In addition to being a great song by Dorothy Ellis, “Drill, Daddy, Drill” is a useful motto for any dancer. Most swing dance instruction focuses on moves, styling and technique. It’s not often that you see swing dancers practice turns across the floor like ballet dancers. I’m not saying that it never happens. We include it in our classes occasionally. But as an instructor getting people started with social dancing, many who have little to no dance experience, there are often other priorities like having fun and getting some sort of rhythmic pulse into the body.
That means that it is up to us as dancers to drill all of the body movements we use. This year, I’ve decided to make dance drills a part of my Lenten discipline. My goal for the next 40 days is to practice 100 rock steps a day. Rock steps are the most ubiquitous small component of swing dancing. They start and finish many moves. Good ones feel stretchy and secure. Bad ones feel like getting yanked. On a personal note, I have a bad habit of letting my shoulder round forward and disconnect when I rock step.
To drill the rock step:
- Find a solid door frame, banister, or countertop that you can hang back from as if you were counterbalanced with a partner.
- While hanging from your left arm, rock step on your left. Bring your feet together, and rock step on your right. Repeat 25 times.
- Switch hands to hang from your right arm, and repeat the same footwork pattern 25 times.
This video reviews some of the basic techniques to work on and refine as your practicing to become a rock step master.
A few closing thoughts: First, I love working with door frames and other stationary objects because they do not lie. What you feel in your connection is direct feedback created by your body motion. Second, as a dancer, I want to be equally comfortable with both sides of my body. Leads and follows tend to favor one foot or the other, so its important to work the weak side to get comfortable with it. I often find that rock stepping on the “wrong side” is one of the things that beginner dancers struggle with the most. Off foot rock steps will happen more frequently the better you get at dancing, so its worthwhile to put some effort in to mastering the move on both sides.