Swing Discussion Boards > Why do people critique and boss me in West Coast?

Discussion in 'Swing Discussion Boards' started by Me, Jul 20, 2009.

  1. Me

    Me New Member

    Okay, hopefully this thread will be exploratory and not inflammatory.

    I will speak from personal experience, and hopefully it won't upset too many people. My honest experience... Of all partner dances I have participated in, WC swing is by far the least enjoyable social dance experience for me.

    For whatever reason, there are leads who think it is their duty to immediately launch into criticism of my swing. Immediately as in the following scenario: walk walk, triple, triple<----- You need to coaster/You need to anchor/I don't like the way you are anchoring/You should anchor on your front foot/You should anchor on your back foot/You need to bend both knees there/I just went to a workshop where they.../ETC.

    I shift to whatever their preference is so they'll shut up and dance but no, that isn't the end of the fun. The real fun begins when they decide to "lead" me through some stupid trick or pattern that I miss because they didn't lead it, so now they're going to spend the rest of the dance "teaching" it to me.

    This behavior completely ruins the dance for me.

    What I seek to learn is why this happens, constantly, in WC Swing. I do not have to put up with this sort of mess in most other dances. Is this just a part of WC swing?
  2. Larinda McRaven

    Larinda McRaven Site Moderator Staff Member

    Happens to me too... when I go WCS dancing. Lots of people will start to lead me and then say "ooew, a ballroom dancer..." with a disdainful look.

    And it all the same critiques... my coaster is all wrong, my anchor is not right, my connection is too connected, I follow too easy (?), I should face them on a side pass, I should not face them on a side pass, I spin too quick, I should to tap not triple.... I don't take it personally anymore, I just assume they are a very verbose bunch who have a very specific idea of what they want WCS to look and feel like.

    My knowledge of WCS is a mix from Ballroom, CW, and Swing people... and they are ALL VERY DIFFERENT, none of them right and none of them wrong, just very different. And I don't always keep it straight which group of people I am in the company of and I simply do whatever of the techniques I feel easiest to resond to a lead with, which may or may not be the appropriate technique for that crowd of people.

    I don't woirry about it anymore. I just let them talk and I smile and dance, and say "thank you!" when it is over.
  3. Steve Pastor

    Steve Pastor Moderator Staff Member

    WCS aka Western Swing was first documented by the Lauré Haile, Arthur Murray
    National Dance Director, Lauré Haile, an accomplished and dancer who knew music and wrote about it. Before this, it's all sort of hearsay and "oral history" as to where it came from. All of the music Haile listed to practice to was Big Band stuff.
    So, WCS, as far as we can tell from the written record, WAS a Ballroom dance when it stated out.
    We can see what looks like WCS in Bakersfield, CA "circa" 1950s. with people dancing to what has to be "Western" band. So, people may have done the dance to "country" in the early days. But it didn't make "mainstream" country until the 80s, or so. (I should look that up again.
    As far a Swing people, WCS people? or Lindy swing people or????
    (I wonder if there was a separate style that was danced exclusively as that style in the 40s or even early 50s. Haile uses words like NEVER and ALWAYS in her description.)

    WCS rivals Argentine Tango in the current emphasis on "freedom", interpretation, and an equal partnership. In other words, it's complicated like that.
    Unlike AT, however, there are no practicas. (I like to say that any night out at the Country Western place, especially Saturday, is practica night.)

    Given the clear distinction that is made in AT, the milonga is for dance...period; the practica is for "practicing" and exchange of information, if you wish; and the lack of that distinction in other venuses, I can see why WCS "leaders" find it hard to keep their comments to themselves.

    It's kind of funny, though, but maybe indicative...
    At a "swango" lesson I took recently, the male teacher made a big deal about the fact that he had to "be the man" and "Lead" in Argentine Tango.
    I found it rather humorous, but, I think it does point up the fact that people who teach WCS, and probably the entire community, is confused about the nature of the dance and the lead / follow dynamic.

    I got comments in a lesson I took a couple? of years ago (Skippy Blair was in town and I wanted to check her out!) such as "I don't like you pulling me."
    Well, if you don't like being led, why are you trying to do a partner dance?
    (Just like AT, resistance/pressure, etc, can be highly variable.)

