would probably cause the follower to simply "walk out" as in any basic figure (such as 1-2 part of push break).

    Jive whips I've done and seen have all been significantly linear, consistent with whips in any other dance (WCS, Lindy, etc.).
  16. vit

    vit Active Member

    That "one hand whip" a kind of worked on the class (a while ago), but didn't try after that. Will try on the next class (now when girls forgot we were dancing it) to see will it work. Of course, feeling of the move was completely different. This site also suggest practicing moves with unusual handholds, just as a kind of drill


    A whip as I learned in the jive looked like this (probably not the best example, but not far either). Feels considerable more circular to me

  17. bookish

    bookish Active Member

    I think I mentioned this in the other thread, but the Int'l Jive syllabus version looks like moving into closed position, doing a back spot turn, and moving into open position again. Also note that he doesn't let go until 7. Although I think some advanced dancers do it with more linearity and momentum. Surely WCS is the most linear. In Lindy we do a variety of things, some of which are linear and some of which aren't.
  18. Partner Dancer

    Partner Dancer Well-Known Member

    I would even suggest that the one-handed exercise is a detriment to learning/understanding/getting the whip action because of poorly placed connection points and resultant forces.

    I'm not a fan of some of the tenets held by WCS instructors. The notion that any handhold is equally "good" as another in executing a figure is just lame. The relative positions of the connecting point(s) and the body makes it such that certain holds are (sometimes much) "superior" to certain others (in executing a given figure), because the "forces" involved with using different connecting points (and relative positions) are simply different. Practice may "smooth out" some of the awkwardness (and "defeat" the natural physics), but many of the variations/variants are simply inherently awkward.

    Some of this stuff is just so the instructors have more stuff to teach, and to have students flustered by what they seem to be unable to do "properly."

    I don't know why this is even called a whip, since the essense of a whip, which is the "leveraged" whipping (along slot) that "shoots" the partners past each other is missing. This is more like a top, where there is "compression" rather than "leverage/resistance" (caused by "sitting" into legs). In the video, at around 0:51, there is zero leverage (the leader's use of back-cross promotes the natural "top" motion, as in a Chacha). Tops are circular. Whips are linear.

    I didn't learn Jive whips this way.
  19. bookish

    bookish Active Member

    I pulled my "red books" for Latin out. The action described for a Jive "Whip" is essentially a natural top, although the foot positions/turn are slightly different than in Cha.

    Note that in the Link, the follower has danced a forward chasse/triple step. This effectively puts her in a crossed foot position. Once she gets there, she is predisposed to go either around or out at an angle, rather than going back out along the same line.

    In Lindy Hop, to do a "linear" swingout, the follower usually turns during 3a4, so 'a' almost becomes a side rock and the right foot is in a similar position on 3 and 4. In WCS, the turn is a bit sharper and sooner so the follower is turned around by 3. Both ways avoid the follower becoming crossed.

    Now, since Lindy Hop is not slotted, you can also do a variety of non-linear swingouts. But beginner classes usually, these days, try to get people to do linear slotted ones. Whereas beginner followers are predisposed to the "crossover" footwork as in the Jive example. And WCS... is slotted. Right? Except in showcases :troll:
  20. Partner Dancer

    Partner Dancer Well-Known Member

    One noticeable difference between (what I consider) a Whip and Top is the frame. In the Whip, the frame comes in and goes out (as in WCS and Lindy Whips) while in the Top, the frame is "consistently" round. The frame is consistent with what the bodies are doing.

    When I did Jive, there were (to me) two distinct "figures" that were done, the Whip and the (Natural) Top, one where the partners "sat" in a leveraged position at the "stretched" point and another where the partners just went around each other in a fixed, compressed position. In the first figure, the partner came towards you because you "pulled" back (by "sitting") and "slingshot" towards each other. In the second figure, the partner came towards you because you "pushed" forward on the"other" side. Very different interactions.

    Here's a video of what some called the Jive Natural Top (look familiar)?:

    I'm pretty sure the leveraged figure I learned was called a Whip (at the studio I attended), since it was the first encounter I had with such a figure, and the "leveraged" motion took quite a bit to get used to, since Jive and other Latin dances are primarily "compression" based dances. Subsequent encounters with Whips in WCS and Lindy, etc., was much easier, because the "leveraged" motion was already somewhat familiar.

    Note that "linear" doesn't equate to "(fixed) slotted." Many dances are considered "rotationally slotted" where many of the figures are significantly "linear" while the "slot" rotates in angle. I think a term like "rotationally linear" (applying to a figure) is an inherent oxymoron.

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