Being a new dancer can be intimidating. These five tips are designed to get you out on the floor and feeling comfortable as quickly as possible. Remember… the entire community wants to see new danc...

Categories:
Beginners

West Coast Swing Whips – Footwork & Timing In this article we will try to give you some information about the introduction of the sometimes confusing West Coast Swing Whip into your dancing. First ...

Categories:
Beginners

West Coast Swing Events Looking for the perfect west coast swing events? We have complied a great list of resources that will allow you to find just what you are looking for. The list of resources ...

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Uncategorized

Shaping the Anchor

March 30, 2016

Because the anchor occurs at the end of every WCS pattern, the anchor is one of the best places to learn style variations. A common variation is to add dimension to the dance by moving your anchor ...

Categories:
Styling

Many beginning dancers accidentally add noise to their connection by moving their hands around. They may be keeping time by moving their hands on the beat or they may simply be unaware of how their...

Categories:
Connection

Spot for Cleaner Spins

February 24, 2016

One of the keys to a good spin is ending where you want to. A spin that ends cleanly looks good. Conversely, a spin that finishes with the dancer frantically searching for their partner looks uncon...

Categories:
Spins & Turns

Step Under Your Elbow

February 17, 2016

Many dancers take steps that are too large compared to the movement of their center. When their feet move further than their center, the angle of their body changes and hence the connection changes...

Categories:
Connection

Work Your Walks

February 3, 2016

Because west coast swing is a two-beat dance, play happens in two-beat units. So, if you can fill two-beat units with stylized movement, you can look good while you or your partner play. There are ...

Categories:
Footwork

3 Anchor Step Positions

January 20, 2016

There are 3 basic anchor step positions that are commonly used in West Coast Swing. You can choose to end straight toward your partner, rotate open to your partner or rotate closed to your partner...

Categories:
Anchor Step

Most dancers move too much. When dancers take steps that are too large, they can run out of room at the end of the slot; either the anchor, posture, or frame will suffer. They can also struggle dan...

Categories:
Footwork

Thanking Your Community

November 25, 2015

This week is the Thanksgiving holiday in the United States, so this week’s exercise is to give thanks to the people who support your local dance community. Keeping a community vibrant is hard work....

Categories:
Uncategorized

Being A Good Partner

November 10, 2015

As part of the #DontBeADanny campaign, this week’s post is going to talk about how you can be a good partner during your dance. Leaders, this post is especially valuable for you because we leads te...

Categories:
Connection,

The breath can be a powerful cue for movement. Breathing creates dynamics within your body: the expansion with the in-breath, the power of the exhale. In this exercise, you will practice using the ...

Categories:
Styling

Transitional Weight

October 21, 2015

Transitional weight is a concept that describes a common led syncopation. The basic idea is that a dancer takes the first two steps of a triple, but the third step remains unweighted—usually in a...

Categories:
Footwork,

Spin Against the Wall

September 16, 2015

In order to spin effectively, you need to control your legs so they don’t throw off your balance. In this drill, you will practice keeping your feet close to your centerline as you progress through...

Categories:
Spins & Turns

Making Smaller Circles

September 9, 2015

One of the biggest stumbling blocks to regular practice is boredom. After doing a move 10 or 15 times, you feel like you know it and are ready to move on. Yet pros know that 15 repetitions is barel...

Categories:
Faster Learning

One of the common “looks” of beginner dancers is that they dance square to the slot. In their eagerness to be ready for the next move, they get to the end of the slot and stop their movement. More ...

Categories:
Styling

Many dancers struggle to roll through their feet. Especially when the music gets fast, it’s easy to dance flat-footed or fall through the foot so quickly that the roll gets lost. Most footwork exer...

Categories:
Footwork

The general rule for west coast swing is that you should not have two bent knees unless you are deliberately creating a level change. Learning to work through a straight leg on every step will impr...

Categories:
Footwork

One of the easiest ways to lose your balance when spinning is by swinging the free leg. Inexperienced spinners tend to swing the free leg in the hopes of generating power for the spin. However, swi...

