East Coast Swing vs West Coast Swing

What are the Differences Between East Coast Swing vs. West Coast Swing?

Students often visit the dance studio requesting to learn how to swing dance. However, they are usually unfamiliar with the different types and styles of swing, especially which ones would be most suitable for them. In this blog I will discuss the characteristics of east coast swing vs west coast swing, as well as the basic differences between, the two most popular types of swing dancing in the United States and around the world: East Coast Swing and West Coast Swing.

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East Coast vs West Coast Swing Music

All swing music has a 4/4-time signature. Both types of swing, East Coast and West Coast, share the same basic six-count timing, namely: whole beat, whole beat, triple step, triple step. Or, translated into number counts: 1, 2, 3-and-4, 5-and-6.

East Coast Swing Music

East Coast Swing music is typically characterized by big band, fast blues, or rock and roll. Additionally, today’s modern American Rhythm style of East Coast Swing is often danced to upbeat, energetic pop music. East Coast Swing music tends to be much faster and livelier than its counterpart, West Coast Swing. East Coast is generally danced at a speed range of between 136 to 144 beats per minute, or bpm. When students say they want to learn how to jitterbug, or rock and roll, or do the same dance they saw on the TV show “Dancing with the Stars,” their intention is to learn East Coast Swing. Here is are some classic east coast swing songs.

West Coast Swing Music

West Coast Swing has gained in popularity partly because it can be danced to a wide variety of music genres, including: slow and fast blues, contemporary, hip-hop, pop, top 40’s, and country. Speeds of music for this type of swing vary greatly but will generally fall between 90 to 120 beats per minute, or bpm. One of the main features of West Coast Swing is that dancers are highly encouraged to emphasize and dance interpretively to the music. Musicality is a major factor in winning West Coast Swing dance contests. This can be accomplished by acting out the lyrics of the songs, “hitting the breaks” in the music with appropriate matching moves, and matching body movements to the sounds of the beats. The West Coast Swing dancer needs to be a chameleon of sorts by changing attitudes to match the style of music…from sensual & seductive to hip-hop, or from contemporary to blues.

Get our top 10 practice songs>> View the list

East Coast Swing Basic Steps

East Coast Swing is more of a rotational dance while West Coast Swing is a slotted dance. When performed socially, both are typically danced in one small area. But in competitions or show dances they can cover the entire dance floor.

The primary elements of the East Coast Swing basic are rock steps and triple steps danced as a chasse. East Coast Swing is characterized by bounce, rise and fall, or lilt. It is emphasized with high-energy flicks and kicks of the legs and feet, plus a pendulum hip swing. Lifting of the knees between the steps is encouraged and demonstrates the high energy of the music. Learn the ECS basics

West Coast Swing Basic Steps

Standard elements of the West Coast Swing basics are walk, walk, triple step, triple step. The last triple step of each pattern is called the Anchor Step. West Coast Swing is a smooth dance with strong emphasis on connection with your partner, musicality, and footwork.

Both East Coast Swing and West Coast Swing are fun and social dances that are commonly seen at weddings, parties, and bars. I highly recommend trying both types! Which is your favorite and why? Leave a comment below. 

Take Action> Learn the basics of west coast swing here

Watch our video on the differences of ECS vs WCS

Want to watch a bit of the differences of the two dance styles. We did a popular 5 min video on our youtube channel that you might enjoy

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