WEST COAST SWINGWhy Heidi & Benji Made the Finals of
"So You Think You Can Dance"

by Michael Harvey

Unbelievable!  That's the main description everyone in the West Coast Swing community gives when asked about finalists Heidi Groskreutz and Benji Schwimmer's amazing success on Fox's "So You Think You Can Dance."  Everyone knew they could dance, I mean really dance, but could their skills carry them ahead of all dancers America has to offer?  Unbelieveable!

In typical listless fashion, those who power the West Coast Swing community are not capitalizing whatsoever on all this new exposure (hits to this WCSA website are up over 650%!) for our fabulous dance.  But that's a story for another day.  Today it's all about Benji and Heidi and those of us who don't power the West Coast Swing Community know that the effort this combo put into their US Open routines through the years and all the other competing they did within our community,  has paid off big-time for these two deserving dancers.

I spent two years coaching on the International Mens Tennis Circuit and one of the most unknown aspects of winning any of the four major tournaments is endurance.  The major tournaments are two weeks long instead of the usual four days and involve going undefeated through 7 rounds of top players.  Only the best players are prepared for the challenge.  Benji and Heidi have shown tremendous endurance on Fox's popular TV show through weeks and weeks of auditions, choreography, and performances and continue to show strength and spunk.  Early on in the show when two contestants were eliminated you could see that they were upset, sad, and mad.  Now, many weeks later, when two contestants are eliminated they look relieved!  They appear much like a defeated athlete ready for a bath and a beer.  They are happy with their effort, their bright future, but are delighted to be off the grueling treadmill.  Not Benji and Heidi.  They are ready for the next match, the next set, the next point.

No doubt they are tired and worn, but you'll never see it because they refuse to recognize it.  They have a job to do, a job they love, and a job they'll put everything they have into, until it's over.  Case in point, the US Open West Coast Swing Dance Championships.  When you've cut your teeth (taking 2nd) as juniors against Jordan Frisbee and Tatiana Mollman (30 Seconds of Fame Winners), take two years off from competition and go up against veteran champions Robert Cordoba and Deborah Szekley in your first shot in the adult division (and win!), going up against one-dimensional dancers who've performed only at their local school, church, or recital for parents and friends puts Heidi and Benji in perfect position to score.  The experience of our West Coast Swing Community has served them very well indeed.

Please, this is no knock on the competition which was and is incredibly talented and fierce.  Learning new routines every week is extremely challenging for all the competitors.  Benji and Heidi have skills we never knew they had.  But Benji and Heidi have taken their God given talent along with their competition experiences within the West Coast Swing community and are out lasting and out dancing all comers.  We can all be proud of that.

Did you see that Mambo routine they did when they were paired together?  The one that knocked people out of their chairs?  We've seen most of those moves in their West Coast Swing routines (at a much slower speed, of course!).  So rejoice, West Coast Swing community.  You've created true Champions.  And what nice Champions they are.  They are smart, they are personable, they are moral.  What better representatives of our favorite dance than that?  We don't think they can dance, we know they can dance!  And now, so does America.

Heidi's Photo from "So You Think You Can Dance"
Benji's Photo from "So You Think You Can Dance"