Advantages of the One-Hand Basic

by Michael A. Harvey

When people first learn West Coast Swing they are taught a basic step with a two hand lead, and/or a one hand lead with a right hand "stop sign" push. There is nothing wrong with either and I use them both. The more I danced, however, the more I disliked the feeling and look of "throwing away" her left hand with my right hand on the push. So when a fabu-lous instructor introduced me to a one hand basic I immediately liked its look and feel, but moreover her explana-tion caused a light to go off in my head.

As she explained it there are five basic moves that she looks for from the man: the left hand lead, the right hand lead, the whip, the tuck turn, and the basket. There are three things that come off of a one hand basic: left hand moves, right hand moves, and whips. And there are two things that come off of a two hand basic: tuck turns and baskets.

As a leader, a one hand basic narrows my universe to only three areas: left hand, right hand, and whip leads. So my confu-sion level is reduced accordingly. When I reach for the other hand (into a two hand lead) my universe narrows to the remain-ing two areas: tuck turns and baskets. In this way my brain functions like a com-puter, having two separate icons on my desktop which I can quickly flip between and access my range of moves.

The really good female dancers know this consciously and appreciate it because it is the same thing for the follower. In a one hand basic they know that 40% of the universe is closed down (tuck turns and baskets) and so they can more efficiently plan their styling within the remaining 60% universe. And when the man requests the other hand 60% of the universe shuts down (left hand, right hand, and whip moves) and she can more efficiently plan her styling within the remaining 40% uni-verse.

What’s really amazing to me as a leader, however, is that even if a woman doesn’t know this consciously, they all seem to feel it unconsciously. As I’m now learning the following part I really appreciate a leader who uses a one hand basic and converts to a two hand basic when his next move dictates it. So now I use a one hand basic, throw in a "stop sign" push as a variation, and use a two hand basic when I’m think-ing tuck turn or basket.

There is one caveat! Recently, when I was dancing with a national champion and feeling a little insecure, she lifted my spir-its by complementing my one hand basic. And just when I started to feel real cool she dropped a bomb by suggesting that I should offer my right hand down by my hip so that she could have the option to use it as a brace for a really cool styling move. And if she didn’t need it she wouldn’t use it. Bv leaving it as an option, her box of goodies was completely open. And when she used it to brace herself and "push herself off the wall" I never got the sensa-tion, or that ugly look, of "throwing away" that right hand.

I know that West Coast Swing will become much easier for you if you incorporate the one hand basic into your dancing, You will find that you will remember more of what you know and the ladies will follow faster and more fluently. Good Luck!