How we got started in West Coast Swing?
We started in West Coast Swing in the late 1990’s through the UCWDC country dance community. We competed from Novice to the Professional level of Linedance and Country Couples. From there, it is only a small jump as WCS is a part of the overall championship. In Country, WCS is one of the most popular dances for the same reason it is everywhere else… the music. It’s considered a lot ‘cooler’ than many of the other country dances, especially its counterpart in Country which is ECS.
We first saw a world class West Coast Swing performed when Barry Durand & Lisa West attended the London Dance Classic, August, 1997. They performed their 2nd place US Open winning Showcase Routine to the song ‘This will be’ by Nathalie Cole.
This was a new experience of musical interpretation and they performed amazing tricks. Watching these live performances as youngsters made a big impression on us. we’d never seen such high level couples dancing. This, and the abundance of other youngsters to dance with, was what sparked the passion to dance with a partner.
Watch Barry & Lisa dancing =
When we started in West Coast Swing, we learnt through dancing routines with our teachers in Pro-Am competitions. Later, with our dance partners in Open Couples divisions but still predominantly through performing routines. We didn’t realise that there was an entire community dedicated to WCS. Built around a Lead and Follow ‘Freestyle’ or Social dancing environment.
At the time, our Freestyle dancing was ripping ‘leadable’ moves from our routines, sewn together with some pushes, passes and whips of the time. Although pretty confident about being on beat and could hit a break. We had no idea of the level of musicality we could later achieve.
WCS is super cool
The first thing after the music that appealed to us about WCS was how ‘Cool’ the dance felt when we were dancing. It felt like we could start to express our own personality through the dance and utilise all of the footwork and body mobility we had discovered through dancing solo. We have learnt many partner dances and love them all for different reasons, but we find it harder to connect to dances like Waltz and Cha Cha because, without going into too much detail, we are not 200+ years old, nor do we come from Cuba!
You can dance WCS to songs that we listened to on the radio, by artists that we knew the name of. As Linedancers, we also danced to a lot of Pop and alternative music as both communities starting breaking free from the shackles of the traditional Country and Blues music. There was still a lot of traditional music played and we have always enjoyed dancing to Country and Blues music. But, again it was much easier to identify to music that was being played in mass European media as well as in the US when we visited.
UCWDC Worlds was our first regular trip to the US and we discovered the ‘Swing room’ which was always the late night spot for all the dancers. Often, the dancers in each of the communities, Linedance, Country Couples and Swing were all there dancing together having a great time dancing WCS, with the odd Linedance or Two-step thrown into the mix too.
Seeing the Competitive and Social WCS dancing at Worlds and other US UWCDC events was a big inspiration but at home in the UK. Our opportunities to dance WCS was maybe only once a month at a weekender with just a handful of people cutting out a slot beside sometimes hundreds of Linedancers.
That meant that rehearsing and competing with our routines in Country was where our focus was until around 2005.
WCS in the USA
In 2006 and 2008 we attended Boogle by the Bay which was mind blowing, so many people dancing WCS socially. We had entered some regional J&J competitions before. Being at a huge National event that was beginning to draw International dancers was a huge step in our development. First time watching Classic and Showcase live is something that we’ll never forget. Parker Dearborn and Jessica Cox in Yellow dancing to Red Alert – Basement Jaxx or Jordan & Tatiana dancing to Pump it – Black eyed peas. Without knowing it we were right on the verge of huge transition in WCS that led to it going global. We count ourselves so lucky to have been able to watch the Strictly Swing division. Full of the old school Pro’s who inspired the current crop of Pro’s.
After attending Boogie in 2008 we started focusing towards dancing in the Classic division of the US Open. That is where our story in WCS really begins!
Get Started in West Coast Swing today with our Free Level 1 Course Tutorial