What is West Coast Swing?

West Coast Swing

This dance form is an example of a partnered dance. In classes a choreographed sequence is generally taught, but in practice it is an improvised dance.
Editor: Mark Stephens

West Coast Swing (WCS) is a regional variation of Lindy Hop that was popular in the 1940s along the West Coast. By the 1960s it became incorporated more in to the mainstream Swing circles and in 1988 it was announced the Official State Dance of California. From the 1970s onwards, WCS became influenced by Latin styles such as Hustle, and it is often difficult for a beginner to spot the difference between to two.

The main difference between WCS and other Swing dances such as Lindy Hop is its capacity to evolve with the music trends over time. Whereas Lindy Hop has become retro in the sense that it is still danced to the original Big Band music of the 1920s-50s, WCS has been able to adapt to the various dance styles that can accompany such trends. As it is one of the most improvisational of all partnered dances, and also one of the most versatile, WCS is perfect for any type of club night and can be danced to almost any music so long as it is in 4/4 time, making it a popular street dance and especially common at Country Western venues nowadays.

West Coast Swing is a typical form of slotted dance, whereby the dancers adhere to an imaginary narrow rectangle, or 'slot'. The follower is led back and forth along this slot by the leader, who only leaves the slot to lead the follower past them. However, WCS is unusual in the respect that it has more than one basic step. These are usually in 6 or 8 beats, and incorporate various open and closed positions and whips. Linear and elastic movements are characteristic of WCS, and most of the dance moves feature the follower's walks and triple steps.

There are two different types of West Coast Swing recognized today: Classic WCS and Funky WCS. The main difference is basically that Classic WCS is danced to music featuring swung eighths, whereas Funky WCS is danced to more contemporary American pop music, which has square rhythms. However, in recent years this division has become arbitrary, with a realization that Funky WCS is just the same as WCS that is being danced to blues music.
Editor: Nichola Manning