Each week, Hugo Miguez and Stacy Kay post Tuesday Tips, advice from the pros to the larger Westie community about everything from dance etiquette to great ways to learn in workshops. We at Wandering Westie are looking to expand upon these with stories from our own Westies each week – proof of these tips in action!
I want you to think about the times that a WCS dance has brought you out of a funk, brought you great, sustainable joy, and/or propelled you into a night of fantastic social dancing. More often than not, these dances are like great conversations. Pleasantly disarming in depth, full of open avenues of expression, and a clear line of communication; a mutually-occupied musical wavelength, and a feeling of respect. That last one is important.
People can sit out dances for any number of reasons. Maybe they’re not feeling particularly bluesy. Maybe they just danced ten songs in a row. Maybe they’re feeling down for whatever reason. Maybe they’re just watching. Or maybe they’re too shy to ask someone to dance. It’s important to be cognizant that not everyone wants to dance all the time, and to read the floor.
Reading the floor, like everything, has substantial nuance. Surely you have broken into dance with a tap on the shoulder or a hand gestured forward toward a friend or dance acquaintance and nothing more. In fact, the most magical time tends to be right as a song is ending – as people wander on and off the floor, you look around for another partner, and you make eye contact with someone. Sometimes this creates a mutual understanding, and a dance begins. Not everyone is that comfortable, of course, nor that spontaneous. And much like the dance itself, where it’s all about adaptation between you and your partner – that adaptation, that partner-reading starts when initiating the dance itself.
This is especially true of newer dancers. As a community, we’re always striving to create more connections with the newer members of our community, who are still learning how to reach out themselves. Most of the beginners I work with – and frankly, I still am one myself – feel a lot more comfortable when those interactions are encouraged, whether verbally or in the dance itself. It’s the difference between reciting patterns and having a conversation, between performing for your partner or onlookers and performing because you both want to do so. As much as you want to open up and encourage your newer partner in the dance, a polite approach is just as important.
I find myself thinking back to the most aggressively I’ve ever been asked to dance. I was standing in a corner at about 5am at Jack & Jill O’Rama this past month, doing drills I had learned in a lesson that day. Someone saw me dancing – alone, in a corner of the ballroom away from the dance floor – and kind of ran at me excitedly, thrilled to potentially have found a new dance partner. I kind of caught her into a whip on reflex, finished the pattern, and we ran onto the dance floor. Spontaneous–yes–but of course, she also asked me (mid-pattern) whether I actually did want to dance. I did. It was lovely, and I have a future strictly partner now.
Etiquette doesn’t remove you from magical moments of spontaneity, it can enhance them. It also keeps your personal space yours. This dance is predicated on social understanding and compassion, and an earnest desire to communicate, share, and listen. You want to respect them, you want them to respect you. You want to have a good dance with a friend and partner within the WCS scene, to share a moment. Create, express, be free – but when in doubt, just ask.
Hugo Miguez and Stacy Kay are renowned for their precision, variety, and teaching methods within West Coast Swing. Since 2011, they have taken the circuit by storm with their Classic routines and are re-defining the learning process of the dance world. They will lead you through energetic dances while sharing their advice on all things dance. Hugo and Stacy reside in sunny Clearwater, Florida and travel as competitors, judges, and choreographers for numerous events in different dance styles. Both continue to share their passion for dance and enjoy working with all levels of experiences. They work with top professionals in many different dance styles distinctly furthering their education and experience. Their philosophy is to introduce and foster fresh, comprehensive dance knowledge for their students by giving more of themselves within every experience. They can be reached at www.hugoandstacy.dance.