Swing On ! - Track 6:

Try A Short Lesson !

(very basic and without embellishments or options)

 

HUSTLE | JITTERBUG | LINDY HOP | RETRO SWING

SALSA | WALTZ | WEST COAST SWING

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IMPORTANT TECHNIQUE Common to Most Swing Dance Styles:

"Open Position" - Leader and Follower stand with shoulders, hips, and head facing each other. Either one or both 1st and 2nd hands are held with curled fingers (not with thumbs) and partners lean slightly back from their ankles to tone their arms (called "giving weight"). With your forearms parallel to the floor and slightly bent elbows, you should be about the distance of your and your partner's forearms from your partner.

"Closed Position" - Leader and Follower stand in a slight "V" or at right angles to each other. The Leader places his right hand on the Follower's left shoulder blade (and she sits back into it) and his left hand palm to palm with her right hand out to the side of their bodies. The Follower's left hand is placed on the downslope of the Leader's right shoulder (just below the arm seam of his shirt). Leader and Follower tone up their arms and this "band" of arm tone is called "Frame".

"Breakaway Position" - Movements away from your partner with a minimum of touching.

"Aerials or Air Steps" - Movements away from your partner with one or more feet off the dance floor !

Hand Technique - Use firm fingers, no thumbs and straight wrists.

Arm Technique - Keep arms toned, just enough to stay connected with your partner but not enough to tire you or pull your partner over. Keep elbows hanging naturally at your sides.

Foot Technique - The Leader's first foot is his Left and his second foot is his Right. The Follower's first foot is his Right and her second foot is her Left. Use the smallest steps that get the job done. Large steps take more time that you won't have with faster tempos and sometimes look dorky- definitely not a "Kodak moment". Start figures on your first foot.

Tempo in Beats per Minute (bpm) - Calculate beats per minute by counting the number of "louds (downbeats)" and "softs (upbeats or backbeats)" in fifteen seconds and multiply by 4. The "catch 22" with tempo is that the hottest tunes that make you want to get up and dance are usually the faster ones and it's exactly these faster tunes that give you the least time to think of (for Leaders) and execute fun figures !! So you end up doing the same boring & simple figures to the fastest tunes. Try the intermediate tempo tunes for more fun and variety ! And practice to slower tunes to give you more time to iron out the rough edges...

Step Technique - You can spice up you footwork easily by changing your steps between Single, Double, or Triple Steps. Later you can play with the rhythm pattern by using "syncopations".Single Steps - One weight change per 2 beats of music. Double Steps - Two weight changes or a tap and change per 2 beats of music. Triple Steps - Three weight changes per 2 beats of music.

Counting Beats - Absolutley recommended- especially for Leaders !! Counting (to yourself !) "and 1-2, 3&4, etc. etc." does the following. (a) tells you when to lead (or when to follow a lead), (b) keeps you dancing with the musical beat, ready to hit the breaks and show off, or to match some cool moves with the musical line, and (c) tells you not only "when" you should be but also "where" (i.e. what step) you should be !! When you get good at counting the beats to your dancing, you'll also be able to converse at the same time !!! This is a great social skill to master a.s.a.p. !

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THE HUSTLE:

A BASIC STEP (4 steps over 3 beats) and repeat over and over to your favorite Hustle tune:

1) Dance Positions - Hustle uses both Closed and Open positions with the Follower leaving her partner's side and returning in a "slot" or "track". It's smooth and sensual and fast ( only three beats to complete your figures). Hustle can be done in the round as well. I especially like the neat and sexy look of slotted Hustle, though. Your choice.

2) Rhythm Count - Count "and 1, 2, 3" or say "Quick, Quick, Slow, Slow".

3) Footsteps to repeat over & over. Match song tempo:

"and 1" - On the "and" touch the ball of your 1st Foot near the heel of your second Footl. On the "1" change your weight to your second foot in place.

"2" - On the "2" change your weight to your 1st Foot in place.

"3" - On the "3" change your weight to your 2nd Foot in place.

4) Music - Try practicing to music with that continuous Hustle beat like Hot Stuff, Staying Alive or any modern "club mixes" or "disco party" compilations. Use tempos between 90 bpm and 120 bpm to practice (slower tempos give you more time to execute figures). Dance to tempos from 90 to 140 bpm and more !

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JITTERBUG:

A BASIC STEP (4 steps over 6 beats) and repeat over and over to your favorite uptempo music:

1) Dance Positions - Jitterbug uses both Closed and Open positions and is somewhat springy and very aerobic and sometimes includes aerials. The Follower goes from Closed position to Open position by going under an arm arched by the Leader. Jitterbug is done in the round - both partners move in circular patterns in one place on the dance floor.

