The term Anchor Step is used to denote a dance step in which you should not come towards your partner at the end of a pattern.

An Anchor is NOT a foot position and not a Rhythm. It is a partner connection in West Coast Swing, achieved when both partners place their CPB (Center Point of Balance) behind the heel of the forward foot. An Anchor is danced on the last two beats (last Unit) of each basic, fundamental Step Pattern in West Coast Swing. A feeling of body leverage balances the resistance of both partners. Each partner is responsible for establishing their own individual anchor.

Different types of anchor will leave the partners in one of three positions: 1) the dancers are not individually centered (with an away resistance), resulting in a heavy active connection (sometime referred to as leverage; 2) partners will be individually centered, resulting in a passive connection; 3) the follower's center point of balance will be slightly forward of being individually centered - resulting in a passive connection.

The term "ANCHOR" was coined by the Golden State Dance Teachers Association in the early 1960s to clarify the difference between the "resistance" desired at the end of a West Coast Swing Pattern, and the lack of resistance caused by one version of the second set of triples taught circa 1961.

The anchor step is the terminating step pattern of nearly all main West Coast Swing dance moves. Together with the slot, it is the most distinguishing element of West Coast Swing as compared to other swing dances.

In its standard form, the anchor step consists of three steps with the syncopated rhythm pattern "1-and-2" (counted, e.g., as "5-and-6" in 6-beat dance moves) and the general directions of steps "back, replace, back (and slightly sideways)" danced almost in place. The leader dances R-L-R feet, the follower dances L-R-L.

At the end of the anchor step the partners settle their weights on the "back" foot, the handhold is typically L-to-R, with leverage connection maintained throughout the step, and there is no urge to go in any direction in the end: the parthers are "anchored" in this terminal position at their respective ends of the slot (hence the name of the step), ready to commence the next move according to the leader's lead.

Pulled from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anchor_Step


What is Dance Slot?

In slotted dances, the dance slot is an imaginary narrow rectangle within which the follower moves back and forth in relation to the leader, who is comparatively stationary.

Slotted dances include: West Coast Swing, Dallas Push, Houston Whip, Supreme Swing in Tulsa, Imperial Swing in St. Louis, Alcatraz in New Orleans, Carolina Shag, DC Swing, as well as variants of other dances, such as Salsa or Hustle, that may be performed in a slotted style as well.

As a rule, the leader mostly stays in the slot, leaving it only to make room for the follower to pass by. The leader almost never makes the follower circle around when passing by; they may go into a common rotational figure when the follower happens to come close, but such figures are usually in a tight position and do not change the overall "slotted" appearance.

Factors that have often been looked upon as contributing to the development of slotted dance style include:

1. Maximizing visibility for the audience, when a dance will be performed on the stage.

2.Coping with limited space for dancing.

Although most of the above-mentioned dances belong to the "West Coast Swing family" of dances, they may have developed independently. The differences have been both acknowledged and listed; Swing Dance Encyclopedia by CoupleDanceWorld lists the differences among the dances.

The most typical slotted dance is West Coast Swing. The origin of this style is uncertain. There are two main theories. By one of them, the slotted style was born in Hollywood: film directors supposedly wanted to keep the performers in a straight line to keep the profiles of both dancers in sight, which also helps the camera to catch the most action, as opposed to rotational styles, in which much of the time one sees only the back of one dancer with the other dancer hidden completely. Another story is that during jazz concerts the fans were dancing in the aisles (which of course are essentially slots) and the style stuck. Still another is that this style emerged in densely-packed nightcubs. None of the stories, however reasonable, has a solid confirmation.

Pulled from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dance_slot


What is Jack and Jill?

Jack and Jill (J&J, the US term) or Dance with a Stranger (DWAS, the UK term) is a format of competition in partner dancing, where the competing couples are the result of random matching of leaders and followers. Rules of matching vary.

The name and format were created by Jack Carey at Hank & Stans in Norwalk, California in the early 1950s to encourage a variety of dancers to enter competitions.

The gender-ambiguous term Pat and Chris has been used, particularly in LGBT dance venues, to refer to events where the gender of lead and follow isn't specified. In the lindy community in the U.S. a Jill and Jack, though less common, is a competition where the leads are required to be female and the follows to be male. In dance competitions J&J is included as a separate division (or divisions, with additional gradations). J&J is popular at Swing conventions, as well as at ballroom dance competitions in the US.

J&J competitions are intended to test social dance skills, whereas fixed partner competitions test performance dance skills. It is claimed that Jack Carey is the originator of the Jack & Jill contest format.

Rules

Rules vary, depending on country and dance style.

