Cha cha cha...West Coast Swing...


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See Catarina, I told you there would be other good answers. I read dancelfs descriptions and they seem to be saying about the same thing from a different perspective.

As usual, there isn't really a standard vocabulary. However, the best instructor I know describes the common concepts as compression and extension, reserving leverage for those circumstances where one or both dancers are no longer capable of supporting their own balance. So please indulge me if the vocabulary seems alien.
No problem, lots of dancers around me seems to use leverage and extension interchangeably. So we can use extension. I may not be very good at dance descriptions, but I promise we don't have any ladies falling over :p

Proximity really doesn't figure into the equation at all - fundamentally we're talking about shapes: is the partnership making a \/ or an /\? It doesn't matter whether the shape is \/ or \---/.
I'm not a dance instructors, but it would seem to me that the reason so many pros emphasis making a clear set point on 4 is so the \/ or \----/ shape can be achieved. With both partners being responsible for their part of creating extension it might be more like \-|-/ where | sets the center point from which which each partner creates their extension.

Ugh - I hate this definition for two reasons. First, I don't like "lower body centers" - I don't know what it means, strongly suspect that it doesn't mean anything, and am nearly certain that if it does mean anything, what it means is wrong for this context. What we are really doing is adjusting our center relative to our support WITHOUT changing the relationship between our center and our head and WITHOUT changing the relationship between our center and our hips.

Second, we've substituted a verb for a noun. There's no need for settling away indefinitely, being only a little bit settled is good enough. Extension is the position, not the verb of achieving it.
Interesting, my dance instructors all talk a lot about three body centers (head, upper torso, lower torso) stacked like a snowman. I like snowmen. So it is a visualization that seems to stick. I think the tendency is for the \/ position to get exaggerated out of alignment. So moving the lower torso subtly back creates a cleaner extension that is more vertically aligned like you are describing.

All I know is there is a distinct difference in the very last moment of creating extension between dancing with ladies that have wcs nailed and those learning it. It is almost a locking in of the extension.

Again, we aren't settling away from each other indefinitely until our shoulders dislocate. Aggro swing doesn't come out until way late on Saturday nights at the bar right :)

Unfortunately, no to both of these - unless the follower has settled so far that she is depending on the leader for support, which is not the modern style. In extension, she can still come forward early or late, deliberately or not. We're still talking about physics and human physiology - not magic.
There are a couple of benefits that come about from this. First is that the lead becomes a lot smoother - a consequence of the properties of inertia. Second, the actual connection becomes more sensitive to small changes in the distribution of weight in the support; translation: partner can feel where your feet are, and can actually match your weight changes on touch alone.
These two comments seemed to be talking about the same part. So I combined them. OK, she might choose to do something different. The no choice idea wasn't a very good description. However, if we get the compression and extension part going, it sure is easier to be sensitive to smaller leads.


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Just adding a little cross threaded reference to the new Hands Position thread. The link to Brandi Tobias' WCS manual uses the term Compression and Leverage. Her description is much like Dancelfs and the reasoning is to avoid the ladies having their shoulders too far back. Steve found an interesting link :D
Yup - that's definitely in agreement with how Brandi teaches (here's a more direct link. A lot of it, but not all of it, is in agreement with what Mario teaches. There are some bits I would definitely call into question, as I strongly suspect they fall into the category of "falsehoods that achieve the desired results more quickly than truth".

In West Coast Swing the "energy" or weight that creates the connection can be either towards each other as in the compression of the Sugar Push, or simply the weight of the woman's hand resting on the man's hand.

I can best feel my partner's steps and balance when there is something else to strengthen the connection. And that is the tautness of the muscles in her arm, shoulder, and probably back when there is some pull away from my hand.
Steve, you've got to do a better job of formatting and presenting your questions, otherwise the rest of us are just guessing. I'm going to try my best here, but if this is a complete miss I'm not going to feel like it's at all my fault...

Let's come at this obliquely. What characteristic does your "ideal partner" have that is relevant to connection? Answer: her hand, at rest by her side, is the same distance from the floor that yours is. When your partner has that property, you can connect even when there is no distance (by which I mean epsilon) between you, without having to compromise the arm line.

If you draw a couple of stick people on a piece of paper, you'll see that the hands can make effectively a circular arc depending on the length of each partner's arm. So the the furthest away you can be from each other is with the shorter armed dancer holding their arms straight forward at shoulder height, and the longer armed dancer however far away (s)he need to be to have his hands at the same height. The closest they can be is for the dancer with the higher hands to have their arms straight down, and for the dancer with the lower hands to be away at whatever distance allows them to lift their hands to the matching height.

So we can set our stick figures at some distance in between, and the connection will happen at the intersection of the two circular arcs (the lower intersection by convention - you could make the higher one work if you really had to, but you would likely tire much more quickly).

Now, if our stick figures hold their hands at that intersection, they'll touch, and even have the right hand hold, but they won't really connect in the sense that we mean, because there's a little bit of give in the flesh of the hand. To connect, we really want to take that slack out of the rope. Some of this effect is achieved by allowing the hands to respond to gravity (for the engineers in the audience, yes, it's the torque, rather than the force, that we are talking about here). We can make things more solid still by taking our centers (the entire snowman) very slightly away from each other. Very slightly means something between a centimeter and an inch.

If you look at this picture from the side, you'll see that the partners are helping to support each other's hands (if you break the connection the hands will naturally fall back to the dancer's sides), but they are not supporting partner's balance (if you break the connection in the hands, the dancers will stay put, rather than falling away from each other).

A very effective drill to demonstrate this is to connect to your partner, and stand with your feet together. With the tension created by the slightly displaced centers, the leader can make very subtle shifts of weight from one foot to the other (without moving the feet, of course) and the follower will easily match. (The first few times you work on this drill, you'll want the connection dialed to 10, but you are likely to be surprised at just how light you can go and still achieve the result).

This whole exercise in extension has it's evil twin in compression, where the shift of weight is forward by a centimeter to an inch, and the result is achieved by compressing the connection between the hands and the center, rather than elongating it.

So a whole lot of what you describe matches this very closely. However, I strongly object to the implications of "muscle". Describing it as an effect of muscle will cause beginning students to do work with their arms, which is uncomfortable and jerky (especially so because the arms become a substitute for moving the body mass); and it will cause intermediate student to put tension in their muscles, which is passable for linear leads, but creates problems for rotational leads (generally making them slower).

Remember, you can create an extension lead with a piece of rope, and rope doesn't have any muscle fibers in it. So something else much be going on. (Actually, doing the extension weight shift exercise with a rope would be interesting....)

Extension:rope :: Compression: ???? The fact that there isn't really a good answer there reflects why compression really is harder than extension.


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... but lots of WCS dancers talk about working on compression with the refrig door or shopping cart. So there must be something to it? Maybe it just keep them closer to the beer ...
... but lots of WCS dancers talk about working on compression with the refrig door or shopping cart. So there must be something to it?
Oh there's plenty to it. Shopping carts with beer, refrigerators with beer, bar counters with beer... eventually you're completely stonkered under the table, but by then you've got it down.

However, it's not the same sort of demonstration. With the rope, the thing on the other end really is your partner, so you can see that it works, and if you are paying attention you can see how it works, and so forth.

With the shopping cart (a) you are unlikely to have one readily at hand while demonstrating for a class, (b) the cart itself suggests rigidity, which is not the idea I am after.

A hula hoop is almost the right answer, though what I think I'm really after is one of those big pool noodles, or maybe a big inflatable thing, like an over sized balloon-animal balloon.

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