Swing Discussion Boards > Is West Coast Swing taught backwards?

Discussion in 'Swing Discussion Boards' started by plugger, Jul 5, 2010.

  1. JohnEm

    JohnEm Well-Known Member

    Well of course that's sort of the point I'm challenging.
    For me it's ok as an exception, as maybe styling or the opportunity
    taken or given for partner to do her own thing a bit.

    Sight is part of the connection and confirmation of being together in time.
    You may be be arguing that it isn't necessary but actually I think
    the feel of a rhythmic connection with your partner and with the music
    is part of the dance.

    I always come back to the argument too, if you get rid of the triple
    step has WCS morphed into something else? And if so, what exactly is it?
  2. jennyisdancing

    jennyisdancing Active Member

    No, I'm not saying that WCS should never have triple steps, of course that's the basic. I know there's artistic disagreement within the community about how much to play with that, and I want to avoid that philosophical discussion right now. But just on the technical side, from what I was taught, you shouldn't need to see your partner do a triple step to confirm that you are connected or keeping time.

    Rhythmic connection is part of dancing, certainly, but you can be in rhythm without doing simultaneous footwork. I mean, you could just hit "3" while I do "3-and-4", for example, and we'd still be in rhythm. And connection has to do with your center and your whole body in relationship to each other - not what your feet are doing. At least that is how I was taught.

    Yes, WCS has basic steps like any other dance, but I was taught its unique nature has to do more with the connection involving leverage, compression and anchoring.
  3. Dancelf

    Dancelf Member

    Last time I checked, there are a number of top pros who would say "yes"; that a drifting anchor is acceptable or preferred. And of course folks have been playing with single rhythm anchors for a long time now (though as an accent/embellishment, not as the rule).
  4. JohnEm

    JohnEm Well-Known Member

    Well you don't need to see your partner triple stepping but I prefer to feel
    it. I'm a rhythmic dancer and that footwork influences the movement of
    your body no matter how subtly. I feel that connection as well as probably
    seeing it. And it isn't watching feet - it's peripheral vision.
    You could, but now you're dancing a different rhythm to me and it
    certainly does affect your centre, no matter how subtly.
    Every other beat we may be together but please, not all the time.

    And of course it's what you've been taught that I don't particularly like.
    Teachers teach their own ideas, it doesn't make it right for everyone else,
    even if it's right for them in their eyes.

    It's a pattern dance like Rhumba, ChaCha, etc., open hold dances
    where a pattern to the rhythm is part of the connection, timing and character
    of the dance. In addition to that triple step pattern I'd say its unique character
    is elastic tension, compression and slotted travel. OK, plus the anchor in place.

    It's your thoughts, and the acceptance of whatever is taught as gospel
    that I don't agree with. I've had my say and will leave it there and
    hopefully we might hear some other views.
  5. jennyisdancing

    jennyisdancing Active Member

    I didn't say that whatever I'm taught is gospel. I already acknowledged there are different points of view. I am simply relaying what I have been taught. My teachers are, or have been, nationally ranking pros, and they do bring up the idea that what they are teaching is the current prevailing philosophy which is always evolving and changing.
  6. Steve Pastor

    Steve Pastor Moderator Staff Member

    This is from Skippy Blair whose been teaching WCS since before it was called West Coast Swing.

    (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.
    Historical Note: The term "ANCHOR" was coined by GSDTA in the early 1960s to clarify the difference between the "resistance" desired at the end of a West Coast Swing Pattern, and the lack of resistance caused by the 1961 version of a "Coaster" Step. This is one of the major milestones that changed the face of West Coast Swing.

    So, there nothing about a triple, or stepping in place, although that's what is usually danced. The "feeling of body leverage that balances the resistance of both partners" is, however, essential.

    And just to give you an idea why I cite Skippy...

    ESSENCE of a Dance -(Skippy Blair interpretation) -
    (1) The quality that allows us to identify the dance, even if we could not hear the music (2) In DANCE, we define "Essence" as that particular "Look" or "Feeling" that separates one dance from another (3) The feeling that the dancer experiences when he connects to a piece of music, while executing the specific dance form that matches that specific music. . (4) Many dances have similar Step Patterns,, but it is the difference, not the similarity of the dance that identifies it's "Essence." (5) Essence defines the "flavor,” "excitement" and "individuality” of a specific dance.
    Teaching Note:
    The "ESSENCE" of a new Dance requires focusing on the differences" rather than the "similarities" to dances which are already familiar. Through the years, the professional dance community has taken many “sidetracks” - simply because they identified something new - as something they already knew. Today we recognize that Salsa is NOT Mambo on the wrong beat - that Country Two Step was NOT Foxtrot starting in the wrong place - and that Niteclub Two Step is neither a Samba nor a Rumba.

