WCS History

West Coast Swing is a contemporary form of swing dancing developed on the west coast and in 1988 became the official state dance of California. With its roots coming from New Orleans and then onto the Savoy Ballroom in New York in the early 1930’s the dance was introduced to the west by a dancer by the name of Dean Collins. Collins himself says this is the progression in name, style and geography location of the dance we today know as west coast swing….

Geographic Progression (per Dean Collins)

  • The dance started in New Orleans
  • Progressed to New York
  • Collins introduced it to California

Progression of the Name

  • After Linberg’s crossing the dance became know as the Lindy Hop
  • Without the style changing a bit the dance also became know as the Big Apple or Jitterbug
  • In 1936 Collins introduced Jitterbug to California where they called it the New Yorker as it was brought over from New York
  • It later became know as Swing and Western Swing
  • Skippy Blair credits Blair credits Jim Bannister, editor of the Herald American newspaper in Downey, for suggesting the name West Coast Swing.

Style

  • Dean Collins “there’s no style only swing”
  • Skippy Blair “The only problem that exists in swing is when someone decides there is only one way to dance it. There is never only one way to do anything. Try on different styles that you admire in other people…until you find the comfortable one that fits you.”

The Slot

West Coast Swing is danced in a ‘slot’ or ‘train track’ like area about that takes up about seven or eight feet of space. The leader stays more stationary while the follower dances past the leader up and down the slot using a distinctive elastic look that helps characterize the dance. The slot allows many dancers to use a minimum amount of space on a dance floor. The urban legend of the slot says it comes from Hollywood film makers who tried to fit the dance on camera.

Basic Patterns

  • Underarm pass or Right-side pass: A six-count pattern where the follower is led to the other end of the slot, passing on the leader’s right under the leader’s arm (underarm pass). Count: 1 2 3&4 5&6
  • Left-side pass: A six-count basic where the follower is led to the other end of the slot, passing on the leader’s left. Count: 1 2 3a4 5a6
  • Tuck Pass: This is like a left side pass in six counts, but the leader creates a tucking action on 2 by turning the follower toward the leader then reversing her direction back toward the slot on count 4. Then the follower turns under the man’s left arm on 5&6. The turn can be either a half turn or a turn and a half. Count: 1 2 3&4 5&6
  • Sugar push or Push Break: A six-count pattern where the follower, facing the leader, is led from the end of the slot to a one or two hand hold, then led back to the same end of the slot. Count: 1 2 3&4 5&6
  • Whip: An eight-count basic with many variations. In a basic whip, the follower is led past the leader and then redirected or whipped back towards the end of slot from which the follower started. The basic footwork for a whip extends the six-count pattern by insertion of two walking steps between the triple steps. Count: 1 2 3&4 5 6 7&8

 

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