4.7 On The Ballroom Look In WCS

When swing dancers talk about the "ballroom look" as something negative, (Buddy Schwimmer has a mannerism he uses to express some of his feelings about the latter aspect: extending an arm in the air, perhaps striking a body line, and say-singing "B Y U!") these are the kinds of things they mean:

Experienced WCS dancers keep the upper body straight, but the legs of the partners will form a "V" because they are leveraged. It's what some people call the "water skiing" look. On the anchor-step, experienced swing dancers will turn their torsos away from each other slightly, rather than squaring up to one another. Ballroom dancers without much swing experience tend to stand upright, so there is hardly any leverage between the partners.

Experienced swing dancers make their whips look sharp and linear (up and down the slot) whereas the typical ballroom dancer tends to have a more "rounded" look on whips (circling on a pivot point). This is most obvious on the continuous whip (aka "shuttle"). It's supposed to look like a series of whips, with a clean "freeze" at the end of each two counts, and with the man and woman moving toward and away from each other as well as around. Altogether too many folks slur this to the point where it just looks like two people walking around each other holding hands.

Experienced swing dancers tend to keep the elbows bent. The extended, long arms of ballroom-style Latin & international "jive" don't work for "street" swing & Latin. Dancing with ballroom trained WCS dancers can feel rather stilted since they keep emphasizing long, graceful lines rather than the "down and dirty" WCS style.

As done in the Swing community the end of patterns typically use an "anchor step" and not a "Coaster step." The follower is discouraged from moving forward under her own power at the end of the pattern. Instead, she hangs out until the guy remembers to lead.

Yet another distinction between the communities is in leverage and being grounded; the typical ballroom West Coast dancers are more "up", tending to stay too high, while in the swing community they dance low; more "into the floor." Similarly, in the ballroom circles there is little leverage while in the swing circles many dancers strive for leverage and connection that appears to be more "heavy."

Ballroom dancers tend to dance through the breaks in the music. Their syncopations tend to be just fancy steps, not interpretations of the music. They sometimes don't appear to notice swing rhythms and dance all their steps with straight eighths, regardless of what the music is doing (see the sections on Swing Music and Hitting the Breaks)


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This file is part of the lead/follow FAQ list. These are articles compiled from the newsgroup rec.arts.dance by Mark Balzer. Html-isation by Victor Eijkhout, victor at eijkhout dot net. See also the Rec Arts Dance FAQ list Copyright 1996/7/8/9 lies with the compiler, the maintainer and the contributors of various parts.

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