WEST COAST SWING"Swing Kids" Flourishing or Flagging?

No Matter!

by Michael A. Harvey

It was the July/August issue of last year that West Coast SwingAmerica first started printing information about "Swing Kids." Last issue featured them on our front page just prior to what seemed like every newspaper in the nation running a feature story on the "latest dance craze." In contrast to the three stories written below (in the magazine), WCSA (with it’s ear close to the ground) is now opining that the peak is here, the fall is soon, yet the upside is still grand.

The first sign of a flagging fad is the over-saturation of clubs, which in Atlanta there is. You can do well if you have Swing one night per week. But every night? I don’t think so. I’m teaching 40’s style Swing three nights per week and I’m just one teacher. We’re all teaching the same Newcomer lesson. The post-college, college, and high schoolers driving the rage immediately go from Newcomer lessons to lifts and drops. After learning "pull-throughs" and "sidecars" the next series of drops often ends in injuries, serious injuries, mostly to the women (but also to the men) involving the head, shoulders, back, knees, and ankles. They go directly into these because of the Gap commercial and because contact gymnastics involving the opposite sex was a domain previously open only to highly selected, cliquish Cheerleaders in safe, well-controlled environments. Now, ANYONE can do it, regardless of the environment. Wearing bumps, bruises, and bandages as "Red Badges of Courage," these become through time nothing more than very real aches and pains.

Given the short attention span "Generation Y" is notorious for, how long do you think they’ll continue the same ten patterns to the same sounding music? It’s more likely they’ll get bored before they take on the effort (which it is) of finding a qualified Lindy Hop instructor of which there are hardly any (in Atlanta) and the bigger effort of actually improving their dancing. Those that persist will be great for Lindy Hop as their dance can use the increase in numbers. But really, they were a sub-culture long before the craze and will be a sub-culture long after the craze, albeit with slightly increased numbers.

The real beneficiary of this fad will be Dance in general. I’m teaching an equal amount of triple-count East Coast Swing because people want to know what to do to the "slower music." People over the age of Generation Y, whether they admit it or not, cannot sustain the fast paced effort required to dance all night. Quickly they are finding triple-count a ripe substitute. And after every lesson in single-count and/or triple-count my assistant and I always stay to dance and as soon as the music goes slow enough, there we are doing West Coast Swing and everyone wants to know, "WHAT WAS THAT?!" It’s my guess that this scenario is being replayed all over the country. Bottom Line: West Coast Swing is far more "visible" today than at any time in it’s past.

As soon as the "serious" Swing Kids start increasing their education they will find out that in all dances "soft and smooth" is preferable to hard and jerky. The ladies will certainly vouch for that. Many will stay with Lindy Hop; some will be satisfied with triple-count East Coast; others may move into Ballroom; a few may advance to West Coast. No matter. I’m celebrating because dancing has jumped (and jived) yet another step beyond the Macarena.