Swing Discussion Boards > Ballroom WCS?

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

  1. SadKumquat

    SadKumquat New Member

    WCS is a hybrid dance - lots of people who dance it come from another dance. Lindy, shag, ballroom, salsa, whatever. I did a couple of years of Lindy, ballroom and salsa before I settled on WCS. As such, stuff shows up in my WCS that comes from the other dances that I learned. However, my partner connection and my movement was developed over the course of many years of going to conventions and social dancing until my feet went numb.

    I initially learned WCS in a ballroom according to a syllabus. I also wince noticeably when I compare those days with how I dance now; the form I was taught in ballrooms is a pale shadow of what's danced on the circuit. The main difference is in the connection - it feels more organic than a ballroom lead.
  2. dbk

    dbk Well-Known Member

    I apologize if this is off-topic, but the thread seems to have wandered away anyway.

    I don't dance West Coast. I had an interest in it once upon a time. What turned me away? I'm a ballroom dancer, and I have no desire to become involved in a community that constantly hates on another form of dance without really understanding it.

    Every time I hear a WC dancer talk about ballroom, and how inferior it is to WC, I feel like they are comparing a struggling Silver-level dancer, who is a bit too wrapped up in choreography, hasn't learned to express musicality yet (even if they may feel it), and who has an interest in learning a fun new way to dance, to some magic old-school pro WC dancer.

    When will I bow down and say WC is far superior to ballroom? When a WC dancer takes a couple of Waltz lessons, asks me to dance, and gives me a wonderful Waltz with excellent ballroom connection, posture, and musicality. That seems to be what WC dancers are expecting of ballroomers when they take up WC -- that they immediately absorb WC connection, posture, and musicality.

    To be on topic:
    From what I've seen, there is a much blurrier line between social and competitive WC than with ballroom. There isn't the emphasis on being "big" and intense the way there is with comp ballroom. I found YouTube to be extremely helpful... just search for videos using the names of competitive WC dancers (I'm sure there's a list out there somewhere), the names of specific WC competitions, or just "West Coast competitive" / "West Coast competition".
  3. jennyisdancing

    jennyisdancing Active Member

    Hey...not all West Coast dancers hate ballroom...I do both, and so do many of my Westie friends. Hating is just wrong.

    And your topic observations are correct. Competitive WCS look, posture and styling are pretty much similar to social, except competition routines can have some non-leadable moves, lifts, etc. depending on the category.
  4. dbk

    dbk Well-Known Member

    Thanks... I don't doubt that a majority of West Coasters are like you :D
    It's the just the vocal minority that gets on my nerves.
  5. SadKumquat

    SadKumquat New Member

    I'd like to point out that my comments were confined to wcs in regards to connection in regards to circuit vs. ballroom. I couldn't tell if the subsequent comment had included mine in its zone of influence, so I'd thought I'd just clarify that. Though I don't do ballroom anymore, I enjoyed my time doing it and watching it. And it beats the heck out of double pneumonia. :)

    I should add that it took nearly a decade for me to understand wcs enough to dance it well. I'm not about to trash anyone who's just starting out.
  6. Steve Pastor

    Steve Pastor Moderator Staff Member

    And don't forget that WCS, just like Lindy Hop, was first danced in Ballrooms according to written records. Think Savoy BALLROOM in Harlem, and Golden West BALLROOM in Norwalk, CA.
    Lots of "Westies" have created their own mythology, it seems. Which is why I don't consider myself to be one, although I DO like the dance.
  7. SadKumquat

    SadKumquat New Member

    What mythology have you heard? (Hey, as long as we're drifting aimlessly)
  8. Steve Pastor

    Steve Pastor Moderator Staff Member

    Well, like how WCS broke away from the "studios" to become a really cool thing.

    And the first music that WCS was danced to was blues. Although many bands played blues among other tunes they would do, "blues" in a strict sense didn't become popular with whites until the mid-late 60s, and then it was "country blues". Songs listed by Haile and others include no blues, and the songs in the 50s films showing what people want to call WCS are early rock n roll songs. The semantics are such that "rhythm and blues" at that time was music made by blacks for blacks.
    It gets pretty convoluted. Bill Black's Combo played blues along with many other tunes, and one of his songs is mentioned in one book. The Combo was popular with blacks, but Black himself was a white former Western Swing musican who heled Elvis get his start.