2) Rhythm Count & Footsteps - Use "Slow, Slow, Quick- Quick" (1st Foot down right under your hip and hold, 2nd Foot down right under your hip and hold, rock back on the ball of your 1st Foot & forward on your 2nd Foot in its original position. Another way to think of this is to count the first step "1" and the hold "2", count the second step "3" and the hold "4", and count the rock step back on "5", forward on "6" ! (Yes you could start your Basic Step with the rock step if you want- they do this in some parts of the country, i.e. use "Quick - Quick, Slow, Slow" (rock step 1st - 2nd; 1st foot, 2nd foot)).

3) Hand Position - Followers have the "puppy" hands (bend your fingers at right angles to your palm and point your thumbs toward each other). Leaders have the "lobster" hands (bend your fingers at right angles to your palm and point your thumbs up). Use stiff fingers to hook them with your partner. Never, ever grab your partners hands with your thumbs or fingers- ever! It would totally restrict your ability execute turns under arched arms. Keep your wrists straight, forearms parallel to the floor and stand away from your partner the distance of her forearm and your forearm each maintaining a slightly bent elbow ! Tone up your arms slightly so that you have some connection with your partner- this allows you to execute clear and well-timed leads that will be communicated immediately to your follower.

4) Arm Position & Tension - Keep your forearms parallel to the floor. Keep your entire arm toned slightly with your elbows slightly bent hanging naturally at your sides.

5) Foot Work - Leaders start the basic step and all figures on their left foot. Followers start the basic step and all figures on their right foot. Please use small steps ! Large steps take up valuable time and you may not have that luxury as you dance to faster songs. Plus, large steps look dorky and do not produce good "Kodak moments" should someone take a picture of you dancing. Now put your 1st foot down & weight; 2nd foot down & weight; rock step ("rs" - on 1st foot back slightly near your back foot - then rock forward onto your 2nd foot ! ).

6) Music - I recommend practicing to music from the 30's to the 90's and any style (Big Band, Oldies, Rhythm & Blues, Country Western, Cajun, Ska, Rap, etc. whatever gets you moving). Use tempos between 110 bpm and 140 bpm to practice (slower tempos give you more time to execute figures). Dance to tempos from 110 to 200 bpm and more !

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LINDY HOP:

A BASIC STEP (10 steps over 8 beats) and repeat over and over to your favorite uptempo music:

1) Dance Positions - Lindy Hop uses both Closed and Open positions and also Breakaway (away from your partner) movements and aerials. The Follower goes from Closed position to Open position by going under an arm arched by the Leader or many other ways as well. Lindy Hop is done in the round - both partners move in circular patterns in one place on the dance floor.

2) Rhythm Count - Count "1-2, 3&4, 5-6, 7&8" or say "Quick- Quick; Slow, Slow; Quick- Quick; Slow, Slow"

3) Footsteps to repeat over & over. Match song tempo: done circling to your left (clockwise) this is called a Lindy Circle.

"1-2" - Rock Step- Place your 1st Foot back about 6 inches and rock your weight back onto the ball of this foot (you know your weight is back if you're able to pick your 2nd Foot off the floor a little). Then rock your weight forward onto your 2nd Foot.

"3&4" - Alternate your steps in place 1st Foot, 2nd Foot, 1st Foot.

"5-6" - Step with your 2nd Foot. Step with your 1st Foot. Walk. Walk. (or say Quick-Quick)

"7&8" - Alternate your steps in place 2nd Foot, 1st Foot, 2nd Foot.

4) Music - I recommend practicing to music from the 30's to the 90's and any style (Big Band, Oldies, Ska, Rap, etc. whatever gets you moving). Use tempos between 110 bpm and 140 bpm to practice (slower tempos give you more time to execute figures). Dance to tempos from 110 to 200 bpm and more !

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RETRO SWING:

Retro is a mix of Jitterbug and Lindy so you can practice those basic steps. It also uses a lot of kick steps and Charleston. Here we'll try A BASIC CHARLESTON STEP (10 steps over 8 beats) and repeat over and over to your favorite uptempo music:

1) Dance Positions - Retro uses both Closed and Open positions with bouncy, kicky, and sometimes aerial movements. The Follower goes from Closed position to Open position by going under an arm arched by the Leader or many other ways. Retro is done in the round - both partners move in circular patterns in one place on the dance floor.

