When watching amazingly fast and energetic Lindy Hop clips on Youtube, it’s easy to assume a number of things. For example, it can look as if the dancers with their ultra fast swingouts are forcibly whirling their partners round then pushing them out, using a lot of arm tension and strength to achieve the impressive results that often inspire us when watching these clips.
This is all an illusion – in fact, it’s the opposite of what’s really happening. It’s the followers’ momentum and energy that is powering the move and the leader is simply using that momentum, redirecting it. It’s this collaborative effort that makes the move feel and look impressive.
So if we don’t understand this basic concept of relaxing our muscles, stretching ourselves and releasing our partners at key moments, we can end up pushing and shoving each other. Pushing and shoving is exhausting compared with stretching and releasing. So how do we unlearn the ‘Push and Shove’ habits and discover the exciting possibilities of the ‘Stretch and Release’ techniques that so many of the top dancers use?
Learn your basics as well as possible. The skills are easier to learn than they look. If you do it by the right path and you practise it well, you will prevent rigidity from setting in. When a dancer dances with stiff, rigid and forceful movements, it can cause their partner to feel the same as we all try to match each other in our connection. Before we know it, we start developing habits that prevent us from dancing fast and limit our improvement.
Where do we get this idea of pushing and shoving in the first place? When we watch amazing top dancers on YouTube, we feel inspired by them and try to imitate what they do. However, we can make the wrong assumptions that to achieve that impressive move these dancers are using a lot of tension in their arms and body when in fact the opposite is true. They are relaxed most of the time, stretched at times and yes, strong and with some tension when needed, but to use muscle tension all the time throughout a dance will limit our range of movement, and it will block our connection with our partners. By being relaxed and using the right techniques, top dancers are able to lead and follow with instantaneous creativity, focus on the music and enjoy the playfulness of the dance.
If we want to look impressive like those dancers in those incredible clips, we need to start with the basics, and learn about the mechanics of what’s going on with our own body, and the effect our movements will have on our partners.
Learning and revisiting basics are key to improving our technique and maximising our enjoyment of the dance. That’s why we encourage everyone regardless of our dance experience to continue seeking out opportunities to practise all the little things that seem simple but will make our dancing much easier and more enjoyable.
Look out for ideas on how to ‘Stretch & Release’ in my next post.