    And, just like AT, a lot of what you hear is often misinformation from an incomplete understanding of the dance, or a conviction that the way they learned is the correct way, as Larinda writes (although Skippy Blair for one says the exact opposite of that).
    Still, there are many voices out there.
    (Even by 1971 there were notable differences between the two written descriptions of the dance I could find up until that date.)

    So there you go. It's a lot like AT in being complicated, but there are no rules telling people that they should shut up if it's not a practice session.
  4. wooh

    wooh Well-Known Member

    This may very likely be the underlying issue. Even over the years, WCS has become very different from what it used to be. So everyone has their idea of how it should be done.
    As for the constant critique you experience? That just seems annoying. I'd be tempted to do some creative knee styling. :evil:
  5. Larinda McRaven

    Larinda McRaven Site Moderator Staff Member

    Yes, every sub-group has their own interpretation, and so I understand their critiques to be more about "When in Rome...."

    But I think what Me is frustrated by (and what I sometimes wonder about) is "why the constant nagging?".... It is far more constant than I have ever encountered in the ballroom world, or CW, or AT world.

    And so again just based on that experience I tend to assume it a cultural norm for that group.
  6. Spitfire

    Spitfire Well-Known Member

    Sorry that both of you ladies have had such experiences. I haven't heard of this happening at the WCS venues I generally attend and haven't had it happen to me myself from any follows. I just let them dance and adapt accordingly and still I can have great fun with things. These guys that you both refer to, are they at a more advanced level? You'd think that they would be able to do the same.
  7. blink

    blink New Member

    OMG, this is so totally true. A group of my friends feel exactly the same way. It happens ALL THE TIME. I have taken group and privates for years and I still get this from many of the leads. It is a major problem. I am not sure why this, maybe for some of the reasons mentioned already, but it is very common and very real.

    Every dance has its issues but for WCS this is definitely one of the major ones. Freaky.
  8. Me

    Me New Member

    Thank you, Larinda. I feel so much better now, lol! Silly how you feel better when somebody else understands your own frustration, even though it means they have gone through it, too. Seriously though, you describe exactly the type of situations I keep running into.

    Wooh, evil suggestion about the innovative knee styling. I like it! :twisted:

    Steve you touch on some interesting points. Yes, I have been told that WC allows for much freestyle, so long as it does not disrupt the dance or take options away from the lead (though some people seem to think it can be fun for the lady to hijack now and then). Yet for something that is supposed to be freestyle, I sure do have a lot of men telling me how to dance. That is a contradiction that I do not understand. I don't mind it if the lead shouts out, "Okay, here comes a free spin!" That can be fun. What I detest is, "Alright now, I'm going to set you up for a spin, and I want you [blah blah blah]."

    You also point out that there are no clear practica rules for WC swing. That I am willing to go with... but there are some things I don't quite understand. Maybe things are different in swing, but it is my understanding in general that it is rude to instruct or critique other dancers, even in a classroom setting. It seems there are so many more people offering unwanted criticism during social dances that it makes me wonder if the "rules of conduct" I suppose I can call them, are different for swing? I mean these guys spend so much time talking about what should/should not be done.

    Spitfire, it really doesn't seem to matter what the level of the lead is. Most seem to believe they must "fix" me the minute I do something differently from what they know or prefer. When I am with the more advanced dancers, unless they have taught me in the past, many of them will not instruct me or critique me while we dance, but still there are those that do, and again, it seems to be more of this in WC than in other dances. It really seems like a fun dance and I enjoy the range of music. I really want to dance this, however, the instruction and criticism that seems to come with it is a very strong deterrent.

    Welcome to the DF blink! So, you are having the same issue that I am. How many of your friends are leads? Do they complain of the follows in WC bossing them? I've had a couple of gentlemen complain to me about bossy women in WC.
  9. Chris Stratton

    Chris Stratton New Member

    I wonder if the WCS guys are having worse luck at non-verbal communication than those you dance with in other partner dances, or if it's that the result of the communication problems in WCS are verbal complaints and those offend you more than silent but physical manifestations of problems in other dancers?
  10. blink

    blink New Member


    Hi Me,

    I have been here for a long time, just don't post much.

    Again, all dances have their issues. I have been dancing for years and years.

    My friends in WCS are almost all females follows. Most have been turned off by WCS by the lead chatter we are discussing. Most of it is inappropriate (social dance is not the time for instruction) and incorrect. I have been doing WCS for years, privates, group and a few competitions, and I have at least a basic to good understanding of the dance.

