Why is West Coast swing the dancers dance?
The West coast swing is a favorite dance genre for accomplished dancers because of its complexity and freedom of expression. Many dance professionals consider the West Coast swing to be the ultimate design for a dance because of its freedom. The partners create a unique piece of art through movement to music, poetry in motion!
There are some guidelines that are generally maintained like the slot, leverage and compression and some combinations of six and eight count movements but more accomplished dancers deconstruct the basic patterns and find interesting ways to move to respond to the music in two beat units allowing for more space to express oneself and respond to the music.
For example, while dancing to a graceful melodic ballad, the dancers may omit triples and substitute single or double rhythm through the most of the song. While this might be a violation in a competition, the standardized competition rules do not apply to social dancing. In social West Coast swing, the dancers are free to express themselves as long as they maintain connection and follow the general guidelines for the dance.
The West Coast swing dance is complex partly due to the freedom of expression and the small surface area of connection, sometimes just part of one hand is used to convey the lead to the follow. This definitely adds to the complexity. The science of leading requires the lead to be precise, clear and often subtle, while following is an art. The fact that most of the dancers body is free to move independently of the partner makes the West Coast swing truly a unique dance among social partner dances.
Also, the West Coast swing requires an understanding and implementation of body mechanics in order to perform the more complex movements. It takes years of study and practice to become an accomplished West Coast swing dancer (patience too). Learning the fundamentals is important rather than concentrating on pattern sequences or routines or even flashy, fancy patterns that one can only do with the people in their class and no one else. To become an accomplished dancer learn the body mechanics, especially for the follows rather than concentrating on patterns.
Core movement is an essential component in the mechanics of movement in the West Coast swing. Leading originates from the core and follows respond from the core. The core of the body, sometimes called the center of the body varies between people but is generally the area between the solar plexus and the belly button. The initial lead originates from this area and the arms are often kept closer to the core enabling the dancer to better move from their center. The strength of movements comes from the core while the speed of movement comes from the limbs.
The West Coast swing dancer stretches away from their partner at the end of the slot to create leverage and uses compression when moving into the partner in a push break (also called a sugar push), which creates an fluid, elastic movement in the West Coast swing. Taking the time and having the patience to learn this fantastic dance is definitely worth as it leads to a lifelong avocation that allows the artist in each of us to express themselves and become part of an incredible dance community!