"Original" music West Coast Swing was danced to

Steve Pastor

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For whatever reason, I'm most interested in the early days of the dance. It would be cool though if anyone wanted to clue us in on what the competition people were for from '81 on.
I am now looking at a book from the Disco period, among others.

One of them is the "Encylopedia of Social Dance" 1971 & 1975.
Skippy has been writing that, although GSTDA changed the name from Western Swing to West Coast Swing in 1962, the chain studios kept the name Western Swing.

And, there it is page 140 -
WESTERN SWING
Record: Comin' On - Bill Black's Combo - Hi #2072.
(Black was on the list of music tangotime sent me back when!
record was released in 1964 http://koti.mbnet.fi/wdd/hi.htm)
Bill was one of the guys who helped get Elvis started, then left when he didn't share in Elvis' financial success.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bill_Black

"Western Swing is for the advanced rather than the beginner or intermediate student. "This is the answer for what to do after advanced Lindy". The style of the dance is smooth with sublte usage of pressure and resistance. The man's steps are designed to keep him in a confined area while the Lady's steps keep her constantly teaveling in a "slot" (line)."
This is interesting...
"For a more advanced Coaster the Girl swings knees to the Left."
....not an anchor
"In choosing records look for those that are around 28 mpm."

mpm = measures per minute
 

tangotime

Well-Known Member
Partner dance in the UK more or less died out in the late 1960's and did not appear again until the 1980's with the arrival of 'French Jive' or 'Ceroc' (C'est Roc)

Not so !!!.... I know its ballroom ( perish the thought ) but it is STILL going strong . And... the dance that dominated from mid 70s till late 80s ( and still in UK ) Hustle, in all its forms ( I adjudicated a huge Hustle comp. in the UK in 1983 ) .

What amazes me is how people OUTSIDE of my profession, seem to know more about it (?), than those who have spent a life time in it !.

Thats not to say that one cannot be well informed , and can research and deduce from that, what they assume may have happened , but there is empirical evidence still to be sought.
 
There were certainly people dancing in the UK in the 1970's - but partner dance as a social activity more or less disappeared from the late 196O's till the Ceroc scene arrived.

I learned ballroom as a teenager in North London - Hertfordshire in the late 60's, even at that time there was no where local to dance. (to young people ballroom at the time was decidedly 'uncool')

The UK is country of some 60 million or so people, so yes there was certainly some partner dance going on in large metropolitan areas like London and Birmingham, but as a social activity accessible to the mainstream public - it disappeared.

In all my personal (as opposed to dance contacts) contacts over the decades I've not encountered another male in my age group or younger who learned ballroom dance as a teenager, I was pretty much the last of a dying breed.

Edinburgh has a pretty vibrant dance community, but the number of ballroom dancers under the age of 40 can be counted on one hand. and that pattern is pretty general throughout the UK.

In contrast Lindy, WCS, Tango, MJ, Ceildh and Salsa, which have only appeared in the last 15 years or so can fill dance halls several nights of the week.

Just out of interest whats the dance scene like in Weymouth and Dorset. . . . . . .
 
so yes there was certainly some partner dance going on in large metropolitan areas like London and Birmingham, but as a social activity accessible to the mainstream public - it disappeared.
I rather suspect that it was the interest of the general public that disappeared. When that happens, an activity retreats to its committed core constituency - it's still there, but you have to scratch the surface a bit to really find it.
 
Totally agree. . . . .

It's interesting that there is a fair bit of crossover between the other dance interests (If I turn up at Tango or Lindy, I might see faces I've encountered at MJ) but the ballroom crowd are totally isolated from that.

I'm registered with a dance match making site and its fascinating that there are appear to be a considerable number of young female ballroom dancers looking for male partners who haven't figured that most of the young male dancers are to be found in Swing.

I've turned up at Salsa classes where I was the only guy, and done Swing classes where guys were dancing with each other (yeah, I was learning to follow) because of lack of women.
 

Steve Pastor

Moderator
Staff member
I've looked a bit to find something around that 28 mpm speed. Must be prety slow? Slow waltz in this book is listed as 30 - 36 mpm.
Anyone have a good, easy to listen to, non YouTube song we could listen to?

