[Callers] Implied Messages in First-Timer's Orientation

Andrea Nettleton twirly-girl at bellsouth.net
Thu Sep 1 13:02:01 PDT 2011

There are many things implied in a swing lesson, but if you have never 
been in a dance before, you won't think to generalize those lessons 
about weight to every situation in which you have hands with another 
dancer.  That is why I start with what used to always be called weight, 
but which I now call presence and connection, and in the case of the 
swing, counterweight.  Once they know that they will need to feel the 
presence of the other dancer, they are already waiting for you to 
explain how they will feel it in the case of the swing.  As for hand 
position, I am much more explicit.  I tell them that each person is 
responsible for holding their own weight up by the hook arm using their 
coswinger as counterweight, and the only appropriate place to do that is 
on the hard surface of the scapula/shoulder blade.  Ribs and kidneys 
make for mushy gripping points and pain on the part of the grippee.  Any 
further up and there is not sufficient purchase for counterweight.  I 
disagree with Hannah about the position of the body.  If two people 
stand unweighted in ballroom position, the correct way to engage weight 
is to bend the knees allow the rear to sink back a little, a bit, as 
Martha says, the way we did as kids in school, but not as extreme.  The 
upper back remains essentially upright, but  pressing into the hands 
wrapped around them.  I teach buzz step, so I tell them that from a 
facing position, they slide their R feet forward (weight resting on L) 
till outsides of the R feet are lined up pinky toe to arch.  on every 
down beat, they should land on the ball of that R foot and pivot a 
quarter turn or so.  They get there by using the  L foot, which is now 
conveniently in almost the perfect crossed behind position, to push of 
with as they would on a skateboard, scooter, or merry-go-round.  Feet 
stay relatively close.  They need to always try to be moving forward 
around their co-swinger, though they will allow their body weight to 
fall back with the centrifugal force.  I always demo the step without a 
partner to show that their weight should be centered primarily over 
their own feet.  The focal point is a place between the two people, as 
if there were a carousel pole between them.  It's a lot of information, 
and it takes time, but it's important to give both the feel and as much 
of the correct positioning as possible.  Everyone has their method.  It 
was pointed out to me by a very respected and senior caller that the two 
hand turn, especially crossed hands, makes people lean out with their 
upper back, which is painful, awkward, and often causes the coswinger's 
grip to slide down.  Since then I have been trying to find another just 
as quick way to communicate the feel of swing.  I am open to suggestion.

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