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Wellness in West Coast Swing

Wellness in West Coast Swing

Wellness in West Coast Swing

Wellness in West Coast Swing is an ideology which EastonSwing. Together with Natalie Lockyer Coaching began to promote, through the middle of 2019.  Whilst we’re all stuck indoors during the Covid-19 crisis, taking care of your self physically and mentally is vitally important.

We’ve noticed that there are increasing levels of stress and anxiety amongst the WCS community and we aim to help alleviate that.  Increasing Wellness will also increase your social dancing capacity and leave you feeling better after an event weekend.

One of our goals is to deepen the connections between individuals in the WCS community.  Especially, between the Wellness Westies already in the community and dancers struggling to maintain good balances in their lives. 

Introduction

First introduced to the idea of Wellness by a Swiss Anaesthetist who was managing us when teaching in Switzerland, Germany and Austria in the early 2000’s. From meditation techniques to visiting Roman baths, we were given the beginning of our Wellness journey, even before we knew what it was all about. We began learning more about diet and nutrition to help maintain energy levels when teaching many long days consecutively, what foods would help with recovery and what we should avoid before performances.  This together with many more lessons we’ve learned have prepared us to achieve our goals and greater stability in our mental and physical health.  

WCS Pro’s tend to be exceptional humans who often share what it takes to be a great dancer. But, there is never enough time talk about what it takes to maintain such a level of function and output.  Every Pro we know goes to great lengths to promote and maintain a healthy body and mind. Our ambition is to share some methods and techniques that the Pro’s use to stay well so we can all enjoy WCS a little more.

WestCoastSwingWellness.com has already started posting articles on how stay well in mind and body.  Here are some of the main topics that will be covered in existing and future posts.

Physical Fitness

Yoga, Pilates, Workouts, Injury prevention, Posture and Joints, Massage.

Mental Health

Mindfulness, Consent, Self-acceptance, Growth & Purpose, Environmental mastery, Positive Social interactions.

Nutrition & Hydration

Immune Boost, Macros and Micros, Supplements, Development.

Sleep

Muscle regeneration, Memory retention, Hormone & Mood Stability.

Hygiene

Personal Hygiene, Water Stations, Travelling, 

To conclude, as Wellbeing becomes a more important part of every aspect of our lives, be confident knowing that your dance community is also aligned to this way of thinking.  To this end, in late 2019 we have launched the West Coast Swing Wellness project. The goal is to increase wellness within West Coast Swing.  WCSWellness will highlight many health and fitness professionals from the WCS community whose expertise and advice will help guide us to a happier healthier lifestyle. Follow our social media platforms and Blog articles to start getting more reward from your WCS dancing.

WCSWellness
Website | https://westcoastswingwellness.com/
Instagram | https://www.instagram.com/wcswingwellness/
Facebook page  | https://www.facebook.com/wcswellness
Facebook Group | https://www.facebook.com/groups/301962604108804/

Natalie Lockyer
Website | https://www.natalielockyercoaching.co.uk/
Instagram | https://www.instagram.com/natalie_lockyer_coaching/
Facebook Page | https://www.facebook.com/Natalielockyercoaching/

Thanks for reading through this article, Dancing amid Adversity.  For more articles from WCSWellness follow our Social Media and Join our mailing list. Feel free to reach out to us at our Contact page.

How we got started in West Coast Swing

west coast swing coaching,, Lee & Fabienne Easton from EastonSwing, wearing Red & Blue, standing outside at West in Lyon 2016

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

West Coast Swing Music

west coast swing music, Red Background with Gold over ear headphones

West Coast Swing Music

West Coast Swing music is what keeps us all dancing all night, it evokes our emotions which drives the movement and sensation that rewards on a spiritual level.  WCS has always been danced to popular music. Swing, Jazz, Country, Blues, Bebop, Rock n Roll, R&B, Soul, Funk, Disco, Rock, Hip Hop and EDM have all had there time in the pop charts and you can dance WCS to all of them.

It had once shared music more associated with period swing styles but has grown alongside the evolution of music to reflect the changes and technical developments.  You can literally dance West Coast Swing to anything with a 4/4 signature as well as a lot of 2/4, 3/4, 6/8 and 12/8 signatures that work too, dependant on tempo. Just because you can dance to it doesn’t mean that it’s good.

Start following your favourite WCS DJ’s as they travel all over playing sets for WCS dancers and you’ll soon realise that there is so much good music that we dance to. YouTube, Spotify, SoundCloud are amongst the best platforms for West Coast Swing playlists.

West Coast Swing widely accepts there are 2 rhythmical permutations of music for WCS dancing. Straight Rhythm e.g. 1& 2, and Swing Rhythm 1  a 2. A third rhythm which is more aligned to Samba and Zouk is currently popular but it’s too early to say whether it will stay as a part of Modern West Coast Swing.

