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7.8 On Spotting

Some people say you should “spot”, i.e. face your partner while your body turns underneath. If you do spot, you need to make sure your shoulder’s do not lean or twist, and your head must be straight up with the center of balance exactly over your spine. If you are slightly off, your head can unbalance the turn. To help in this regard, when spotting, look at an object that is high on the wall – not low. Spotting is difficult and can lead to wobbling at first. Probably wobbling is the most common problem people have spinning, and is caused by a bad lead pulling you off balance, not having your center of balance over your feet, or a poorly aligned body. Most of the people who have trouble spinning seem to have a bent or twisted body and tend to wobble. Practicing a paddle turn is a good way to find your balance and body alignment. Another cause for wobble is if your arms are extended out. If you extend your arms to regain balance during a spin, it will probably throw you off balance even more. You probably want to keep your free wrists at your waist. Practice spotting in slow motion, many times in each direction, concentrating on smooth head rotation (from looking over one shoulder to the other) on a vertical axis (use a mirror – it’s easy to rotate your head about a canted axis, and it looks terrible. Plus your head weighs something like 20 lbs and it’s up high, so it’s effect on your balance will be magnified.). The biggest tip is this: Pick a specific object (like your partners’ left eye) and consciously fix your gaze upon it before you initiate your turn. Then as soon as your head begins to come around, you must “lock” back onto it.

Spotting is purely for control and aesthetics. Spotting prevents dizziness; you get dizzy when you see the room going around you, whereas when you spot you only see one thing over and over again. Spotting does not help you provide the impetus for a turn – rather it helps refine your turns – your arms, legs and body provide the impetus. Spotting makes a turn looks more precise because it provides you with a horizon and a reference point which help you to stop cleanly and with balance. To really look good doing an UAT, you need to spot before going under, then go under the arm, then pivot around affixing your gaze 180 when coming out. Remember, people primarily look at adancer’s head!

One of the easiest methods to learn how to spot your turns is to do it sitting down in an revolving office chair. Your body doesn’t have to do much work and you can concentrate on the spotting exercise. Important safety tip: if you are over-dedicated, you can keep a barf bag on your lap.

Since a follower should always be watching her partner, it’s important very early on for the follower to spot her turns. As a leader, I learned to turn long before I started spotting my turns. Usually I would just let my body memory do 1/2, 1, 1&1/2, or 2 turns. When I started working on spinning to closed position I found out that spotting is essential. When you are more aware of your partner, you can dance closer, and you can try more daring moves.

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