Swing Discussion Boards > Why Don't WCS Dancers Use Basic Steps?

Discussion in 'Swing Discussion Boards' started by rbazsz, Jul 5, 2011.

  1. rbazsz

    rbazsz New Member

    I have now seen my share of advanced WCS dancers -- or at least they look advanced to my novice eyes. The thing that strikes me the most is that almost none of them have the footwork that I am taught at every studio I take lessons at.

    Sometimes older guys don't move their feet at all but they seem to know how to lead younger women to do fancy spins and turns and all sorts of arm movements.

    The younger guys seem to know WCS arm movements and in addition they do all sorts of energetic footwork movements that look more like what I see at clubs where all the dancers are doing freestyle. Their feet are better than the old guys but I see almost none of them doing anything more than stepping on the beat. 1-2-3-4

    One thing I never see anybody do after about half an hour after the group lesson time is step-step-triple-triple. The guys like me that are taught traditional footwork usually leave the open ballroom after awhile because the only music they play is techno-disco where the steps are all on the beat. The men seem to be doing what the women want -- which is to not bother with things like anchors or whatever.

    It would be so much easier to do this dance the way "advanced" dancers do it I'm not sure why all of us don't just step on the beat.

    So, all of this begs a question: Is there a new kind of WCS that doesn't require anything more than 4 steps on the beat.

    If I was into conspiracies I would be tempted to say that WCS studios teach us newbies the traditional footwork so that the dancers out their can identify us as newbies so that they can avoid dancing with us.
  2. toothlesstiger

    toothlesstiger Well-Known Member

    You've got to start somewhere. How far would you get if the teacher told you "just go out there and freestyle with your partner to the music?" You lay the foundation, and when that is totally internalized, and you don't have to count out the beat in your head, then you have something to build on.
    The way I dance WCS, unless I am moving on a triple step, the only thing I'm doing is subtle weight changes that are probably not visible to someone that doesn't know what they are looking for. And once you move beyond the basics you very quickly get into figures that are 8 counts long and more, in which case the proportion of triples to steps can vary greatly.
  3. Dancelf

    Dancelf Member

    Not that I know of. You can make it work, of course, if you know what you are doing, but I've never seen anybody teach it.

    I think the truest answer is this: the footwork is not the dance. So if some other movement in your feet better expresses the movement without compromising the relationship between support/center/connection, then you do that.

    So you'll see advanced foot work[1], where the leads don't seem to be moving their feet hardly at all, and weird syncopations which disguise the original movement, and they work.

    That said, there are those who argue that such deviations from the basic movements are "outside the dance", and should be marked as such in competitive settings.

    [1] From a workshop I attended long ago... Q: what's the leader's footwork on that? A: One. (long pause) Six.
  4. Steve Pastor

    Steve Pastor Moderator Staff Member

    I don't know where to start. So how about here.
    Want to be popular with the women? Yeah, that's how it's done. It also helps to not worry about things like phrasing or being in time to the music.

    The anchor and the slot are two of the basic defining things about West Coast Swing.

    You know, WCS started as a swing dance, to swing music, and there are subtleties in swing music that are missing from "rock 'n' roll" to a large extent, and hard to find in other kinds of music. I'm going to geuss that it is completely absent from "techno disco".
    So, there could be justification for not using triples.

    On the other hand I am usually quite unimpressed by what most people consider to be "advanced dancers". I rarely, rarely see the music in what they do. (This is not to say there aren't "real" advanced dancers whom I would recognize for their abilities.)

    You're going to have decide for yourself what kind of dancer you are going to be. Me, I know what a good connection is in WCS, including how an anchor works and what it is supposed to feel like. I know what a good "Push Break" feels like, and what it takes to make one, from both sides. I know what a "good" underarm turn feels like. I raely find them.

    BTW, when I see someone doing the basics, and doing them well, and in time to the music, etc, I know it is someone I will want to dance with (unless there is something else going on!).

    One final thought for now...
    Skippy Blair saw what was going on and came up with West Coast Swing 101, partly in a effort to preserve the essence of West Coast Swing, a dance that she's been involved with for nearly 60 years!
  5. samina

    samina Well-Known Member

    not my experience, and there's a good WCS scene in these parts, "advanced" dancers who do not leave out the anchor or synchopation, even tho there's lots of contemporary music played.

    fwiw, speaking as a women, i sincerely would not want to dance WCS without an anchor...i'd feel far less relaxed if i was deprived of that place to collect myself, reconnect & resync with my partner if there's been any departure, and get ready to launch into the next bit of movement.
  6. wooh

    wooh Well-Known Member

    I know a guy that's been dancing for about a million years, apparently was a pro ballroom instructor long long time ago. He barely moves his feet, but he definitely changes weight. Most beginners can't keep up with the weight changes and rhythm without changing weight. Thus, why advanced dancers can get away with not moving their feet.
  7. bookish

    bookish Active Member

    Disco music, fancy arm movements, no triples, no anchors: could they be dancing hustle?
  8. rbazsz

    rbazsz New Member

    Hmmmm! Come to think of it, I don't know what 4 step Hustle looks like. However, the dancers I was watching were at the WCS Convention in Phoenix. I would laugh your question off except for one thing -- most of the music played after about 11 pm was hip-hop, disco, and techno-dance, which is of course much more suited for the Hustle.

