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!
This dance is all about adaptation. It’s a skill to take your dance and movement and elevate it through your partner’s dance and movement. Those magical moments on the dance floor come from connection and adaptation — why I’ll always drill connection first, for better or worse. As long as I’m connecting to and adapting to my partner, I can progress through the rest of my dance – body awareness, footwork, etc. – at my own pace.
Teamwork makes everyone better.
I recently took a couple of lessons focused on the idea of elevation and reciprocation – the concept of allowing your own dance to improve through your partner’s dancing, and using your own dance to improve your partner’s dancing. It starts with something very simple, at least in theory – awareness – and a desire to dance with, rather than at or for. This is a fundamental element to all dance, not just West Coast Swing, and is what separates partner dance from individual dance.
What my instructor essentially told me was to pay attention to my partner’s unique skill set – no two dancers are the same, and no two dances are ever the same – and determine what they may appreciate. How they’re connecting to you, to the music, and to the world at the time. Then give them the space to express themselves, and reciprocate the energy that they’re providing you to express yourself. Whether lead or follow, both can create and both can substantially elevate their partner when they pay attention. I learn so much from every partner I dance with, no matter where they’re dancing or how they’re dancing.
I highly recommend reading the above link for an eloquent discussion on emotion on the dance floor, and why it can be a struggle – but why it’s something to strive for and on which people can thrive.
I love dancing with people who take the moment to evaluate where we’re dancing, and adjust. I love being the person who’s able to adjust to my partner. This is the single most magical thing on the dance floor because it creates completely unique dances, and is why when I leave dances and conventions with good friends, I find myself longing for those connections again. It’s not because of the pure talent you find on the dance floor, but because one of the talents often found when passionate Westies (or any kind of partner dancers) gather is the ability to adjust to connection, adjust to new people. It’s why you can pull off things with people you couldn’t even imagine, and why some dancers you find yourself stealing all night long because oh my gosh, their movement just fits mine like a glove. Their ideas match mine. At Swingtime this past weekend, I met a few people like that. They know who they are, because I couldn’t stop asking them to dance all night.
Teamwork creates moments that make friendships.
Whether you’re at a convention with friends, social dancing locally, or going to a new land where the only thing you know is how to triple step, teamwork is a universal concept. It’s what makes this dance special – two voices trying to find their unison.
As technical and precise as we want to be, and as many patterns as we want to remember, this dance has two primary goals: creating collaborative art, and creating personal connections. Practice and technical focus have their place, and I will never disparage them. I practice technically in almost every waking moment of my life, and it is our responsibility as dancers to improve technically to better care for and listen to our partner to ensure we are helping those with us have the best dance for them. I’d just still rather screw up technically than lose the connection to my partner. And I like to have that in the back of my mind when I’m dancing (even though it harms my placements sometimes on the competitive floor.) First and foremost, take care.
Partner dance is art that we want to make as skilled and as beautiful as possible – but sometimes we will lose the art in pursuit of the technical. It is a tool to express, to collaborate, and to create, an activity relatively unmatched in its attention to physical and emotional energy, nuance in movement and personality, and ability to make a friend without even uttering a single word. This is a two-person dialogue, not dueling monologues. Taking the time to care for your partner makes you one of those people who can enrich the dance experience for everyone with whom you dance. Do that, no matter where you are or who you’re dancing with, and you’ll develop a connection that’ll last a lifetime.
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.