    I still try to go out to dance WCS. I do my best to ignore the "chatter." But I often opt out and do other dances. Again, all dances have their issues, but it is really hard to ignore someone when they are talking down to you while you are dancing. And often times these leads won't take a hint and won't stop the chatter. There are plenty of things I could say directly but most of it would be rude (at least in my mind) so why say anything?

    I feel like it is a control issue but that is a subjective opinion. But it is a real problem. And it is nice to see it being discussed here. I really do like WCS and it is sad to steer away from it because of this. And it isn't just me but a lot of my other dance females friends.

    Again, I DO like WCS.
  11. kayak

    kayak Active Member

    Do you think the guys are really nagging or more likely inviting you to join in a discussion? There seems to be more of a misinterpretation of the intent than a secret confederation of bad leaders. The interesting thing with WCS is almost nothing is mirrored. Even a simple sugar push has each person doing two very different techniques and needing to know their own part. So if the lady doesn't do her part as the guy expects, the whole dance starts to break down. Granted, a good leader should be able to follow the follower, but that ability takes a while to build.

    The same is true of the followers. To be able to free form, most ladies need to be in specific patterns or places. So they are pretty demanding that their leaders get them to the right spot. Eventually, ladies have a huge toolchest and can fill in something cool in most spots. Again, that takes a while.

    So it seems to me like each person having such different rolls with almost no mirroring makes communication in WCS such a challenge. That is why westies spend so much more energy focused on connection than most other dances. If the connection is struggling, verbalizing is the next best option isn't it? Then, we just try to find dancers whose communication style match up with our own.
  12. tsb

    tsb Well-Known Member

    i like steve's observation about the distinction of practica and milonga in AT.

    This situation reminds me of why rotating partners in class helps us have a more realistic view of ourselves - if a figure works with everyone except one partner, the odds are good that it's the one partner. Sometimes you are part of the rest of the class, sometimes you are the one partner. Certainly, there's no point in personalizing bad behavior if it is directed at everyone impartially, OTOH, if these guys are not acting in a manner i would consider boorish with any other follows the entire evening....
  13. tsb

    tsb Well-Known Member

    someone i consider a dance godmother of sorts once made the observation that she loves WCS, she just doesn't like most of the people who dance it. i've adopted the same perspective myself. but i've also learned that EVERY genre has its idiosyncrasies & biases, yet believes that *their* genre does not have any.
  14. tsb

    tsb Well-Known Member

    just go to youtube and look for WCS advanced jack & jill, particularly swingdiego results and you'll get unchoreographed WCS that illustrates this.

    yeah. there are some less experienced follows i would prefer dancing with because i feel more comfortable with the level of the connection between us, which for some reason is not present with certain more experienced follows. but it just is what it is.
  15. Larinda McRaven

    Larinda McRaven Site Moderator Staff Member

    Like I said, it is almost always prefaced by a "ballroom" comment. I get it that in ballroom studios WC is often taught and danced very unmusicaly, but come on... I am not unmusical, and I can follow just about anybody, doing anything, anytime. So to pick on me and say "We don't do a tap there, we do a triple step." is just being petty. I can pretty much riverdance my feet and a lead would never feel a change of rhythm in my connection if I didn't want him to... so whats the big deal? Except that I feel "different", choice in pattern or connection may be theoretically correct and workable, just very unexpected for the norms of that group.

    Funny Story**
    I took a few lessons with a really big name Westie, just to see whats up. After first criticizing all of the "junk ballroom music" I had, (which a great amount of it I had Shazamed from local WCS dances) he danced with me for a minute and then prceeded to say something like "Well this is just horrible, you have to forget everything you know and we have to start from scratch". I said "Ok, lets go, tell me what I am doing wrong!"

    He taught me 5 different directions to do my anchor step.

    For two hours.

    At one point he increased the weight of his connection. So I increased my weight in response. He got heavier again. So did I. He got heavier still, and so did I. Eventually he stopped and said "See, the heavier you dance the worse it gets. We never dance that heavy because you think it makes you dance bigger, but really your steps just got shorter." I was like WHAT are you talking about? I only ponied up and followed what I was given, how am I wrong? And what kind of non-technical excuse of an answer was that?

    And then he showed me another anchor step for the last hour.