    To me it's obvious that she has had LOTS of time to think, do, write about and teach dance!

    Are triples part of the essence of West Coast Swing?
    I'd say yes. But ?????

    P.S. It is not universally true that the 1961 "Coaster" had produced a lack of resistance. The Coaster is now understood as the woman stepping forward on the last step of the 2nd triple, but was not defined that way by Haile and others. I checked with Skippy and she was unaware of the text(s) I found.
  7. JohnEm

    JohnEm Well-Known Member

    Oh there is Steve, where she states

    (2) An Anchor is danced on the last two beats (last Unit) of each basic,
    fundamental Step Pattern in West Coast Swing.

    You can imagine how much I like her idea of "essence" and differences
    defining different dances. I'll probably write more on this in response
    to jennyisdancing.

    There seems to be an obsession with cross-influencing of dances
    at present presented as fusion, whereas I think we should be working
    on maintaining and clarifying the identifying differences if anything.

    At the last WCS weekend I attended we had a leading USA couple over
    who talked about an ongoing project to document WCS and presumably
    set some standards. There's good and bad in that idea, depending entirely
    on the quality of its execution, but has that come to fruition and, if so,
    with what results?

    Sorry, you've lost me here. It's two years since I spent any time
    on WCS - it lost out to Tango, also suffering influences of a similar
    nature though this time both from within and without.
  8. JohnEm

    JohnEm Well-Known Member

    But your statements imply that you are treating it as gospel. I know
    it sounds personal because I'm having this debate with you but I hope
    you appreciate that I appreciate your willingness to have such a debate.

    And you started the excellent WCS Follower thread over 3 years ago
    which seems to have a life of its own. I've only read the first and
    last pages so far!

    And here we disagree:

    Oh dear, "current prevailing philosophy". What? It's a "only" a dance.

    Let's concentrate on the evolving and changing. Dances do exactly that,
    usually evolving out of an existing one until it is has an identity
    of its own because it is recognisably different. Often they have started
    by people dancing a fast recognisable dance to slower music, Tango out
    of Milonga maybe, WCS out of Lindy. They take on a life of their own
    because of the possibilities available from the slower steps and the need
    to fill the time so more travel, rise and falls in the slow waltz, travel
    in the slot for WCS etc.

    The point I'm making is this emergence of dances came about by dancers
    dancing and experimenting and not from teacher's "philosophies". Times
    have changed and we don't have large dancing "communities" everywhere.
    So now in most cases new and changing dances are driven by commercial
    and/or professional interests.

    Sometimes is mentioned that we should "respect" the dance especially
    in relation to Tango. I think it would be better instead of such a vague
    expression we should respect the legacy that those large number of
    experimenting social dancers left us. Their legacy is indeed in our hands
    but I don't believe that it is safe in the hands of teachers and professionals
    who have commercial pressures and inbuilt cross-polluting influences
    from other dance experience.

    Their motivation is usually that of filling classes. You see them at weekends
    only dancing with each other, being spurred on by each other on even if silently,
    to go away and do "bigger and better" things. Competitions don't help
    and WCS seems infested by them and probably with professionals taking part.

    The accent is on the visual and the eye-catching and people seeing those
    trendy appealing "moves" want to do them, no matter whether the more purist
    amongst us regard such things as inconsequential adornment.
    Unfortunately inconsequential adornments are taking over from the essence
    of the dance and it's the dance that will become inconsequential.
  9. Chris Stratton

    Chris Stratton New Member

    That sounds like the kind of argument which reduces to 'if you are able to dance more than I get to, your motives are suspect'
  10. JohnEm

    JohnEm Well-Known Member

    Not really constructive is it, but having read other posts elsewhere
    I wouldn't expect much different. Don't knock what you don't comprehend.

    And in any case, I'm in the lucky position that I can dance as much,
    or as little, as I want so your point truly is irrelevant.
  11. Chris Stratton

    Chris Stratton New Member

    Yet your post was sure critical of the motives of those who are dancing more than you - essentially you define a purist as someone not doing enough dancing to be tempted to do something you don't approve of.
  12. JohnEm

    JohnEm Well-Known Member


    That deserves only the contempt that it deserves.
  13. tangotime

    tangotime Well-Known Member

    Ive debated this point for more yrs than you need to know.. its generally couched in the " its evolution " statement.

