West Coast Swing

Discussion in 'Swing Discussion Boards' started by huey, Jun 16, 2004.

  1. huey

    huey New Member

    Dear all,

    In the UK, we don't get much 'West Coast Swing' (unless unbeknown to me it's the same as another type of dance)

    Can someone please tell me:

    - What is it?
    - How does it differ from Lindy Hop, particularly re. suitable music?
    - Are there any free video clips on the internet?
     
  2. DWise1

    DWise1 Well-Known Member

    You could use your favorite search engine to find various histories about its origin, many of them apocryphal. And others have shared some URLs of video clips, as I'm sure that they will again. I can just speak here as a student who "swings both ways" (ie, both East Coast and West Coast -- AKA ECS and WCS).

    WCS strongly emphasizes the slot, which the lady owns and travels along. There are a few special cases where she is to be moved out of the slot, but for most of the dance she will remain in that slot and part of the guy's job is to get out of her way -- she has license to run over him if he doesn't, though most of our ladies are too well behaved and very rarely exercise that option. OTOH, ECS is rounder with the lady sometimes going around the guy and a move could end facing any direction; WCS is linear, the lady almost never goes around the guy, and each move ends either in the direction it had started or a complete 180 degrees about. As a result, you can pack more WCS dancers on a dance floor safely than you can ECS and Lindy dancers.

    This difference between ECS and WCS is pointed out in one of the stories I've heard of the origin of WCS. A club in Long Beach had a long and narrow dance floor that could not accommodate very many couples without them bouncing off of each other all the time. So they adopted the slotted style to maximize use of the dance floor and minimize the injuries. Now buy me another drink and I'll tell you another story [grin].

    ECS (& especially Lindy) tends to be more knees-bent slightly crouched down lookin'-cool while WCS tends to be more erect and sophisticated (appearing aloof to some observers). Lindy often has a bounce to it; WCS rarely. One running joke is that WCS dancers dance that way so that they can hold their drinks while dancing and not spill them.

    Many moves carry over from ECS to WCS. However, one really big difference is that the lady frequently rock-steps in ECS whereas she rarely does so in WCS -- I saw some experienced WCS ladies start to learn Lindy and they had a terrible time with having to rock-step all the time. Also, ECS makes frequent use of closed position, whereas WCS is mostly in open position.

    In WCS, the move starts with the guy rocking back on 1, which causes the lady to step forward. The 6-count and 8-count rhythms are the same as in Lindy (1 2 3&4 5&6 and 1 2 3&4 5 6 7&8, respectively). The final triple-step is called the "anchor step" in which you fix your position on the floor and hold it, leaning back against your connection with your partner with a few pounds of pressure as she does likewise. That anchor gives you the connection to start the next move.

    Much of the art of WCS is in the freedom it gives the lady to "syncopate" her steps; ie, to play with the rhythm and to throw in fancy styling. The guy's job is to give her those opportunities so that she can look great out there; we're taught that when she looks good, we get half the credit just by standing there. For example, the sugar push in ECS is pretty bland and most ECS dancers don't use it much; the sugar push in WCS is used a lot because it gives the lady a golden opportunity to use her syncopations.

    WCS can be danced to a wider range of styles of music than can ECS. Blues is often popular and the dance lends itself to slinker, sexier moves. I've seen those danced with a lot of head loops, body wraps, and changes in the lady's forward and backward movement (whereas in ECS we can play more with changing the direction of her turns and spins). I especially remember dancing to Queen ("another one bites the dust") and it worked extremely well; I cannot imagine trying to do ECS or Lindy to the same song.

    Hope that gives you an idea.

    Oh, and WCS uses whips instead of swingouts. Though it kept the Lindy circle (or at least we've been taught it in WCS).
     
  3. westiemonkey

    westiemonkey New Member

  4. Spitfire

    Spitfire Well-Known Member

  5. jdavidb

    jdavidb New Member

    I'm also getting the impression from watching wcs that their whip is not the center of the universe like the swingout is in lindy hop.
     
  6. pygmalion

    pygmalion Well-Known Member

    No. The whip is not the center of the universe. It's fun and there are a bunch of variations. But there are other things to do. :wink: :)
     
  7. DWise1

    DWise1 Well-Known Member

    The under-arm turn and sugar push are the guys' favorites. We call them our "thinking steps" because it gives us a chance to try to think of what to do next. Doing a whip doesn't give us any time to think.
     
  8. Vince A

    Vince A Active Member

    Absolutely!!! I rarely use whips - standard whips - but mostly varied versions of the whip that I use to set up the next pattern, change the slot direction, etc! Any good experienced WCS leader would have maybe 10 to 20 variations of the whip, and never repeat any of them in the same dance.

    And I agree with the "sugar-push" and "right-side-pass with an under arm turn" as giving us men a synaptic pause giving us time to think about that next dazzling, knock-her-off-her-feet, pattern.
     
  9. jon

    jon Member

    Why shouldn't I repeat them if I feel like it? I don't dance in order to demonstrate every single pattern I know without repeating myself, but to connect with my partner and the music. Besides, I still need to work on my whip basics.
     
