The Evil Coaster Step
by Mark Van Schuyver
Maxwell Ho said at a recent workshop that every West Coast Swing pattern is like a sentence. He asked us what we should put at the end of a sentence and we responded, "a period." In a West Coast Swing pattern, the "period" is the anchor step. To demonstrate, Maxwell did a six count pattern and counted out loud, "one, two, three, four, STOP RIGHT THERE five and six)!" I looked across the room and noticed nods from many of the more expe-rienced workshop attendees. Anchor Step, STOP RIGHT THERE, without moving forward, i.e. finish the pattern. In other words, the lady does not do a coaster step at the end of a pattern. She never travels for'arard on the six count at the end of a pattern. Likewise, the man does not travel fbrward on the six count at the end of a pattern.
Maxwell was speaking of the single most abused of all the West Coast Basics, forward travel (coaster steps) at the end of a pattern. Every pattern ends with an anchor on the five and six count (or seven and eight count for whips). In my opinion, it is this anchoring action that makes West Coast Swing, West Coast Swing. Without the anchor, the dance migrates into a dif-ferent form entirely.
CLOSE EACH PATTERN WITH AN ANCHOR
Lets take a basic six count sugar-push and break it down. Here it is with an anchor at the end:
And step one
tap step three
·step backward (female) four
·anchor step (no travel) five and six.
Each new pattern begins on and-one. It does not begin on six; it does not beg in on one. It begins on AND ONE. Therefore, it is absolutely critical that the woman stay in one spot (anchors) on the five and six. She must not travel forward on six. It is equally important for the man to anchor in place on five and six. He must not travel forward on the six count either. This creates an opposition, a slight pulling or counterbalance between the dancers on the five and six count. It completes the pat-tern. As Maxwell said, it is "the period at the end of the sentence."
THE EVIL COASTER STEP
There is a time and place for a ladies coaster step. That time is not at the end of a six or eight count pattern. A coaster step is a traveling triple step. In theory, it would be okay to do a coaster step at the end of a pattern, if the lady could do it without traveling forward on six. In prac-tice, however, the lady who uses a coaster step on five and six invariably travels for-ward on six and destroys the pattern.
Here is how a sugar-push counts with no anchor. Hold your ears because it is like fingernails on a chalkboard. This example is with a ladies coaster step traveling forward on six (yuck):
· step one
· step two
· tap step three
· step backward (female) four ladies coaster step with (forward travel) five and six. Ouch. It hurts just to write it down.
Get thee behind me evil coaster step! Fe-male dancers must look on the face of the evil coaster step and swear never to do it at the end of a pattern again. Dont do drugs, and just say no to coasters at the end of a West Coast Swing pattern!
Okay, all right already, no coasters at the end of a pattern. So what should we do? What is an anchor step anyway? Think of an anchor step as any step in which you "stop right there" and do not travel on the five and six count. It can be done with a touch step, an in-place-triple-step, a Dallas-Push step, or a variety of other steps. The key, the magic, the medicine, is simply not to travel forward on the six count.
West Coast Swing has many interpreta-tions. For example, there is considerable variance in West Coast Swing done in California, Dallas, Denver, St. Louis, and Tulsa. However, across the Country there is universal agreement on the concept of anchoring at the end of each six or eight count pattern.
Maxwell Ho put it so well when he counted and stepped it out for us at his workshop. "One, two, three, four, STOP RIGHT THERE (five and six)." Finish each pat-tern with a non-traveling anchor step and your dancing life will be much happier. Throw out the coaster step at the end of the pattern and remember to put a period at the end of every sentence.
Mark Van Schuyver lives in Atlanta. He is a writer and a West Coast Swing enthusiast with over thirteen years experience dancing. More than 100 of his articles have been published in national magazines including many on the subject of dance. You can reach Mark at by e-mail at Zarrdd@bigfoot.com.