Hello, Westies! The Dance Definitions Series was created to be a database of essential West Coast Swing terms and concepts in the hopes of providing a rich and useful resource for our dance community. Each week some amazing pros from around the world define and explain the week’s term in their own words. For more in-depth info, you can contact the pros for a private lesson or look up their next workshop. This week we have the fantastic Ben Hooten from Katy, Texas and Kara Frenzel from San Luis Obispo, California discussing “Resistance.”
Let’s assume you have an understanding of a sugar push as a base pattern or movement. When you lead your follow on count 1 of the pattern, the “resistance” between your hands is a direct line of communication for what the leader is asking of the follower. Let’s call this leverage–the feeling that if either one of you let go, you’d maybe want to take an extra step back to catch your weight. That statement may be a little exaggerated to convey a concept, but you get the idea.
Now as long as you are moving your follower in one constant direction, in my opinion, she should stay in leverage. The amount of actual force in this leverage will vary from every follower and every leader as you both must come to a mutual amount. The difference in feeling can vary from as much as a feather to a tow truck. In the middle of this movement you (the leader) are supposed to stop your follower from moving one direction and send her back to where she came from. Right before you send her in the other direction you have to do something. Yes, you, the leader must LEAD!!! This means switching from leverage and meeting that connection in the middle of you and your partner. This is called compression.
Imagine playing London Bridge as a kid and pressing your hands into one another. Just bring your hands down to waist level and the compression should now be felt in your hands slightly differently from our childhood game. Compression for me is used for direction changes. Anytime in the dance that I want my follower to make a direction change i.e. she’s moving North and want her to go South, I’ll use compression in one form or another.
Now that she has caught your lead and understands what you’re asking (which is to go back to the end of the slot) you still aren’t done leading. You must now switch back to leverage and reset this whole process. Leverage and compression should be present in almost every pattern. Try a few moves that you know and stop on any given count. See if you can find what type of connection you SHOULD have instead of what you just do out of habit.
We’ve all heard of resistance before, but what does it mean when applied to West Coast Swing? Some synonyms we use are leverage, tension, and extension.
Resistance is the opposite of compression. Where compression is taking our bodies towards each other to create a pressure in the hands, resistance is taking our weight AWAY from our partner. The hands will “clink” or link up like a locomotive to its next train car, creating a “catch” in the hands. It is through this connection that we experience the feeling of leverage with our partner. Like Newton’s Third Law of Motion, we want to find an “equal and opposite reaction” to our partner’s connection and there can be degrees of resistance (or compression).
Oddly in West Coast Swing, a majority of our connection is spent in resistance, and we use compression more sparingly. Through most basic patterns, we use resistance generally thru the 1, 2, as the leader walks backwards like a locomotive bringing the follower forward. Resistance starts again as early as 4 as we post and move through the anchor. Some patterns have resistance in the connection the duration of the pattern.
I believe in avoiding “neutral” connection, where we have neither compression nor resistance, so resistance is an essential component of our West Coast Swing dance!
Huge thanks to Ben and Kara for their contributions! To follow up with these amazing instructors, to schedule a private lesson, or to ask questions, see their profiles below.
As Ben and Kara explained, two key elements of connection are resistance and compression. For more on compression, check out our two definitions of “Compression” you should know from West Coast Swing Pros Courtney Adair and Catriona Wiles.
Ben Hooten (Texas, USA)
Ben Hooten grew up in Katy, Texas. His mother, a country dancer, got him started dancing at the age of 9 when his father passed away, in the hopes that it would keep him out of trouble. Hooten thrived in dance, studying smooth and latin ballroom, hip hop, country, and swing. Since then he has competed in Junior Youth, Junior Teen, Young Adult, Division 1 Showcase (in country), as well as Classic and Showcase in WCS. He is a NASDE Top 10 Finalist and holds four UCWDC World Titles.
Hooten’s teaching style is empowering and encouraging, and he is deeply invested in the dance life and “path forward” of his students. He wants each of them to feel that he actually cares about how well they do, and if they don’t do well, that he’ll be there to help pick them back up. Regarding lessons he states, “Someone should take a lesson with me if they want to walk away feeling like they can accomplish anything they want to.”
This weekend you can find Ben at Trilogy Swing, an event he co-directs in Raleigh/Durham, North Carolina.
Kara Frenzel (California, USA)
Kara’s passion for dancing flourished at a young age. Throwing herself into as many dance classes as possible at local dance studios, at her high school and community college simultaneously, she studied various dance styles including jazz, ballet, hip hop, modern, swing, ballroom, salsa, improvisation and choreography. While attending College at BYU-Idaho, Kara majored in Business Management/Marketing and minored in Dance. She expanded her knowledge of dance, studying all styles of Ballroom, Latin, Night Club, and Lindy. Kara performed on multiple tour groups Nationally and has been teaching ever since she first worked for a Ballroom studio in 2005! Today, Kara is an All Star/ Champion dancer on the West Coast Swing circuit. She can be found teaching, judging, and competing at WCS dance conventions, swing clubs and dances, nationally and internationally! She has choreographed, performed and placed with former partners in the prestigious Classic and Showcase divisions. She also runs a home business, offering private lessons, group classes, and a dance in San Luis Obispo. (Check out karafrenzel.com) Kara is often complimented as a “good teacher” and a “beautiful dancer,” known for her sexy, playful style, emotion, musicality, and love of technique, developed from partner dancing and contemporary dance.