    Surely advanced dancers at a WCS convention would know the difference, wouldn't they? :confused:
  9. nucat78

    nucat78 Active Member

    We dance 4CH: rock step, slow, slow or rock step, walk, walk, if you prefer.
  10. samina

    samina Well-Known Member

    4CH is popular amongst advanced WCS dancers for fast-tempo music, from what I've seen. I can't imagine they'd have a stigma against using it at a WCS convention...when the music comes on, they're no doubt thinking only about how to enjoy the next dance, and 4CH may give a nice mellow ride.
  11. SD

    SD New Member

    1st - There is no conspiracy. Stuck up WCS follows (Mythical creature that doesn't exist you say? Perhaps...) do not need any help in identifying new guys who are insecure about dancing with "better" dancers. They can read it in your eyes when you ask them to dance - if you can get that close to them - they can see it in the way you walk into the room.

    I would have to say yes, there is a sort of new kind of generalized WCS that is danced to all sorts of music that is not swing, has no triples in the rhythm, and hence you see few if any triples in the guys footwork. Also many of the guys are extremely lazy and dance pretty much the same way to any music.

    In the New England scene I see almost no one dancing hustle socially at wcs events outside of myself. Yes there are a few who do but they are almost the exception that proves the rule. Most people seem very happy dancing wcs patterns to music that does not swing.

    If you talk to the women at any social dance event, wcs especially, but others are similar, you will hear the same thing over and over - most guys are not doing what the women want. The women come and dance with a whole bunch of guys but most of them they sort of put up with while waiting to get a dance with one of the few guys who are either:

    a) "really good - Soooo amaaaazing! He can make me do all sorts of things I didn't know I could do!" ie. a pro,
    b) "really fun to dance with! I just have the best time dancing with him!"

    The first quality comes from literally years or - more often - decades of experience. The second quality - "really fun to dance with" actually requires surprisingly little dance technique - usually just enough to not hurt anyone - but it does require tremendous skill in communicating to a woman how much you appreciate dancing with her and how much fun YOU are having dancing with her, WITHOUT APPEARING TO WORRY TOO MUCH ABOUT ANYTHING. Guys who can do this well are pretty rare, and are mostly naturally good at it and can't explain what it is that they do. A few of us do learn, eventually...

  12. Bailamosdance

    Bailamosdance Well-Known Member

    This is an excellent overview - and it applies to almost any dance situation in the social scene. LOL asbout the conspiracy theory, too - newbies always underestimate what it takes to be good...
  13. DerekWeb

    DerekWeb Well-Known Member

    Many westie dancers and teachers are also great hustle dancers. On the East coast, this is strictly 3 count hustle. 4 count? - they will laugh you out of the room.
  14. Dancelf

    Dancelf Member

    They also compare notes.
  15. rbazsz

    rbazsz New Member

    Some of the posters to this thread have convinced me that there may be a growing trend to use 4 step Hustle footwork for WCS. If so, could somebody point me to some videos of this WCS variation?
  16. Peaches

    Peaches Well-Known Member

    Um...you mean they're dancing 4 count hustle? What do you mean by using "4 step Hustle footwork for WCS"?

    The music for them is pretty interchangeable--what you can dance WCS to you can generally dance hustle to, etc. Where I go WCS dancing, there is definitely a mix of people doing both--well, 3-count Hustle (usually slotted) and WCS. That could be what your seeing, or it could just be that they're using extended syncopations and variations that you haven't learned about yet, or it could be that there is a whole lot more going on that what you are able to see, or it could be that the men are advanced enough that they are able to cut out extraneous movements and focus on other things. Most likely, it's a combination of all of them.
  17. samina

    samina Well-Known Member

    not true if it's a very fast-tempo song in a club...great technique for that.

    but yah, you're spot-on generally speaking. :)
  18. jennyisdancing

    jennyisdancing Active Member

    As noted above, the footwork is not the dance. WCS is an improvisational dance that comes out of general concepts, some of those being: anchor, slot, leverage, compression, and a knowledge of 6- and 8- count basic patterns which have numerous variations and options, and most of which allow freedom of styling and improvisation.

    It's like asking how a rock guitarist or jazz piano player can seemingly make stuff up instead of just playing the notes that are listed on the sheet music. It's a skill that comes from knowing the foundation well enough to know how to play with it.

    All that said, there are also some dancers who have no rhythm, don't know their basics, or are lazy and sloppy in their footwork, but if you're talking about truly advanced, highly skilled dancers, that hopefully doesn't apply here.
  19. Zhena

    Zhena Well-Known Member

    Hijack alert ....

    And yet I have attended WCS workshops where they taught a "travelling anchor" (??!!??) and a very long, wide slot that didn't seem like a slot at all. Apparently the motivation is the ability to do very large movements that catch the attention of judges. Which raises the question ... what is the dividing line between WCS and undifferentiated "swing" with a lot more options? I suppose you can argue that whatever wins a major WCS competition is, by definition, WCS. But I'm not a fan of this new-fangled stuff, and probably won't be unless I get so much better at anchor-slot WCS that I'm bored with it (which I don't forsee in my lifetime). I will probably not take workshops from those teachers again.

    End (minor) hijack ...
  20. Dancelf

    Dancelf Member

    I'm told that a long time ago, in a galaxy far far away, social dancing was the inspiration for competitive dance, rather than the other way around. Grandpa, tell me 'bout the good old days.

    There are still some holdouts who maintain that west coast swing is defined by those elements which (as you have noted) have been discarded. Catch Mario Robau Jr at the right time, and he'll give you a very thorough run down.

    In my opinion, the answer that's winning right now is something close to "it's still west coast if the dancers movements are those that we use when the westie constraints are in force." Restating that - the dance isn't the rules, but the way that we move when we are obeying the rules. So if we are moving that way, we're still dancing wcs, even when we aren't following the rules any more.

    It's not a great answer, but it's the closest that matches what I see with my eyes: undisciplined westie dancers don't move like lindy hoppers / east coast swing dancers / hustle dancers. They don't even move like westies trying to dance lindy. Westies trying to dance hustle don't look like they are dancing westie badly (they look like they are dancing hustle badly).

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