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WEST COAST SWING: Are we losing it?


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LOSING WEST COAST SWING?
On 3 June 2011 on FaceBook, David Koppelman said:
Possibly the most literate and informed article I have
read on the devolution (my term for it) of West Coast Swing.

Fred Baron: I agree David.

KATHERINE'S DANCE WORD
Dan Parker: Thanks for turning me on to that blog. And, I agree with much of what she says. She musicality of the dance is getting ignored in favor of .... what I don't exactly know. Except maybe in the interest of quantity of participants rather than quality. Used to be the things she complains of the dancers doing were regarded as steps on the way to being a good dancer. Heck I went through some of those phases myself. If you ask my instructor I'm still going through some of them, but at least I know that their not what the dance is supposed to be.
……“I guess that theoretically you can't call all of those dancing this new version 'wrong.' After all new dances have to start somehow, but I sure wish they'd rename whatever it is they're doing so folks don't think that what we're doing is the same as what they're doing.

Sharlot Bott: Go see the new Woody Allen Movie Midnight In Paris see if you can note its relevance to Kathryn's article.

David Koppelman: Sharlot, if your point is that we can't live in the past, I agree. I posted Kath­erine's article not because I necessarily agree with all of it, but because it is a thoughtful and serious attempt to confront the problems a lot of us have been seeing i West Coast Swing.
……“Too many people (not you) see this as either/or. Every time I bring up the music issues in WCS with other dj's, inevitably I get some dj's claiming that I'm trying to eliminate all con­tem­po­rary music from WCS. It is a classic straw man tactic; rather than confront a serious issue in all of its complexity, create a fictional (absurd) position, argue against it instead, and declare victory.
……“The challenge for those of us who care is to help West Coast Swing move forward into the future while still retaining the basic form and substance of swing dancing. It won't be- can't be- what was being danced in 1999, or 1989, or heck, 2009. But it can- and should- "swing".

Lew Serbin: Thank you for the link, David. I read the whole article. Some if it was too technical for my simple mind but some of it was revelatory to me.
……“There's a local teacher who I love to watch, an excellent dancer who's won many com­peti­tions in our and other worlds. It seems every time I ask “Who's your teacher?” because of really negli­gent Following, the answer is that person.
……“Oh, yeah,” a Follower might say. “He probably thinks he can Lead well but can't.” When I Lead something that's been Followed as I intended hundreds of times and it isn't, and I know I've Lead it well, I know where the fault lies. I also know that when I consistently get the same answer about a teacher from poor Followers, there's something wrong with the teaching.
……“We cannot know how well we Lead or Follow other than what others tell us. My Lead has been complimented by Beginners, Champions, and all levels 'tween. I also KNOW I Lead well because my Leads are almost always Followed as I intend. But I love it when they're not, creatively, and on time. But that's a different subject.
……“I don't know who the dancers are about whom Kat speaks. I've recently danced with teen-aged Followers who Followed me perfectly well.
……“I first noticed changes about twenty years ago but thought that I hadn't been taught well fifty years ago and made some changes. Maybe my “old way” is the correct way.
……“Thanks again, David, and Kat for your excellent article that I cannot categorize better than did David.

Dan Parker: Lew - what you have encountered is a very common issue and great dancer who is not a good teacher. Teaching and dancing are 2 different skill sets, and one does not always, or even usually follow the other. But I think what Kat is complaining about is the loss of musicality and the loss of the dis­tinctive traits that first made up WCS when it evolved from Lindy Hop etc. Now there are 2 dances, Lindy Hop, and WCS. But what we're in danger of is losing WCS altogether in the name of this upper body stunt dancing that has no musicality. To some degree I agree with her, but I also think the answer is very simple. Have the judges score weighted on timing, rhythm and more technical aspects of the dance. That will force people to acquire more technical skills if they want to advance. Or, I could be as full of it as a Christmas goose, but there's my 2 cents worth.

