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

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

  1. Artemia

    Artemia New Member

    We're actually having a civil discussion on this forum (in contrast to a lot of the stuff going around the Westie world right now, which is why I am here and not there) so I'm not going to encourage this to get worse. However, I get the impression that you may be a judge for the ballroom world, rather than the WCS circuit? Please correct me if I'm wrong, I am not intending any sort of offense.

    However, I would have a hard time finding anyone I run into on the WCS circuit (though they DO exist, we have seen this first hand in the last week) who would insult the dancing of two of the world's top pros. That's like a ballroom dancer saying "Eh, Yulia is fine on a given day, but we have people in our own studio who could take her. Why bother flying her halfway across the world, we'll just teach the master class ourselves, it's the same caliber."

    And I do believe in this discussion we are talking about footwork rather than foot position. We are referencing the removal of triples in order to be musical or be lazy.. and which the OP was seeing at their studio. (etc etc etc) Foot position would be mistaking a 5th position for a 3rd and failing to align your body correctly over your feet.. which could be a frame issue rather than a conscious (or poor instruction, if we follow the original train of thought of this thread) choice of footwork.

    The video I shared was used as an example of how professional lead/follow dancing (note that was not a choreographed routine, btw, but complete improv to a song they both know but were not prepared in advance to dance to) can often remove triples in favor of musicality and pattern extension. Triples still existed within the dance, and for the anchor and many other patterns when they were called for, rather than as an afterthought.
  2. rbazsz

    rbazsz New Member

    Because the judges awarded the contestants that didn't use WCS footwork.

    Very experienced, well known, and without a doubt very qualified.

    I'm beyond beginner level, especially in WCS. I have attended and competed in several major WCS events, so I'm not basing what I saw on one example.

    As I wrote in earlier posts, it's the men that have done away with triples. Most women do triples -- perhaps because they have to in order to move properly.

    Judges say it hurts dancers. OK, but it doesn't seem to me that dancers are being penalized.

    Let's don't just focus on competitions however -- the trend to avoid triples is far more prevalent in the social dance scene. I really don't know which one is most important to discuss because it's like a dog chasing its own tail.

    Phoenix, Arizona metro area

    Yes, it's quite hard to find especially outside of established studios.

    The teachers in my area are doing their job because they all emphasize proper footwork. If people ignore the lessons it could be because some other dance is evolving that is similar to WCS but not the same.

    Good idea. I'll do that and report back what I find.
  3. fascination

    fascination Site Moderator Staff Member

    I don't know alot about WCS except that I have watched alot of men dance it socially and then some in ballroom venue socials...but I do know alot about men...and I know that anytime many of them can "conserve their energy" many of them will...and I think that solves your disappearing triple dilemma right there...jes sayin' :)
  4. pygmalion

    pygmalion Well-Known Member

    Not to mention that, if you can actually hear the music beyond the very basics, there are so many things you can do in the same space as a triple and still end up in the right place, on the correct foot, at the right time. Syncopations rock. Just saying. :wink:

    IIRC, Vince A (Remember him? He and his wife were, and I assume are, very active in the WCS competition scene.) mentioned WCS rules that require a minimum number of basics. I don't remember the details of how many basics per what (measure? phrase? dunno) and I don't know if a basic is mandated to include triple steps.

    Is there anybody here who judges WCS and who knows what actually defines a basic in WCS competition?
  5. fascination

    fascination Site Moderator Staff Member

    all I know is that whenever I dance wcs, the guy is usually doing as little as possible (while looking exceptionally cool, mind you...but still :))
  6. pygmalion

    pygmalion Well-Known Member

    *giggle* Amen.
  7. Steve Pastor

    Steve Pastor Moderator Staff Member

    Examples of WCS/"Western Swing" can be seen in both "Rock Around the Clock" and "Don't Knock th Rock". In both cases it is NOT in the scenes withmultiple couples. Both songs that are danced to are by Bill Haley and His Comets. I'm pretty sure Earl Barton is the male in both scenes, dancing with two different women in each film.
    Barton dances one "double rhythm": a rock step, one double rhythm, a tap step, and one triple rhythm, a "triple step".

    I am positive that it is no coincidence that Laure Haile wrote that students should learn to dance singles, doubles, or triples when possible to all of the first five patterns she presented in the first written documentation of "Western Swing" before moving on to the next patterns.

