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. kayak

    kayak Active Member

    A better solution to me would be to just find a dance community you like. If you hate every guy in your WCS community, I would just focus on a community where I felt more at home. Around me, the tango community is really a closed circle. So I just don't both with tango. There are lots of forms of partner dancing. I stick with the groups that are fun for me.
  2. Ithink

    Ithink Active Member

    First, I concur with kayak, your hypothetical wouldn't happen unless you were a bronze ballroom dancer. I, as a pre-champ level dancer, couldn't go and compete in All Star when I didn't have any points in Novice, having previously done no WCS competitions... I had to pay my dues and I am still nowhere near all-star.

    Second, I started dancing WCS when I had about 6 years of ballroom (standard) competition under my dance belt. I was in Novice for the first two years. This is partly because I didn't go to comps much at first (still don't, not nearly as much as I want to!!) and thus didn't have the chance to earn points enough to move up to the next level. But also, I needed to beat the ballroom out of my WCS (although I was told with pros I was fairly lucky not to have extensive latin experience because it would make that task harder) so I could make the finals and get said points. It really is about adapting your body to the style. People who do ballroom, for the most part, DO NOT GET west coast swing. Just don't get it. They overdance it big time. I may still be a little guilty of it but now it's on a level where it could be considered my "style" as opposed to "clueless ballroom dancer doing cha-cha/rhumba styling to WCS". When I talk to ballroom people (only when asked!!!) about how to be more "westie" I tell them to stop doing ballroom. Pay attention to what WCS actually looks like and try to do that, not do your cha-cha styling while attempting to west coast swing. Some get it, most don't listen because they think they are better than they know:( Their loss...
  3. jennyisdancing

    jennyisdancing Active Member

    In a way, I think the popularity of Jack & Jill (random pairings) comps in WCS helps contribute to the cliqueyness and the pickiness. At a typical WCS dance, quite a few of the people there are avid J&J competitors and so they view even a social dance as just another place to hone their competition skills. Thus they may prefer to dance with other people whom they are likely to be matched with in a J&J comp, and they turn up their nose at people who will not become their competition partners.

    Ballroom comps (to my limited knowledge) don't normally have J&J, correct? So if you attend a ballroom social, and choose to mingle (dance with other than your regular comp partner), it wouldn't serve as a prep for your competitions, right?
  4. Chris Stratton

    Chris Stratton New Member

    It wouldn't serve to collect information on those you might be paired with in a non-existent J&J competition, no, but...

    ... it may well provide transferable experience - I've started noticing that when someone has real difficulty dancing with someone (competent) other than their partner, you can often see a lesser degree off the same difficulty in their dancing with their partner.

    ... it could be what makes you aware of someone who will become your competition partner in the future

    And just like the WCS J&J scouting, this works best if the social crowd contains some comparable other dancers.
  5. kayak

    kayak Active Member

    I found a pretty strong pull to encourage me to improve. Like I mentioned above, J&Js are interesting because we have no idea of the skill level of the dancer we will get matched with. Since the top of a given level often has to dance with a much lower level dancer in the comp, they do actually come dance with us mortals just for fun. I find this really fun because I am amazed at the number of advanced to pro ladies that will socially dance with me.
  6. kayak

    kayak Active Member

    Yes, I think you are totally right. I always figure my lead in any dance isn't right until it actually works with most ladies I can dance with. If it only works with a specific partner or with someone I was in class with, then there is usually something broken in the timing of my leads. So I just keep trying to make them better until eventually they work with most ladies.
  7. kayak

    kayak Active Member

    Totally true, I have been tackling this problem from the other direction. I started with WCS and CW styling and technique and then added ballroom. I literally had to make my body relearn almost from scratch to get reasonable techniques. Even now, a lot of ballroom ladies will comment that I must have learned progressive dances in the CW system just by the path I choose around the floor.

    Eventually, I am just going to be a total mush of dance techniques and have no choice but to take over the dance world, promote my really cool new style, and make everyone conform :)
  8. slotmonkey

    slotmonkey New Member

    I really agree with your perspective on dancing.

    There are some very good lindy dancers though who are legendary for going up to people (one traveling lindy/blues instructor in particular who will stand on the sidelines at social dances, tell people what they're doing wrong after the songs over, and try to sell them private lessons)

    I think that the problem for West Coast Swing arises in part from the fact that group classes are such a big part of a lot of people's dance education in the WCS scene. It seems like in ballroom a lot of people take private lessons, and in lindy, a lot of people learn from their friends or in more intimate groups, and that leaders are more encouraged to experiment and play around. Plus, lindy has "exchanges" where people go just to dance, but every west coast event features group lessons taught by the pros.

    In WCS group lessons, instead of learning about musicality and communication, casual dancers (the crowd who are ok with a $4 group lesson but not with a $40-$130 private lesson) learn pattern after pattern, taught to them in a very specific way with very specific footwork and technique. For this reason, it's difficult for a lot of leaders to get out of the mindset of thinking about a dance as a series of concrete patterns. Imagine leading a dance with the same attitude and feeling that you have when you're driving a car: you travel from the beginning to the end of a song, directing exactly how you're going to get there.