  10. love2swing

    love2swing New Member

    I'm just beginning to learn WCS. Any tips on how to master this dance? I really enjoy it so far and it's so disheartening to watch those people that are really good and long to be at their level quickly!
     
  11. DWise1

    DWise1 Well-Known Member

    The advice you should receive would depend in large part on whether you are a lead or a follow (ie, on your gender). On thing that makes WCS really hard for someone to "just follow" without knowing their part is that most of the time the man and the woman are doing completely different moves; the moves are not mirrored like in ECS. You have to learn your part.

    The good thing about that aspect of WCS is that two people of different skill levels can dance together pretty much each at their own level.
     
  12. Spitfire

    Spitfire Well-Known Member

    Welcome aboard love2swing, :D

    I've spent the past 4 months learning WCS myself and have enjoyed the experience tremendously. 8)
     
  13. love2swing

    love2swing New Member

    I suppose I should have metioned that I am a follow. Thanks for the advice! Are there any videos out there that are good? I'm skeptical of videos, so I want to know if it's worth it before I buy one.
     
  14. DWise1

    DWise1 Well-Known Member

    Nothing beats learning a move with an actual partner; unlike some other dances, I can't see how a door knob would make a good WCS practice partner. Videos can be alright for getting ideas about a new move, but you'll still need a partner to try that move out with.

    The only video I have is a Frankie Manning that my in-laws gave us, but that's for Lindy, not for WCS. Someone else will need to advise you there. Though you might find something to check out at a video rental store (our local mom&pop has an instructional video section that I haven't looked at yet) or in the public library; just a thought.

    Since I don't know just what your level is (mine is intermediate), I apologize beforehand if I talk down to you.

    One thing that our intermediate WCS teacher had to constantly correct our follows on is to wait for the lead on 1. Beginning and early intermediate follows can get into the habit of anticipating the lead and end up "rushing" in, often by making the last step, 8, a step forward. One way to protect against this is to make sure to do a good solid anchor that leans back (about 3 to 5 lb).

    A second thing is to learn syncopations. A lot of WCS moves, eg the sugar push, are meant to allow the follow to show off the fancy footwork variations, called syncopations, that she can do. You've learned how to do a regular underarm turn and a regular sugar push. If they haven't yet, have somebody teach you one simple syncopation. Practice it and use it until you can throw it in during a dance with no problem. Then learn and perfect a second one. Then a third one, etc. And thus build up a vocabulary of syncopations. A video might help to give you ideas about a new syncopation you'd like to learn, but you'll probably still need to have somebody walk you through it. Another difficulty with syncopations is that that's waht they are; you'll be taking the two beats that you're usually triple-stepping in and will be dividing those beats up differently. You may need to have your instructor explain that idea to you.

    Hope that helps.
     
  15. love2swing

    love2swing New Member

    Thanks! That does help a lot. I'm just starting to learn WCS, and I do have a partner who is really excited to learn it as well. We do take lessons at a studio in our town, but I was just curious as to if there was a video that could help us along when we're just practicing at home. Thanks a lot again!
     
  16. Spitfire

    Spitfire Well-Known Member

    Here's a site for WCS videos; one of many.

    Carrie Lucas
     
  17. jdavidb

    jdavidb New Member

    Let's see if I can come up with good instructional videos. I haven't bought any of these, but I'll give it a shot since I shop for this sort of stuff often. I hope I don't screw up & recommend something that's no good.

    Here's where I'd look first for WCS instructional video: starlightdance The Hot Moves WCS videos have free previews. Expensive stuff, but I wouldn't buy any one couple's entire collection anyway. You've gotta spread your instructional data out in order to not look like "that instructional video couple". This is the place I wish I had bought waltz videos from (which I will do soon).

    I have seen thedancestore's waltz video, and I must say I'd recommend looking elsewhere for waltz... but why? Because a whole bunch of what they did on it looked more like WCS, and they didn't even tell about hesitations or consecutive turns. Their WCS video happens to have free demo clips on their site. So, maybe their WCS videos are their strong ones. Here's the swing part of the site: thedancestore

    Here are 12 more videos that I know nothing about: dancevision west coast swing
     
  18. pygmalion

    pygmalion Well-Known Member

    I wouldn't recommend the Ron Montez tapes to a swing person. They're really ballroomy, IMHO. I have the bronze and silver ones.
     
  19. love2swing

    love2swing New Member

    Thanks jdavid and pygmalion. I'm looking at the ones on the starlight site and they look ok I guess. Do videos actually help a lot, when they are used in addition to lessons at a studio?
     
  20. jdavidb

    jdavidb New Member

    Ok thanks. Ron Montez would be on the dancevision site... 3rd out of the 3 I mentioned. I don't really know what you mean by ballroom-y. Could it be that they don't really get down because they're being instructional?

    Videos aren't for everyone, but they do the trick for me. Even if they don't provide the path to expertise for someone, they'll definitely speed things up if you work on what they're teaching (if the video is worthy).

    It's also a matter of what styles you're learning. If you wanted to learn ballet, I'd say just watch the videos to learn what things look like, learn some ballet vocabulary, but don't try to do any of it until you're in class.
     

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