The Evolution of West Coast Swing from Classic to Contemporary

///The Evolution of West Coast Swing from Classic to Contemporary

Every dance evolves and West Coast Swing is no different.  For better or for worse, something (cultural values, music, migration, etc) will affect the look and perhaps the feel of a dance over time.  While is is important to preserve the history, fundamentals and ‘essence’ of partner dances, it can also be beneficial to recognize transformation – to know what changes are occurring in better hopes of understanding why they are changing.

I am not going to make a case for whether or not the shifts in West Coast Swing styles are good or evil.  I definitely find them interesting.  I also believe much has to do with the musical choices of the community (in conjunction with changing opinions of GSDTA/WSDC, culture and the expanding range of abilities dancers are drawing from).  Change is inevitable – as a community, we have some control of how those changes take root or are tossed out.

Classic West Coast Swing 1960-1990

This is a good mash-up of early West Coast Swing dancing (some performance and some social).  I particularly love the first clip in 1961 where you can see West Coast Swing evolving out of the Lindy Hop or Western Swing.

You might notice the obvious change in clothing choices.  The music changes from 60s (late) swing, to 70s Hustles, and 80s Swinging Rock n Roll.  The coaster step is replaced with the anchor step (see Skippy Blair’s history for more details on technique changes).  Even within these 30 years, West Coast Swing underwent a few considerable transformations.

West Coast Swing in the 1990s, 2000s, and 2010s

The 1990s is often recognized as a time when the music and styles of West Coast Swing began expanding the vocabulary of the dance.  Many dancers brought in influences and techniques from other dances or musical genres.  You will still hear soul, rhythm & blues, funk, rock and hustle at West Coast Swing events, but overall, there has been a general move towards pop music, techno and hip hop.  Contemporary dancers connect with music they hear most of the day and are able to maintain their West Coast Swing fundamentals.  It is a challenge to keep the basic swing/rolling rhythm of the dance when you have a driving beat or lyrical breaks.  I commend many of these Contemporary West Coast Swing dancers for swinging in a way which makes sense to them.  I also commend their efforts to preserve the basic tenets of West Coast Swing dancing.

US Open 1996 – Kyle Redd & Beata Howe

US Open 2001 – Benji Schwimmer & HeidiGroskreutz

US Open 2011 – Jordan Frisbee & Tatiana Mollmann

What are West Coast Swing DJs Playing Today?

Check out the USA Swing Dance Network’s list of “West Coast” Swing DJs and their favorite music to play at events.  There is a range of music West Coast Swing dancers hear at events.  Find a new song to practice to or see what DJ’s are playing in another part of the US.

By |2012-04-05T13:08:41+00:00April 5th, 2012|West Coast Swing|8 Comments

About the Author:

Shani Brown discovered swing dancing in the late 90s as she eased out of gymnastics into a new physical activity. When she moved to Orange County in 2000, she discovered a whole new world of Balboa and Lindyhop - and she's been obsessed ever since! When she's not hitchhiking to dance events across the country, she's probably got her nose in a book...And when she's not dancing, she's probably talking about dancing or watching dancing and being a typical dance-geek.

8 Comments

  1. mark April 14, 2012 at 1:06 pm - Reply

    I think there is 2 types of West Coast being done now.. There is WC Swing and WC Evolution…. There are a lot of TOP PRO’s that do both depending on what kind of music is being played…The music drives the dance, not the other way around

  2. dan April 16, 2012 at 5:59 am - Reply

    I love all the dancing in this video. That said, I’m pretty glad I didn’t encounter WCS back then, because the outfits would have had me running the other direction!

  3. Ed and Ellen Baker April 17, 2012 at 5:42 pm - Reply

    This was very interesting but where is MARIO ROBAU!!!!!!!!!!! They don’t call him Swing Daddy for nothing.

  4. Goel May 8, 2012 at 8:59 am - Reply

    Very nice overview of WCS evolution… though it seems like eraly WCS is not WCS ! since it has evolved so much !)
    It would be very interesting to have more videos :)

  5. Inspea May 14, 2012 at 1:22 pm - Reply

    The new west coast swing reminds me of modern dance with little rhythm.

  6. DJ Mineh June 8, 2012 at 1:17 am - Reply

    This was a really nice post. I am a West Coast Swing DJ, and was looking up the history of the dance when I found your post. I actually spoke with Victor Loveira this past weekend, and he was talking about how many dancers and DJs don’t know the history of the dance. It piqued my interest, and I plan to do more research about the history of West Coast Swing and the music played for the dance. Thank you for providing a great starting place!

    I’m actually writing a similar piece, from a different angle for my site at http://www.westcoastswingmusic.com. Do you have any suggestions of names of pros from the previous generations that I should look at?

  7. Brian Barakauskas March 11, 2019 at 9:57 pm - Reply

    This is a very interesting blog. Your blog is very important and useful for all and mainly for those who are searching for this and really want to learn West Coast Swing.

  8. Dance Louisville May 22, 2019 at 10:19 pm - Reply

    This was a really nice post. I have been teaching ” Swing dance” and I would like to say that you are doing a great job. Although it takes some time to learn when you learn it gives a lot of satisfaction and happiness. Keep sharing your experience to motivate others.

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