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West Coast Swing

Elastic & Swingy

West Coast Swing is a partner dance with roots in the Lindy Hop. It is characterized by an elastic look that results from its extension-compression technique of partner connection and is danced primarily in a slotted area on the dance floor. The dance allows for both partners to improvise steps while dancing together, putting West Coast Swing in a short list of dances that emphasize improvisation.

West Coast Swing is a slotted dance. The slot is an imaginary area, long and thin, eight or nine feet long if danced at a very slow Tempo, but shorter if the music is at a faster tempo. The follower travels back and forth in the slot dancing straight through the lead. The leader consistently moves a minimum amount (at mid-way point) to his sides, barely out of her way. She lightly brushes against him each time she passes him.

Socially, it is considered good etiquette (particularly on a crowded floor) to use a fixed slot, in order to allow dancing without incident. Having danced the slot repeatedly, the couple "has a claim" on the area, and other couples usually cooperate and establish their own slot parallel with the dancers. If the dance floor is not crowded and the couple is afforded more space, such as during a competitive event, the dancers may move the slot around the floor more liberally.

Characterstics

‘Swing’ is an all‐American, couples, rhythm dance consisting primarily of 6‐Beat and 8‐Beat patterns that cover either a circular or slotted area on the dance floor. Swing incorporates the use of underarm turns, side passes, push breaks, and whips, plus ‘4‐Beat’ rhythm breaks, syncopations, and extensions of the same.

West Coast Swing is the 'Official State Dance of California'. Historically San Diego, San Francisco, and Los Angeles all argue about what city West Coast Swing originated in, however, the Los Angeles California area tends to win the debate on its evolution. West Coast Swing roots back to or originated from an earlier dance known as the Savoy Style Lindy, which was done at the Savoy Ballroom in New York in the early 1930's. Although WCS was not invented by, it was indirectly spawned by a man whose name was Dean Collins, who also danced at the Savoy while he was living in New York.

 West Coast Swing can be danced to almost any music written in 4/4 time.

In the past, the ideal speed for West Coast Swing was cited as 32 measures per minute (32x4 = 128 bpm) compared to advice to choose "records that are around 28 mpm" (28x4= 112 bpm) for "Western Swing".

 West Coast Swing dancers have adopted music genres such as hip hop and blues, both of which often range well below 100 bpm. Dancing to different types of music gives a different feel and look.

There are 2 basic footwork rhythms in West Coast Swing. We’re going to start you off with the most basic footwork rhythm first (the 6 count rhythm), so you can get comfortable with moving your feet to the rhythm, get used to syncopating your feet (ie. the “triple step”) and then use that knowledge in the first 2 basic movements.

Footwork Rhythm #1: 6 Count Rhythm

The first basic rhythm of West Coast Swing is a 6-count rhythm. This footwork rhythm is used in most of your patterns throughout West Coast Swing, and is where we’re going to start.

The 6 count rhythm looks like:

  • Walk, Walk, Step 3 Times, Step 3 Times [or]
  • Slow, Slow, Quick-Quick-Slow, Quick-Quick-Slow [or]
  • 1, 2, 3&4, 5&6

The most important thing to remember is that followers always start by stepping onto their right foot on count 1 (and end on their left foot on count 6), and leaders always start by stepping on their left foot on count 1 (and end on their right foot on count 6).

Footwork Rhythm #2: 8 Count Rhythm

The second basic rhythm of West Coast Swing is an 8-count rhythm. This footwork rhythm is used in predominantly in Whips or Whip movements (the next pattern you’re going to learn).

The 8 count rhythm looks like:

  • Walk, Walk, Step 3 Times, Walk, Walk, Step 3 Times [or]
  • Slow, Slow, Quick-Quick-Slow, Slow, Slow, Quick-Quick-Slow [or]
  • 1, 2, 3&4, 5, 6, 7&8

The most important thing to remember is that followers always start by stepping onto their right foot on count 1 (and end on their left foot on count 8), and leaders always start by stepping on their left foot on count 1 (and end on their right foot on count 8).

The Difference Between 6 & 8 Count Rhythms:

An excellent rule of thumb for knowing when you should perform the 6 count rhythm, or the 8 count rhythm is based on the followers position on count 4:

  • 6 count: The followers 4-count is moving away from the leader (eg. Left Side Pass, or Sugar Push
  • 8 count: The followers 4-count is moving toward the leader (eg. Whip)
Main Steps:
  • Dance Starts in a Closed Starter Basic and/ or Preparatory Basic.
  • Throw-Out.
  • Under-Arm Pass.
  • Under-Arm Pass with a Hand Change.
  • Left Side Pass.
  • Sugar Push(es) / Push Break.
  • Open Two Hand Tuck 'In' Turn. (Done from open position).
  • The Basic Whip (the Whip is also the very first pattern into intermediate as well).
Bronze Level
  • Sugar Push
  • Under Arm Pass
  • Left Side Pass
  • Tuck Turns
    • Traditional
    • Continuity
  • Basket Whip
  • Closed Whip
  • Half Whip with Throw Out
  • Cutoff
  • Same Side Tuck
  • Closed Whip with Outside Turn
    • Single
    • Double
Silver Level
  • Checked Whip and Throwout
  • Roll In and Pass
  • Double Face Loop, Tuck Spin
  • Lock Whip, Side Break and Spin
  • Spinning Hammerlock
  • Continuous Whip
  • Sugar Push Syncopations
  • Underarm Turn Syncopations
  • Roll In, Check & Throwout