Dancemax Letter # 24, Thursday Nov 9, 2000

Dancing Tid-bits
Swinging Correctly

From: (Sandy Hider)

Hi, I have run across your Tib-bits on and I love them. I was wondering if you would talk about two concepts that I am having trouble with.

1) What is Light and Shade? I have seen this mentioned a few times

2) How to work on Swinging correctly in the Standard Dances? I just can't seem to figure out how to use the supporting foot longer and keep my hips over my legs. I've spent many a private lesson on this subject.

Thanks and keep up the good work!

Sandy from Maryland, USA

We covered the first of Sandy's questions in our last letter and this time we will discuss SWING:

Definition: Dictionary defines Swing as, "To move freely to and from specially in suspension from an overhead support." I would assume that all of us have experienced what swing is as little children swinging in a tire attached to a rope hanging from a tree or maybe another sophisticated chain link swing in a public park. If I remember correctly, we started from a down position going up and then down again adding a little body inertia each time we went up. I wish I had learned it from my cousin then, who was so much better at it, it might have helped my Waltz now.

Swing naturally adds joy to Life. So how does this concept apply in dancing? We must have 2 elements to create more swing.
  1. A fulcrum point
  2. Body inertia and momentum
I believe the supporting foot and its vertical axis provides the fulcrum and the opposite hip, leg and body provide the necessary inertia. It seems then, it is quite obvious that if we do not stabilize our supporting foot, the movement will become jerky and wobbly. On the other hand if we use the supporting foot as a good fulcrum, and use the music to it's maximum allowed time, the dance will become smooth and more enjoyable. More the inertia, more the swing and thus more rise and fall. This will give longer steps, better lines and so on and so forth. How we do that? I would think that requires a session with your good knowledgeable teacher or coach. I would make only the following comments:

How to use your supporting foot longer? I remember Mr. Richard Gleave saying that this was the most difficult thing for him to master in his early training, when his coach would say "You haven't gotten your weight on your feet." There are many ingenious methods for this training such as dividing the beats into subparts such as 1&, 2& and so on and analyzing what happens when? We will not go into that here. A simple way perhaps could also be to count and feel the music in syllables, such as count 2 beats (slow) as "slow-lee" and in waltz count and feel "One, Twoooo Three." Once you are comfortable with the dance, give priority to Timing, Musicality and Posture of course, other things will come together naturally.

The feeling and action of swing is common to many sports including the Swinging of a Cricket or Baseball bat, Tiger Wood's swing of a #9 Iron or Swinging of a Tennis racket. All have a fulcrum and an Arc.

In USA when you mention Swing, we commonly interpret it as Swing Dance. However with recent interest in the English Style of Dancing (English or International whatever you may call it), the concept of Swing is becoming more and more understandable. In Waltz, Fox-trot, Quickstep and V.W. like the song says "it don't mean a thing, if it ain't got that swing." This is beginning to make more sense.

When it comes to upswing and down swing, it is simple and I can understand that, but when they start to talk all other mambo-jambo like "metronomic swing from here to here" and now "pendular swing from here to there" or this swing and that swing, I get confused. Please dont take me wrong I am not saying that it is wrong, but to analyze too much is like trying to fix something to the point that you break it. Again "Swing is a Feeling and Desire to dance well" and this then becomes translated into mechanics of Swing dances (Waltz, Slow fox-trot, Quickstep and Viennese Waltz). Whether the swing goes more up and down as in Waltz, or travels more distance as in the glide of Slow Fox-trot, or a stretched out Viennese Waltz, the concept is the same. And of course there is the swing of Quickstep in between, but certainly there is no feeling of swing in Tango. I would think there are swinging movements in Latin which have their own characteristics.

Now again, don't take a big bite right away. Get it little by little otherwise just like a little child you might get scared and panic and fall if you push beyond your limits. First "Think and Feel the Swing" and then put it to work.

I must add that I write these letters as a commoner and do not claim to be a world class coach or champion. It doesn't mean that you and I (the social dancer) have to be afraid to express our views. best wishes...Max

Last Question: Did you vote for Bush or Gore?.....or Pat Buchanan

Questions and comments to, thank you.

This article is part of and should be seen in the frame context of Dancesport UK, Tid-bits