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West Coast Swing

West Coast Swing (WCS) is a partner dance derived from Lindy Hop. By its soul it is a street dance, however it was tamed by ballroom dance studios.

Table of contents
1 History
2 West Coast Swing vs. Lindy Hop
3 Classic WCS
4 Funky WCS
5 "True" WCS vs. Ballroom WCS
6 Beginning Dancers
7 Advanced Dancers
8 References
9 External links


It is believed that the origins of th WCS are in Savoy style Lindy, in a particular style that was popularized by a dancer Dean Collins after he moved to California in 1930s.

Step sheets from ballroom studios reveal that this particular style was known under different names until it took on the name "West Coast Swing."

In 1988, West Coast Swing was pronounced the Official State Dance of California (see external links).

West Coast Swing vs. Lindy Hop

West Coast Swing is believed to have evolved from Lindy Hop, though both have evolved since the fork. There is still a large amount of crossover between the two dances, and between the various styles.

Key differences of WCS are:


The follower moves back and forth along a narrow rectangle, called the slot, with respect to the leader. The leader is more stationary and also mostly stays in the slot. A general rule is that the leader leaves the slot only to give way for the follower to pass him.

Various reasons have been given for the slotted style. One reason is that when all followers dance in lines, club owners could pack many more dancers onto the floor. Another reason was that in Hollywood, film makers wanted dancers to stay in the same plane, to avoid going in and out of focus.


WCS emphasizes Blues and Rock and Roll music, rather than Swing Jazz. Funky WCS accepts a broad spectrum of contemporary music. In practice, WCS may danced to almost any music in 4/4 time.


Where Lindy Hop basics are almost exclusively 8 beat patterns, WCS basics are not. Many moves are done in 4, 6, 8, 10, 12, 14 or more counts. As in Lindy Hop, moves can be extended for as long as desired.

Classic WCS

The style of WCS that matches the "classic" WCS music featured by swung eighths. In this style the "split-beat" steps are typically counted as: "1 a2"; "3 a4"; "a3 4"; etc. Here "a" denotes the intermediate beat "swung" away from the strict middle position and splitting the beat approximately 2:1. For the comparison, the "a" in "1a2" of Samba rhythm splits the quarter note 3:1, i.e., it "splits off" a 1/16, so it is "straight" in the sense of binary note duration nomenclature.

Funky WCS

A more contemporary style of WCS that matches American pop music, which has square rhythms. In this style the "split-beat" steps may well be counted in strict time: "1&2"; "3&4"; "&34"; etc., to match the music.

The Classic WCS elements of standard step patterns are modified or replaced. For example, the anchor step--the cornerstone of the classic WCS--is often replaced by hook-replace-side triple-step. The overall appearance is heavily influenced by funk and Hip Hop styles.

"True" WCS vs. Ballroom WCS

Here lies an ironical controversy. It is argued that the WCS in its modern form was documented and elaborated by Arthur Murray Ballrooom Dance Studios (franchise). Afterwards in broke away to evolve on its own. A renewned interest in WCS encouraged ballroom studios to include it in their curricula.

Unfortunately the original technique and style of this swing dance is being levelled out by the "averaged" ballroom technique of mass consumption, as it happened with many other dances, such as Samba, Cha Cha Cha and East Coast Swing. In particular, abuse of cuban motion in "ballroom WCS," lack of understanding of swung eighths, and dancing rehearsed patterns strung one after another without paying much attention to musical phrasing are among most frequent complaints of "true" WCS dancers.

Beginning Dancers

Beginning dancers generally focus on simple moves, as they gain understanding of the dance. There are plenty of beginning WCS lessons available in any city. Often there are lessons before dances, but it would benefit a prospective student to take longer classes (5-10 weeks) and try different teachers, to find what they like.

Typical beginners must concentrate much on being where the are supposed to be--including their feet or hands. Unfortunately, many teachers neglect to teach their students the importance of leading and following.

The next step, ironically, is to re-learn all that you know. Moves are to be led and followed, which is typically not what a beginner is doing. Once one is comfortable dancing the basic patterns, it may time to learn to lead/follow them. This is the time when most people want to learn more complicated moves, and often put off learning to lead/follow in order to do that. At some point it will become clear that all moves are just recombinations of the fundamentals.


Ten Basic moves that any WCS dancer should know are:

With these ten moves, anyone can do a lot.


Beginning dancers focus on squaring up their bodies with their partners and staying with the music.

Advanced Dancers

Advanced dancers may be allowed to break the rules and won't remember what patterns they've just done.

Other Moves

West Coast has many colorful moves:


Advanced dancers syncopate their footwork to match the music and turn their bodies to interesting angles to flow more gracefully.

Footwork variations include kick ball changes and flea hops (all others are disallowed).


See also: dancing: Swing Out, Swing Dance, Lindy Hop, Ballroom Dance; music: popular music, pop music, contemporary music;

External links

California Roster; Official State Dance of California; Sonny Watson dance history archives: West Coast Swing;