Categories:
Spins & Turns

Swing Your Arms

April 15, 2015

West coast swing tends to have subtle arm movement. In general, the arm doesn’t draw your attention unless there’s a specific accent…or unless the arm is frozen against the body. In this exercise...

Categories:
Styling,

As dancers develop their skills, they naturally gravitate towards their strengths. This tendency is natural, but it also can limit your growth. In today’s exercise, you’re going to deliberately cou...

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Uncategorized

Look at the Ceiling

March 11, 2015

Dancers have a bad habit of watching their feet while they dance. It’s easy to look down when thinking, especially if you’re thinking about footwork variations. Unfortunately, looking down projects...

Categories:
Styling,

Peeling the Feet

February 25, 2015

One of the earliest techniques that WCS dancers need to learn is rolling through the feet. Good foot articulation not only makes your dancing look smoother and more controlled, but it also enables ...

Categories:
Footwork

Keep a Practice Log

February 4, 2015

There’s a famous business adage that “what gets measured, gets managed.” If you really want to take your practice to the next level, keeping a log of what you did will help you make your sessions m...

Categories:
Faster Learning

Hold Your Angle

January 21, 2015

In order to overcome the look of “flat” dancing, beginners are told to add angles to their dance. By rotating their bodies, they show off an extra dimension in the dance—which creates more intere...

Categories:
Styling

Mirroring Your Partner

January 7, 2015

The third option for styling as a partnership is to mirror your partner. While this is the method of “team styling” that most people think of first, it’s actually a risky choice because there’s a l...

Categories:
Styling,

Keeping the Post

December 10, 2014

The next time you watch pros, notice how their bodies keep moving after they have posted. Even when they are anchoring, there is still movement through the body as they establish the stretch of the...

Categories:
Anchor Step

Balance in the Kitchen

November 26, 2014

The better your balance, the easier dancing becomes. Spinning, styling, and even footwork become easier when you are in control of where your weight is—and you have the muscle control to keep it ...

Categories:
Spins & Turns

Why do we practice body isolations? The answer isn’t as straightforward as you might think…and the real answer is important for not just your dancing, but also your life! As dancers, we are intro...

Categories:
Styling

Lengthen the Neck

October 22, 2014

Posture is arguably the most important technical element of dancing: not only is good posture essential in order to move your body properly, but it is also necessary for creating good-looking lines...

Categories:
Styling,

Accents in the Chorus

October 15, 2014

As we continue dancing to Maroon 5’s song Maps, we’re discovering ways to express the layers of music within a song. Last week, we turned up the energy for the chorus. Now we’re going to dive into ...

Categories:
Musicality & Timing

Good Enough to Practice

October 15, 2014

Most of us think about practice as something we do in order to get good. We practice skills that we don’t have, with the end goal of being able to perform the skill. The truth is, this is only half...

Categories:
Faster Learning

The Chorus

October 8, 2014

In this post, we are going to continue dancing to layers of music in Maroon 5’s song Maps. The chorus is the first section of the song that has a high energy level, so let’s find out how to express...

Categories:
Musicality & Timing,

One of the easiest ways to show musicality within your basics is adding level changes to your dance. In this exercise, we’re going to practice adding level changes during spins. Being able to chang...

Categories:
Styling

More than Just Basics

August 6, 2014

Do your basics inspire you to dance better? That might seem like a weird question. Lots of people think about basics like an entry point—you learn the basics of the dance so you have some idea wh...

Categories:
Beginners,

Ten years ago, picking up a style variation from a pro would require booking a private lesson, buying an event tape, or watching really carefully from the first row of the ballroom. Now, you can fi...

Categories:
Styling

In a partner dance, it’s easy to be pulled off time by your partner. The pro dancers, however, have learned to use their bodies to adjust so that their feet can maintain the dance’s rhythm. In this...

Categories:
Beginners,

After the Workshop

July 2, 2014

You just got home from a great workshop! Right now, you are inspired. You don’t want this workshop to be just like all the others, when in a week you go to social dance and can barely remember what...

Categories:
Faster Learning

One of the keys to a strong, confident appearance is having your feet turned out. Feet that are turned in look weak, and parallel feet can look turned in from the wrong angle. That’s why WCS pros c...

