Swing Discussion Boards > Ballroom WCS?

Discussion in 'Swing Discussion Boards' started by Flyingkamakiri, Oct 9, 2009.

  1. Terpsichorean Clod

    Terpsichorean Clod Well-Known Member

    Ithink, how do you keep your ballroom and WCS separate? Is there some sort of switch that you just flip? Did you have solid grounding in one before you began learning the other?

    Also, are there any ideas you've brought from one to the other, especially like the improvisational musicality that seems to be commonly encouraged in WCS? :)
  2. Ithink

    Ithink Active Member

    jenny: By dabbling I mean, ballroom is still the primary discipline they compete in, they rarely compete in WCS, may come to a local event for social dancing only, etc. They never ever take lessons in it but think they know what they are doing because they know ballroom. That's what I mean by "dabbling". Ballroom dancers in my area do this sort of dabbling early and often but few actually take it seriously enough (or consider it its own technical dance) to even take a group class much less a private. But they SHOULD!

    TC: I keep them separate because they are:) It probably helps I only compete in standard now and don't really dance latin much, except socially (although I did compete in it before, for 5 years through pre-champ). I did have a fairly good grounding in ballroom when I took up WCS 3-4 years ago. I was already an open level dancer by then. But what made the separation happen is my attitude. It never even occured to me that I should dance WCS like I do ballroom. And watched people dance WCS, a lot, to pick up on the technical differences between the two (and there are MANY!). I also took a few privates that really confirmed what I already knew from watching: that it's a whole different animal.

    As for improvisation, that came pretty naturally and was actually a huge outlet for my innate musicality that I could never quite express in ballroom because it's so structured and technical. It also helps that I love the music WCS is danced to and my body just naturally responds to it when I dance. While I'd love to hit breaks in foxtrot, the structure of the dance is such that I cannot hijack my partner's lead, within his lead, like I can in WCS. So my hijacking outlet is WCS:)

    Overall, most ballroomers, I believe, just need a huge attitude adjustment (or eyesight adjustment) in general when it comes to other club/social dances. You'll see what I mean when you witness the stunned looks on people's faces in a club when ballroom dancers decide to show off their salsa moves. It's comical. There is a time and a place for competition-style , all-out dancing but it's NOT at a salsa club and it's NOT on WCS social floor. And ballroomers just DO NOT seem to get that, at all. It would be hilarious, if it wasn't so sad at the same time...
  3. jennyisdancing

    jennyisdancing Active Member

    Hmm, not much of that type of crowd in my area. There are ballroom people who learn a few WCS moves but they usually take at least a couple of classes.

    I don't know how someone would just start doing WCS, or any other dance for that matter, without some sort of lesson. I mean, I can't imagine attending a ballroom event and doing a dance that I totally don't know. It would just make a mockery of it, unless everyone agreed in advance that it would be done just as a fun/experimental thing (me being a follower, sometimes a leader might want to see if he could lead me in something just for the heck of it).
  4. Apache

    Apache Member

    Lets just be happy their syllabus for Lindy Hop didn't stick. The extremely few times I have ran into people who "knew" Lindy Hop from a Arthur Murray have resulted in hilarity.
  5. Ithink

    Ithink Active Member

    Jenny, OK they MAY have taken some sort of a group lesson or two of dubious quality but if you're trained in ballroom and you see WCS done, it's not a huge leap to assume that you can just copy the movement/step as you *think* it is being achieved.

    One of our local weekly socials for WCS just happens to take place within very close proximity to my alma mater which happens to have a very large collegiate ballroom club. The kids show up at the WCS dance occasionally en masse. Do they come early for the group lesson that always takes place right before the dance? No, they show up only for the dance, thus apparently assuming that they know everything there is to know about dancing/leading/following WCS already, no lesson needed. That's the kind of dabbling I am talking about.
  6. jennyisdancing

    jennyisdancing Active Member

    Again, I don't know how anyone thinks they will know how to do a dance with correct technique if they don't take any lessons at all.:confused:
  7. Ithink

    Ithink Active Member

    Yeah, I don't know that either...
  8. Peaches

    Peaches Well-Known Member

    /*global find*/ "WCS"

    /*replace all*/ "AT"

    Oy. :rolleyes:
  9. Peaches

    Peaches Well-Known Member

    Ithink, could you please point out what you see as the technique differences between ballroom/"ballroom WCS" and "real" WCS? Or to put it another way, what stands out when you see ballroom dancers attempting WCS? What do you work to eliminate from your dancing when you switch from BR to WCS?
  10. jennyisdancing

    jennyisdancing Active Member

    If you don't mind my answering as well, since I do a lot of WCS -

    I said this earlier -

    There's a groundedness to any form of swing. It's a "down" dance and some people seem more comfortable with an "up" style of dance such as ballroom or hustle.

