The previous post in this series described the away, or leverage, connection. This post will describe the towards connection, which is also known as compression. A compression connection is used whenever the follower’s center is supposed to move away from the leader’s center.
Mario Robau describes the compression connection by using a picture of a truck pushing another truck. In order for the pushed truck to have a reasonably smooth ride, several things must happen. The two most important are:
- The pushing truck needs to be in contact with the pushed truck. No contact = no power pushing the front truck (apart from gravity, if the trucks are going down a hill).
- The pushed truck needs to be riding the brakes. Riding the brakes ensures that the pushed truck stays in contact with the pushing truck. If the pushed truck gets ahead of the pushing truck for any reason (like a slight change in speed), both drivers will feel it when the gap between the vehicles disappears.
There are three other elements of the picture that are important in west coast swing but aren’t as immediately obvious from the truck picture:
- The center of mass for the leader must be closer to the follower than the leader’s contact with the ground. If the leader’s center is directly above or behind the supporting leg/foot, any compression from the follower will result in the leader being pushed over. This is hard to see in the truck picture because the truck has such a broad base between its four wheels.
- Likewise, the center of mass for the follower must be closer to the leader than the follower’s contact with the ground. Being directly over the feet is a sure-fire recipe for falling over when the leader applies compression.
- The connection point needs to be between the centers of both partners. If the point of connection is not between the centers, the energy created through the compression will not be transmitted from the leader to the follower. This will usually be relevant in WCS if the connection point is outside of the frame of one of the partners, rather than between the centers. If the connection point is outside of one partner’s frame, compression will result in a rotational lead rather than a linear lead.
The Drill: In order to practice this picture, the leader and follower should get into the position of the 3& of a push-break. This is the point of maximum compression. The follower has the option of closing her eyes in order to focus on the connection. At a slow speed, the leader should step towards the follower. The follower should aim to maintain the same level of compression at the beginning and end of the step, which means staying into the compression and not going back further than the leader leads. Leaders: be careful that you are not settling back after your step forward! In a normal push-break you would switch to leverage after stepping your 4 in order to establish the post, but that is not the goal of this drill.
Bonus Variations: When both partners are comfortable remaining in compression, the leader can attempt to lead triple steps or walk-walk rhythms; the follower should be able to pick up on the difference from the center movement of the leader. Both partners can also practice maintaining compression in different positions, such as sweetheart wraps or hammerlock folds or the exit of a whip.
Remember to switch roles for this drill! Just as the leader needs to be able to match the follower’s leverage when settling into a post, anchor, ending a spin, or playing, the leader also needs to match the follower’s compression in a lot of situations. Guys: if you have ever seen a follower do a death-defying lean towards her partner, you were watching a follower that received a great response to her compression from her leader. Being able to give—and stay in—compression when your follower asks for it opens up a whole new world of styling and play.