Categories:
Footwork

If you want to look like the pro dancers, you need to learn how to control your momentum. When the pros dance, every movement looks like it blends into the next. By contrast, amateur dancers often ...

Categories:
Styling

When you dance on the social floor, do you find movements that don’t work as well as they did in class? If you feel overextended, off-balance, or just plain uncomfortable, the problem might be that...

Categories:
Connection

Rondes, or leg sweeps, are great ways to add style to your dance. Because they are delayed single rhythms, they can replace your stationary triples (like anchors) very easily. In this post, we’ll p...

Categories:
Styling

Ubersense

June 11, 2014

If you want to get serious about evaluating how your dancing looks, then you should check out Ubersense. It’s a free iOS application that lets you take video and break down your movement all on you...

Categories:
Faster Learning

Special Note: This week, Practice WCS is proud to announce that April Prince, 2009 All Swing DJ of the Year and the Illinois DJ representative for usaswingnet.com, will be periodically sharing her ...

Categories:
Music Page

Find Your Checkpoints

April 30, 2014

There are some habits that creep out while dancing. It might be your posture—your shoulders eventually roll forward no matter how tall you stood at the start of the dance. Or it might be that you...

Categories:
Faster Learning

Hands Down

April 23, 2014

The WCS connection is relaxed. Even during the crazy patterns, the pros’ bodies may be flying but their connection won’t show the tension. Today, we’re going to work on bringing that relaxed look t...

Categories:
Connection,

You’ve seen the pros suddenly break out into a freestyle dance and immediately start mimicking each other. Whether you want to “break it down” for a few beats or want to respond to your partner’s d...

Categories:
Styling,

You’ve been practicing your body isolations, but it’s not quite as fluid as you want yet. How do you develop smoothness through your movement? The key to smoothness is control, and control of your ...

Categories:
Styling

When pros move, their legs almost never get away from their body. Especially when they are doing fast footwork, or when they are spinning, their feet remain beneath their hips. Keeping the feet und...

Categories:
Spins & Turns

Styling Hitches

February 26, 2014

Last week, we looked at the mechanics of hitches. In this post, we’ll show how the hitch motion can be accentuated in order to add a specific look to the dance. There is a meta-lesson in this exerc...

Categories:
Styling

Focus on Teamwork

February 26, 2014

Although WCS is a partner dance, we generally teach the dance in terms of what is expected from your role. As a result, it can be years before you start to learn how to dance with your partner. Thi...

Categories:
Connection,

Start Small

February 19, 2014

How often have you told yourself that you were going to make a change in your life, and then two months later you’re back where you started? All of us have the experience of wanting to do something...

Categories:
Faster Learning

Using Your Sending Foot

January 15, 2014

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Watch some videos of great dancers, and you’ll notice that the all seem to project through space. If you want to learn that same kind of intentional movement, you...

Categories:
Footwork

Turnout From the Hip

January 8, 2014

Are your knees sore after dancing? If you want to dance for a long time—whether all night long or for the rest of your life—you need to take care of your body. Unfortunately, it’s easy to stres...

Categories:
Footwork

Why Upbeats Swing

December 4, 2013

If a picture is worth a thousand words, sometimes a video is better than any number of words. In this live performance, the swing and jazz musician Harry Connick, Jr. gives an audible demonstration...

Categories:
Musicality & Timing

Reflect on Your Style

November 27, 2013

Have you watched a champions Jack and Jill and been amazed at how different everyone’s dance looked? West coast swing is one of the few partner dances that encourages its dancers to develop their o...

Categories:
Styling

Practice the Hard Stuff

October 30, 2013

Have you ever danced at an event and seen someone do something that they couldn’t do just a month or two ago? Our community is full of dancers who seem to improve every chance you seen them out on ...

Categories:
Faster Learning

Turnout in Any Position

October 23, 2013

“Keep your feet turned out” is as close to an absolute rule as WCS has. Yet remembering to keep your feet turned out during fancy footwork is hard. How can you train your feet to stay turned out in...

