Bates Method International

Techniques: The Long Swing

For the Long Swing you can be looking out a window, standing in a field or in a forest, or just in a room - each place provides a slightly different experience, but they can all be very effective in their own ways.

There are four levels of difficulty in the Long Swing - the one described in this lesson is the easiest, and is the way beginners are generally taught. There are two preliminary steps, which are described next.

Note - many of the instructions can be varied, but for the purposes of clarity, and for initial learning, it is good to have clear boundaries around each step. Just bear in mind that you may wish to experiment at a later stage.

Preliminary 1 - Using a pointer

It is good to first practise the long swing with a pointer; something like a knitting needle works well, or just a long thin stick of similar length or a bit longer. The stick is held with both hands directly in front of you, so that the tip of it is pointing straight up or a little away, and at eye level or slightly below.

Key points:

  • Stick or similar pointer
  • Hold with both hands
  • Directly in front.

Preliminary 2 - Choreography

The Long Swing is a little trickier to learn without demonstration than the sway - the footwork particularly  seems difficult to learn with words, which is why I tend to teach it in correspondence as leading from the Sway. If you’re at all unfamiliar with the original instructions for the sway, it may be worth while just refreshing your memory on them. You can learn this part of the long swing without paying too much attention to what your eyes are seeing - that will come in later.

Learning the movement

First, stand with your feet about shoulder width apart and then gently rock from side to side as if you were going to practise the sway. Remember to let each heel lift from the floor in turn, and when you have a good motion going, perhaps noticing the movement around you as you already know, start to turn your upper torso, keeping the head and shoulders moving together, in the direction of your sway.

This means, that as you rock toward your left foot, turn your upper body to face that direction, then as you rock toward your right foot, turn your upper body to face that direction, to the right.

At this point you should find it reasonably comfortable to turn about 45 degrees to the left and 45 degrees to the right of centre.

Now, bring your attention to your heels. Firstly, allow your heels to turn further out. This should provide considerable ease with the turning at the top of your body - so much so that it becomes possible to do a full 180 degrees - 90 degrees to the left and right of centre without much trouble.

Imagine you can point with your heels. You will find the turning easiest if you think of pointing each heel in turn directly back and up to the wall behind you.

Close up of feet in long swing - note the heel has started to point out.

Close up of feet in long swing - note the heel has started to point out. The person is at this point turning to look to their left.

You may also find it comfortable if, when turning toward the foot you are about to stand on, the heel comes further in than where you originally started. Think of the way Charlie Chaplin would walk - with toes pointing out.

Close up of feet at mid-point of long swing.

Close up of feet at mid-point of long swing. The heels come together Charlie Chaplin style.

You are only in that position for a moment, before the heel of the other foot lifts, and then you’re turning it out again.

The Long Swing

Once you’ve got this feeling pretty easy, it’s time to add the visual part of it. For this, you just take up your pointer with both hands, and hold it at eye level. Look at the tip of it, and if all is going right, you should suddenly see that the world turns, like the swing of a pendulum, from one side to the other.

How it looks:

Long Swing 1. Body orientation to the right, hands holding pointer.

Do this for about five to ten minutes, and see how it feels. It’s unlikely that you will get unpleasant symptoms - sometimes people feel a little dizzy, sometimes even a little sick, but mostly it should be without any sign of discomfort. If you are feeling strange, it is OK to stop, rest, and palm, and try again later. If you feel it is easy, you are welcome to do it longer than ten minutes.

Photographs © 15 Second Art Ltd