Stanford Quads

Square Dance Club

Swinging Tips

by Bill van Melle, December 11, 1994

Swing (Your Partner) is one of the few square dance calls that requires much physical coordination; it also takes most people the longest to learn to do well. In fact, even some experienced dancers don't swing especially well (shudder!), and many simply refuse to really dance this call. This is sad, as swinging can be a lot of fun. You haven't had much practice yet, so don't worry if you still feel clumsy at it.

It's difficult to put into words what makes a good swing; nevertheless, listed below are some suggestions to think about (not necessarily all at once) as you practice swinging. We also strongly encourage you to seek out club members who do swing well and ask them for practice and feedback. Pat and I are certainly more than happy to help people out in this way.

  • Your right foot moves barely at all--just enough to trace out a tiny circle around your central pivot point. It is your left foot that propels you.

  • There should be essentially no vertical motion; you are moving in a smooth circle, not bouncing up and down.

  • The strength in the position is in the man's right arm, with the right hand securely in the small of the woman's back; there is also some firmness in the woman's left arm. The remaining arms are held only lightly for balance--too much tension here makes the swing less fluid, and getting out of it clumsy. In fact, it should be possible for the woman to drop her right hand (man's left) entirely and not substantially affect the swing.

  • Give weight. Sometimes we say "Lean back." This doesn't mean lean your head back, but rather your whole torso, a bit like starting to sit down. The idea is to let some centrifugal force play a role in the figure. Try this physics experiment most of us have done in our youth at one time or another: Take your partner's hands in yours, lean way back, and spin around. Feel that force in your arms? Notice how, once you got started, the centrifugal force let you spin rather smoothly, and you didn't have to work very hard except to hang on? A good swing should have some of this feeling, except your arms are in ballroom position.

  • Look into each other's eyes. This isn't essential (some people are shy), but it's friendly and may help keep you from getting dizzy.

If you want lots of practice, try out contra dancing some time (2nd, 4th, 5th Saturdays at the YWCA on Alma). A significant fraction of most figures is Swing.

Last updated Wednesday 8 August 2007