Categories:
Footwork

Dance to the Corners

October 16, 2013

If you have ever wondered why great dancers seem to pop against the backdrop while your dancing looks flat, this exercise is for you. West coast swing is a slotted dance, and so we emphasize keepin...

Categories:
Styling

Fix Your Head Posture

October 16, 2013

Unless you are extremely lucky, you probably have some degree of forward head posture. As we get older, our head tips further forward until it looks like we are rubbernecking. Not only is forward h...

Categories:
Beginners,

The Kobe Work Ethic

October 2, 2013

Kobe Bryant is—without question—one of the best basketball players of all time. How did he get so good? And can his success teach us anything about become excellent in dance? The Overachiever B...

Categories:
Faster Learning

The Foot Tripod

September 25, 2013

Dancers put a lot of stress on their feet, and foot injuries are common. Would you like to keep your feet healthy? With just a little bit of background in your foot physiology, you can not only imp...

Categories:
Footwork

Have you ever watched your dancing and thought, “I didn’t think my [body part] was in such a weird place!”? It’s very common to find your hands, feet, head—and almost any other part of your body...

Categories:
Faster Learning

Variety in WCS

August 14, 2013

Just how much variety is available in west coast swing? Well, let’s take a simple left side pass… We can embellish the pattern by adding turns for the follower (e.g., inside roll) or leader (e.g....

Categories:
Styling

Signals to End Play

July 31, 2013

In Getting Out of Play, we suggested ending play in an anchor as a safe way to signal that you’re ready to resume the dance. This post will build on that idea by looking at the signals that play is...

Categories:
Styling, ,

One-Beat Leads

July 31, 2013

Although all lead-follow dancing in WCS is based around the ideas of leverage and compression, there are many ways to implement those concepts. The two most popular connection methods are one-beat ...

Categories:
Connection,

So far, we’ve played with the first and last weight change in the anchor step. We can also move the middle weight change to vary the look of the anchor. Normally, we only move the middle weight cha...

Categories:
Anchor Step

Margin of Error

July 3, 2013

Warren Buffett is one of the most successful investors of all time. One reason for his success is that he is a value investor. Instead of trying to predict what companies are poised for growth and ...

Categories:
Uncategorized

Our last variation introduced anchors that ended to the side. Another common ending position is the cross, in which the anchor foot is crossed in front of the other leg. This ending position occurs...

Categories:
Anchor Step

So far, our anchor variations have played with the first step of our triple. We’ve worked on keeping the anchor connection regardless of whether the first step crosses in front, moves to the side, ...

Categories:
Anchor Step

In addition to taking the first step of your anchor either side, you can check backwards. The back-and-third creates a great leg line, but can be tricky to perform while maintaining the anchor conn...

Categories:
Anchor Step

In the cross-and-third anchor, you learned to move the start of the anchor towards your partner without changing the connection. The hook-and-third anchor does the opposite: you start by hooking yo...

Categories:
Anchor Step

The next anchor variation is the cross-and-third anchor. This variation is tricky because the feet come towards your partner on the first beat of the anchor, but you still need to keep your body ba...

Categories:
Anchor Step

To be an anchor, any anchor variation must maintain the away connection that characterizes the anchor. The standard third foot position anchor is designed to make that connection automatic. We’re g...

Categories:
Anchor Step

Not all musical accents are the same. The notes in “How Long Can a Fool Go Wrong?” demand a sharp, hard movement. Adele’s “Set Fire to the Rain” calls for a longer, softer, drawn out movements. Lea...

Categories:
Styling,

Fail Better

May 1, 2013

In a novella by Nobel Prize-winning author Samuel Beckett, one of the characters shares a thought on failure: Try again. Fail again. Fail better. When we practice, it is tempting to see failure as,...

Categories:
Faster Learning

Developing your own style is a challenging task. Most of us look to pros for inspiration on what our dance can look like. This exercise will help you move from inspiration to imitation, so that you...

Categories:
Styling

You can get into play and you can return to the normal dance. Now what? This is the part of the process that is different for everyone. In short, you need to develop your repertoire of movements th...

Categories:
Styling,

This series has gone over a number of ways to add color to your dance. At this point, you know enough about coloring your basics to start exploring new ways of coloring on your own. This post will ...

