"Original" music West Coast Swing was danced to

Steve Pastor

Moderator
Staff member
#61
"Dance to the Bop" is the music used during a dance rehearsal scene. Fifty percent of the partnering they do in this scene is unquestionably West Coast Swing complete with the woman doing two steps forward, then 2 triples at the end of the "slot".
There are other patterns we would all probably recognize such as the classic closed position to open, chicken walk, etc. It's a bit startling to see the flips at the end of the slot, but hey, hopefully you noticed how fast it gets.

The one thing that looks different is that the women will end their "anchor" with their right heel on the ground, and the front of the foot up.

The music does in fact start slow, then rev up, break, slow down again, several times.

One of my favorite "moves" is when all four couples come to a dead stop facing the same way at the end of the slot. I'm gonna have to use that one.

The choreographer, Dick DiAugustine, also works in some non partner moves for variety.

There were some WCS like movements to bluesy music in one scene in "Don't Knock the Rock", (2 basics then onto something else) but, this is the first time I have seen something that is without a doubt West Coast Swing in a film.

And they are dancing to Rockabilly. And it's definately not slow.
 
#62
Blues music preceeded Jazz/Swing/ Pop music by decades.

Wikipedia states that WCS was orginally danced to 16 note blues music.
Overlooking the fact that "16 note blues music" doesn't make sense to me (I'm not a musician, but I have learned a bit about blues.) I don't think this statement in WIkipedia is correct.
So, folks, I've been doing on line research, exchanged a message with Sonny Watson, pulled out some blues books I have, etc.
Does anyone here have any knowledge, hopefully not just hearsay, but something that can be referenced, about the "original" music WCS was danced to?
If you don't just go ahead and write what you know.
I was told by musicians, Blues music is written in 12 quarter note (three Bar phrases) instead of the eight note (Two bars) of pop Swing music.
 

Vince A

Active Member
#64
I was told by musicians, Blues music is written in 12 quarter note (three Bar phrases) instead of the eight note (Two bars) of pop Swing music.
There is also the twelve and eight that you mentioned and, of course sixteen bar, as well, as any "bar" you want to make it if you are writing/composing the song . . . based on the dominant and subdominant chord structure(s).

Single chord stucture could have any number of bars, and was usually sang as blues "blues talk", or "rhythmic talk" or "call and response."

I play blues . . . guitar and bass!
 

Steve Pastor

Moderator
Staff member
#65
Ya know how I found that Western Swing was the most popular music around LA back when West Coast Swing started out as "Western Swing"?
This seems appropriate. It's kind of about how things have changed

I ain't old, I'm just out of date
In the late great golden state
I caught one last glimpse
Of a palomino
When I drove out west
To see the purple sage
Then as canyons burned
And the mountains crumbled
The last cowboy band
Left the stage
I ain't old, I'm just out of date
In the late great golden state

See the Dwight Yoakam video at if you aren't averse to country
http://www.cmt.com/videos/dwight-yoakam/33636/the-late-great-golden-state.jhtml
 
#66
"d nice" had a "Dean Collins" thread that was just started. I thought I saw it earlier today. Where did it go?
Anyhow, Dean is reported to have started dancing a more slotted version of Lindy in the late 1930s. That was about a full decade before the term "R&B" was coined by the recording industry/ a dj in Cleveland.
Dean passed through the Savoy when swing was king, and was a Lindy dancer, and also danced and choreographed for Hollywood. He did most of that work through the 1940s. Again, before "R&B" existed as a catchall for what had been termed "race music" by the recording industry. I just don't see the connection with blues as I think of it, and as it is defined strictly.
Anything is possible, of course. But if something is going to be on line in Wikipedia, I'm just thinking it shouldn't have such a definitive statement if there is no actual evidence of "16 note blues" being involved. Or was it 16 ba blues, or 12 bar blues, or not blues at all?
For THE RECORD: Dean Collins started dancing a East Coast Savoy Lindy Style in the early 1950's. During WW II Dean was Dancing what has now become known as West Coast Swing with NO Slotted technique and lacked many of the techniques used in East Coast Swing today. How do I know this? Dean was a Swing instructor at my 'Joe Lanza Dance Studio' in Hollywood from 1953-1957, and a personal friend till the end of his life.
On my Website menue you can see 'Swing, the Dean Collins Way' . <WWW.LINDYBYLANZA.COM>
 

Steve Pastor

Moderator
Staff member
#67
West Coast Swing is defined by the slotted style, which also defined the predecessor of WCS, Western Swing. Whatever you want to call it, if Dean wasn't primarily dancing a slotted style of swing, he wasn't doing WCS as we know it today. There is also the question of whether his partners were doing a walk walk when moving forward (irrevlevant without the slot, really.)

