One of the biggest challenges that a relatively inexperienced dancer imposes on themselves is the idea that “I don’t know enough moves.” Often, a newer dancer – and this is often more true among leaders – wishes they had a larger repertoire of patterns and combinations with which to spice up their dance experience. After all, if the only moves someone has is a basic step, a basic spot turn, and a basic inside travelling turn, how interesting a dance could a new-ish leader offer a follower?
The real answer is: You know more than you think you do. It’s simply a matter of thinking through the variations and options on the three themes that you have already mastered. For instance, a couple could turn a basic step into the more interesting cumbia (“twist back”) step. A cumbia could be done in either open hold or closed hold for added variation and effect. If you happen to be in a double handshake hold, a cumbia step changes up in a different way.
The spot turn is another example that can be turned into interesting variations. The one that is familiar to most people is the hammerlock variation, essentially a spot turn for the follower in which the lower hand is not released but instead, tucked up behind the follower’s back. After that, the follower can be unlocked to open hold, or with a one-and-a-half turn, unlocked and rewrapped into a cuddle, from which there are several options for release.
The inside travelling turn offers considerable variations as well, depending on whether the move is led with a (leader) left to (follower) right hold, or left-to-left handshake hold. Additionally, if the leader’s lead hand goes over the follower’s head, the travelling turn is completed with one-and-a-half rotations (possibly with a leader pick-up for either a straight cross-body lead finish, or the more advanced cross-body 360, a.k.a “Coca Cola”). If the leader’s lead hand stays low starting from a handshake hold, the travelling turn becomes a wrap that can be turned back into a free-spin release, an S-turn, or (if the hands are switched) a lasso. And remember, wraps can be at waist-level or around the neck, each having different effects.
Now, I realize that if you are a little less experienced in your dance, reading through the above and attempting to picture all these variations might be even more challenging than actually dancing them! So here’s how to incorporate some of these variations into your own personal repertoire and expand your dance horizons. The next time you have opportunity to dance, choose one or two ideas to practice through the dance event. During each dance, add that one or those two variations once or twice through the course of a song. If it doesn’t quite work the first or second or even third times, keep dancing, and try it again with another partner. Eventually, the new variation will become second nature, incorporated into your natural dance skills. The next time out, test-drive another two variations. In no time, your dance will have a bunch of cool variations, and with a bit of styling, you’ll be a highly sought partner.
See you on the dance floor!