Beginners

Blues

Musicality

12 bar phrase structure

Follow EastonSwing Facebook page for all the latest news and updates. Read more of our Blogs

Learn WCS for FREE!

In addition to the 5 basic moves video we offer a Free membership to our Level2 Subscription.  Sign up with your email at our website and get access to more than 20 free WCS class videos.

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West Coast Swing History

Back & White photo of men & women dancing west coast swing in a crowded dance floor and room

West Coast Swing History

Here is a brief outline of our understanding of West Coast Swing history that we have assembled through various workshops and personal research into the subject. To figure out where you’re going, it’s helpful to know where you come from.

‘There is only 2 styles of Swing… good and bad.’ – Dean Collins

West Coast Swing in the early days – 1930’s-1950’s

West Coast Swing is born out of competition Swing dancing. Lindy dancers used 6 count ‘Push’ and ‘Pass’ patterns to reset phrasing after dancing a ‘Swingout’ (the origin for ‘Whip’) to an hit an accent on 1, 2. At some stage teh 6 counts became more WWII had a huge impact on how the dance travelled further around the world. It then morphed into regional forms of Swing such as, Lindy Hop – Jump Swing – Flying Lindy – Balboa – Bal Swing – West Coast Swing – Dallas Push – Houston Whip. Imperial Swing – Western Swing – Country Swing – Carolina Shag – Collegiate Shag – St Louis Shag – Hand Dance. East Coast Swing – DC Hand dance – Rock n Roll- Ballroom Jive – Skip Jive – Modern Jive – Boogie Woogie – Swedish Bug and more.

The lost years

Arthur Murray studios taught a version of WCS at the time known as Western Swing.  the dance started from closed position and after the ‘throwout’ began with a walk, walk for the follower. The Golden State Dance Teachers Association (GSDTA) began teaching the walk steps, counts 1 and 2. It also replaced Lauré Haile’s Coaster Step with an “Anchor Step” around 1961. “West Coast swing” as a synonym for “Western swing” appears in a 1961 dance book. Also, in an advertisement by Skippy Blair in 1962 but wasn’t incorporated into mainstream swing circles until the late 1960s. With limited media resources and travel not yet accessible to everyone. All the regional styles are still developing independent from each other.

End of the Century – 1980’s-1990’s

This period of WCS is when dancers started to travel across the USA to attend National conventions. 1977 the first US Open Championships held in Las Vegas and won by Michael & Amber Cross. In 1982 then held, in California and Lance Shermoen & Mary-Ann Nunez were the winners. Since then, there has been many impressions left on the community by it’s champions. Who each had their own personalities and styles. Jack Carey & Annie Hirsch – Lance Shermoen & Mary-Ann Nunez – Wayne & Sharlot Bott – Johnathon Bixby & Silvia Sykes. Sonny Watson – Kelly Casanova – Debbie Rasey-Boz – Robert Royston & Laureen Baldovi-Mason. Robert Cordoba & Deborah Szekely – Mario Robau & Carmen Scarborough – Barry Durand & Dawn Garrish.  All deserve credit for inspiring and steering the community with their amazing talents. Not to forget the Shaggers. Charlie Womble & Jackie McGee – Sam & Lisa West – Micheal & LeeAnn Norris. They have also made a huge impact on the community and the way that we dance West Coast Swing today.

West Coast Swing – Last 20 years

Has seen an explosion of WCS dancing all over the world.  With technology and affordable air travel bringing us closer together. Events like Swing Diego and Boogie by the Bay have helped to showcase the top WCS dancers to a much wider audience. This has inspired so many new people to get involved with WCS. Music has been such a big a part of what has made WCS more accessible to more people. You can dance WCS to any 4/4 timing. That doesn’t always mean its a good song to dance to, but it means that everyone will find something they like. Modern day dance heroes have played a huge role in transferring the ideas of WCS on a global scale. Couples such as Jordan Frisbee & Tatiana Mollmann – Kyle Redd & Sarah-Vann Drake are most peoples inspiration for getting into WCS.   Many modern styles of music are suitable for WCS and will make sure it continues to live in popular culture. We can only see WCS becoming more popular as dance style that fits so many different types of people.

Follow EastonSwing Facebook page for all the latest news and updates. Read more of our Blogs

Learn WCS for FREE!

In addition to the 5 basic moves video we offer a Free membership to our Level2 Subscription.  Sign up with your email at our website and get access to more than 20 free WCS class videos.

A blonde short haired woman in black with her arms around guy with a shaved head wearing a black jacket.

How to get better at West Coast Swing?

A married couple enjoying west coast swing dancing

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 message.

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

Follow EastonSwing Facebook page for all the latest news and updates. Read more of our Blogs

Learn WCS for FREE!

In addition to the 5 basic moves video we offer a Free membership to our Level2 Subscription.  Sign up with your email at our website and get access to more than 20 free WCS class videos.

A blonde short haired woman in black with her arms around guy with a shaved head wearing a black jacket.