    That is one key difference and, in a way, similar to when a ballroomer learns AT as well. There's a sense of being down into the floor with swing. Your center is very grounded. Your upper body posture can still be elegant and graceful but it comes from the core, with the shoulders, arms and head more relaxed than in ballroom. That's probably the quickest way to spot a ballroom dancer doing WCS; their head is way up and their shoulders are too far back.

    Also in WCS it's important to know how to pull your center back to achieve leverage, and bring it forward for compression. WCS connection, leverage and compression are unique features of the dance and are crucial for proper lead-follow and achieving the characteristic look of WCS.
  11. Ithink

    Ithink Active Member

    Let's see if I can articulate what I see as the differences...

    Ballroom dancing in general is very over-the-top. Nothing wrong with that; it's just how its developed over the years... By that I mean it's known for theatrical, exaggerated movements, very sharp contrasts, etc. Its main thrust is competition so you need to outact, outdance, outsharp everyone else on the floor. That also explains the loud makeup and costuming.

    WCS is, for lack of a more appropriate word, more "casual". Even when you compete in WCS, you can wear minimal makeup (although you could also go over-the-top if you choose) and understated costuming. Only routines really have much in the way of costuming at all and J&J contests are known for trying to simulate, in every way possible, including clothes worn, social dancing. So you wear nice pants and a nice top and some smaller competitions even have competitors wearing jeans. You should look presentable but in no way as done up as you would be at a ballroom comp.

    With those aesthetical descriptions it's easy to see how it would also translate to the dancing itself. When I dance ballroom at a competition, I perform, I emote very outwardly, I do as much as I can basically. Ballroom to me is akin to running a race.

    With WCS, it's like taking a nice, leisurely walk on the beach. The dance is more about the partnership, not about the audience. Your prime goal is to have a great, musical, expressive dance with your partner, to communicate with him/her via the connection and the musicality. It's not really about the audience unless you're performing a routine and even then the audience is addressed only some of the time as part of the routine's choreography. So that dichotomy of running a race v. just walking is one way to switch your mentality and what ballroom dancers have trouble doing. Ballroomers doing WCS looks like they are sprinting across the finish line...

    Another way they are different (and what really stands out to me when watching ballromers attempting WCS) is, as mentioned above, the musicality. Ballroom dancers are trained to find the rhythm in the music, the percussion, the beat and that's all they look for. It's a very simplistic understanding of musicality. So when they dance WCS, it looks like they are keeping beat but there is no musical interpretation to speak of. They pay no attention to the melody, the phrasing, the "breaks", the words... And their version of WCS dancing thus looks soulless, it looks simple, it lacks depth. WCS dancers consider music their partner in dance just as much as their actual partner. You learn to interact with the music and to incorporate its highs and lows into your dance.

    I hope that makes sense:) But those to me are the two main differences between the two that are really obvious to someone who straddles the fence between the two worlds and tries to do both equally well.
  12. Ithink

    Ithink Active Member

    I was gonna respond to what you said above earlier but forgot... The thing is, great/correct/efficient ballroom dancing is also VERY grounded, very reliant on grounding your center. Also, what you see in ballroom is very often NOT what is actually being done. To achieve the appearance you see, what ballroom dancers actually DO is not all that different from WCS. I've often been shocked at how similar the really good instruction for both really is in the nitty gritty of the two dance styles (in a lesson with Jordan I was actually stunned at how he was literally saying the same things I've heard from my ballroom coaches)... You have the appearance of being lifted up in ballroom but it's only because your center is very grounded and you use the floor all the time to create movement.

    The problem is, great ballroom dancing, because of its high technical difficulty is rare and what people think of as ballroom dancing may not be its ideal example. Most ballroom dancing you see is kinda like watching novice WCS, which isn't particularly grounded either.

    That's why I think the difference you point out isn't really a difference when comparing apples to apples (great WCS to great ballroom). To me the main differences are those I allude to above.
  13. jennyisdancing

    jennyisdancing Active Member

    I understand what you're saying. I'm not a ballroom expert but yes, of course there's groundedness in ballroom, in terms of technique. Any dance form requires proper use of your center. Ballet is the most "up" dance I can think of, but you still need that technique. What I meant to say is the "look" or "line" of ballroom is a more lifted, upward appearance than that of swing.

    And yes, of course, top ballroom pros understand the underlying technique concept. But your earlier posts had to do with amateurs who were not at that level.
  14. Ithink

    Ithink Active Member

    I suppose the "look" is yes, more lifted but it's just a look, it's not what's actually being done. I just wanted to make sure to point out that ballroom is not danced high, as what you wrote seemed to suggest, it just appears that way.

