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

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

  1. Steve Pastor

    Steve Pastor Moderator Staff Member

    Yup, joined so I could share pictures of my second attempt to climb Mt Kilimanjaro.
    If Mario ever answers that question, maybe you could let us know?
    Right now I'm digging into this scene
    The dancers are Earl Barton and Lisa Gaye, neither of whom were from the first generation of Hollywood swing dancers.
    Barton was "choreographer" for "Don't Knock the Rock". Joe Lanza was one of his dancers. (See BlackSheep's post(s) for Joe's take on Barton. Joe wrote that barton didn't choreograph the swing scenes.) Barton uses much the same moves in dancing to Haley's "Hook, Line and Sinker" in the film. (Can't find that one on line.)

    Starting in the later half of 1954 Bill Haley and His Comets had a song (or four!) in the top 50 through the first part of 1956. There first "hit" was in 1953, "Crazy, Man, Crazy" peaking at #12 on the Billboard Juke Box chart for the week ending June 20, 1953, and #11 for two weeks on the Cash Box chart beginning for the week of June 13. It is also believed to be the first rock and roll recording to be played on national television in the US.

    Oh, would you say they are using Basic Steps (in 1956!) ?
  2. yagottabelieve

    yagottabelieve New Member

    Several people posted responses to Mario Robau's questions. Some observations were that Modern Jive is less slotted, giving the dancers more freedom to move about the dance floor (not unlike NC2S); dancers move in opposition on the '1' count (and in general); weight changes occur on every beat (in the basic step).
  3. kayak

    kayak Active Member

    How does this slot compare with the hourglass slot being used by Nick jay and Joanna Mellina?
  4. rbazsz

    rbazsz New Member

    I watched a J&J contest in Phoenix recently and was surprised how few of the male contestants did even a single triple step. That includes newcomer up to advanced levels. Nowadays judges don't seem to care as long as the timing is correct.
  5. Artemia

    Artemia New Member

    @rbazsz: That's not exactly true... while there are MANY dancers who don't triple like they should, it isn't ignored by the judges. I have had some interesting conversations with judges in regards to triples, and do have a few friends who are (by the judges' own admission) stuck where they are because they don't triple in comps. (Or at all, lol.) You don't need to triple to end every pattern, anchors are about a distribution of weight and connection, but if you just walk through your dance you -are- going to get docked for it.
  6. rbazsz

    rbazsz New Member

    In our local contests it looks to me like none of the divisions require men to triple step -- not even newcomers. Therefore you rarely see men do it. For the most part the men just stand flat footed and lead the ladies to do things. Some of the men have a sense of rhythm and some seem to be totally off (but at least their planted feet don't give it away).

    Women are a different story because most of them seem to do proper footwork (at least in the competitions). I suspect it would be difficult for ladies to avoid proper footwork because they wouldn't be able to go up and down the slot, turn etc.

    Socially, very few of the men around here have any footwork at all. Last night I saw a couple that are arguably very advanced and stylish but their footwork was completely off to non-existent.

    Perhaps the sloppiness in footwork is being encouraged by the trendy music young dancers seem to prefer now -- it's sort of a blend of mellow acoustic rock and folk. Their other favorite style seems to be mono-rhythmic techno-dance. The music has no swing in it, and even Skippy Blair warned that dancing to music like that can make dancers get sloppy.

    I don't understand the judges but it does seem that they are encouraging a new kind of WCS that doesn't require much of the men in terms of footwork.
  7. Larinda McRaven

    Larinda McRaven Site Moderator Staff Member

    these two lines pretty much tell all...
  8. Artemia

    Artemia New Member

    There's definitely a difference between local social dancing and international competitions. Even local competitions can be spun differently depending on the training of the judges. (And I don't mean dance training, training to be a judge is totally different though often you'll see good dancers presume they can also be good judges... NOT true, I've been forced to be a judge before and I would never do it again without going through extensive training.)

    I just watched some of my recent videos from competitions and picked out the top 5 leaders (from the finals placement) in each one to watch their footwork. (Talking about "Advanced" level comps, here.) All of them are doing defined triples except in places where stationary or singular steps are called for in a lyrical/musical sense. There is at least one lead on the floor in one of the videos who did not triple and I know for a fact that he didn't final.