Categories:
Styling

Getting Into Play

April 10, 2013

Now that you know how to get out of play, it’s time to get into it. Play is a temporary break from the standard WCS structure. So, you can indicate that play is starting by departing from what woul...

Categories:
Styling,

Getting Out of Play

April 3, 2013

Because play occurs within the WCS dance, it is important to be able to get out of play and back into WCS. Just like gymnasts begin learning tumbling skills by practicing how to land safely (and ho...

Categories:
Styling,

West coast swing, unlike most partner dances, encourages play between the partners. The leader can give the follower the freedom to do whatever she feels at a given point in the song, and the follo...

Categories:
Styling,

Finding Your Center

March 13, 2013

The goal of a good connection is to be able to manipulate your center and have your partner’s center respond. This center-to-center connection makes it possible to move in tandem, rather than watch...

Categories:
Connection

Rock and Go

March 13, 2013

The rock and go is leadable syncopation for combining two patterns. Instead of ending the first pattern with an anchor and then starting the second pattern with a walk walk, the rock and go replace...

Categories:
Uncategorized,

In WCS, it is common for footwork to go off of the track. In order to make that footwork look good, it is important to single track when coming back into the slot. The general principle from any op...

Categories:
Footwork

Coloring with Rotation

February 20, 2013

Another way to add color to the dance is through rotation. Increasing or decreasing the amount of rotation in a pattern can dramatically change the feeling of a movement. In general, changing the a...

Categories:
Styling

Single Tracking

February 13, 2013

Single tracking refers to the relative placement of the feet while progressing down the slot. In general, the heels of the feet should remain in a straight line, as if you were walking on a balance...

Categories:
Footwork

One of the things we notice about music is how energetic or quiet it is. Some songs are relaxed; other songs have a driving club feel. Great songs switch between these options; the song may have a bo...

Categories:
Styling

The Cycle of Mastery

January 30, 2013

Learning a complicated ability like dancing west coast swing is not a linear process. Your learning will go through a cycle of mastery, in which you learn a concept and then repeatedly come back to...

Categories:
Faster Learning

For new dancers, one of the key moments in learning WCS is when they are able to relax during the anchor instead of racing through it. Relaxing seems odd during the anchor—after all, you are doing ...

Categories:
Anchor Step

Learning Body Isolations

January 16, 2013

Body isolations are movements of body parts independently from the rest of the body. Dancers can use body isolations to bring emphasis to their movement: popping the rib cage on a hit, dropping the...

Categories:
Styling

Footwork: Applejacks

January 9, 2013

Applejacks are footwork variations that look very busy and groovy at the same time. This drill will help you learn to do applejacks. The Drill: Stand with your feet about hip width apart and your t...

Categories:
Footwork

Tethering

January 2, 2013

Intermediate dancers are taught to flashlight their partner in order to enhance their connection. The next level of connection adds in an awareness of how the partner’s frame is asking to be shaped...

Categories:
Connection

Many beginning WCS dancers make the mistake of confusing connection with a lead. At the end of every pattern, the partners should connect during the anchor by stretching away from each other. Howev...

Categories:
Connection

Flashlighting

December 26, 2012

Flashlighting is a connection technique that visually emphasizes the center-to-center connection between the partners. The name comes from imagining that both partners have a flashlight beam coming...

Categories:
Connection

New Year's Resolutions

December 26, 2012

As the new year approaches, many people make resolutions to change something about their life. Whether your resolution is to dance more or lose weight, there are some simple criteria that can help ...

Categories:
Faster Learning

Fixing Your Footwork

December 19, 2012

Inevitably, you will end up on the wrong foot at the end of a pattern. It’s ok! This drill will help you correct your footwork in time for the next pattern. To fix your footwork, simply add an extr...

Categories:
Beginners

Introduction to Pot-Stirs

December 12, 2012

The pot-stir is one of the flashiest moves in west coast swing. It is also an extremely difficult move because it requires excellent fundamentals in both partners, as well as teamwork to execute th...