2) Rhythm Count - Count "1-2, 3&4, 5-6, 7&8" or say "Quick- Quick; Slow, Slow; Quick- Quick; Slow, Slow"

3) Charleston Footsteps to repeat over & over. Match song tempo: One Basic position is side by side with your Follower on your right side and with your right arm loosely around her waist. Both of you bend at the waist slightly, hunch down and dirty with your butts sticking out slightly.

"1-2" - Rock Step- Place your 1st Foot back about 6 inches and rock your weight back onto the ball of this foot (you know your weight is back if you're able to pick your 2nd Foot off the floor a little) on the "1". Then rock your weight forward onto your 2nd Foot on the "2".

"3&4" - Kick your 1st Foot forward on the "3" and then step on your 1st Foot a little forward on the "4".

"5-6" - Kick your 2nd Foot forward on the "5" and then bend your knee back and hold your foot under your body on the "6".

"7&8" - Now kick your 2nd Foot backward on the "7" and step on it on the "8" moving slightly backward.

4) Music - I recommend practicing to music from the 30's to the 90's and any style (Big Band, Oldies, Ska, Rap, etc. whatever gets you moving). Use tempos between 110 bpm and 140 bpm to practice (slower tempos give you more time to execute figures). Dance to tempos from 110 to 200 bpm and more !

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SALSA:

Salsa is a sexy dance with a lot of hip motion and done to 4 beats of music in a variety of Latin flavors (Caribbean, Cuban, So. American, etc.. Basic figures are done in Closed or sometimes Open position.

1) Dance Positions - Salsa uses mostly Closed positions for the slow or intermediate tempos but also some Open positions or breakaways too.

2) Rhythm Count - Count "1, 2, 3, 4pause; 1, 2, 3, 4pause;..." or say "Step, Step, Step, Pause; Step, Step, Step, Pause;..."

3) Try-These-at-Home: Coming soon...

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WALTZ:

Waltz is a flowing dance with a slight up and down motion done to 3 beats of music. It can be danced to music of any flavor (Classical, International, Pop, Country Western, Cajun, etc) if it has a Waltz timing.

1) Dance Positions - Waltz uses mostly Closed position but some Open positions too. Motions are flowing with a slight up on beat 1 and a slight down on beats 2 and 3.

2) Rhythm Count - Count "1, 2-3; 1, 2-3..." or say "Slow, Quick- Quick; Slow, Quick-Quick;..."

3) Try-These-at-Home: Coming soon...

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WEST COAST SWING:

West Coast Swing is a mix of 6- and 8-count figures. It has several "basic" figures that are embellished to produce other more involved figures. Here we'll try A BASIC SUGARPUSH STEP (7 steps over 6 beats) and repeat over and over to your favorite Rhythm & Blues music:

1) Dance Positions - WCS uses mostly Open positions but some Closed positions too. The Follower dances in a "slot" or "track" with the Leader getting in and out of her way as she moves from one end of the slot to the other. Motions are smooth and sensual.

2) Rhythm Count - Count "1-2, 3&4, 5&6" or say "Quick- Quick; Slow, Slow; Slow, Slow"

3) SugarPush Footsteps to repeat over & over. Match song tempo: Open position holding 1st hands and bodies squared up facing your partner.

"1-2" - LEADER- Place your 1st Foot back about 6 inches on "1" and bring your 2nd Foot back even with your 1st Foot on "2". keep your first arm toned to give your partner a body lead toward you. FOLLOWER- Walk forward on your 1st Foot and forward (passing your 1st Foot) on your 2nd Foot.

"3&4" - LEADER- Tap your 1st foot under your body on "3" and step forward on your 1st foot on "4". Lift your 2nd hand to receive her 2nd hand on "3", then extend your arms forward supporting the follower in moving back to her starting position. (This "3&4" is the "Push" that gives this figure its name but the Leader really isn't pushing the Follower back- it only looks like it !) FOLLOWER- Tap your 1st foot under your body on "3" and step backward on your 1st foot on "4".

"5-6" - Both Leaders and Followers triple step in place (alternating 2nd Foot, 1st Foot, 2nd Foot "anchoring in place").

4) Music - I recommend practicing to Rhythm & Bluesy music from any era . Use tempos between 90 bpm and 120 bpm to practice (slower tempos give you more time to execute figures). Dance to tempos from 100 to 140 bpm and more !

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Those are some of the basic steps we use for many figures in the Hustle, Jitterbug, Lindy Hop, Retro Swing, Salsa, Waltz and West Coast Swing. There are hundreds of figures to choose from. Take my classes and start your journey of enjoyment ! See the "Which Class?" page to decide on a fun one. Or see my dance classes listed in CONNECTICUT for a convenient one near you and your friends ! SWING ON !!

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