The Patty Cake: R.I.P.

Rigid hand, fingers pointed straight in the air. You know this gesture. It’s the motion that invites you in for a “high five.”

It makes you feel good, accomplished, and you slap it cheerfully as if to say, “We succeeded as a team!” But its place in west coast swing has long past.

Most often seen in the sugar push, it is used as a tool to invite a compression connection. It had its heyday in the mid to late 80s when west coast swing was a flamboyant, herky-jerky good time, and appropriately so for classics such as Wham’s “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go,” or Wang Chung’s ever-delightful “Everybody Have Fun Tonight.”

But alas, times they have a-changed, and the patty cake has become a vestigial organ of the dance (and a detrimental one at that).

The patty cake eliminates the possibility of turns, spins and styling led with the leader’s right hand; a significant loss indeed! Pair that with the fact that the songs by favorites like John Legend and Adele do not match “cheesy” moves like the patty cake and you have a double whammy of lameness and missed opportunities.

The last 15 years have seen the patty cake give way to a symmetrical, mirrored motion between the hands. In other words, what your right hand does to create compression, your left hand does as well. This gives both the leader and follower infinitely more options for styling and movement.

So, ladies and gents, if you find your hand stiffly rising to compress with your partner in the painfully expired “patty cake” motion, knock that off and let this dead gesture rest in peace.

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