    So now I get it. I can freeform all I want, but I only have 6 anchors to pick from. :)
    Rakatakaboom likes this.
  16. Larinda McRaven

    Larinda McRaven Site Moderator Staff Member

    I am glad to hear this. Perhaps it is just the specific crowd that I encounter. And I think for me it comes more from the intermediate guys. The more beginner ones are just happy someone is following their blunders. The advanced ones don't say anything, but they don't come back either. The intermediate ones nag non-stop. But that I think it rather true of any style of dance, even ballroom. It is just the AMOUNT of nagging that happens that is astounding.

    And I have an extrememly good friend who does CW. Retired Masters competitor and now judge. When I have gone dancing with him at the CW bars in his town he is continually feeding me information. But he is a dear dear friend and I would never take offense at him trying to help me "fit in" to his world. I absorb as much as I can from him as he very discreetly corrects me. So then I try to take this attitude with me to the Westies dances. I just pretend as if they are a good friend trying to help me fit in.... a lot. And it would be my own perception of whether this person is helping or nagging...
  17. etp777

    etp777 Active Member

    Finally, a venue where the guys are in charge and free to nag, unlike everywhere lese in world where women run the show. ;)
  18. Flat Shoes

    Flat Shoes New Member

    In the Lindy community, one thing that is stressed is that teaching during social dancing is bad etiquette. I find it strange that it is not the same way in WCS too?

    Maybe the community has just become too professional, with studios and more formalized teaching methods with stronger focus on the correct way of doing things like patterns? I'm just asking, because I don't know the community. But this could explain why more people feel that they need to correct things that they believe is the wrong way of doing things?

    My philosophy is that anything goes, as long as there is good connection and good communication. And communication is at least 50% personal communication, looks, smiles, flirting, body language, encouraging etc.

    Somebody said in a different thread that she didn't think of swing as a flirty dance. It definitely can be!

    In a social setting the focus should always be on having fun. Not on dancing correctly. It doesn't matter if you are doing things wrong, as long as you have a good time together.

    Of course it is even better when the technique works well too. But I find from experience that in order to have a "technically good" dance, you need the personal connection/chemistry as well. If not the feel and flow will be missing, and the dance will feel bland whatever you do.
  19. Steve Pastor

    Steve Pastor Moderator Staff Member

    "Experts" abound, but there is no real unifying body to specify right and wrong.
    If fact, the opposite is true.
    Experts, or just teachers if you want, teach cool stuff. People, probably mostly men, learn these cool moves in classes. BUT, what they don't learn is how to lead the thing when they are dancing with someone who didn't learn the same pattern they did. They only thing they have at that point is trying to talk you through the thing.

    This is why I stopped taking WCS lessons. I'd be show a move, we'd do it a few times. Then we'd add something else to the first move. But most of what I ws learning would never quite work after the lesson was over.
    Years later I dropped into a place here called "The Spare Room", which ws part of a bowling alley at one time, which is the haunt of a friend of mine from work. SO, we are shown this cool WCS move. After a while I asked, rather impertinently, how we led this move. I already knew the answer, "You just have to know it".
    Fun lesson, but it was thrown out as soon as I left there, because I'm a social dancers and if I can't figure out how to lead it, it's worthless to me.
    I COULD have tried to coach people through it, but years of dancing socially have taught me a thing or two.
    (If I "coach" at all it's about very basic things like keeping a tight axis, staying in the slot, having that "away resistance" anchor - how much is highly variable, and how to listen to the music. The music part is so obvious, but so overlooked.)

    It wasn't until I started taking Argentine Tango that I really started to learn the mechanics of how things work. Taking that same sense of - again let's call it - body mechanics into West Coast Swing was a no brainer for me.

    Maybe it would help to quote Skippy Blair to these guys, who I like to tell people has been teaching West Coast Swing since before it was called West Coast Swing,
    "The only problem that exists in SWING is when someone decides there is only ONE WAY to dance it. There is never only ONE WAY to do anything ..."
    And for my money, Blair has some of the best analysis of our social dance that I have seen.
    (and much of her Dance Terminology Notebook is available on line)
  20. kayak

    kayak Active Member

    Isn't this the crux of the complaints? The beginners have to learn about staying in the slot, railroad tracks, hot dogs and buns and other fun stuff like that. The end target is the slot morphs into an hourglass shape. In between, there is a really hard learning curve.

    So yes, the beginner is just thrilled you followed anything. The pro can follow the follower. Everything in the intermediate's world breaks down for a while as the pattern complexity increases.

    The difference between a great instructor and a lousy one is how many of their students make that transition.

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