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7.7 How To Lead An “american spin” In East Coast Swing

This is a Tuck-style spin done on the third step of the first triple-step. You can also both spin (man to his left, lady to her right). The lead is to draw her in at the beginning of the first triple, and she should feel a slight wind-up to her left. This wind-up should place your hand near your navel. That way, you won’t be torqued left or right when she pushes off of you. She should feel you brace your leading arm (I like to tuck my elbow into my side for an instant to help brace the arm. Think “brace”, but understand that you don’t become stiff as a board, and there is some limited followthru.) She must then take her weight change step onto her right foot. Here is the important thing – she must commit some of her body weight forward to you. You will feel a building compression, and then a releasing compression as *SHE* pushes off of *YOU* ! As a man, you are only pushing back as hard as she pushes on you. Never think of pushing her – make her think she is pushing against a wall. Push lightly and the wall pushes back lightly; push hard and it pushes back hard. This is where the leader must really “follow” her level of connection as it changes.

The woman must commit weight to you because her push does 2 things:

  • it creates a torque about a vertical axis which spins her
  • it creates a torque about a horizontal axis which causes her to fall backwards.

Torque (1) is what she desires, and (2) is what she must deal with to stay balanced. By committing her weight forward before pushing off, torque (2) stands her back up straight instead of toppling her over. Of course, the better she is, the less weight is committed, the less wind-up is required, the later you can brace and still have her read the lead, etc.

It’s easy for the man to get the timing wrong so the lady can’t feel the prep at the critical point in her step. When not dancing we practice a push/pull exercise where we come in (compress on to the lead hand) and push out. This exercise helps get the feeling for the correct timing. The lead has to come just *before* she finishes the triple, because once she’s placed the third step without anticipating the spin, it’s hard for her to do a good spin. Keep your arm firm, because she needs to push off of you. If you’re giving your lead down at waist level, she *can’t* turn the wrong way. She can fail to turn, but if she’s *able* to turn the wrong way, then your lead isn’t right.

To lead an American Spin, one rotates (‘tucks’) her to her left during the preceding triple, then braces so she can push off of the man’s leading hand with her right. Obviously, this doesn’t work with ladies who don’t know the step, since they won’t know to push off. Beginners with one step under their belt can’t be expected to follow it, and you shouldn’t try. When I dance with beginners, I sort-of ‘test’ for the American spin reaction by leading an underarm turn and adding a bit of tuck. Beginners just follow the underarm turn and fail to compress or tuck. OK, we just stick to basic steps. Since I still have hand contact the lead doesn’t falter. More advanced dancers follow the (overhand) tuck just like an American Spin. Then I know I can use Tuck style moves.

You can’t just push the lady with the left hand because this will tend to push her backwards, when you really want her to stay in place and spin. However, there is a way to refine this lead so that ladies who don’t know the figure can still follow it. It requires a two hand hold though.

As you tuck the lady, drop *both* hands to just below waist level. Your left hand will now be holding the lady’s right hand in front of a point about two inches below your belly button, and your right hand will be on the top of the lady’s left hip. You now rotate the lady to her right, into the spin, primarily by pulling with your *right* hand. Your left hand helps with the rotation, primarily by providing resistance so the lady isn’t pulled into you, but also pushing gently away from you, following the lady’s rotation. This method results in a much smoother action than the ‘resistance only’ method.

Note that the right hand must be on the hip, not the waist. Two reasons: first, the hip is farther from the lady’s center of rotation, so you can provide the required torque with a gentler pull; second, the rigidity of the hip bone helps prevent your pull from having inadvertent side effects, like pulling just the lady’s waist towards you.

Also, it really helps if the man moves a little so the woman has to turn less than a full 360 degrees. In fact it is the man’s duty to move enough that both partners end up right after the woman turns. This is an example of one of the most basic principles of good leading: Lead her, then follow what she does.

This bears repeating. Leading is following. A good leader has to compensate for his partner. Maintaining the balance point and connection is more important than where any individual ends up, in social dancing. This means the leader provides the lead, then waits to see what the follower does to that lead. Then the leader adjusts his leading so leader and follower remain in sync. In some dances you can go one step further and compensate for the follower as she does her spin. In hustle or ECS you can just rotate or move the slot around to match wherever the follower ends up. I’ve helped build the confidence of a few ladies who didn’t think they could do “double” spins in hustle, by moving around them so that however much they actually spun, we ended up in the right position for the next pattern and in time to the music.

Overdone preps confuse the lady and are not desirable. If she responds to the tuck by throwing herself into a spin, she was over-led, or she is over-reacting. It’s most likely the former. My two step instructor teaches a “prep lead.” It’s NOT supposed to be very visible, because it’s not supposed to be a frame rotation. It’s supposed to be a signal. When doing a tuck turn in ECS, the man stops the lady with his hand and they build pressure against each other, palm-to-palm (or thereabouts). A follower writes about how this feels when done incorrectly “When I have experienced the prep-lead, there was no build-up of pressure on the hand through a palm-to-palm type of connection, there was just another direction change. As it was, it felt like a lead for a single inside turn, the guy changing his mind then the lead for a single outside turn.”

For ECS beginner followers, I can easily see where avoiding the tuck-turn could be helpful because a beginner follower is more likely not to provide enough resistance with her right arm. Of course, opening out may be difficult too, but at least it’s pretty easy to recover from.

A tuck lead can be used from one hand contact or where speed is desired (double turns in a fast swing). Basically, during the previous step the man rotates (a little) in one direction and then stops. When the man stops the lady can use pressure on the man’s hand to stop and reverse herself. This pressure can then be used for very fast turns and spins. Since the pressure is developed from an early stop rather than a late shove, it’s much more comfortable for the lady. This only works if the lady is connected with her hand. If she’s just chasing her hand around, she’ll never feel the pressure and won’t be able to catch up with the change of direction or rotation fast enough.

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