Take a little out

Last week’s post explored the concept of pattern extensions as a way of adapting patterns to fit the music. 
Similarly, pattern compaction – the process of linking two patterns by replacing the anchor step with a rock-and-go – can also be used to help fit patterns to the music. For instance, compaction can help get to the end of a pattern to fit the phrase of a song, rather than hitting the phrase change in the middle of a pattern. Compaction can also create a rushed feeling that fits well to the build up of a song before a phrase change or break. 
The trick to successful pattern compaction is creating the spring action of the rock-and-go. Though you remove the anchor step – the triple that ends patterns – there should still be an anchor – the extension that results from changing direction. The leader will still slow down and change the direction of his own body, causing the follower to reach the end of the slot before being redirected down the slot again. The only difference is that in a rock-and-go this now happens in one beat and one step (the first step of the rock-and-go) rather than over two beats and three steps, as in an anchor step. Getting this stretch right is what facilitates a smooth and easy change of direction. 
Too often leaders aren’t clear on the anchor, sometimes even pulling the follower out of her anchor step. In some ways, learning pattern compaction can help leaders improve their anchors by learning the difference between an anchor step and a rock-and-go, while also teaching followers to seek the stretch at the end of the slot. 
Have you learned pattern compaction? How do you use it in your dancing? Has it had any impact on how you execute your anchor steps? Teachers, do you teach pattern compaction? If so, how do you help students to get that spring action on the rock-and-go?

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