It occurs to me, too, that listening to Bill Black's Combo, most of us would call it "blues", or "R&B". This phase of Black's career produced music that was popular in the R&B market, but also as background music and music for strippers.
These song sound like blues and/or R&B because it's farily slow and it has saxophone.

My recollection of the music from the one scene in "Don't Knock the Rock" was that they were dancing to blues. But, it turned out to be Bill Haley and His Comets.
"Blue Suede Shoes" has the I IV V chord progressions, and flattened notes characteristic of blues, (as did a whole bunch of early rock n roll) but I am not the only one who doesn't think of it as blues.

Back to swing...
The Western Swing in this book has other differences from both Haile's description and SKippy Blair's 1978 description of West Coast Swing. This indicates that the dance had already changed as it (possibly) radiated out from LA form the 50s into the 70s.
The authors of the book don't say where they got their information.
As I wrote earlier, a dance teacher in Rockville, Maryland owned the Murray Silver book, and must have purchased it after the Madison became big ~ 1960.
In a very brief conversation with her, she could not remember if she had taught Western Swing.

This Encyclopia lists 140 "fad" dances, most of which were popular in the 60s. Those were the dances that most young people of the day were doing.
 
Another example. . . .

I was working in a rural area of Northern Ireland last year, unless you went to Belfast there was no dancing - then I discovered there was 'dance club' at a local hotel.

Well it was a 1970's - 80's time warp.

No one could partner dance, so I tried teaching this women basic MJ - but someone spotted me. . .

'You can dance!!!!'

'Yeah I can do MJ and Swing'

'Lets hit the floor'

I was John Travolta in Saturday Night Fever - this woman (who was a really good MJ dancer) and I emptied the dance floor in about 2 minutes and ended up doing a impromptu exhibition of MJ. .. .

A crazy evening. .
 

kayak

Active Member
US Open Videos go back to 1983. If you want to see the evolution of the dance up to 2001, the 20th Anniversary "Time Capsule" is your bet.
Wow, that is quite a collection of videos. I'm not much of a dance historian, but it seems to me their collection would be an amazing resource for the subtle changes over time. I hope some libraries or Google actually have the money to buy the sets. That way, a researcher like Steve will have really solid proof when they research swing.

The best part of the video is I know if I get caught in a time warp, I can at least go back to the 80s and still go out dancing with my current WCS skills :)
 
I've looked a bit to find something around that 28 mpm speed. Must be prety slow?
28 mpm * 4 bpm (swing) = 112 bpm - just under two beats per second.

Dave Tomkins offers a breakdown of music in that range, as measured by MixMeister.

Scanning the list for songs I hear frequently on the westie floor:
Crazy, by Gnarles Barkley
In the Midnight Hour, Wilson Pickett

You don't hear it so often any more, but about 10 years ago you could expect to hear Popa Chubby's Sweat, which is around 86 bpm. Son of a Preacher Man is usually around 90. Heart Attack and Vine is 94, Free Your Mind by En Vogue is 100.

Slow waltz in this book is listed as 30 - 36 mpm.
30 mpm * 3 bpm (waltz) = 90 bpm - three beats every two seconds. The higher end of your slow waltz looks like 108, a bit slower than 112.
 
I'm registered with a dance match making site and its fascinating that there are appear to be a considerable number of young female ballroom dancers looking for male partners who haven't figured that most of the young male dancers are to be found in Swing.
Maybe they would rather do what interests them?
 
I could well believe 28 mpm... which just so happens to be the sweet spot for foxtrot as well, and it's no secret that we standard ballroom folk and the westies often covet the same music.

Not quite sure how the comparison to slow waltz ended up in this thread - most would say 28-30 mpm for waltz. I would point out that in the way waltz and foxtrot are danced, these are comparable tempos of body movement, as what takes takes three beats in waltz takes four beats (but the same amount of time) in foxtrot.

In all three cases - foxtrot, waltz, and wcs - my feeling is that the slower tempos are preferred by dancers who are a level phyiscally where they are ready to submerge themselves in the music (or have gotten into a track of training that aspires to that), while the faster takes on these slow dances are for somewhat more surface-level approaches where the actions can't yet fill up that much time. Of course when you get into the fast dances, it's the other way around.
 

