Are WCS group classes dead?

West Coast Swing Online Grab Bag

As we move into the year I see many dancers stop taking group classes after they have been dancing for a while. They may be taking private lessons and think that they won’t benefit from group classes. Followers may feel like group classes don’t have much to offer them; patterns are usually the focus, so leaders tend to get more out of group classes. For their part, leaders may feel that they have enough patterns already and so don’t need to attend more group classes.

However, group classes are still taught by pro instructors and provide you with a solid hour of practice time focused on a particular skill. In fact, the content of group classes often covers the exact same points that the instructor would make in a private lesson on that skill. So, if you are attentive, you can get the key ideas of a private lesson without paying nearly as much. This post will therefore give some suggestions for getting more out of group classes. This advice is targeted towards dancers who have already learned their standard WCS patterns, but it applies just as much to beginners.

How to keep group classes alive for you:

  • Listen for technique tips: Throughout group classes, instructors make asides about little technique bits that make the move work. Listen for these. Ask yourself why they are important on this move, and what other moves can benefit from those tips. Technique tip videos>> WCS Video Page
  • Watch the instructors: There is almost always something to admire about the way a pro dances. Find something that you like about your workshop instructors, and watch closely while they demo their patterns. For instance, if you like their anchor, pay close attention to where their feet are, where their weight is, where in the body they settle their weight, etc. You can learn a ton from close observation.
  • Learn the opposite role: This can involve the whole range of options from actually taking the workshop in the opposite role to paying close attention to what your partner is doing during the pattern. In true lead-follow dancing, the leader is more concerned with what he asks the follower to do than what he is doing per se. Likewise, the follower doesn’t know the pattern and so can’t be focused on what she ought to do; she needs to be focused on what the leader is asking from her. Group classes are a great way to develop this skill because you can concentrate on how the leader’s movement is creating a lead for the follower, and what the follower needs to do in order to feel that lead and respond appropriately.
  • Notice what makes each dancer differently: Because you rotate through partners in a group class, you can become aware of how your partner’s dance style affects the movement. Leaders, pay attention to the ways in which the follower may not be prepared for the upcoming lead, and either find a way to make the lead work or to mentally scratch off that lead in that situation. Followers, notice the variety of ways your leader can communicate a lead, and focus on making your movements in a way that allows you to respond to any of those versions.
  • Practice your technique in complicated moves: Most workshop patterns are at least moderately complicated moves. Whatever material you’ve been working on in private lessons—from anchoring to stretching to rolling through the feet—should be able to be applied in this moves. A group class provides a great opportunity to practice your technique while performing more complicated patterns.
  • Let your basics inspire you:  Did you learn your basics without mastering the underlying principles? In fact, this is what usually happens. And this is why you will hears pros lament about how good dancers still have unrefined basics. Don’t let that happen to you>  Read the article here.

Don’t stop taking group classes! As I write this in early 2017, a friend of mine recently ranted online about people thinking they were too good for group classes. He said something that resonated with me. He said, “if you can’t get something out of a group class you’re not trying hard enough” I think this is completely true. Even today I’m always search of better ways to understand concepts and as a pro, especially better ways to teach them!

Are west coast swing group classes dead for 2017? I sure hope not!

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