    I'm not making my statements with any sort of conjecture, but rather actual discussion with judges. Basic tenets of judging: timing, technique, teamwork. Technique: use proper footwork as your basic (in WCS one must always know the rules in order to break them) but you can go outside of the box in order to embellish. A dance with a few triples taken out for a reason is ok. A dance with no triples suggests you (the competitor) are not taking into account your basic technique and can easily lead to a miss out of finals. [There's more to technique than triples, just simplifying for the topic at hand.]

    That is of course not to say that there are judges out there who just look for flash and trash rather than judge by the Ts, however the majority of the WCS world still abides by the basic rules, even if the dance is evolving to incorporate what might be considered a bit more "contemporary creativity" than it used to.

    There is HUGE HUGE HUGE drama going on right now in the swing community because of the evolution of WCS. I have kept away from it so I will not further go into it, but Mario Robau will very willingly friend you back if you send him a Facebook friend request, his Facebook apparently is a very good sumup of everything going on as well as additional discussion.
  9. pygmalion

    pygmalion Well-Known Member

    Really intriguing post, Artemia. I would love to hear more about your experience of judging. This may not be the right thread, but ... I would love to hear.

    And thanks for the heads up about the WCS controversy, whatever it may be. I rarely if ever do facebook, but I can google my tushy off. :wink:

    Thanks! :-D
  10. jennyisdancing

    jennyisdancing Active Member

    This would help explain some background.

    I am no expert on WCS judging so I won't wade into that...but rbazsz mentioned social-level dancing (perhaps beginner level?) not the top pros - so as far as that is concerned, it wouldn't be surprising to see some challenges with getting the footwork right.
  11. pygmalion

    pygmalion Well-Known Member

    Thanks, jenny. :-D
  12. rbazsz

    rbazsz New Member

    I'm certainly not talking top pros, although I see scant evidence that most of them use traditional WCS footwork. I'm referring more to amateur dancers from newcomer to advanced. It seems to me that the higher the skill level the less likely they are to use WCS footwork. It's passe.
  13. Artemia

    Artemia New Member

    It's less that it's passe and more that once you learn the basics of a dance, the connection and the lead/follow... you can make the conscious choice to dance in a way that doesn't harm the dance itself while still making it enjoyable. I probably said this in my last post, but I use it a lot: "You need to know the rules in order to be able to break them."

    If we get into the social aspect of the dance, at 5 am in the morning (after dancing since midnight, and competing all day) it's the last thing on your mind to make sure you do proper triples when you're dancing. As long as you're dancing right, footwork is not the connection between lead and follow.

    I posted a video on another thread that was a very relevant commentary by Arjay and Melina:


    We dance what FEELS GOOD. So, when you watch advanced lead/follow couples, you are seeing what has come from training, working hard, KNOWING the basics, but choosing to shape your technique in a different fashion. Yes, sometimes people can get away with more flash and trash than straight up technique in comps, but it depends on who is judging. Most of the judges you encounter may be names you've never heard before, people who have been in the business of swing for 10, 20 years or more. They might have other jobs but they have been there to watch the dance evolve for longer than most of us have even known about partner dancing. They know their technique, and they expect it through the dance. But they are also knowledgeable at how dancers can shift the footwork and still stay true to WCS.

    Back to the 'know the rules to break them'... you'd be surprised that how much of the lack of triples and other embellishments are actually proper technique, even taught in workshops! To an untrained or newer eye it might appear that a dancer is just being lazy, or off time, when they are actually being extremely musical. Dance with a leader (or follower) who competes at the advanced level, watch the video of your dance afterwards. How did it feel? Was that any different from how it ended up looking? Did you notice the footwork without watching their feet, or did you experience the fundamentals of West Coast Swing, the positive and negative connection, the proper flow from A to B? Did you have FUN!? If no, then there's a problem... but if so, was the footwork really the most important thing you got out of the dance?