Categories:
Spins & Turns

Back to Basics

December 12, 2012

It is no accident that expert performers spend hours practicing the fundamentals of their craft. Every day, NBA players shoot free throws, instrumentalists play their scales, and MLB players take b...

Categories:
Faster Learning,

Coloring with Width

December 5, 2012

A third dimension of patterns that can be modified is the width of the slot. Wider slots feel more relaxed as the pattern drifts from side to side. Dancing in a narrow slot creates a tight, crisp l...

Categories:
Styling

Coloring with Length

November 28, 2012

Another easy way to add color to the dance is by changing the length of the slot. Although it is easier for the leader to control this aspect of the dance, the follower can request a longer slot or...

Categories:
Styling

From Error to Bugs

November 21, 2012

Most of us have an error model for our mistakes: we erred, and thus the action did not achieve the intended result. An example of the error model would be a piano student who plays an incorrect not...

Categories:
Faster Learning

One of the easiest way to color the dance is with level changes. Any pattern can be danced at different heights: low, normal, or high. By changing between levels during a pattern, the dancers can m...

Categories:
Styling

A Two Beat Dance

November 14, 2012

Although west coast swing is composed of six- and eight-count patterns, the actual dance itself is a two-beat dance. Every movement in west coast swing goes through a downbeat-upbeat pair. Those pa...

Categories:
Musicality & Timing

West coast swing gives dancers more liberty to change the look of the dance basics than most other forms of social dancing. Being able to modify the look of the dance within the basics is an import...

Categories:
Styling

Staying in the Anchor

November 7, 2012

Now that you know how to perform an anchor, the next skill to master is staying in the anchor position. For leaders, stopping the forward momentum into the anchor is a challenging skill. Because th...

Categories:
Beginners

The Myth of the Natural

October 17, 2012

When your own dancing hits a plateau, it’s easy to become frustrated and jealous about the people who just “get it.” Every community seems to have someone who is a natural. This might be the person...

Categories:
Faster Learning

Chaines Turns

October 17, 2012

Chaines turns are a method to do a quick series of turns (hence the name chaines, French for “chains”). In WCS, chaines turns are preferred for any extended series of turns, such as a barrel roll d...

Categories:
Spins & Turns,

Spotting in Spins

October 10, 2012

Spotting is a technique used in spins to improve your balance, keep spins in a line, and create a pulse to the spin. The basic idea is to focus on a single point with your head as your body rotates...

Categories:
Spins & Turns

Three Toe Base for Spins

September 12, 2012

All spins should occur on the ball of the foot. More specifically, we say that the spin happens on a three toe base: the area of the foot that stretches from the ball of the foot to the big toe and...

Categories:
Spins & Turns

Beginner Track Intro

August 15, 2012

Welcome to the WCS Beginner Track series! This series of posts is designed to get new west coast swing dancers started with good practice habits. Whether you are new to dancing or coming to WCS...

Categories:
Beginners

Spacing: On 2

July 18, 2012

The spacing between the partners on beat 2 is critical for the execution of any complicated pattern. On beat 2, the follower has just finished her walk walk and needs to be prepared for any pattern...

Categories:
Beginners

As a general rule: anything that you can do in one direction, you should be able to do in the other direction. However, each of us will have a natural side for most skills that is more comfortable....

Categories:
Faster Learning

One of the keys to tight-looking, clean, and fast footwork is keeping the footwork small. Dancing with your feet far apart makes it easy to end up in ugly split-weight positions, and it also makes ...

Categories:
Footwork

Anchors

April 2, 2012

The anchor is the heart of west coast swing and creates the unique look of the dance. The basic anchor step that is taught to beginners occurs on the last two beats of the pattern (5&6 for 6-count ...

Categories:
Anchor Step

Contra-Body Movement

March 21, 2012

Contra-body movement simply means that the shoulders and hips are rotated in opposite directions. For a simple example, walk forward while letting your arms swing. You should feel most stable if yo...

Categories:
Styling

Why Practice Works

March 20, 2012

Have you ever wondered why practice works? For complex skills like hitting a baseball, analyzing a chess board, or dancing, your brain needs to coordinate a lot of activity between the areas of the...

Categories:
Faster Learning