Contemporary WCS vs Vintage WCS

#1
Found a site, which I can't post a link here, being too new, but it can be found by searching for "library of dance west coast swing" in google.

Apparently, someone is doing Youtube video sets of quite many dances. A worthwhile effort, I think. He (and she) seem to categorize WCS to contemporary vs vintage. As they have a large number of dances, most of them waltz or historical ones, neither of which I know anything about, I am prepared to not argue their style for the dances I know. The effort counts.

I know / have done most of the stuff present there for "Vintage WCS", and a bit less than that for "contemporary WCS". Reflecting on my experiences, yes, it looks like I have lately got better response (i.e. smiles and laughs, starting to engage with more emotion / starting their own variations) from followers if I have happened to be doing more "contemporary WCS", according to the division in that site. After correcting for effects of personal chemistry etc.

What is your opinion of contemporary vs vintage? What is the actual defining difference there, if there is one? I had not thought there would be one, beyond the music, but apparently there is. Still, I can't really see the difference here.
 

Steve Pastor

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#2
Vintage West Coast Swing
These are slightly older West Coast Swing variations, from Richard Powers' "Living Traditions of Swing" class at Stanford, and older classes we have taught.

I've got step sheets from 1953, and the DanceNotes that Lauré Haile created, starting in 1945, but really, impossible to date, and a copy of a "kine" of people dancing "swing" at an Arthur Murray Medal Ball in Los Angeles in 1954.
Now, to ME, THAT'S Vintage.

(Oh, oh. I see someone doing Coaster steps instead of anchoring.)

You will probably find that 95?% or more percent of people you dance with will be happiest when you are doing something they've already learned/ are familiar with. Then there are the people who can just improvise Something when confronted with something they aren't familiar with, Most people just get unhappy when they too much unfamiliar stuff.

I saw where Powers offered a "Street Swing" class in the mid 90s, and found that interesting.


http://socialdance.stanford.edu/syllabi/westcoast.htm
Several Web pages, including Wikipedia, also claim that WCS was done in the 1950s or 60s, but those earlier styles weren't very similar to today's WCS, in either structure or appearance.

It was not only done in the 50s (see above) it was called West Coast Swing at least as early as 1953, and those people at the 1954 Medal Ball would fit in where I dance West Coast, but maybe not at Stanford or your current Westie event happening.
And that site has been around at least as long as I've been researching, which is going on 10 years now. But then, the dance is changing as the people who teach change, etc.

PS There are a bunch of things on that page that I think are inaccurate, and I can cite documentation to back it up. Sorry. Sorry.
 
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#3
Okay, thanks. So, there is no actual technical difference between "vintage" and "contemporary" figures, it is just that "contemporary" here means "stuff that people are doing nowadays" and vintage means "stuff that people were doing previously".

As an example, a whip with inside turn - it succeeds every time if I lead it to anyone who knows a whip and has danced enough (something, not necessarily WCS). However, it is not popular now, so doing it is not cool, because it is not done, because it is not cool. :-(

However, I am still going to lead it. Maybe I can cause a local bubble of "inside turn in a whip can actually happen!" if I persevere.
 

Steve Pastor

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#4
Couple of thoughts:

West Coast Swing seems to be a "dance without a history." What I mean by that is that whereas Lindy Hoppers, and other (dare I say) Vintage swing dancers (most notably Balboa) seem to be well acquainted with the important figures from the past going back to the late 20s, 30s, etc. Westies... seem to live in the present, or the "Vintage" age of slightly older patterns.
I think a symptom of this is that people still think blues was the first music WCS was danced to.