Skippy Blair and others have written that Dean woud have hated West Coast Swing. Nevertheless, Dean's name always seems to come up, in spite of the fact that he is on record stating, disingenuosly, that It's all Swing.

It really seems that Lauire Haile's transcription of the steps (out of all the variety of steps and counts, etc) for Murray's studio is what initally defined the dance, which was further refined (anchor replacing coaster and changing where the "count" and patterns started) in 1958 by the Golden State Dance Teachers Association. Of course, that was just about 50 years ago, which is a long time.
 

Steve Pastor

Moderator
Staff member
#68
Here's a question for you Joe. I've read all of your previous posts as BlackSheep, and you never mention Western Swing, the music. During the 40s, in into the 50s, Western Swing was by far the most popular form of swing in the LA basin. It was all those folks from Texas, Oklahoma, etc, and all of those singing cowboys, that brought their tastes in music with them both through the Depression and WWII, when there were many defence industry jobs.
What is your recollection of that from the early 50s?
 
#69
FROM: Steve Pastor, "Here's a question for you Joe. I've read all of your previous posts as BlackSheep, and you never mention Western Swing, the music. During the 40s, in into the 50s, Western Swing was by far the most popular form of swing in the LA basin. It was all those folks from Texas, Oklahoma, etc, and all of those singing cowboys, that brought their tastes in music with them both through the Depression and WWII, when there were many defence industry jobs.
What is your recollection of that from the early 50s?"
----------------------------------------
I'm not sure of your question, but here is my experience of the 1950's in Hollywood:
I went through two teacher's training classes at two different dance studios and I was taught 'chain Studio Swing, the same as Laure' Hall and Jean Veloz who were long time friends of mine. I also spent an afternoon with Helen Thomas in 2001, who was reputed by Jean Veloz as being the best Swing dancer in the 1940's and one of Dean Collins' last last partners in 1949 before she moved to NYC as a tap dancing team. Helen definitely established for me that in the 1940's Dean danced what was known then as Chain Studio Swing in all the major USA cities. I danced Chain Studio Swing from March 1949 until 1955. I definitely knew the complete style of Chain Studio Swing which today is too similar to WCS to distinguish from although WCS today in Southern California is a sloppy version with mAny Big Apple Eight Count moves thrown in, perhaps the best model of this mixture of the Big Apple and WCS is Joshua Castle man. On my Website you can hear me sing my original composition, 'Joshua Jive' which describes this mixture of swing with the Big Apple moves. <WWW.LNDYBYLANZA.COM >. Dean Collin told me himself in 1955 that he had changed his style of Swing from the 1940's and added, "I'm a hell-of-a lot better dancer now."

Where Dean learned the new techniques which are very similar to ECS and the Swing Style I remember trying to learn from my dance friends in pre-WW II days, Dean would never divulge either to me or to any of other old time dancers when the subject came up.

My theory is that after WW II, he returned to New Jersey where his family lived and took some lesslons from the Black dancers at the Savoy Ballroom in Harlem where the best dancers in my teenage crowd learned the Lindy Hop in pre-WW II days. In one conversation with Dean and his wife at their home in 1980 at Dean's House, Dean made a statement," ...this guy remembered seeing me dance at the Savoy Ballroom in Harlem." That was the only time I heard Dean admit he visited the Savoy Ballroom.
Why Dean would never admit who he learned what became known as 'Street Swing'
in Hollywood is a mystery.

Now When I started Dating Beverly Mayo, the best female Swing dancer in Southern California, I was still dancing Chain Studio Swing (WCS). After we parted, I focused on converting to the Street Swing Style using Techniques taught to me by Dean and by observing contest dancers at the Tailspin where the most prestigious Swing contest were held in the 1950's. Street Swing was very similar to the Lindy Hop I observed in my teenage days in the Brooklyn Social celler clubs.
Southern California seems the only area where Chain Studio Swing *WCS) is still popular. To understand the style, you have to know the Big Apple moves and separate them from the rest of the dance.
I hope I've Answered your question, Steve.
 
#70
-Steve, something being written down does not create a thing, or even particularly define a thing, it simply shows that such a thing has reached a point where people want to record what is being done to pass on to others.

As to this constant statement of Western Swing being the most popular music in LA... all the Texas Blues musicians and pop musicians all of which had regular gigs with dancers galore makes such statements questionable. The time period which you give to Western Swing the dance and the music is the same period in which Lindy Hop/Jitterbug was being danced in the Blues and Jazz clubs and dance halls along Central Avenue in the Black neighborhoods. The dance as you describe it is not noticeably different than what they were doing... to a much different music.

