“West Coast swing is unique among the social partner dances; it is more like a non-verbal dialogue where movements are done in collaboration among partners unlike the strictly conventional lead/follow tradition…”
West Coast swing evolved from the Lindy Hop, a dance that originated in the 1930’s at the Savoy Ballroom in New York. The original Lindy Hop sprouted into numerous types of swing dances like jitterbug, East Coast triple swing and Western swing, the name originally used for West Coast swing.
The jazz era musicians began to use a swung beat and to syncopate the notes creating a triple rhythm encouraging the dancers to do a triple rather than using a single weighted step. Rumor has it that the slot used in West Coast swing developed when dancers like Dean Collins danced in Hollywood films before the invention of the wide-angle lens.
West Coast swing flourished across the United States and recently spread around the world. San Diego is home to one of the largest swing dance conventions in the country, SwingDiego, which is held every Mother’s Day weekend yearly. At SwingDiego, dancers from countries like France, Canada, Russia, England, Australia and Brazil attend and compete combining their hobby with a great vacation spot.
The West Coast swing is a “living dance” in that it transforms to fit contemporary music but it is a very broad spectrum dance, which is danced to many different types of music including R&B, Blues, Soul, Country Western, Jazz, Ballads, Hip Hop, Rock and Contemporary Pop music. Because the West Coast swing is a “living dance” it is constantly evolving, so it no longer looks like it did 5 or 10 years ago. It is considered a nightclub or street dance rather than a ballroom dance and is danced with a more relaxed, natural looking posture than the classic ballroom dances while still maintaining good posture.
The rise of the Internet and YouTube has exponentially hastened the spread of the dance worldwide. West Coast swing competitions are regulated by the World Swing Council’s guidelines while social West Coast swing continues to thrive as a form of heightened free expression, especially in recent years with the advent of the lyrical forms of West Coast swing and dancers responding through movement to the lyrics of songs as well as the music.
The living component that embraces contemporary music has attracted many younger dancers. In San Diego, the Universities and local college dance club students have found their way into the West Coast swing community. This has charged up the energy of the local West Coast swing dance venues.
The West Coast swing is often referred to as the “dancers dance” because it allows enormous freedom of expression to the dancer, allowing them to express themselves more than most social partner dances except Argentine tango, which also allows a great deal of freedom.
West Coast swing is unique among the social partner dances; it is more like a non-verbal dialogue where movements are done in collaboration among partners unlike the strictly conventional lead/follow tradition. This makes the West Coast swing an extraordinary dance for the Follows, since they can actually participate in the creative process in this dance genre. The West Coast swing is truly like poetry in motion!