Don Welch: Waltz, Cha Cha, Samba, etc etc... is updated to the current dancers taste when they are social dancing,... however when those dances are being judged , as in their world championship contests, they all revert back to following the strictest rules as outlined. I have not read the complete article but I get the feeling what they are talking about is the "preservation" of the basics of WCS.... IMO

Dan Parker: I would agree with that assesment.

Lew Serbin: Dan said “what you have encountered is a very common issue and great dancer who is not a good teacher. Teaching and dancing are 2 different skill sets”
……“Yes, of course I'm aware of that phenomenon. I've never taken any of that teacher's classes so cannot comment on the person's teaching skill.
……“Dan continued “Kat is complaining about is the loss of musicality and the loss of the distinctive traits that first made up WCS when it evolved”
……“Yes, I understood that. It does not meet my observation but, then, I'm neither a judge nor, apparently, a keen observer. I'm a sucker for being entertained.
……“To me, the three most distinctive differences 'tween Swing and Lindy are The Slot, the Follower going forward on the Right, and the Touch rather than a Triple. Don't tell Székely I said that as my safety would be jeopardized. I don't know when the Triple replaced the Touch but it's quite common now.
……“Please link me to an example of “upper body stunt dancing that has no musicality”. I go to enough conventions and see enough competitions that I've probably seen it (‘Not them!’) and then cast my attention elsewhere.
……“Dan said further “To some degree I agree with her, but I also think the answer is very simple. Have the judges score weighted on timing, rhythm and more technical aspects of the dance.”
……“You seem to be implying, and I think Kat strongly suggested, that bad dancing is being awarded with advancing to finals as well as the winners' circle. If that's truly the case (and Kat oughta know), let's shoot the judges for doing what they ought not rather than the dancers who haven't learned what they should.
……“Dan agreed with Don Welch who pointed out “Waltz, Cha Cha, Samba, etc etc... is updated to the current dancers taste when they are social dancing,... however when those dances are being judged … they all revert back to following the strictest rules …”
……“There, I think, is the resolution. Let us dance, Socially, as poorly as we like but, when being judged, make us dance as perfectly as we're able in order to do well.
……“Although there ain't no book that I know of, there are enough originals still with us for some basic tenets to be promulgated. I haven't read Kat's, but I'm sure I'd agree with them. And there are even more old timers, such as I, than originals still around. Most of them are rarely seen but I danced with a couple of them today.
……“This is a discussion that should be sent to the World Swing Dance Council for further action. I was never satisfied with Hutch's descriptions.

Dan Parker: I especially like this: This is a discussion that should be sent to the World Swing Dance Council for further action. I was never satisfied with Hutch's descriptions.
……“And I'm not implying that bad dancing is being awarded, I'm saying so. I think it's that you are not the only one being a sucker for being entertained. And most judges are not like Len on Dancing With The Stars. They can't ignore the crowd's energy and response to judge critically.
……“Sadly for my part it doesn't matter. I'll be bottom of the pack until I get to practice more regardless :)

Lew Serbin: On Wed, Jun 8, 2011 a Follower sent me the following mEssage:
lew, I have felt this way about WCS and am happy to see someone knowledgable put it in writing.
……“There were two times … that I didn't have a clue what the leader was doing. One leader was running up and down the slot on the outside (traveling). Not a normal move.
……“At the us open, I danced with [a guy] from San Diego. At anchor, he was going sideways out of the slot moving all the time.
……“Happily, I have not had any more of these experiences.
……“The young dancers … are doing a lot of aerial, acrobatic and sexy, sexy moves usually to fast music for the audience. This is what they think WCS is from watching competition DVDs.
……“I don't say anything anymore.
……“Doing ball games with son and granddaughter instead of dancing. Wish I could find another hobby.


Lew Serbin: I said “let's shoot the judges for doing what they ought not rather than the dancers who haven't learned what they should”.

NOTE: Nothing above has been edited!

Here's what Judge KELLY CASANOVA has to say.

History of West Coast Swing by SKIPPY BLAIR

The most compehensive dance site on the WEB: SONNY WATSON's StreetSwing

See West Coast Swing as danced before the 1990s

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