The Original West Coast Swing
West Coast Swing (WCS) has evolved dramatically in the last 6 years. Originally it was a partner dance with it’s original roots in Lindy Hop. It was characterized by a distinctive elastic look that results from its basic extension-compression technique of partner connection, included triple steps (not rock steps) and was danced primarily in a slotted area on the dance floor. The original dance allowed for both partners to improvise steps while dancing together, putting West Coast Swing in the forefront of dances the promote lots of improvisation.
At the higher level WCS borrows patterns and styles from most of the other popular dance styles including but not limited to: Salsa, Country 2 Step, Tango, Modern Dance and more.
The core the dance is composed of 6 and 8 counts patterns. They patterns can be changed, extended, stylized and modified depending of the music and improvisation desired. Skippy Blair promotes 22 basic patterns and other veteran teachers have their systems.
The follower travels forward on counts “1” and “2” of each basic pattern and does not rock back. Traditional figures include 6-count and 8-count patterns of one of the four basic varieties: (1) Starter Step, (2) Side Pass, (3) Push Break (Sugar Push), (4) Whip. Only the whip is an 8 count pattern, the rest are 6 count patterns.
The “Anchor” is always the end of any pattern simple or complex. The anchor may or may not include a triple.
West Coast Swing now
West Coast Swing now is a very different dance but still has some roots in the idea of anchors and a slot but now the triples may or may not exist, and there is an extreme amount of play between both leads and follows. Originally leads were male and follows were female. The newer generation has removed this classic designation and now parts are danced by any gender in competitions. Competitions have evolved to a less structured and more improvisational form that more closely resembles modern dance than it’s Lindy Roots. Finally the music itself has changed to become less based on beat and more based on lyrical structure which makes sense when you listen to the evolution of modern “pop culture” music. The older forms are still taught and exist but don’t be surprised when what you see on you tube during competitions does not resemble at all what you may be learning. Also, the judging has become more of a peer to peer judging system with less qualified judges that have not been formally trained in the rudiments of the dance.
The tempo range of WCS can be from about 80 bpm to 145 bpm.
Night Club 2 Step is about 60-80 bpm
Country 2 Step is from about 170 to 210 bpm (roughly).
The style of music is very flexible. It includes but are not limited to: Blues, Pop, Easy Listening, Pop/Jazz, Rock, Folk, Lyrical style and Rap, etc and the 4/4 time signature.
However, in my personal opinion; to learn WCS is to learn that dance that can take you anywhere you want to go…