Sunday, September 4, 2011

Ron Montez on West Coast Swing

I came across another pair of gems on, Ron Montez speaking about West Coast Swing. His main points, from the bit that was posted:

  • West Coast Swing only has 5 or 6 basic patterns*.
  • The elements that define these patterns allow for a great deal of artistic creativity on the part of each of the partners. 
The patterns he had in mind are the Closed Basic, Throw Out, Sugar Push, Under Arm Turn, Left Side Pass, and Basic Whip.
Some examples he gave of variations were syncopations on the anchor steps, variations on the left side pass, such as the right side pass and the tuck turn, and different kicks and stylings that could be used in the anchor step part of the patterns.

* American style dancers typically refer to "patterns", International style to "figures", some Salsa dancers to "combinations". These all correspond to a defined set of steps and movements that occur regularly within a dance.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Some notes from Blackpool Congress

A link in a forum posting took me to video from a Blackpool Congress. Some notes from Marcus Hilton's lecture in 2007.

  • "We pull our stomachs back to our spine, we don't lift them up, because that changes our weight balance, our center of gravity"
  • We want to feel everything is vertically hanging. We don't want to lean left, right, forward, or back.
  • Knees are always soft in standard
  • Body moves first
  • We time our bodies, we do not time our feet
  • In Promenade figures, the man wants to feel like a gondolier, pushing off his right foot like a pole, and twisting his body right.
  • "I want to stand and grow, in promenade position, not stand and go."
  • In promenade position, particularly when stepping with his right foot, the man should not cut off the lady's line, there should be tension pulling his knees together in the coronal plane of the body. (That is., he should activate his hip adductors.)

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Standard: basic footwork and movement

Basic footwork:
  • heel toe - toe - toe heel
    • keep foot skimming across the floor, avoid picking up foot and walk.
    • start with toe coming in, ball of foot, then whole of the foot, slide a few inches flat, then toe release up, then step forward.
  • foot is in contact with floor at all times: whether it's stepping forward, back or closing foot from side.
Forward movement:
  • Swing from hip area, keep blocks of weight line up.
  • Don't use body weight early, lean forward.
  • Don't tilt upper body back in order to step forward.
Backward movement:
  • Keep blocks of weight lined up. Lower. Don't lean forward or fall back. Pull up ab muscle
  • Extend leg back ahead of body, at mid point of stride, transfer block of weight to split weight position.
  • Draw heel of front font to standing foot.
  • Heel of receiving foot comes down gradually as the other foot passes by. Do not let back foot drop down to heel too quickly and too early. This need foot and ankle strength.
Four ranges of motion:
  • CBM: turning body as you lower - the torquing action. Practice all four directions, stepping forward and back with left or right foot.
  • Sway is used to counterbalance the force of movement, otherwise, body will fall out of balance.
  • Do not "break side" - swaying only from waist area, while hips and legs are straight. Body is broken.
  • Good sway: incline the entire body, the whole body is lined up diagonally.
Preparation step:
  • Prepare and give the lady wind up to get into the first figure.
  • Man:
    • Start stepping LF forward to invite lady. RF is in the back.
    • RF to side, IE of toe heel, start winding up 1/8 to left (turning entire body 1/8 to left)
    • Draw IE of LF in. (turn completes)
    • Step LF forward, HT. (Lower and use range of motion.)
  • Lady:
    • LF to left side: ball heel. 
    • IE of RF draw into LF,  and then step RF back, BH.
      • Prepare the hip for backward action. Don't lock the hips.
      • Keep body poised forward, left hip will relax, allow body to remain forward, then step RF back, use range of motion.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Standard: dance posture and hold

Basic posture points:

  • Stand in upright position. Line up head, shoulders, ribcage and hips. The blocks weight should completely lined up, Don't pitch forward, lean back, tilt, or disconnect in strange diagonals. 
  • Don't lift arm too high, a little lower than shoulder. Consider lady's height,make sure it's comfortable for the lady. 
  • Line up 4 blocks of weight, just like the Man. 
  • It's particularly important that ladies internally lift up abdominal muscle, i.e. pick up central weight. There should be no arches in the back. "Lift up the hips to the Man". "Squeeze the butt cheeks." 
  • Head: Natural left position along wrist watch. No other funny positions. 
  • Keep the right to right connection with Man, but pickup left side, strong diagonal stretch. Don't turn right shoulder or left shoulder away from the Man. Keep body evenly balanced with Man. 
  • Relax other joints, don't tense up. 

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Suggestions for quick warmup exercises before dance lessons

It's a really good idea to warm up before each lesson, so you don't dance "cold". These exercises will also help practice basic actions. More details are described at

Figure out what works for you. These are just some suggestions.

Standard warm up:
  1. Upper body twist
  2. Hip flexor stretch
  3. Leg swings
  4. Stepping CBM forward and back
  5. Forward and backward walk
  6. Waltz Box
Latin warm up:
  1. Ribcage isolation
  2. Hips: twist, pendulum, lateral
  3. Hips: circle and figure 8
  4. Rumba walk forward and back
  5. Rumba cuccaracha
  6. Change of direction: forward walk turn, swivel
After this, practice whatever you've learned in previous lessons.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Dance Etiquette: Showing Off

When you are dancing with a partner, it is important to remember, and be considerate of, your partner. In particular, consider what your partner can do, and what they show they want to do. A gentleman who tries to lead his partner into steps too advanced for her (or, dare we say it, for him), will not make the partnership look good, and will probably make his partner uncomfortable. A lady who starts to improvise extensively in a West Coast Swing while her partner just keeps time waiting for her to finish is probably not making a fan. A gentleman who goes into extended salsa shines while his partner dances a basic, waiting for him to pick her up again, shows a marked lack of awareness or consideration. Partner dancing is about two people dancing together, and in these examples, the connection is missing.

Do what you both can do as well as you can. If you and your partner are both capable of showing off, and want to do so, go for it. Otherwise, be nice, make your partner happy.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Waist Flexibility for Standard

Outside Partner Position, Promenade Position, and the Contrabody Movement required for many figures demand the ability twist your spine so that your sternum is pointing in a different direction than your hips. Standard dancers can commonly be seen loosening up their spine by rotating their rib cages relative to their hips, back and forth. There is also a yoga posture that helps with this flexibility, called the Half Spine Twist, or Ardha Matsyendrasana. References for how to perform this posture may be found searching the internet. Some sources include ABC of Yoga, and