I've never thought of myself as one of the cool people, so maybe it's no surprise that, within limits, I do what I like; and look for people who are OK with what I do. You might be surprised how, eventually, there will be a payoff if you lead something maybe once during a dance, and repeat the process with the same people over a period of time.

persevere
BTW thumbs up on that lead for the inside turn in the whip; sounds like you've got it going pretty well.
 

ralf

Active Member
#5
As an example, a whip with inside turn - it succeeds every time if I lead it to anyone who knows a whip and has danced enough (something, not necessarily WCS). However, it is not popular now, so doing it is not cool, because it is not done, because it is not cool. :-(
OK, so I'm not cool, because I do that all the time.... :)

I'll even lead a whip with two inside turns -- start like a right-side pass, catch and redirect on three-and-four, second inside turn on five-six. The net result is that the follower turns 360 degrees CCW instead of the usual 360 CW, which frequently results in a "Hey, what just happened?!? Oh, that was cool!" reaction.
 
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Steve Pastor

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#7
During the 1950s, teenagers made many regional modifications to swing dancing (mostly 6-count), partially to adapt to rock'n'roll music.
The black kids of West Philadelphia influenced the white kids in South and North Philly, who added their own variations and departures from traditional swing.

Many (or most) of the evolutionary changes in WCS steps, patterns and music occurred during this 1950s phase.

There's little difference between 1961 basic patterns, the few that were spelled out in Dance magazine (Ed Long, John Monte), and 1953 step sheets (Harden, Portland.) and patterns described by Haile.

Changes? Consider...

Change 4) Push off with one hand, drifting back away from partner on counts 1-4. Then walk forward to your partner on counts 5-6. This replaced the rock step with walking forward.

You can see these in films Dean Collins was in in the 1st half of the 40s. The Sugar Push is in 1953 step sheets.
When you start looking at the couples other than the spotlighted dancers in the "40s" films, you see a lot of basic stuff that the kids in the 50s ended up doing, too.

Change 5)
This single rhythm was in Arthur Murray's 1942 How to Become a Good Dance as "Single Lindy Hop" on page 193. BTW Murray had peple teaching "Lindy Hop" in the early 30s.

I'm not sure what Philadelphia has to do with West Coast Swing in the 1950s, so Powers is really off base there.

There's more about what happened there in Philly, and the exaggerated claims made by some regarding what happened with the Bandstand show. (They didn't invent the Bop as is claimed and it was in fact the subject of a regional dance contest that made the LA Times in 1954, years before it appeared on Bandstand.) Dick Clark publicly apologized for the appropriation of the Stroll, which actually was a variation of the Virginia Reel. And in case you think no one did that stuff then and there, Bill Haley from southeastern Pennsylvania mentioned the Paul Jones in one of his rock n roll songs.

Powers...
When the disco scene erupted in NYC in 1970...The walking style of Hustle became the look of West Coast Swing less than ten years later.

Again. a "walking style" was part of West Coast Swing early in the 1950s.

Powers notes "the increasingly wide regional diversification of dance styles..." which was reversed on August 5, 1957.

Norma Miller, who danced at the Savoy through the early 40s wrote that she could tell which borough dancers were from by how they danced. [Swingin at the Savoy]
Arthur Murray wrote about different styles as early as 1942.

I like this one from Stearns "Jazz Dance," 'cause it's about where I grew up.
A young, white middle-class man from suburban Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania learned to dance jitterbug in 1939 by going to the "Hill City" section of that city to watch black dancers. They danced smoothly, without hopping and bouncing around the dance floor.
When he ventured out into "nearby mill towns, picking up partners on location", he found that there were white girls who were "mill-town...lower class" and could dance and move "in the authentic, flowing style". "They were poor and less educated than my high-school friends, but they could really dance. In fact, at that time it seemed that the lower class a girl was, the better dancer she was, too."

There's no evidence that "swing" was ever uniform that I know of.

I'm hoping I can remember the name of, and find, that paper I downloaded about Bandstand and who those Bandstand kids were.
 

Steve Pastor

Moderator
Staff member
#8
And Skippy Blair embraced the original lateral thinking attitude of swing. She could have turned it into a rule-based discipline, but she chose instead to keep the true heart of swing.
It certainly didn't seem this way when I took the two intensives from her!
 

