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Basic Guidelines
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Basic Guidelines

West Coast Swing is an evolving social dance that has gone through many changes throughout its short history, over time incorporating techniques from numerous dance styles. However, there are many guidelines that should be followed to maintain the true character of the dance. A dance's character is typically defined by a basic philosophy, principles of movement, and traditional steps and figures. While these guidelines can be violated, by committing too many violations one risks departing from the defining features of the dance.

Philosophically, Modern West Coast Swing is in large part defined by an emphasis on Musicality and Connection. Movement is based on a principle borrowed from ballroom and Latin dance, in which the dancer moves their center of gravity immediately over the foot when a weight transfer is desired. Traditional figures include 6-count and 8-count patterns of one of the four basic varieties: (1) Starter Step, (2) Side Pass, (3) Push Break / Sugar Push, (4) Whip. Many common WCS figures are derived from simple variations of these basic figures. West Coast swing is also a fundamentally improvised dance, and thus such defined figures are simply starting points for the skilled dancer. Additionally, West Coast Swing can be said to rely on the leader creating and redirecting the momentum of the follower in order to communicate how he wishes to lead the dance.

Technical guidelines are as follows: Every figure or pattern should end with an anchor step, a critical characteristic feature of WCS. This is used to mark the end of a figure and re-establish connection between the two dancers. The leader should maintain the slot. The leader should use his own weight changes to lead the lady's movement, not the arm or hand alone. The follower should continue to the end of the slot. The follower should assume a step-step count unless led otherwise. Both closed and open positions are acceptable. A connection should be maintained at all times, using some combination of physical and visual connections. Most steps are danced in 2-beat groups, allowing 6-count and 8-count figures to be extended and shortened as necessary to fit the music. The leader should plan ahead in the dance to allow the follower to experience musical accents.

Although there are many exceptions and variations, the more traditional (1970's) West Coast Swing guidelines are as follows:

  • The follower will always start with the Right foot.
  • The follower starts on a down beat, counts one or three of a measure.
  • The follower has a rhythm pattern of six beats (to start): double (walk walk) a right triple and a left triple
  • The follower will walk forward forward on the first two beats of every pattern.
  • The follower will step 3 times at the end of each pattern, the Anchor Step.
  • The leader will always start with the left foot.
  • The leader will vary their first movement according to the location of their partner.
  • The leader will vary step two depending on the direction of the pattern.
  • At basic and intermediate levels, most dancers start the dance with a 4-Beat Starter Step.

(Note that the follower's step is different from the leader's; partners do not mirror each other.)

A few basic moves that any WCS dancer should know are listed below. They are performed with the same "step step tri-ple-step tri-ple-step" pattern equalling eight steps in six beats of music. The term "count" is used as a synonym for a "beat", usually a quarter note, of music.

 

 
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Basic Guidelines