    Skippy Blair wrote in 1978 "Replace the man's 1st TRIPLE (counts 3 & 4) with a "tap STEP". (and there were only 6 pages in her book about "West Coast Swing' ... "Golden State Swing". (It was known as "California Style Swing" in Gilley's in Texas in 1979.)

    In fact when dancing to the rock 'n' roll of the 50s, as was done in the two movies cited above, dancing one less triple would be more in line with the note on the sheet music for "Hook, Line and Sinker", and as heard in the song as recorded when listening to the percussion, play with a steady beat. (Guitar parts and vocal were "syncopated", however. And if I remember right, there was sax, and the durmmer didn't ALWAYS play the same beat. You can listen to the song on YouTube.)

    Note too, that although Blair wrote, "The only problem that exists in SWING is when someone decides that there is only ONE WAY to dance it" in 1978, she has also help develop a judging standard to preserve the essence of "West Coast Swing".

    Complicated issue this, with lots of room for discussion.

    I have toyed with the idea of taking the "judging training", not because I think I'm qualified to judge, but to learn more about how things ARE "judged". I'm not a big fan of dance competitions, but it has been a fact of swing history from the beginning.
  8. pygmalion

    pygmalion Well-Known Member

    Yep, Steve. Lots of room for discussion, both from a musical and from a dance perspective. I suppose triple steps matter A LOT, if they're required as part of a basic in competition. (I'd love to hear from a competitor on that. I would be surprised if triples are required, but it would be nice to know what really defines a basic.)

    From a social dance perspective, my take has always been to make sure that I'm on the "correct" foot at the beginning of most phrases (all phrases, if I'm dancing with a newbie or non-musician,) not to distract my partner, and to play with the music and have fun.
  9. kayak

    kayak Active Member

    I wanted to add three points to this fine discussion.

    First, it isn't just "men's advanced footwork" at play. Women have equal opportunity for creativity. The ladies I dance with use all kinds of variations of footwork and subtle timing changes. There must be fifty ways to do an anchor that are beyond the basic triple.

    Second, I like Tangotime's description of foot placement. Regardless of how many steps are taken, there are certain places were a dancer has to be positioned at and a specific foot that needs to be weighted. How each of us gets to that point on the floor on the right foot and on the right beat is irrellavent.

    Finally, WCS is not unique in the difficulty of finding basics that line up with beginner class patterns. If we look at something like Smooth Foxtrot, it is rare to see better dancers doing a step step side together basic. They are in there, but don't look much like those beginning steps.
  10. tangotime

    tangotime Well-Known Member

    Im an adjudicator in all styles, and have danced / taught WCS since the late 50s( not so much since being in the UK no demand ).. and no, Im not and never have been on a " circuit". And, why would you believe that would exempt me from knowing anything about non formalised dance ?
  11. pygmalion

    pygmalion Well-Known Member

    Yes and no. Meaning yes. Get your foot in the right place at the right time. :lol: OTOH, if my getting my weight in the right place at the right time "creatively" is a problem for my partner, I need to cut it out. I love, love, love dancing with newbies, just because ... they need encouragement and it makes me happy to encourage them. Playing around with syncopations in that context can be downright counterproductive for them. KWIM? How much freedom I have, I think, at least partially depends on whom I'm dancing with.
  12. kayak

    kayak Active Member

    This is true. I think the difference between being a good follower and a bad one is being able to decorate the dance without effecting the lead. In that sense, it doesn't matter if the leader is a beginner struggling with a side pass or the best pro trying to lead some super combo.

    The point I was attempting to make is that it isn't a case of just men adjusting the footwork. A major part of the dance it the lady's ability to adjust her footwork as well. Yes, most ladies will have more triples in their movement because a turn that is traveling is a chaine'. However, where a couple places those triples is up to their creativity more than following a walk walk triple triple structure.
  13. pygmalion

    pygmalion Well-Known Member

    This. The sky's the limit... within a few limits. :wink:
  14. Dancelf

    Dancelf Member

    Not a judge, but I'll throw an answer into the ring, and we'll see if anybody tries to dispute it.

    The conditions of contest vary from event to event. Most, if not all, of the NASDE swing events share the same "statement of swing":

    Note that it is deliberately broad, intended to include Lindy, WCS, Shag, Hand Dancing....

