It is 11pm on Saturday night at your favorite West Coast Swing dance convention. The energy in the room is high with anticipation and excitement. It is time for the West Coast Swing Champions Jack and Jill Finals! For many, it is the highlight of the weekend. Inspiration will flow for all the rest of the night and weekend, after watching these talented dancers improvise and create a performance on the fly to match the music.
Most WCS events and UCWDC country western events are registered through the World Swing Dance Council. This is a registry system that keeps track of points that competitors earn for placing at the top of their division. You can read more about the rules and the points registry system here or see the west coast swing events list.
The order of the WCS divisions in order of level of proficiency and experience from least to most is as follows: newcomer, novice, intermediate, advanced, all-stars, and then finally at the top of the food chain: West Coast Swing CHAMPIONS. The World Swing Dance Council states that “Champion points are tracked in the Points Registry; however, Champion is a general category that is set by promoters for their higher skill level dancers in attendance.” This skill level can be at the discretion of the event organizer and the dancer may be invited into the division. Some event promotors require that the dancer have met a certain amount of all-star points, while some will go by the amount of respect or popularity of the dancer, if they have done well in the classic or showcase divisions, if they are a judge, or if they have been a champion in the past. The champions division includes some of the best of the best of the WCS dancers. They are the ones to watch, and most dancers aspire to be like them. Most of the champion dancers are professional dance instructors and make their full time living from teacher west coast swing. But it is not mandatory to be a professional in order to be a champion. Although it is not common, some champions are amateurs.
Watch our video “3 tips to better Jack & Jills”
Part of the honor of being a popular champion dancer is that the event hires you as staff. This may include a free event pass, all expenses paid (hotel, airfare, food), the opportunity to teach workshops, and judging the lower divisions. Champions that are on are staff are more likely to have dancers want to take private lessons (at a high rate) with them during the event, where they don’t have to pay any studio fees or rent. It’s a good living, while being able to doing something you are passionate about.
Some current west coast swing champions may have skipped going through the point/skill level system by having great success in the juniors or youth divisions. Then when they became adults, they moved straight to the champions division by invitation of the event directors. Some couples will find great success in the routine divisions and have high demand as workshop instructors and then be invited into Champions sooner than most others. It may take many, many years and lots of time and money traveling to lots of competitions in order to move up into the Champions division. Many of the Champions spend more time on the road than at home, traveling for conventions almost every weekend of the year. It is a certain kind of lifestyle that involves a lot of travel and strong enjoyment for the night life.
West Coast Swing Champions dancers set the WCS trends in dance and in fashion. Check out our wcs fashion blog for more on what to wear for WCS. If you want to watch and feel the creative energy from the champion dancers, one of the best times to do so is during the late night social dancing. If you are willing to be out from 2-4am, that is when the Champion dancers are out enjoying themselves and the beautiful dance of West Coast Swing.