I've yet to see any concrete evidence that suggests there was any real relation to the dance that was being called Western Swing by ballroom dancers or what was being called Lindy Hop, Swing, or Jitterbug by black or "street/club" dancers to Western Swing the music. The fact that the same essential dance was being done by minorities and whites alike to music in keeping with the jazz/blues tradition which spawned all of the Swing dances undermines pretty much everything cited so far.
 
#71
For a completely different view on Dean and his dancing and life contact Peter Loggins, Lance Benishek, Terry Monaghan, or Sylvia Sykes.

Surprisingly a lot of stories Joe tells don't match up with their stories of Dean and his or his wife's statements to those historians or people they have personal relationships with.

I wasn't there and never met or studied under Dean so I'm not calling anyone out, but with some statements in agreement and others contradicting I'm not sure I would necessarily try and use Dean's name to sell anyone on anything, nor information that is supposed about his background as a means of proving anything.

What we do know irrefutably is that Dean was a an amazing dancer, a good and popular choreographer, and danced in a slot on camera (though the slot of today does not exactly compare to the slot back in the day).
 

Steve Pastor

Moderator
Staff member
#74
So far.

d nice:
Any films you can name that would show Dean dancing "in a slot on camera"?
I looked at as many films from the 40s that I could find, and found most of the dancing to be much more varied.
(Films from the 50s would count, too.)
 
#75
A BIT OF SWING HISTORY
I went through two teacher's training classes at two different dance studios in 1949 and I was taught 'Chain Studio Swing, the same style Swing as Laure' Hail and Jean Veloz danced, both who were long time friends of mine. I also spent an afternoon with Helen Thomas in 2001, who was reputed by Jean Veloz as being the best Swing dancer in the 1940's and one of Dean Collins' last dance partners in 1949 before she moved to NYC as a tap dancing team. One day Jean Veloz drove me up to Valljo, California to visit Helen at her motor home, just in time to accompany Helen to the recreation Hall where she rehearsed her group of elderly ladies in an entertaining musical review of several song and dance routines. After her rehearsal Jean, Helen and I were left alone in the recreation hall where I got down to my purpose in visiting Helen, which was , 'To determine exactly what style of dance did Dean Collins do when Helen last danced with Dean Collins in 1949 before she left for NYC?'

To illustrate the differences in West Coast Swing in Southern California in 1949 and the Lindy Hop the was still very popular in NYC in those Post WW II days, Helen made the following statement to me and Jean Veloz on that summer afternoon in Vallejo, Ca. where she probably still lives in a Motor Home in a senior citizen community.
"I went swing dancing twice when I arrived in NYC", Helen stated, "and both times the dancers were so terrible, that I never went Swing dancing in NYC again."

Now this statement in itself was not enough for me to determine exactly what style Dean was dancing before I met him in 1953, So I had Helen put on a swing record, and I danced the WCS style which I had danced and taught at my Hollywood Dance Club from 1949-1955. And we danced without a glitch. It was pure Chain Studio Swing taught in the Arthur Murray, Veloz & Yolanda,and Fred Astair Chain Dance Studios in the 1940's and the 1950's.

Still I had to verify my theory of what Dean's original Style was in the 12940's. So I asked Helen to lead Jean in a swing dance. Jean came from a little town in central California and was winning Swing contests with her brother before she ever met Dean. Jean and I first met when we were both training at the V&Y Dance studio on Whilshire Blvd. in Los Angeles in 1949. Jean was in the 8 week Teacher's Training class that finished just before mine started and had the same instructors, Mary Tweedy and Ted Zane, so our Swing was exactly compatible even after 50 years when we we were a guest speakers the Second Annual Camp Hollywood three day Swing Festival in 1998.

So I observed Helen and Jean dance in perfect harmony the Chain Studio Swing. But still I had to delve deeper into this Style that Dean danced in the WW II movies, so I got into discussing techniques with Helen.

Using the 123, 123, 1-2 count, because the terms 'Triple Triple One Two' were never used to my knowledge in the 1950's, I asked Helen 'what moves did the lady make on the 'One-Two'? Helen who was an accomplished tap dance besides being reputed as the best Female Swing Dancer in the 1940's, gave me an answer that was crucial in establishing the differences in Swing Styles between WCS and the NYC version of the Lindy Hop, "The lady always travels forward'', Helen explained, "on the 'One-Two' except when in Closed position'. Although Helen was a very well trained dancer with some 60 years experience, when I asked her about Directional Control, she never mentioned the word "SLOT" but instead said that you just went where your partner lead you. When I danced with Helen, there was not the slightest resistance but she followed me impeccably as I led her in the Chain Studio Swing.