    Probably worse yet are those who travel to west coast conventions and hop into workshops that are way beyond their experience levels, barely figure out how to lead a pattern when the workshop "followers" already know what to expect, and then try to take their new supermoves with them to the dance floor. "Here, let me tell you what you're supposed to do when I lead this--a champion did it at a workshop so it's as good as WEST COAST SWING DOCTRINE." Kyle and Sarah taught a very difficult pattern at a group class in Palm Springs once, pointed out that they didn't see anyone doing it correctly, and said "Well, the schedule says this is an advanced class--you're the ones lying to yourselves!" You better believe that that move was showing up on the dance floor later.

    As far as having specific ways to do a move--I think that it's good to teach "basics" that people can use to model what a connection should feel like when sugar-pushing or side-passing or whipping, etc., but I think that variations such as tapping vs. tripling are both simple enough to allow someone to explore that feeling. After someone masters connection, they should be free to do whatever they want for styling (though you'll want your styling to follow the music and sometimes to mirror your partner's!) Criticizing someone because their styling doesnt match your concept of a move is missing the point of DANCING!

    And I think that your concept of swing as "flirty" totally fits into this! When two good dancers are dancing together, they find ways to challenge either other to follow their moves and to match their styling, they try to make each other laugh with their interpretation of musicality, all to make it a fun and thrilling experience.

    As a disclaimer, I dont think that group lessons are bad so long as they are used to learn new tricks and methods of leading, instead of concrete patterns. Group lessons can teach us a lot of funny ways to do a side pass, and one of them might be the perfect way to hit something in the music... But leaders need to learn to communicate and play around, to let go of the lead sometimes (even literally: try leading 1 and 2 and then letting go and getting out of the way) and just have fun with whatever happens.
  9. uncle joe

    uncle joe New Member

    Me, I taught WCS from 1949 until 1952, that is when I met Beverly Mayo who still today is a legendary Swing dancer of the 1950's in Southern California. I never enjoyed Swing dancing until she taught me the Lindy Hop which is very much like the ECS.

    WCS is a simplified Swing that was popularized by the Arthur Murray Studios to accommodate senior citizens and the not so gifted dancers. Unfortunately, the Swing movies during WW II used dancers doing the Arthur Murray style Swing which came to be called WCS. And ironically the WCS dancers are still under the impression that this was the original Swing when the rest of the cities from SF, Chicago and NYC and the entire US Army was doing the Savoy Lindy Hop during WW II, and I was one of those GIs from NYC.

    I'v been on a lone Crusade in LA, to convert the WCS dancers into ECS/Lindy Hopsters since 1997, and the progress is gradually making a few converts who are now at least are using Six counts instead of the abominable Triple Triple and occasionally they are using the term Lindy Hop instead of WCS which has become as complicated as the FEDERAL RESERVE SYSTEM.

    So ME, don't let them get to you with their senior citizen's version of the Lindy Hop. incidentally I am 86 year old Senior Citizen who converted in 1953, `thanks to Beverly Mayo.
  10. Me

    Me New Member

    Wow! There have been several insightful posts over the past couple of days. I really appreciate the information. :) Please keep it coming! Currently my brain is still processing. :)
  11. jennyisdancing

    jennyisdancing Active Member

    I'm confused by all of this...I won't debate history of WCS since it's off topic and I don't know a lot about it...in any event, the OP's question was about WCS as it is currently done, and you are correct that it is now a complicated and technically demanding dance.

    As for this point:
    People take group classes and learn lots of patterns in ballroom and in salsa as well. That situation is definitely not confined to WCS. And there are many WCS dancers who do take privates, especially if they compete. Just as there are many ballroom dancers who never take privates, especially if they do not compete.
  12. Albanaich

    Albanaich New Member

    The nature of dance is that it adapts and mutates to fit in with its dance environment. 'LA' style Salsa for instance is clearly a product of Salsa meeting WCS.

    Where I live there's a lot of cross over between WCS, Lindy and Argentine Tango - with people doing all three, with time a new, local, dance form is sure to develop.

    Anyone who thinks dance - any dance - can be defined by steps doesn't understand dancing or serious dancers.

    Dancing is simply moving in time to music, partner dance is two people moving in time to music in a co-ordinated way.

    One of the tradgedies of the 'dance studio' system is that it teaches that if you understand 'steps' you will be able to dance.

    Swing - both WCS and Lindy are, technically undemanding dances in terms of physical ability, they are very demanding in terms of rhythm and musical feeling. They become technically demanding if you have no sense of rhythm, it which case (and I have a natural sense of rhythm) they are monstorously difficult.

    Much the same could be said of AT, where lots of people concentrate on being able to do particular moves but have no idea where to fit them in with the music. AT is more physically demanding that Swing in terms of balance and co-ordination, but less so in terms of musicality.

