WEST COAST SWINGCenter Me Pretty

by Joanie Fuller

Scientific explanations about the "center point of balance" are so confusing. I have a friend who explained that, "in males the center of gravity is slightly above the navel about half-way between the navel and the spine. In females it is slightly below the navel about two-thirds of the way from the navel to the spine. By changing the position of the arms, legs, and head the center of gravity can be shifted slightly." I told him that while his "engineer’s" explanation may be scientific, I can see where most regular folks like me won’t "get it."

For our dance needs, it is far more important to be less scientific and tell folks that by placing their weight over one foot or the other they will have better balance. Better balance allows a dancer to get to where they’re going more efficiently. If you move the center of your body first, whether forward or side to side, the rest of it including the feet must follow (foot follows frame). If you move your center forward and keep moving it until it can go no further comfortably, you will notice that your feet will save you from falling directly onto your nose.

I notice that there’s a maximum movement that makes my dancing look better. The further forward I let my center move the better. And don’t forget to lift it up. It DOES lift. The center, NOT the hips, makes this action possible. Besides, some hips are better off not being noticed, especially after a burger, fries, and a shake.

After you accomplish moving your center, it’s easier to do simple isolations. Isolations are easier to accomplish when you’ve learned to tighten your center and your back muscles. Ouch! Although this concept is a challenge for the tighten-impaired, it is possible. The back muscles have a lot to do with it, I think they call them "lats." I’m pretty sure I have some of those. If YOU do, tighten them, too. You’ll see that you’ve lost five pounds instantly by tucking in all that flab. Don’t try to tuck it into your pockets either, that’s cheating! Now, don’t forget to roll your hips under your body and avoid that sway back look. You’ll keep from getting a backache that way.

Do all these things while dancing and if you have any Will left, go ahead, stretch your cheeks and try to smile. Turning blue is OK, too, especially if your partner is a paramedic. Tightening is a great concept for some of us that have forgotten that it can refer to things like muscles and not only to the lid on your peanut butter jar.

See, if you step first, then you must drag your body weight to catch up with your foot. That’s not good. The further you are over your foot the more centered you are. West Coast allows us to hang back pretty far and moving the center back over the heel allows us to get that West Coast look. You know, the one I don’t have.

I agree that using the word "center" doesn’t mean much to some people. Instead, saying that I must keep my weight over one foot, not both, makes much more sense. I like to watch myself in the mirror to see that I’m actually doing this.

I think the center should move constantly when you dance, unless you’re picking the lint out of your navel. Then you must stop. Seriously, once you find this spot and recognize its power, you’ll notice a change in your dancing. Naturally, I’ve had this revelation and have noticed a change in my dancing. It’s a shame none of the judges have noticed. Perhaps a bright red balloon attached to my center would get their attention. Better yet, I could just throw myself on the floor screaming and crying and begging for a trophy. I wonder then, would my center be moving?

HGH