When it came to leading her into Whips, she walked in on the 'One-Two' traveled around me on the '1 2 3' and was ready to come forward again on the One-Two'; it was the Whip without a Snap.

Helen definitely established for me that in the 1940's Dean danced what was known then as Chain Studio Swing, and the same style that dancers like Hal Savoy Trakier, Jean Phelps Veloz and Helen Thomas were dancing before Dean came on the swing dance scene in the mid 1930's. This modified Lindy Hop known as WCS was being taught in all the major Southern California Chain Studios because it was much easier to teach and to learn. However, the dance instructors at the Savoy Ballroom in Harlem NYC taught the more sophisticated Lindy Hop which evolved and came to be slightly modified into the ECS.

THE BOTTM LINE:

Dean Collins danced Chain Studio Swing up until 1949 and sometime after 1949 Dean converted to the Lindy Hop and that style came to be known as 'Street Swing' which actually was danced by less than 50 dancers that monopolized the Swing Dance Contests in Hollywood and in South Gate. I danced Chain Studio Swing from March 1949 until 1955, and converted to the Lindy Hop style in 1956 and my dancing improved to a degree that I eventually established an historic Swing record in winning First and Second place in the same contest at the Tailspin in 1956 using two different partners, Darleen and Pepper and for the record, I had not yet developed the Triple Jumping-Jack; my only Aerial was the 'Lanza Flip' which is on my Website <WWW.LINDYBYLANZA.COM >

The contestants in that contest were, Pat Eggers and Darleen Greminger who came in Third, Jack and Lorrain, great acrobatic dancers famous for their Flying Dutchman, Tommy Smith & Pepper, Rick Hanna and partner, and one of the Sax Twins and a couple of other dance couples. Lou Southern, my favorite Swing dancer, was the MC who picked the Judges, all who were complete strangers to me before the contest. Nino Tempo was the sextet playing that night, and the Tailspin had standing room out to the street.

After the contest, before I had a chance to thank the judges, Tommy Smith accompanied by his entourage of Rick Hanna and the Sax twins, confronted me,

" Joe, we don't like what happened tonight. You 
shouldn't aught to be in these contests."
" Tommy you are the one who challenged me to get in the 
contest. What's the problem now ?"
" We figure we help you get students for your
studio, now you take money out of our pockets."
" Tommy, I don't take any money. I gave my
share to Pepper and Darlene. You know that !"
" Yeah, well we are telling you in a nice way, 
we don't want you in no contests no more."

I never entered another contest, but Choreographed a Swing Routine for two of my dance teachers, Al Lerner and Ronnie Hawks Merritt who consistently beat Tommy Smith in all future Swing Contests. That's what you'd call Sicilian Vengeance. All three are still alive.

To get Back to Dean Collins' conversion from WCS to the Lindy Hop:
I definitely knew the complete style of Chain Studio Swing which today is too similar to WCS to distinguish from the Arthur Murray Studio Swing, although WCS today in Southern California is a sloppy version with many of the Big Apple Eight Count moves thrown in; perhaps the best model of this mixture of the Big Apple with WCS is a dancer, Joshua Castleman. On my Website you can hear me sing my original composition, 'Joshua Jive' which describes this mixture of swing with the Big Apple moves. <WWW.LNDYBYLANZA.COM >.

And finally, Dean Collin told me himself in 1955 that he had changed his style of Swing from the 1940's and added, "I'm a hell-of-a lot better dancer today then I was."

Where did Dean learn the new techniques which are very similar to ECS in techniques and Style? I remember asking my dance friends from pre-WW II days that question. Dean would never divulge either to me or to any of the other old time dancers when the subject came up of, ' who taught you how to Swing dance'. He once said he learned from his sisters. But Dean danced a completely different style in the 1950's than he danced in the per-WW II films. So where does the truth lie since he was living in Southern California from mid 1930's to 1949 ?

My theory is that after WW II, Dean returned to New Jersey where his family lived and took some lessons from the Black dancers at the Savoy Ballroom in Harlem where the best dancers in my teenage crowd learned the Lindy Hop in pre-WW II days. In one conversation with Dean and his wife at their home in 1980 at Dean's House in Burbank on Howard Street, Dean made a statement, "...this guy remembered seeing me dance at the Savoy Ballroom in Harlem." That was the only time I heard Dean admit he visited the Savoy Ballroom.
Why Dean would never admit who he learned the Lindy Hop from, which became known as 'Street Swing'
in Hollywood, will remain a mystery that only conjecture can guess at.
Uncle Joe
 
#76
BTW, I will make a donation to your Christmas sales program of one copy of my books, 'Lindy By Lanza'; let me know where to send it.