    Its happened in every genre; and yes, I do accept that technique, to some degree , needed to change.

    The dangers of following trends, particularly in foundational movements, may eventually obscure the very essence of the original format .

    Embellishment at advanced levels should be taught as that.. knowing the difference, and making the distinction is what informed Prof. do ( I Hope ! )..

    I believe its noteworthy to mention, that some changes were brought about by the changes in the written music ( 2/4 to 4/4 for e.g.) had a huge impact on how we danced and taught )...
  14. JohnEm

    JohnEm Well-Known Member

    And presumably then, the debate will go on for ever?

    You wish!

    Ah the music, the influence of the music.
    It was a conscious decision to avoid mentioning the music
    for fear of clouding the issue so will continue to do so
    for the moment at least even though dance and music
    are, or should be, inseparable.

    I guess you are referring to Tango in mentioning the change from
    2/4 to 4/4 time? I've always wondered why BsAs dancers tolerated
    the change from 2/4 to 4/4 and why that musicianship change occurred.
    I'm not a musician and know nothing of the history of musical notation.
    I just hear it, dancers need to absorb it, not analyse it.

    So, back to WCS . . .
  15. tangotime

    tangotime Well-Known Member

    Probably( its been going on thru my prof career for over 50yrs )...

    Not only Tango, but also Q/Step and Mambo/Salsa ...

    There are some who do not agree with the 4/4 time sign. in Tango...

    As to NOT analysing it.. here we depart.. I am also not a musician, but... I, as a prof. like to know why the changes take place.. I dont always readily accept change without good theory, after all ,it does affect how I need to approach the dances I teach, and might need justification.

    In so saying, I also accept that music is "fluid ", but I,m not always ready to abandon past tried and true theories ..
  16. JohnEm

    JohnEm Well-Known Member

    Well as a professional, you have different or additional challenges.
    Your approach seems to be one I can live with.

    And now, I'm off for a day of Tango . . . . .
    to brave the wild floors of London!
  17. jennyisdancing

    jennyisdancing Active Member

    Hey I'm always up for a good debate! :)

    No, I don't take what my teachers say as gospel. And anyway, WCS is one of those dances where 10 teachers could have 10 different opinions about certain things.

    Let's put it this way, in regards to our discussion about triple steps/anchor steps: After a few months of learning and practicing WCS and observing advanced dancers, I started to realize, "hey, wait a minute...I don't technically need to do a triple step on the anchor, do I? I could substitute other footwork, or even body movement, depending on what works with the music, just as long as I provide the right connection with my center going back." And sure enough, as I reached more advanced level classes, they taught exactly this.

    Tangotime has it right:
    As I've mentioned elsewhere, there's that old jazz musician saying, "learn the chord changes, then throw them out." The foundation still needs to be there to understand how to alter it.
  18. Dancelf

    Dancelf Member

    It seems odd to be tossing about such strong conviction when you've been out of the loop....

    Somebody has decided to try to bell the cat? I wonder who...

    You'll want to talk with Mario Robau Jr about this - he's very strongly in the camp that modern trends are killing off the old dance.

    That said, that war has already been lost - it's just a matter of time before the old-time, hard liners go away, one way or the other.

    That said, my opinion is that you've got your cause and effect turned around. Local scenes are shaped by those who invest in their dancing, and they in turn are shaped by what they see when they travel - ie watching, and getting coaching from, the top competitors. The evolution becomes inevitable right around 2001, when the first competitive juniors come of age....
  19. Steve Pastor

    Steve Pastor Moderator Staff Member

    Regarding music and swing...
    Several authors write that the adoption of 4/4 and abandoning 2/4 was one of the factors that made "swing" possible. This began in the late 20s/early 30s and became a huge trend when Benny Goodman broke out in 1935 after playing in LA, Chicago, and returning to New York.

    Western Swing, the music, which did indeed swing, but was to a large extent popular regionally rather than nationally in the US gave way to "the lock step 4/4" of the honky tonk genre of CW music.

    Similarly, mainstrean swing bands were more or less replaced by vocalists, bebop, R&B, latin rhythms, boogie woogie, for a number of reasons very soon after the war. BUT, they continued playing and having an influence on dancers as documented by Laure Haile. Similarly, Western Swing continued influencing what rockabillies and other CW musicians played into 50s.

    So, the change from 2/4 to 4/4 was essential to development of swing music and dance.
  20. Steve Pastor

    Steve Pastor Moderator Staff Member

    She write that you have to take three steps on those last two beats, far as I can tell. Many, many variations have been proposed for those two beats as far back as Laure Haile in the 50s.

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