Steve Pastor

Moderator
Staff member
But no Bill Black. No surprise there. Will have to look for Haile's songs. No "One Mint Julip".

MixMeister requires you to have an mp3 to analyze, I think? I can't even find a sample of "Comin' On".
 

tangotime

Well-Known Member
.


Just out of interest whats the dance scene like in Weymouth and Dorset. . . . . . .

On the salsa side, quite vibrant... between B.M., Dorch etc there are several venues that offer public dancing on a weekly basis.

In ballroom, there are 2 reg. weeekly socials and R and R also has reg. events . Line dancing and Sequence gets its share . For a small community, i would say thats pretty decent .
 

Steve Pastor

Moderator
Staff member
Thought I'd share this with you... Bill Black's comments on the music he made with the Combo.

After severing his ties with RCA and Presley, Black had a definite vision for a simple, danceable instrumental sound. Joe Lee remembers Black saying, "You know those honky tonk days, man? Well, that's the sound I want. I want some honky-tonk music, man."

The Blue Moon Boys - The Story of Elvis Presley's Band. Ken Burke and Dan Griffin. 2006. Chicago Review Press. pages 140, 141. ISBN 1-55652-614-8
 

kayak

Active Member
I could well believe 28 mpm... which just so happens to be the sweet spot for foxtrot as well, and it's no secret that we standard ballroom folk and the westies often covet the same music.
...
In all three cases - foxtrot, waltz, and wcs - my feeling is that the slower tempos are preferred by dancers who are a level phyiscally where they are ready to submerge themselves in the music (or have gotten into a track of training that aspires to that), while the faster takes on these slow dances are for somewhat more surface-level approaches where the actions can't yet fill up that much time.
This makes a lot of sense to me. The dance that really helped my body control is both WCS and waltz is the slow version Night Club 2-Step.
 
What I have heard is that WCS (danced in a 'slot')was supposedly created in Hollywood so the camera could have the stars in profile at pretty much all times without having to be constantly moved, which was more difficult at the time than it is now.
Not sure if this is true, but it sounds about right.
 

Steve Pastor

Moderator
Staff member
It would be helpful to watch movies from the 50s and 40s which feature people doing swing dancing. One or both of the partners ALWAYS has their back to the camera at one time or another.
Scenes featuring "jitterbuggers" usually involved "crowd scenes", sometimes showing a "featured couple". There are set pieces, too, of course.

Look at films made even earlier and you will see that lens with an extended "depth of field" were common, so the "out of focus" deal is bogus, too.

I don't have the link, but there is a clip from the movie "Hot Rod Gang" on YouTube with people dancing Western Swing to Gene Vincent.
Yes, cameras didn't "move", (although Orson Wells had a very long tracking shot in one of his films, and you know, (they still put cameras on "tracks" so they can move) but alternate shots/takes could be used and edited to have long shots with closer shots interspersed.

Almost everthing that is "common knowledge" about the West Coast Swing slot is urban legend, because people couldn't think of any better explanation, I think. And, Hollywood does have a glamorous image, and Lauré Haile, who may have actually created the dance by defining is as being exclusively slotted, DID have a Hollywood address at one time.

(Dean Collins invovlement with it has never really been substantiated, and in fact is dismissed by people who knew him. But, again, everyone knows who he is because he has a high profile with swing dancers.)

Oh, yeah, since this is the "Orginal music thread", Gene Vincent is generally known as a rockabilly. I've been told there is more than one version of the clip on YouTube. Only one of them has the music as used in the film.
(Just like there is more than one Elvis doing "Hound Dog" on the Milton Berle Show, only one of which has the music as it was played live on the show.)
Here's a link to a sample of "Dance to the Bop" http://rcs.law.emory.edu/rcs/ss/04/ss4463.mp3
 
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 actually a music major here in So Cal, and took two Jazz History classes. I don't have actual text, but in my own words and knowledge from school, they're referring to a 16-note musical phrasing, but it's still an 8-count dance, cause it all breaks down into 2s basically. As we both discussed in another forum Steve, I believe it actually started with Lindy swing music, and evolved next with more blues, etc. Then again, my class was about Jazz Music, and not specifically Swing Dancing :)
 

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