The Book contains seven pages of Savoy Swing Techniques never before recorded, 52 pages of original vintage photos, a section on Brooklyn Celler Social Clubs where Swing was the only dance done, and many behind the scenes of the Rock & Roll films like, 'DON'T KNOCK THE ROCK and 'UNTAMED YOUTH' with original photos taken by myself on the movie sets.
This is a collector's item that covers many of the 1950's dance events, a veritable capsule of Swing Dance History. And it is not for sale, but a gift to Dance Forum in appreciation for all the super support that men like Vince Angelino and David DanceMaster have given to America's Cultural Contribution to the World, SWING DANCING.
Joe Lanza aka Black Sheep
 
#77
Just because people could follow WCS doesn't mean that was exclusively what they were dancing back in the day. Pretty much any advanced lindy hopper today can follow WCS with ease, without ever taking a single lesson (and the reverse is true too).

I wonder if many of the videos that used to be on Natch have made it on to YouTube or somewhere on the web again? Natch had a lot of good videos of Dean that are hard to find.

And Joe, just so you know, the "evidence" you have invoked here is no better than hear-say either. You are not telling us what you found out from Dean himself, but what you found out from people who knew/danced with Dean. Same thing. (And Dean telling you that he was a better dancer in 1955 than in the 40's doesn't prove your point either. I'm a much better dancer than I was 10 years ago, and that has very little to do with changes in the dance since then.)

As d nice says, many of your statements can be countered by reliable information.

Just sayin'

(And telling us the same thing over and over again is not going to convince us.)
 
#78
lol... as the kids these days say, pwned. Anywaythe whole point being that if you aren't Dean anything that comes after that is hearsay. What you say he has said, and what you say others have said that he said is no more verifiable than the stories of those who knew him. When contradictions occur the best way to go about getting an idea of what may be what was actually how it happened is to look at all the various stories and quotes and see where they agree and disagree, chances are the truth is somewhere in the middle, more often than not. When it is a single person whose story greatly varies from others, the truism "follow the money" is as true in this case as it is in politics. Who has something to gain by a given statement. That is the one that is most likely to be exxagerated or out and out false.

So what we are left with is a very much assumed history of Dean's dancing as you tell it, and one which was said by his closest friends and students, and the man himself. I'll let the readers here look to see who has the most to gain and judge who may be shading the truth a hair. I have no investment in it, so I'm not overly concerned who believes what, as long as they are making informed decisions.

As to claiming any one person as the best dancer in a decade... I'd have to ask how many of the Savoy Ballroom's Harvest Moon Ball winners did she compete against, perform with, or otherwise enable someone to draw an even remotely accurate comparison of her ability against those who were generally and specifically recognized as being among the best dancers in Swing dancing through the 30's and 40's.

Now I'm not trying to take anything away from her, She was a very sweet lady and the clips and rep say quite a lot about her dancing skill... but as most claims about "this is how things were done" "this what the popular music was to dance to" and "this person was the best" it is specious claim at best.

The best swing dancer of that decade may very well have been a White woman from L.A., but my point is that without direct competition or other equal means of judging two dancers or couples in a side by side comparison, what you are left with is simply one person's opinions limited on their own experience... one which ignores the entire East Coast, Mid-West, South, and probably Blacks in the L.A. Basin, let alone those who were defeating all comers at the Savoy Ballroom in Harlem.

Even today it is extremely difficult to say who is the best Lindy Hop or West Coast Swing Dancer with multiple national titles, and numerous national and international events. It is easier to say who is among the best, or maybe even the best in a specifc club, maybe even city... but once you get beyond that...
 

Vince A

Active Member
#79
Nice, friendly, and SHORT responses . . . I certainly like it that way . . . as a moderator speaking, that is . . . . . . . . hope it stays like this!
 
#80
Lindykeya,
Just to keep the record straight, here is what I DID say, "I also spent an afternoon with Helen Thomas in 2001, who was reputed by Jean Veloz as being the best Swing dancer in the 1940's and one of Dean Collins' last dance partners in 1949 before she moved to NYC as a tap dancing team." I QUOTED JEAN VELOZ; I had no way of knowing anything about Helen Thomas before I met her in 2001.

And most of the people I mentioned in, "A Bit of Swing History' are still alive and available to confirm or deny anything I stated in my 'Bit of Swing History'. And keep in mind I was there in Hollywood from 1949-1963. An Eye witness with my background in WCS and the Lindy hop is a little bit above here say, wouldn't you say?
 

Dance Ads