The state dance of California, West Coast Swing is rapidly gaining popularity across the globe. Known as one of the most versatile partner dances because of its ability to be danced to a broad range of styles of music. It’s not the easiest dance, but well worth the effort.
West Coast Swing’s origins are definitely in Lindy Hop, but has changed over the years! It’s distinctive “dancing in a slot” approach derives from San Diego dance halls as far back as 1938. The kicking jitterbugs would frolic in the center of the floor, with the smooth dancers grooving on the periphery. First called western swing by Arthur Murray in the 1950s, swing had taken a definite right turn. A “slot” appeared along with the follower’s “walk walk” on the first two steps thanks to Murray’s initial coding of the dance in a studio.
In the 50’s, this dance was sometimes referred to as western swing and/or sophisticated swing, and sometimes it still is. In Downey, California in 1958, any dance called “western” would not attract students. Skippy Blair and her crew would explain that “western” really meant “west coast.” Then, Jim Banister, local editor of the Herald American Newspaper suggested that they call it just that. So when they advertised in 1961, they advertised the dance as west coast swing. The dances current name, West Coast Swing, entered into mainstream swing circles in the late 60’s. Many credit the current name of the dance to Skippy Blair.
Latin styles and hustle influenced WCS from the 70’s. Beginners seeing hustle and west coast swing often cannot distinguish them. Current WCS styles vary considerably. Modern WCS can be conservatively upright-postured, smooth and warm, or a funky, hot-partnered jazz dance. It is the social dance that allows for the greatest choice in styles of music.
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