    And then in a given competition, you'll get a guideline like this one (taken from Boogie by the Bay 2011, WCS Jack and Jill):

    90%[1] is generally understood to be in units of time - for every minute that you are dancing, you must be demonstrating "recognizable swing content" for at least 54 seconds. In other words, you are limited to 12-15 beats of "slop".

    The most common interpretation of this counts only the non swing movement. For example, if you extend a whip with a four beat samba step to match an articulation in the music, you'll normally be charged with 2 seconds of non swing content. There are a few hardliners who would prefer to charge you for the entire non swing pattern - the four beats of samba AND the eight beats of whip that it interrupted. Head Judge is supposed to ensure that a consistent interpretation is used by all judges - which means the hard liners don't win very often.

    In practice - I'm not sure that any of this is enforced very often.

    As far as I know, there isn't a definition of basic west coast documented anywhere, in the sense that you can point to a particular passage in the rules and claim that it requires/does not require "anchor triples" in each basic pattern. The dance is still young enough that we haven't reached that level of rules lawyering.

    [1] Different divisions will normally have different requirements - 90% for Jack and Jill, 80% for Classic, 70% for Showcase. On paper, anyway.
  15. Peaches

    Peaches Well-Known Member

    I dunno. I don't know anything about the competitive WCS scene, but from what I've observed social dancing it has always seemed to me to be a case of syncopating and/or embellishing and/or "accepted variations." I guess in my mind I just consider it similar to, say, left side passes. No, you don't see many basic LSPs being done by the really good dancers...at least not the way you see it taught to beginners. But you do see a LSP with an inside turn, or an outside turn, or some combination, or with some interruption, or that changes direction or something. It's not your basic LSP, but if you stop and look at it and think about it, you can see the underlying structure. I find footwork to be the same way. No, the men may not be doing walk, triple, triple, but you can usually see that they're keeping that rhythm there. (I'd think they almost have to.) It may be syncopated, it may be embellished, it may be tweaked...but the basic rhythm is still there. And why wouldn't you play with the footwork and the rhythm and just about everything else if you're good enough to? Why limit yourself to the same footwork timing all the time?
  16. Steve Pastor

    Steve Pastor Moderator Staff Member

    FYI "There are a few BASIC RULES for learning..." "Later on you can experiment and add RHYTHM VARIATIONS and STYLE VARIATIONS."
    (BOLDING added!)

    "6. SHE... will have a RHYTHM PATTERN (to start)... and a LEFT TRIPLE"

    I'd have to say that Western Swing/WCS is hardly new, in this context...

    According to Silvester ( 1977, etc) it took a mere 6 years for "the love of order which seems to be inate in the English" to assert intself and try to " standardize the basic steps of the Foxtrot and One-Step".

    Blair, et al, have done a good job in keeping swing relatively unprescribed.
  17. kayak

    kayak Active Member

    Plus, if we consider dance more than marching, there are a lot of changes in the lady's momentum. Counter balancing those movements often dictates how the guys can move without letting her fall.
  18. stash

    stash Well-Known Member

    In my limited experience in all forms of dance, that the basics never go away. But rather they get built upon--so if you don't learn them every "advanced" step will probably not make much sense and will be rather difficult.

    I went to a WSC weekend in Reston and one pros made us warm-up with all the basic and all the basic variations on the basic.
  19. Steve Pastor

    Steve Pastor Moderator Staff Member

    Thought of this thread when I came across this.

    Subtle Triple

    1 Those triples that have afeeling of a triple in the dancers CPB, but are danced with little of no movement in the feet. An observer does not see or hear the three weight changes, but the dancer feel the movement and a "practiced eye sees it take place.
    2 Many WCS and NC2 step dancers use primarliy subtle triples....
    source Skippy Blair 1995 Dance Terminology Notebook

    ToothlessTiger came closest to this answer, I decided after a quick review of the thread. Others, too, but not as close.
  20. pygmalion

    pygmalion Well-Known Member

    This. I also think that dance is a lot like music in the sense that, if done by a high enough level dancer/player, the basic may not be immediately obvious to people who are relatively new to the scene.

    In music, that might sound like an amazing riff that, when boiled down, is really just scales and arpeggios played at lightening speed. Nothing simpler or more basic.

    In dance, it might look like very, very basic footwork, with a tap-step substituted for a triple (couldn't be easier.) Add some arm styling and a body roll or two, and it doesn't look basic at all, even though it is.

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