West Coast Swing is one of the most open-ended dances in existence. If you watch a floor of professional ballroom dancers, you will see a dozen couples striving towards a shared ideal of what the dance should look like. In west coast, it’s virtually the opposite: every professional has their own style, and the magic of the dance is how the pros combine their styles within the partnership to embody something unique and yet still recognizable as swing.
WCS has lots of freedom
As you watch WCS you’ll find that there are different versions. Dancers across the world have taken this dance to new and exciting places. The freedom to interpret the dance is not restricted to the professional ranks. Everyone who dances West Coast Swing is—consciously or not—making a statement about how they visualize west coast swing. Being deliberate about those statements is the key to developing your own style. This article and the following drill aims to help you do just that.
How to make this dance your own!
This drill is a mental exercise to think about what the key principles of WCS are, to you.
Sit down with a piece of paper and ask yourself, “If I were teaching WCS from scratch, what would be important? What are the fundamentals I would emphasize?”
The start of your list will probably seem formulaic: triple steps, anchors, and basic patterns. Push yourself to keep going. Are more patterns important? Anchor variations? Connection? Musicality? Lead-follow syncopation? Styling?
And keep drilling down within this list: if you chose musicality, what elements of musicality? Where should someone start in learning musicality? When is it okay for musicality to override basic rhythms—or is it never okay?
Once you have your list
Once you have your answers, go back to your own dancing. You could watch a video of yourself dancing, or simply pay attention when you go out social dancing. What elements of your dancing are consistent with the interpretation of WCS that you developed? Are there elements of your dancing that don’t match the interpretation you worked out?
When you find elements that don’t match, ask yourself whether you should revise your interpretation or whether that’s an area for improving your dancing in order to more closely match your interpretation.
Continuing your evolution
The point of this exercise is to clarify what you think is important to west coast swing, and to bring your dancing into harmony with this viewpoint. To continue your evolution, come back to this activity on a regular basis (two or four times a year) and ask yourself how your interpretation has evolved. Hopefully you are continuing to improve in your dancing, and as you improve your understanding of what is important should develop as well. You’ll be well on your way to creating a West Coast Swing that is all your own!
Good artists copy, great artists steal.
Want to steal some of my ideas?
Each week I send out a great ‘WCS Move of the Week’ (Ok, sometimes its every 2 weeks if I’m lazy)
I invite you to steal some of my ideas, patterns and techniques and incorporate them in to your own version of West Coast Swing. Best of luck in making your version of WCS! All my best, Brian B