Smooth Dance Connection

West Coast Swing

Dance Instruction

James D Baker

Aurora, Colorado, USA

Laura Koch

Fort Collins, Colorado, USA

What Is West Coast Swing?
West Coast Swing is a lead/follow social dance. By this, we mean that patterns of movement are coordinated by lead-follow technique, not memorization of choreography. The leader learns leading technique. The follower learns following technique. This way, at higher skill levels, it is possible for a leader and follower to meet and dance together for the first time, to a song randomly picked by the DJ, and make the dance appear choreographed.

The dance is performed in an upright posture, and is very enjoyable when direction changes are coordinated in a smooth fashion. For both dancers to feel a smooth connection, both must execute gradual changes in muscle tone through their physical connection at direction changes. As such, this dynamic physical connection between the dancers feels like a conversation. It can be said that 'conversation' is the metaphysical essence of West Coast Swing. Dancers meet on the dance floor, have fun conversing over a song, and then move on to the next song, dancer, and conversation.

Successful communication in a language requires mutually agreed to rules of grammer. It can be said that the Basic West Coast Swing 6 and 8-count patterns form the required grammatical structure of the conversation; the structural essence of West Coast Swing. Taking this analogy one step further, whereas good penmanship and verbal articulation clarifies communication in language, good connection technique clarifies communication on the West Coast Swing dance floor.

Much of West Coast Swing is danced in open dance position. This allows both dancers considerable freedom of movement. At upper levels of dance, dancers learn to independently interpret the music without infringing on the pattern being led. Also, upper level dancers learn to adapt to each other's ideas on-the-fly. Oftentimes, out of such adaptation and improvisation, new patterns are developed which are built on the basic West Coast Swing patterns.

When dancers learn to phrase their movement to the music the dance can look like a conversation to the observer. Phrased dancing gives the appearance of a meeting of the minds at key points in the conversation. Observing becomes entertainment. All of these elements combine to make Jack-n-Jill contests fun to enter and watch. You do not know who is going to say what, when. Anything can happen.

Experiencing this conversation on the dance floor is what gets dancers hooked on West Coast Swing, and they always seem to want more.