by Joanie Fuller

Oh, those pesky thighs. What can I do to make certain I keep ’em closed during West Coast Swing competitions? I hear voices saying, "keep ’em closed and keep ’em tight." That’s not always easy when you’re being tossed around in the J&J finals by an outta control tornado wearing men’s clothing. So, how do I make my legs appear svelte, sleek, and tight? Velcro? Super glue? Not even the most delicate of thighs are easily kept under control in the heat of a two-minute competition with funky music blaring and hundreds of spectators waiting to be impressed.

With all the creativity West Coast Swing allows, you would think that our body parts would move in harmonious synchronization. Notttt! Just because you can move the top part nicely doesn’t mean that your thighs and feet are gracefully following along--or, that they’re adding to the look you had hoped to create; namely, dance diva extraordinare.

Often times, the thrill of mastering one technical element is overshadowed by the onset of yet another imperfection, and it isn’t long before someone points out a new schleppy habit that needs addressing: feet, tummy, arms, head, and those wiggly thighs. Go ahead; face your demons, for they come in all shapes and sizes.

I see lots of dancers with "thighs wide open," and even though this stance may help to avoid tipping over in blustery weather, it simply isn’t pretty. Not only must we learn all the whips, wraps, and neat footwork, we must look clean and competent. This includes keeping your legs and feet in those pesky, yet "proper," foot positions, and keeping your weight down so that moo-ving your thighs doesn’t become an insurmountable task.

At a recent private lesson, my instructor was unable to keep his mouth wide shut as he noticed my thighs moving wide open. He proceeded to demonstrate the proper way to dance with thighs SHUT. The best part of this exercise was witnessing this big guy glide across the floor with his thighs tightly pressed against a small piece of paper as he demonstrated the proper technique for keeping the thighs closed. "Pardon my giggle," I said, "but I think my reality check has bounced? Am I really expected to dance like that?"

Each one of the elements of dance works to improve the other so I try to practice them one at a time and then together. Proper foot positions are supposed to help keep the legs closed. I said "proper," didn’t I? So, if you have improper foot positions, you can be sure your technique is gonna take a beating along with your ego.

I enjoy saturating my brain with visions of hot dancers. I give myself daily doses of old U.S. Open tapes. Then I copy what I see. This is difficult, unless you’re a monkey. I do this for a couple hours every evening in front of that old K-Mart mirror. Then, when the visual wears off I take a break, go climb a tree, and eat a banana. The next day I do it all over again. This visualization is invaluable for feeding my obsession and fanaticizing about the dancer I COULD become if only I had a heftier bankroll to spend on lessons, a good therapist, and cosmetic surgery to finish off the job.

Dancing is my passion, and it’s been difficult finding a comparable hobby on which to spend ALL my money. I eat, sleep, and dream of dancing with my eyes wide SHUT. Now, if I could only keep my thighs wide SHUT while my eyes are wide OPEN, my mission would be accomplished. I must go now, my next visual is coming in loud and clear, and I don’t want to keep my reflection waiting.