1. Trash all your Patterns and Variations and return to Basics. You will only be as "solid" as your foundations. Men should perfect their Lead and women should per-fect their Follow.
Male Lead: Draw definite lines with your (body and) arm(s), placing the lady in the exact place in the slot you want them in. Consciously hit your "entrance counts." Anchor and be firm on "four" ("six" on eight counts) to allow the woman to feel secure enough to do her playing thing. Don’t forget about your feet &ldots; keep your motor going!
Female Follow: The worst sin is "anticipating." The greatest asset is sensi-tivity. Sensitivity comes from the "connection." The man provides the "perch." But the woman is the one who "sits" on the perch. A seat that "slips" is uncomfortable. "Air" between the man's palm and fingers as you sugar-push creates alternating connection/non-connection. The woman should he "rolling" her fingers on this perch creating a constant and se-cure connection. Once the connection is bonded, go where you "feel" him leading you. If his lead is weak you can try to "save" him. If his lead is pure he will he able to lead you through Patterns you’ve never known before.
2. Any screw-ups are ALWAYS the man’s fault, UNLESS the woman "anticipates or "steals" the lead.
Men: The Universe is wide open to trap you in mistakes. Admit it, learn from it, try not to repeat it. Ask her, "how did I throw you off?" She will definitely tell you. Immediately try the move again. Sometimes the woman will be all wet with her answer, but most of the time she will help you a lot. Ladies respect men who show their vulnerabilities.
Ladies: By concentrating on the sensitivity of your follow, you will never be at fault. So when a man does throw you off and "invites" you to help him improve never tell him he is "wrong." Rather, suggest to him that it could he "better," or "easier communicated." Give us one or two "helpful hints" at a time and take the long-term approach with us. A woman who has one dance with a man and hands him a laundry list of improvements will find herself sitting, while the woman who gives a man one tip per night will he dancing with him far into the future.
3. Dance with lots of different partners. Experience is the best teacher. Challenge yourself to Lead (or Follow) strangers flawlessly. I love to travel and walk into a venue unknown and dance with all shapes, sizes, and ability levels. When I get back to the partners I like to dance with at home my lead is improved and I appreciate the "feel" of those I am accustomed to. And ladies, dancing with a variety of men will force you to become a more sensitive Fol-low since you won’t have a clue as to what to anticipate.
4. You can never learn all the patterns and variations that exist in West Coast Swing. Since you trashed them all in suggestion #1 above, go back over what you already know and like. Pick the ones that really turn you on and leave the others in the trash. Focusing on Basics will allow you to learn new moves quicker and easier. But only learn new moves that you really like, ones that suit your body style and vision of the dance. I see moves all the time that I love to watch other people do and know that they just aren’t for me. At other times I’ll see something that I know is just right for me. So through time I’ve developed a wide range of patterns and variations that are exactly my color and flavor.
5. Don’t he intimidated by moves other dancers make. You can admire them with the understanding that those moves are right for THEM but may not he right for you. The moves that are right for you IS your style. This will make West Coast Swing a lot easier for you and give you the confidence to dance with anybody.
6. Limit the number of times you say "sorry" to once per dance. This will force you to save your one "sorry" for when you really need it. After a while you’ll find yourself making it through entire dances without saying "sorry" once! If you keep saying "sorry" with every little flaw it’s very likely you will be perceived as a very "sorry" person, indeed. Are you as tired reading "sorry" in quotes as much as I am typing "sorry" in quotes? Get my ("sorry") point?!
7. Take a little time to learn the opposite side of the dance. Take someone you enjoy dancing with and teach them your part and ask them to teach you their part. Not only will you gain a better understanding of West Coast Swing, but also open up new areas of fun for the two of you. I discov-ered that the female part is a lot of fun because you can "cruise" if you feel like it or you can "ham it up" if you’re so inclined. It’s also hilarious watching the females panic their way through the male leads as you "faultlessly" try to save their ineptitude!
8. View all lists of advice on "how to improve your West Coast Swing" with many grains of salt. Take what you like, forget the rest. Ultimately, you get better by dancing.
9. Dance more.
10. Have fun.
We thank Michael Harvey of westcoastswingamerica.com for giving us permission to republish his article here.
Look for more articles from Michael coming soon.