    Also, there is a huge variety of liftedness when it comes to top WCS pros so the "down-ness" of the dance isn't very uniform either. There are those who dance pretty "high" (like Jessica Cox who in general looks very ballroom-y to me when she dances) and those that don't (Sarah Vann Drake) but in WCS that's just attributed to their respective "style". Ballroom has a more uniform "look" (mostly because it ends up being the most efficient way to move) and "style" is usually primarily showcased through choreography.

    That's the thing though: the top ballroom pros may understand the underlying technique (which wasn't really a point of contention) but even they (and I am not even talking about lowly amateurs like me) have to make an effort to do what they are not trained to do outside of technique: listen to music, interpret music and not look like they are competing ballroom which, again, I see as the main differences between dancing ballroom and dancing WCS. A lot of them do NOT make that effort.
  15. Silveralsa

    Silveralsa New Member

    I won't use the entire quote, but this is dead on. Good summary!
  16. Peaches

    Peaches Well-Known Member

    So, if I understand correctly what is being said...

    While there are some differences in actualy technique, there are also plenty of commonalities. Regarding technique.

    But the main differences come from presentation (over-the-top versus "casual") and musicality (dancing to parts of the music other than the beat).

    Does that sum it up about right?
  17. jennyisdancing

    jennyisdancing Active Member

    I still also say that WCS uses compression and leverage far more than other dances, and all my teachers have emphasized that it is the key to the connection and look of the dance. To my knowledge, I believe certain ballroom moves use it, but it's not a regular part of the dance nor essential to lead and follow skills, as it is with WCS. Again, I'm not as familiar with ballroom so someone can correct me on this if I'm wrong.

    As for "casual" look of WCS, that's also true of any swing dance, compared to ballroom. And as for musicality, I would think/hope that any style of dance can involve dancing to something other than just the beat. Top ballroom couples that I've seen, certainly express many aspects of the music, as do AT dancers, etc.
  18. Ithink

    Ithink Active Member

    Peaches: Yes, you got it:) There are commonalities in technique, as Jenny said, just it would be expected in dance. There are only so many ways to move one's body efficiently... We are all limited/aided by gravity:) There are differences to be sure but commonalities abound.

    There are, however, differences in speed, presentation and use of music when creating the abovementioned movement.

    Jenny: the ballroom discipline WCS can be compared to best is, of course, latin. There is absolutely compression and leverage in latin, otherwise the dancers would not be connected properly and movement couldn't be led by the man and followed by the woman. Whether or not it's as pronounced as it is in WCS... Hmmm, well I know that it's a shorter connection, most likely because of the speed of movement involved, and very fast changes of direction that characterize ballroom latin these days. WCS simply doesn't have much of that, even in the fastest songs, because speed and sharpness aren't the characteristics of the dance (again with the race v. walk comparison). The character is more stretch-y, ooz-ey and therefore the connection is more extended, longer. I am not an expert on history of WCS but perhaps it has to do with the original music WCS was danced to (blues) and its emphasis on musicality and musical interpretation through body movement. I simply can't imagine having a latin type connection and trying to interpret the blues, even fast blues... Also, the leverage/compression you see in WCS today isn't nearly the same as it was even ten years ago. It has changed a lot! Probably not the least of the reasons for this change is the change in the music it's danced to. Music was faster 10 years ago and the connection was also very different from what it is today.
  19. jennyisdancing

    jennyisdancing Active Member

    Thanks...again, of course compression and leverage are used in other dances...I do salsa, and it's used there. WCS, though, does seem to do much more of it, especially with leverage. Let me put it this way, the starting/main dance position (the anchor) in WCS is supposed to be leveraged and that is something you do throughout the dance. And it's not just for the sake of musical interpretation. The leverage provides the technical basis for many moves.

    "First Lady of Swing" Skippy Blair explains it this way:

    (1) 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. (2) An Anchor is danced on the last two beats (last Unit) of each basic, fundamental Step Pattern in West Coast Swing. (3) A feeling of body leverage that balances the resistance of both partners. (4) Each partner is responsible for establishing their own individual anchor.

    Peaches, since you do AT, I think an example of a leverage move there would be a colgada? So, obviously it's used in other dances - but not as the standard position.
  20. Silveralsa

    Silveralsa New Member

    Another to remember, is that social WCS is usually improv'ed. You're not doing a routine, so like stated by others, connection is CRUCIAL. You have to be able to do what a friend called "Jedi-Swing". That's where you can follow, even if you eyes are closed because it's literally being led through good connection. Albeit some moves not recommended, like aerials... ;)

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