The basic step: Sugar Push
The most frequently performed step of west coast swing is the sugar push. It is a 6-count sequence for which there are two common footworks, and here's one of them, for both the man and the lady:
Walk Walk, Tri - Ple - Step, Tri - Ple - Step
If you are new to dancing or are unfamiliar with "walk walk tri-ple step tri-ple step" or "6-count", first click here to go to the bottom of this page for an explanation of steps and counts. And then come back. Otherwise, let's continue.
No matter what figure the gent and lady do in a standard 6 count sequence, their foot go walk walk, tri-ple-step, tri-ple-step. It's like a drummer repeating a rhythm over and over, only here the rhythm is kept with the feet.
Gent steps back on count
1 which starts the lady
On count 2, they lean
slightly into each other
The lady travels back on
On counts 5&6,
each triple steps in
place. There's slightly
more to it. See
The gent starts with his left foot and the lady starts with her right foot (first photo to the left).
The woman knows to move forward towards the man because the man pulls slightly on her hand as he steps back on the 1st count. This is called "the lead". The lead should not be rough, it is a signal to the lady -- "this way please". In west coast swing, as in nearly all partner dancing, the man is the leader and the lady is the follower. .
In the video above, the man stays in the slot so the lady knows that she will step towards him but will then back away, and will not pass him. The lady
- 1. "walk walk"s (takes 2 steps) toward the gent on counts 1-2,
- 2. triple steps on counts 3&4 (3 physical steps in 2 counts of music)
- 3. and triple steps on counts 5&6 at the end of the slot.
(A sugarpush footwork variation for the man and/or lady is to replace the triple step with a touch step on counts 3&4, and that is the second of the two common footworks and is detailed on the next page). The gent does the same footwork, but all in the same spot in the center of the slot. So "walk walk" may not be the best description of his first two steps since he is not walking anywhere but rather is stepping in place. Okay, "step, step, triple step, triple step"
It's worth noting that in all of the figures in the 1st three chapters in this class of west coast swing, the lady triple steps in place when she is at the end of the slot. It's comforting for her to know that if the she gets baffled by a lead or whatever, when she gets to the end of the slot she will triple step, and in doing so is back in sync with her partner.
At every level of dance, dancers get off the beat, either because a lead is misread or misled or perhaps due to one partner not knowing a particular move. Beginners tend to overemphasize the importance of this. It is nothing to be too concerned about. In just a few beats, the lady will be at one of the ends of the slot where she triple steps, and all is well again.
Helpful styling tips:
What is a count? What is a step?
- keep any unheld arms relaxed and slightly bent
- do not allow your elbows to go behind your body
- again, women, if you lose the step, no problem, go to the end of the slot and triple step (you may appear to some to have discovered a new move)
- men, if you lose (or vary) the step in the sugar push, it hardly matters, since stepping in place looks much the same regardless. But try to ingrain in your minds the walk walk triple step triple step footwork, or else a common variation -- walk, walk, touch-step, triple step,-- as both are central to west coast swing and will make learning advanced figures easier.
A count is a unit of time, like 6 seconds on a clock. A step is just that, a lifting of one foot and putting it down. You could take one step or two steps or three steps in a second. And you could vary the number of steps from second to second. For example, 2 steps on the 1st second, 3 steps on the 2nd second, etc.
The seconds of a clock tick at an even clip, each second occuring after the same duration as every other second. "Counts" (also called "beats") act like seconds on a clock -- each one is the same length (time length). "Counts" are like seconds with one important difference. Depending on the speed of the music, the duration of a count varies. Faster music has quicker counts and slower music has slower counts.
Above and later in this course, we use "step" and "walk" interchangeably which is potentially confusing because in dance many "walks" are done with the dancer in one spot, which is not commonly referred to as a walk.
While we used the example of taking 1 or 2 or 3 steps per count above, a triple step involves 3 steps per 2 counts of music. Mama mia! Stick with it.
6-Count west coast swing foot rhythm (6 counts, 8 steps)
one two three four five six
Walk (left- Walk Tri-ple-step (left-right-left) Tri-ple step (right-left-right)
Walk Tri-ple-step (right-left-right) Tri-ple-step (left-right-left)
If you do not understand this next point, forget it immediately and move on, but here goes -- the middle step of the triple step is not exactly in the middle, it is closer to the last step and further from the initial step. It is not
1 & 2
but rather it goes
If the above video is clear to you, you may not need any long text explanation, but as we are given to such things, here are other ways that you may hear dance instructors refer in speech or writing to the west coast swing 6-count foot rhythm:
step - step - tri-ple step - tri-ple step
or, with the counts numbered in parentheses and with the steps beside the counts:
(1)step - (2)step -....(3)tri-(&)ple (4)step - .....(5)tri-(&)ple (6)step
or another way to express the foot rhythm:
Slow ....Slow ....Quick-Quick-Slow ....Quick-Quick-Slow
The next page shows the sugarpush with a touch step on counts three four (3 - 4), rather than a triple step on 3 & 4 (the "&" signifying a step).
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