    WCS isn't a ballroom dance. There are very few absolutes, and there is no 'I step here, you step there or else we march back to the corner and start the entire wall over again.' If you think more about someone else's footwork than your own enjoyment you need to find a new hobby. Yeah there's drama going on in the community right now about 'traditional' WCS, but like Benji said in his 1st place interview at the Open... "IT'S ALL SWING."
  14. pygmalion

    pygmalion Well-Known Member

    Wow! What an awesome post, Artemia! :notworth:
  15. rbazsz

    rbazsz New Member

    Conversation during a group WCS class I attended:

    STUDENT: Why do you teach "step, step, triple, triple" when nobody that dances now uses that step pattern? I've watched novices to pros and nobody uses those steps. Why not teach us the same thing everyone else is doing?

    INSTRUCTOR: (almost verbatim Artemia's comment)

    I see what Artemia is saying, but for the most part guys are using this as an excuse for sloppy and/or non-existent footwork. Many of them stand immobile or they step on the beat without ever showing signs they know what a triple step is. I'm not passing judgement -- I'm merely observing what seems to be going on. WCS is changing so that men step on the beat for six -- or they don't step at all, and this is going on at all levels.

    The judges seem to condone this footwork so I ask the same question that student did!
  16. Artemia

    Artemia New Member

    I feel like you're using too many incorrect absolutes and speculations. How do you know the judges are condoning those things? How educated are these judges you are basing your assumptions off of? If you are a self-proclaimed "beginner" dancer (and really, we are all beginners for a long time, not just a few weeks) then I would caution you against forming such certain opinions just based on observation of a single scene. I for one almost always triple because I was lucky to be trained with a very traditional swing background, though I may triple with syncopations or step to the music when I hear it coming.

    I don't feel that it is ok for a dancer to take out all their triples, and as I mentioned earlier I have had discussions with judges regarding the same subject and been told clearly that it is not ok, and will hurt a dancer in competition.

    Perhaps in your local scene (since I don't know where you're from I can't base it off of my knowledge, though I have met dancers from all over the US so I might know a few people from your area) there's just so little traditional swing training that people don't know any better... it's up to educated dance advocates to bring WCS back to its traditional structure while still allowing the breathing room and creativity that we love so much to thrive.

    I encourage you to talk with a judge in your area about this topic. Choose a leader whose dance style seems to lack all triples, look up their points, see how far they have made it in international competitions. So far I've seen that lack of triples will get you into intermediate, but it's hard/almost impossible to solidify yourself in advanced without triples. Even flash and trash might get you farther!
  17. toothlesstiger

    toothlesstiger Well-Known Member

    Until I've got the credentials or invitations to be a judge, I'm not about to pass judgement on the judges I see at any competition. An experienced, educated eye can see an awful lot that is invisible to the beginner.
    As my knowledge of technique has grown, I see very different things in dancers than I used to. I used to be absolutely befuddled by world level international foxtrot, as the dancers always seemed out of time with the music. Now I seem something entirely different.
  18. pygmalion

    pygmalion Well-Known Member

    Yup. The dancers just heard and responded to something in the music you didn't see or hear, yet. That's not the same thing as sloppy footwork or inaccurate timing.
  19. Artemia

    Artemia New Member

    I'd love to see examples, though I am not personally qualified to judge or pick out specifics from an intermediate-level dancer. I'd like to throw a video into the ring, though:


    These are two of my favorite pros, Melissa Rutz (who is a pro in San Francisco, one of the most effortless looking dancers on the circuit) and Robert Royston (a man who is so deeply ingrained into the history of this dance that he can be considered one of the kings of swing imho.) You'll notice that even beyond the straight up accents in the music RR does not always step with triples. They are swinging, they are interpreting the music, and every movement is done with the true intent to keep connection and body flight within the pattern, not to stay with the "walk walk, triple step, anchor step" basic. This is still WCS in every way, shape and form. And a fantastic watch!!
  20. tangotime

    tangotime Well-Known Member

    1st para... well I am

    Secondly. Sorry, but I really wasnt that impressed. ( she was fine ).

    Being "ingrained ", does not necessarily make anyone more adept ,than anyone else .

    NB.. the incorrect term of " footwork " is frequently mis-used( on most of the sites ) .

    There is a clear distinction between "footwork " and " foot POSITIONS".. they are NOT one and the same thing !

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