In the UK, it is normal to randomly assign fixed couples, and then keep those couples fixed throughout the competition (for example, if there are multiple rounds). Thus, the winner is largely decided by luck of the draw, with the winning couple often being regular dance partners who were lucky enough to be paired together. As a result, DWAS competitions are not taken as seriously as fixed partner competitions.

In the US, Jack & Jill contests are extremely popular in the national West Coast Swing and Lindy Hop communities. Rules vary in events across the country but three rules seem to be standard in most Jack & Jill contests: 1) no choreography is allowed, 2) no costumes are allowed, and 3) no lifts or drops are allowed. However, at the Champion or Invitational level, event organizers will occasionally opt for an "anything goes" Jack & Jill in which no rules apply. Music for the each dance is selected at random without the participants' prior knowledge, though some competitions will allow them to select the tempo (speed) or a sub-style within their dance's music (e.g. Blues or contemporary within West Coast Swing).

Although it is not the case in every Jack & Jill contest, it is somewhat typical for dancers to be judged individually, then dancers who make any elimination rounds redraw for new partners. Depending on rules specific to the event/competition, a Jack & Jill competitor may or may not be allowed to dance with their regular competition partner (one that they compete with in a choreographed division). At some events/competitions they are required to redraw; and some events that don't have the redraw rule give dancers the option to decline if they draw their regular competition partner but do not require them to do so. Some dancers who draw their regular [choreographed division] partner see this "luck" as more of a competition handicap, feeling that the crowd and possibly the judges will more closely scrutinize them, expecting even more of their competition performance than competitors who do not draw their regular partners.

One of the key elements of a Jack & Jill contest in the US West Coast Swing and Lindy Hop communities is the element of improvisation, which is why choreography is not allowed. This improv-based feature can prove to be extremely entertaining as dancers try to coordinate dancing with this new partner while dancing to the specific characteristics of a random song or "expressing musicality". Since the spirit of improvisation can possibly be dampened by the dancers having drawn their partner, it is often more difficult for the dancers to perform to the expectations of the spectators and the judges. Some dancers, however, are able to perform at or above the expectations depending on various factors, usually unpredictable factors such as the song, the consistency of the dance floor, or even just the simple factor of how they feel at that particular time. This can be compared to the American football adage "(on) Any Given Sunday".

Pulled from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jack_and_Jill_(dance)


How to improve your mental acuity?

For centuries, dance manuals and other writings have lauded the health benefits of dancing, usually as physical exercise. More recently we've seen research on further health benefits of dancing, such as stress reduction and increased serotonin level, with its sense of well-being.

Then most recently we've heard of another benefit: Frequent dancing apparently makes us smarter. A major study added to the growing evidence that stimulating one's mind can ward off Alzheimer's disease and other dementia, much as physical exercise can keep the body fit. Dancing also increases cognitive acuity at all ages.

The 21-year study of senior citizens, 75 and older, was led by the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City, funded by the National Institute on Aging, and published in the New England Journal of Medicine. Their method for objectively measuring mental acuity in aging was to monitor rates of dementia, including Alzheimer's disease.

The study wanted to see if any physical or cognitive recreational activities influenced mental acuity. They discovered that some activities had a significant beneficial effect. Other activities had none.

They studied cognitive activities such as reading books, writing for pleasure, doing crossword puzzles, playing cards and playing musical instruments. And they studied physical activities like playing tennis or golf, swimming, bicycling, dancing, walking for exercise and doing housework.

One of the surprises of the study was that almost none of the physical activities appeared to offer any protection against dementia. There can be cardiovascular benefits of course, but the focus of this study was the mind. There was one important exception: the only physical activity to offer protection against dementia was frequent dancing.

Reading - 35% reduced risk of dementia

Bicycling and swimming - 0%

Doing crossword puzzles at least four days a week - 47%

Playing golf - 0%

Dancing frequently - 76%.

That was the greatest risk reduction of any activity studied, cognitive or physical.

Quoting Dr. Joseph Coyle, a Harvard Medical School psychiatrist who wrote an accompanying commentary:

"The cerebral cortex and hippocampus, which are critical to these activities, are remarkably plastic, and they rewire themselves based upon their use."

And from from the study itself, Dr. Katzman proposed these persons are more resistant to the effects of dementia as a result of having greater cognitive reserve and increased complexity of neuronal synapses. Like education, participation in some leisure activities lowers the risk of dementia by improving cognitive reserve.

Our brain constantly rewires its neural pathways, as needed. If it doesn't need to, then it won't.

Read more: http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMoa022252 and http://socialdance.stanford.edu/syllabi/smarter.htm