WEST COAST SWINGThe WOW Factor

by Michael A. Harvey

Attempting to inspire some new students regarding West Coast Swing, I gave a little talk to 40 eager beginners about the existence of "The Wow Factor." Credit goes to Beth Goyer, a dance teacher in St. Louis, who used the term when I expressed to her the feeling that occurs when each partner affects the other in a way that far surpasses the sum total of their individual parts. Dance synchronicity, nova explosions!

As a Tennis pro, I've often expressed to students the existence of "The Zone" (that's athlete lingo meaning "The Twilight Zone") which is similar to the WoW Factor but more comparable to the "Dancer’s High." These are cherished moments that come and go for no apparent reason. They are more controllable than sheer luck, yet so elusive that no amount of will power can ensnare it. The Dancer's High and the Athlete’s Zone are extended periods of superior performance which linger on sometimes hours after the event.

The WoW Factor, unlike the Dancer's High or the Athlete's Zone, is a quick-hitting, momentary, holy-moly, energy charge that zips through you and your partner simultaneously. Color it platinum. It can take place in the simplest of tuck-turns or the most complicated of tunnels. It's as unique as a snowflake. It's both physical and ethereal. It's definitely chemical. It's available to Kings and Commoners alike.

It's in the connection and in the movement. It starts in the touch of hands, the right feel of pressure, the lead and follow, the exchange of psychic energy that merges two into one. It’s not mere great sex, but rather the essence of true love. The WoW Factor is not a solo flight. You both know it instantly, even while you both wonder, "did they just feel what I just felt?"

On the same topic, there are two things amazingly similar between tennis and dancing. On a beginner level one thing is preparation, and on an advanced level another thing is follow-through.

Getting to the ball early in tennis allows you to set up and gracefully drive powerfully through the ball. The same is true in dancing. You can't think of what you want to do at the exact moment you are supposed to be starting. If you prepare in your mind early, then that initial step will be certain, secure, confident, and graceful.

The road to advanced tennis is through a disciplined follow-through, the ability to extend the racket face on a straight line directly to a precise point. Easier said than done. In dancing, the male lead does not end the moment you initiate a move. It extends all the way through the middle to a precise ending point with eyes, head, body, feet, and arms. Much easier said than done, and it wasn't easily said!

When a Tennis Pro hits an approach shot he moves quickly to the ball, sets up on-balance, drives through the ball with a long follow-through, straight to a precise point. At the moment he finishes the follow-through, he's moving forward to the net calculating his opponent's possible passing shots so that he can move early and easily to his next put-away volley. A hacker arrives late for the same approach shot, hits off-balance, his shot goes anywhere (usually; meekly right to his opponent) because his follow-through is non-existent, and he stands stunned, unprepared, awaiting the certain slaughter that's about to befall him.

A great dancer knows what he's going to do long before he does it making a clear initial move, leading the lady with certainty through the pattern to a precise end, at which point he has already calculated the initial move for his next variation. This creates a definite WoW environment. The hacker starts too late, expects the woman to guess the move, ends up wherever space and time take him, and is so stunned that it didn’t quite work that his mind is late thinking of the next move. So his next initial step is late again and the whole stinky process begins anew. No WoW here.

In tennis, the participant is connected to a ball. In dancing, the participant is connected to a person. The latter is infinitely more complex, alive, and breathing. Obviously, the connection is penultimate. The woman has the luxury of not having to think so far in advance. However, she does have the burden of having to think fast. Knowing how to style within the male lead creates great dancing. For her this is not chess, but more like skeet-shooting!

So if the lady gets a late lead, has to guess where she's going, and always ends up awkwardly off-balance, she's going to be far more concerned about the next late lead than she is about the styling of the move she's in. Her loss of confidence in the man translates into diminished styling expression.

However, if the man gives her the initial lead clearly, on time, guides her properly through, and she is confident that she will end up comfortably in the right spot for the next variation, then the lady is free to concentrate on her own styling expressions. Eureka, the Wow Factor!

HGH