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 week, we welcome new Wandering Westie writer Holly Oden and her perspective on partnership! Her information will be up on the site soon.
You step out on the dance floor to a song you love, ready for three minutes of magical movement and interaction. The song lyrics guide you to point up at the imaginary stars. You playfully follow the music, but receive no response from your partner. Next, you slow down a spin to match a change in the music, but your partner plows right through the spin. By the third missed interaction, you realize your partner isn’t really dancing with you; your partner is dancing with the judges. Your stomach sinks and a burning annoyance brews, as you realize you’re dancing completely alone.
We’ve all heard the analogies: dance is a conversation, dance is a story, dance is a journey. No matter which analogy you prefer, it’s clear dance is a meaningful moment created between you and your partner.
So, how can someone feel completely alone in a dance for two? Easy—a complete lack of eye contact.
Nothing shows someone you don’t care more than refusing to look at them while they’re communicating—in this case—dancing.
While it may not always be intentional, improper eye contact is an easy mistake to make on the competition floor. The desire to stand out and perform well sometimes leads to simple mistakes of over-performing and, in turn, showing the judges your focus isn’t where it should be.
In the competition community we tend to have a lot of peacocks (both leads and follows) doing their best to show off their skills. That’s OK! All of my favorite Jack ‘n’ Jills play to the audience and make for a great performance.
However, some dancers fail to draw the line between giving a good performance and undermining their dance partnership. As leaders and followers, we must remember the partnership comes first. Making eye contact with your partner (not the judges) is an incredibly important aspect of partner dancing.
If you’re too busy making eye contact with the judges here are a few things you are also doing…
- Breaking a line of communication. The eyes communicate so much information to your partner. They help set the tone, they emphasize a movement, they let your partner know you’re enjoying the dance, and sometimes they even say, “Hey! We’re about to do something special.” If you’re focusing on looking at the judges, you’re missing out on a higher level of communication with your partner.
- Creating opportunities for missed reactions and miscues. When your eyes are focused elsewhere, your mind and body are also focused elsewhere. Placing your eyes on the judges takes your attention away from your lead or follow, slowing your reaction time. And, if you’re not careful, it can also cause your body to move in ways you don’t expect, giving your partner miscues.
- Neglecting to take care of your partner. Even the pro’s can tell you, some cover-ups transform into incredible moves. If someone missteps, gets off balance, or comes too close to another couple during the dance, the other person can turn the mistake into something safe and fun…unless he or she is not looking. Knowing you and your partner are looking out for one another adds an extra layer of confidence and energy to your dance.
- Showing the judges your partnership isn’t priority. Spending your time focused on the judges tells them you are more concerned with yourself and your own skills than you are dancing with your lead or follow. Big no no!
Making eye contact with the judges is not bad 100% of the time. If you do choose to take a special moment to make eye contact with the judges or audience, be sure you invite your partner to join you. The important factors to remember in this moment are to stay constant, maintain the partnership, choose one moment, and be brief—don’t stay in performance mode.
The most important thing to remember is that West Coast Swing is a dance focused on the partnership. No matter if you’re a novice or a champion level dancer, judges are always looking for a good partnership. Your judges are dancers, and they know no one wants to have a conversation nor write a story with a partner who’s not paying attention. No one wants to sit back and watch a partner go on a journey with the judges instead of with him or her. No one wants to feel completely alone in a dance for two!
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.