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.

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