Where’s your head at?

As many of you know, I switched my teaching awhile ago from patterns to concepts around techniques, partnership, and musical interpretation. But as I work on these other things with students, I realized that outside of class and on the social dance floor, students are used to grounding their dance in patterns, and their mindset is very different under these circumstances. 

The way we teach the dance orients students to think of executing the minutiae of patterns, and in doing so, they lose the forest for the trees. We forget about the fundamentals of lead and follow, the mechanics of the dance, musical interpretation, and even body mechanics and partnership. The challenge then is to be able to execute movements while maintaining (if not elevating) your quality of movement, and that means not letting yourself get lost in the details. 
This month I taught whip variations of increasing complexity, with three goals in mind: (1) improve technique related to whips; (2) improve understanding of lead/follow and the mechanics of WCS; and (3) train students to maintain the first two while executing patterns through proper mindset. 
The challenge wasn’t easy, and I confess that not all of my experimentation worked, especially as we moved away from the basic whip to new variations. I noticed that how I taught – where I put emphasis and what words I used – affected the students, but also many of them have been trained as pattern dancers and are learning to form new mindsets and behaviors. Where they were most successful was when I was able to pull them up out of the details to the bigger and more universal concepts of the mechanics of the slot and lead/follow. But then, the trick is to keep them at that level over time…
How often do you get lost in the details of patterns? How do you see your dance as movements and not moves? Where does your mind gravitate while dancing and how does it affect your quality movement? Teachers, how do you instruct your students so they stay focused on concepts and techniques without succumbing to the details and repetition of patterns?


  1. excellent points you are making about teaching patterns vs technique. I think teaching patterns actually inhibits your learning of dance and is why so many WCS dancers need to take privates if they are to really learn the dance and progress. what exercises do suggest to teach and practice the various concepts. I would have students practice the counter balance to learn how to use weight, momentum, and balance and adapt to their partner. thanks for the interesting topics.

  2. How to teach followers not to pull with their arm but rather move with their body?how to teach follower not to stop on their own and send themselves back (like on a sugar push) but rather continue their momentum until stopped by the lead.?Matt

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