    One of the most surprising things I learned when I started dancing is that 4 out of 5 people have no natural sense of rhythm, followed by the fact that unless they are trained atheletes, most people can't balance on one leg,

    People are taught 'steps' because generally they can't hear the music, and don't have the physical ability to place their feet fast enough. Poor musicans are taught set drills, natural musicians can't figure out why you need them
    Rakatakaboom likes this.
  13. Chris Stratton

    Chris Stratton New Member

    Someone who actually understood "steps" would probably be able to dance quite well, because understanding how they work and why they are done in some ways rather than others brings awareness of the concept of a given dance. But most "steps" presentations really aren't about understanding at all - the pace is kept where just attempting is too much of a challenge for understanding to have a chance.

    I have to wonder how many of the "no-rhythm" people are actually oversensitive to aspects of the music that lead them astray from the fundamental beat, which can at times be hidden behind more attention-grabbing accents and embellishments. Learning to listen through that distraction is a skill.
  14. Angel HI

    Angel HI Well-Known Member

    Sad, but true. Syllabi were never meant to define dance...merely to describe it. The probleme is that most persons do not think past the "exercises" taught while learning, and dance becomes this inane sentence of rote rule.
    Strongly disagree. Everyone has a natural sense of rhythm. If they didn't, they wouldn't be able to walk. The issue with music is acquiring the skill/s to adapt/manipulate/interpret that rhythm with an unnatural, meaning external, stimulus...the particular music/dance in question. That it involves the whole body, and connecting all of these things with someone else, makes it even more difficult.
  15. DWise1

    DWise1 Well-Known Member

    That was my own personal experience. In college I tried in vain to learn to dance (strictly free-style, since that was circa 1970). The only "instruction" I ever received was simply being told to "follow the music and do what it tells me", but there was so much going on that I could never figure out what to follow. I even studied music theory to try to understand rhythm, but to no avail -- doesn't help that rhythm in music theory is not the same thing as what the free-style dancers were talking about.

    After 30 years of being written off by everybody as being unable to learn, I started doing group classes. It took nearly 8 months of WCS for me to get to point where I could reliably hear and follow to beat -- mind you, it was something that I was working on to try to learn. And within a few years, my partners started complimenting me as "a natural dancer" and on my "natural sense of rhythm".

    My opinion, based on my own experience, is that that "sense of rhythm" is something that everybody has to learn. Some may learn it more easily than others and some may learn it much earlier, but everyone has to learn it. And, let's face it, not everybody in a group dance class is at the same level.
  16. Chris Stratton

    Chris Stratton New Member

    Two ready problems with this:

    1) it doesn't help with the common problem of getting distracted by prominent non-beat elements in the music

    2) six counts does not readily fit musical phrasing, which will really bother some of the more musical beginners to the point where they may unconsciously stretch/cheat timings to force the dancing back on phrase
  17. Flat Shoes

    Flat Shoes New Member

    What does this actually mean? Everyone who can walk has some natural sense of rhythm. So I think you need to define this more strictly.

    How many can hear the rhythm in the music, and clap their hands to it? How many can stand in place and bounce to the rhythm? How many can can take steps to the rhythm?

    I find that the more people need to combine conscious actions with the rhythm, the more difficult it gets. Even though they may hear the rhythm, and maybe move to their own rhythm, they struggle when they consciously need to combine listening to some rhythm with moving to it. And I would not be surprised that as many as 4/5 may struggle here.
  18. jennyisdancing

    jennyisdancing Active Member

    Most people are able to clap or tap their toes to a beat. It's a whole additional skill to learn specific steps and add body movement/styling, plus leading and following skills on top of that. Then you add the fact that many people can hear the basic beat but they don't hear the additional musical elements that would lend themselves to more interesting interpretation.
  19. DWise1

    DWise1 Well-Known Member

    Even learning to clap to the beat takes training. It has to be learned.

    In a conversation at one all-night dance party (ie, house party to which mostly dancers were invited), one woman was complaining about these people who go to see a band perform and then just sit there motionless: "If they don't like the music then why are they there?" I explained to her that they were mostly likely enjoying the music very much, but they weren't moving to it because they were listeners. Like I'm a listener -- the only difference is that I've also become a dancer. Listening is a mental activity in which we listen to all parts of the music and how they interact with each other. Until a listener learns how to translate that to physical movement, he's not going to move much when music's playing.

    My own experience was that because I heard and would listen to all parts of the music, I kept losing the basic beat that I was supposed to be following. Once I started group classes, it took me several months before I could isolate that basic beat.

    A dancer starts with the basic beat and must then learn to listen to the other parts of the music and to dance to them as well. Ironically, a listener starts out listening to all parts of the music and must first learn to filter out everything except for the basic beat and then relearn to listen to the rest again.

    BTW, I didn't learn how to clap along with a song until I had been dancing for about 3 or 4 years.
  20. Dancelf

    Dancelf Member

    Presumably, you had to climb over this hurdle on your own? Or did someone give you guidance?

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