How to get better at West Coast Swing?

Many dancers we meet want to know how to get better at West Coast Swing dancing. There are so many ways to improve your dancing and our site is full of useful tips, articles, videos about being a better west coast swing dancer.  Here are some of our top tips to being a better WCS dancer.

6 ways to improve your WCS without a partner.

Footwork Drills

Dancing footwork alone is essential to develop confidence to improvise in WCS.  Learning moves like a Sweep, Ronde, kick ball change, Moonwalk, Applejack, James Brown as well as learning line dance, hip hop, contemporary and ballet routines can give you lots to think about when a partner is not available.

Counting Music

We all listen to music everywhere we go, in the house, in the car, in the shopping centre.  Counting out the bars and phrases, learning to distinguish rhythm and isolated instruments are a massive advantage when it comes to social west coast swing dancing.  It can be tricky to know when to start counting so here is a little guide. Many song verse and chorus are written out like poem that can be read in 4 lines of 8 beats some also in 6 lines of 8. that gives us 32 and 48 count phrases.  Think 'Frere Jacques’, for 32 and Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, for 48.
Try to find the 1 which is closely associated to the beginning of the lyric line, but watch out, as sometimes the lyrics start on the 8 before the 1 or the 2 after it. In, I feel good by James Brown the 1 is on the word ‘good’ meaning the 'I feel’ is on the 8 & which kinda of builds up to the hit, (crescendo) giving the '1' even more drive to the sound.

Balance/Posture Drills

We encourage students to build these things into your daily routine,

  • Standing on alternating legs whilst brushing your teeth, ironing, food prep, washing.
  • Set the rear view mirror tilt in your car high to optimise head position
  • When walking make sure to pass feet softly past one another
  • When carrying hot drinks/multiple filled glasses you’ll notice you have a perfectly smooth flight.
  • Notice that you body is in a compressed state when walking on stairs.
  • Stretching exercises, Yoga and Pilates are all great ways to help maintain a healthy body for dancing.

Practice without a partner

Most people don’t have a regular partner to dance with which makes it imperative to develop a sense of shadow dancing.  Different than the footwork drills and line dance routines, we suggest that emulate your West Coast Swing dancing through your basics and optional variations as if your partner was there. It’s like having an imaginary Best West Coast Sing Partner. So when you meet your real life ideal partner your ready to take the opportunity.

Review

Take the time to review your material. Notes and videos made throughout classes, workshops or private lessons.  Even just thinking about the information that you have been gaining can help to re-inforce it.  Often this can be a great way to distract your mind when encountering stress or can be a useful ‘falling to sleep’ tool.

Find a WCS role model

Someone of a similar body type to you so that you can see exactly what it is that you are trying to achieve.  Study the videos you can find from that dancer and when you get the chance got take a class with them. Instructors of all body shapes can be great to learn the steps initially but if you find it hard to associate to them, this can be a useful idea.

5 way to improve your WCS with your partner

Count aloud

If you find that you and your partner seem to be on a different page over the subject of your practice then counting the steps that each individual are completing, at the same time, can help to identify irregularities between partners. This is probably the best way to move forward together.

Use a prop

Try using a scarf, hoop or exercise band to transfer you’re connection can be fun and less confrontational.  This can be held in a single hand, both in front of body or event wrapped at waist behind body. You might even like to try without hand at all, simply using the body remittances to transfer/receive the massage.

Watch your partner

For the same reason that Skiers are told ‘Don’t look at the trees’ dancers should look at their partner, target fixation.  Of course, their is a line between being attentive and being creepy, lol. The way we manage that is to encourage dancers to look at each other at the ends of the slot and avoid eye contact when in close proximity.  Both partners should also make sure to watch whilst one of your is turning, even though your looking at the back of the head it’s important to offer a secure ‘feel’ to your partner.

Keep your slot

Keeping your steps and styling relatively small will ensure that you and your partner encounter less risk of a collision or accidents on the dance floor.  Especially arm styling, which in a Routine performance can be a wonderful embellishment, can often be the cause for finger in an eye situation at a busy social dance. We would all rather avoid that.

Work on your stretch/anchor action

The stretch or anchoring action is very much the most unique identifying factor of WCS so if you want improve your WCS just improve your stretch/hover/delaying techniques to master the effortless swagger that comes with being an accomplished WCS dancer.

More top tips for West Coast Swing dancers...

Dancing with advanced dancers

-Don't freak out, it's still the same dance
-They are not usually as good as you think
-You don't need advanced moves
-Avoid asking to dance with them to fast songs
-DJ's can fade songs at 3 minutes to get a higher rate partner change.

Social Dancing

-Dance with everyone
-Dont wait to be asked to dance
-Be conscious of others dancing nearby
-The slot usually runs along the longest wall in the room
-Start with simple moves to gauge the partnership

Footwear & Clothing

-Flat/low heeled shoes with a smooth sole
-Avoid big earings and rings and bracelets
-Take your watch off for dancing
-Wear comfortable clothing not too baggy underarms
-Bring an extra shirt when the weather is warm

Hygiene

-Shower before coming to class
-Brush your teeth or carry mints
-Wash your hands, carry sanitiser
-Carry Anti-perspirant and use outside of the dance hall
-Avoid using hand cream right before dancing
-Make sure your hair is dry and is tied as not to hit your partner