All forms of dance share several standard foot positions. This article will describe the standard foot positions and explain where they turn up in west coast swing.
First Foot Position
In first foot position, the two feet are next to each other. Like all foot positions, this position can have varying degrees of turnout. In the picture above, the toes are pointed out from each other about 30 degrees total. A slight degree of turnout adds stability and avoids the ugly lines created by toed-in or pigeon-toed feet. On the other extreme, having the feet turned out all the way looks unnatural and doesn’t fit well with the WCS aesthetic. For west coast, a good general rule is that the feet should be turned out somewhere between 20 and 80 degrees.
First foot position is often taught in many beginner patterns. For instance, the 2 through 3& of the leader’s left side pass and the 3& of the follower’s push break are described as together steps. Because WCS is a leverage-based dance, however, more advanced dancers will tend to use a subtle third foot position instead of first in order to create a front and back foot and thus maintain the leverage/compression dimension of the dance.
Second Foot Position
Second foot position is a side step. The feet maintain the same degree of relative turnout as in first foot position, but the heels are separated along a horizontal axis. This position is used by the leader when crossing the slot (as on count 4 of a whip), but is less common on the follower’s side since she remains in the slot for most of the dance. Both partners will frequently use second position when hitting a pose and presenting towards the audience.
Third Foot Position
In third foot position, the heel of the front foot is lined up with the instep of the back foot. Either foot can be the back foot; the picture shows the leader’s typical third foot anchor, while the follower’s anchor has the left foot behind the right. Third position can also be performed with varying degrees of openness: a closed third has the heel of the front foot almost touching the back foot’s instep, while an open third can go almost as far as a fourth position step.
Third foot position is extraordinarily common in WCS. It is the basic anchor position because it encourages the dancer to keep their weight away from their partner, and it is often used in the middle of patterns instead of a first position in order to sustain the away connection.
Fourth Foot Position
Fourth foot position is a forward step. Notice that the heels remain in a line even though the toes are turned out; this technique, known as single-tracking, helps create clean lines and makes possible good contra-body movement.
Followers use fourth foot position at the beginning of every pattern; leaders use fourth position on push breaks and when setting the post on beat 4 or 6.
Fifth Foot Position
Fifth foot position is not used often in WCS except for variations. In fifth, the toe of the back foot is almost touching the heel of the forward foot. This position is unique in that the heel of the back foot remains off the ground; only the toe base touches the floor.
Cross Foot Position
In the cross foot position, the foot to be weighted crosses in front of the other leg before receiving weight. Although the weighted foot is in front of the other foot, the energy from a crossed foot position is backwards. This makes the cross foot position extremely common on anchor variations. Followers also use the cross on the first triple of their side passes in order to continue traveling down the slot.
Hook Foot Position
The hook foot position places the weighted foot behind the other leg. However, the energy of the hook movement is forward rather than backwards; the hooked foot is pushing the free leg forward. Because of this forward energy, hooks are often used to flare the free leg out for a sweep or ronde.