Steve Pastor

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Staff member
#9
found it "American Bandstand and School Segregation in Postwar Philadelphia"
Matthew F Delmont Harvard May 2008 PhD Dissertation
The Bandstand kids were watching the Mitch Thomas Show, shown on "an independent station that was not affiliated with one of the three major networks."
This is also mentioned in other publications.
Meanwhile, again, what this has to do with West Coast Swing...
 
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#11
Vintage West Coast Swing
These are slightly older West Coast Swing variations, from Richard Powers' "Living Traditions of Swing" class at Stanford, and older classes we have taught.

I've got step sheets from 1953, and the DanceNotes that Lauré Haile created, starting in 1945, but really, impossible to date, and a copy of a "kine" of people dancing "swing" at an Arthur Murray Medal Ball in Los Angeles in 1954.
I heard some story about Skippy Blair being asked, back in the day, perhaps by Arthur Murray or someone, to go to the hot dance spots in So Cal and write down what the cool kids were doing so it could be taught in the studio and the clients would be able to join in the cool kid fun. What she documented was what we now call vintage WCS - basically Dean Collins style Lindy. Or some such.

Or I might have made up the whole thing. At my age it gets hard to tell.
 

Steve Pastor

Moderator
Staff member
#12
The story is about Lauré Haile, but I doubt that it's true.

Murray didn't hire her, it was Jack Wegman in 1945. And one of the first things they did was to let her look at their “book of dances – It had 20 steps in 6 dances, at that time!” There were names only, and no further information." She started her dance notes to help her remember the steps, and how to do them. Within a couple of years she moved to Arizona with one of her students who she taught and turned into an instructor. She married him, but I'm not sure of the date.

She was working for Lee Lawless who was one of Murray's national dance directors. She DID get to know Murray quote well, and was one of his favorite partners.
The story goes on, and she didn't come back to LA to live until 1951, or there about. I haven't been able to pin down that date, but she was hired by Tom "Tommy" Norton at the Santa Monica studio.

This comes from a copy of her book "I Love to Dance" that I snagged a few? years ago.

Note that she was given pre existing lists of steps, and "swing" was surely in there.

I've recently looked at many of the Collins/McGowan performances, and they did a whole lot of "the more extreme moves of the jitterbug dance," something the producers of "Buck Privates" were told to leave out when they were urged to give due consideration to the Army as people were being drafted, volunteering was being encouraged, and huge amounts of money were being appropriated in the defense industry. This was 1941, and although the US wasn't in the war yet, things were looking bad for our allies.
Anyhow, Buck Privates is probably the most viewed Dean/ Jewel performance, and that, and a much older Dean, are what people have fixated on.

As Skippy herself told me, people who think Dean was doing West Coast Swing are missing a few essential things. And that is something I am working on quantifying.

I might have made up the whole thing.
I think the story maybe came from Lauré not being clear when telling her story to certain people, who maybe weren't listening too carefully. Something else Skippy shared with me was that Lauré once told her that West Coast Swing was never called Western Swing, so... (It actually looks like Western, and Sophisticated were not slotted, based on early step sheets, but then Lauré wrote that while Western Swing was always slotted, other, earlier (1953) step sheets say that West Coast Swing "need not be for advanced work.")

She told her story in the 80s, and that was 30 years after the fact, but there is some written documentation.
Anyhow, whew!
 

tangotime

Well-Known Member
#14
She was working for Lee Lawless who was one of Murray's national dance directors.
There's another National DD I worked for ( and husband Mike ) in Phoenix ( 1962 ) .

last time I saw her , was when she took over a studio in Atlanta(1988/9? ). It closed within a few months and she went back to Phoenix . Mike had died in 1991 .They both showed up at a Hustle contest I was judging in Atlanta , in 1984 .

She was hell on wheels to work for !!..
 

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