    There are the Origin Myths.

    It looks like Sonny Watson, or someone, has made changes in their WCS page, but it's a good example of a mix of ???? that has been repeated over and over again.

    an excerpt
    In the 1940's Ms. Laurie' Haile (d.) was hired by Mr. Murray to document the dances set in Murray's curriculum and the current dances being done around town. This was no easy task, but she did it beautifully. She knew Dean Collins and some of the other dancers and documented what they along with the Sailors in San Diego and Long Beach were doing at the time. She called it "Western Swing" which is were we get the name "West Coast Swing." - end excerpt

    Well, it sure looks like "Western Swing" by Western Swing bands was the most popular music in LA in those days. And I keep finding more written records that people danced Lindy of Jitterbug to the music they played.
    So, if WCS, first known as "Western Swing" was what they did in LA, then who's dancing does Haile's dance represent?
    Or did she really transcribe what Dean Collins, et al do in the "Hollywood" films? In that case she made stuff up (It's a long story.) and wasn't describing what was going on in LA in general, or maybe the Oakies were dancing a "Sophisticated Swing" as "Western Swing" was also called (and in print) by 1960.

    Also, the Coaster, which is still supposed to be used in "ballroom WCS", got mixed up somehow, because Haile's Coaster is an anchor step.

    So, you might be able to tell that this needs to be put together in more comphrhensive fashion. You could cruise the "original music west coast swing was danced to" thread to see some of what I've found, and also what other people think!
  9. SadKumquat

    SadKumquat New Member

    Whoa, Nelly! Lots of interesting stuff in that thread. WCS history doesn't appear to be quite as well defined as with Lindy Hop only because there wasn't an extinction phase like Lindy had that had Frankie Manning serve as a single point of reference. The more I read, the more it seems that WCS was a case of parallel evolution all across the country, and only when you had cross pollination (conventions) all of those elements resolved themselves into something resembling cohesion. Hence you can have several different origins, and yet all of them can be true. As for the spirit of the dance as a reaction to the music of the times, it's seemed to have kept up well to the present day. The living dance moniker is true - to date, the funky swing/classic swing dustup, the cross pollination from shag, the interaction with lindy, all of these have influenced WCS style.
  10. Steve Pastor

    Steve Pastor Moderator Staff Member

    Well, I'd say that this is true only because Manning was still alive for the current generatio of dancers to emulate. But, Manning's style was most certainly not the only way to dance Lindy.
    Most Lindy Hoppers don't seem very interested in learning about the complexity of even what went on at the Savoy.
    And, extinction phase of Lindy? Only in the minds of this generation, and only if you think there was only one way to dance "Lindy" .

    And, although she is not well know, Lauré Haile, who was National Dance Director for Arthur Murray, and who was living in the LA area in the 40s, 50s, etc may have single handedly created the dance by being dogmatic about the slot. On film dancers look "slotted", but are free to change the orientation of the slot.
    Haile's position with AM made it possible to spread the dance across the country.
    Craig Hutchinson documented the differences among the slotted dances in the 80s.
    I just happen to be really interested in the very beginnings of "West Coast Swing".
  11. SadKumquat

    SadKumquat New Member

    I was thinking about Savoy style Lindy since that's the most referred to, but yes, it is true that other styles existed and thrived throughout the Savoy hibernation. The timing of the Swing revival was propitious indeed because Savoy became well positioned as a meme to take over.

    From what you mentioned about Haile I think she was important not necessarily as the creator, but as a definer. The dance did exist before her, but she actually gave it a form, which got expounded upon, messed around with and eventually defined again with people like Skippy Blair. In short, I guess she would be the external pressure that triggered natural selection...
  12. McArtor

    McArtor New Member

    The question is not learning ballroom first, the problem is that many ballroom instructors have never danced WCS in 10 years. The dance has evolved and changed, we use to coaster and bounce around like it was jive, so many instructors are stil teaching this old school style. WCS has not had a constant sylabus like many of the other Ballroom dances. So you can still learn propper WCS from a ballroom if the instructor is up to speed.

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