WEST COAST SWINGMark's Top 15 West Coast Swing No-No's

by Mark Van Schuyver

I learned to dance West Coast Swing in Tulsa and in Dallas. In eleven years of dancing I’ve traveled to, and danced with people in Los Angeles, San Diego. San Francisco, Phoenix, Denver, Kansas, Houston, and New York City. I’ve learned one thing: NO ONE AGREES ON A STANDARD FOR THIS DANCE.

For example, folks in California and other Western states practice a version that they call the West Coast Swing which is compatible with, but significantly different from the Dallas "Push." In Dallas, the Push and the West Coast are taught as separate dances, yet most observers can’t tell the difference. Houston dancers call their swing the "Whip," which is different from, but compatible with Push, and with West Coast Swing.

Atlanta dancers call their interpretation of the dance "West Coast," but I believe that it is really a mixture of Push, Whip, and West Coast, spiced with a healthy dash of East Coast styling. In other words, it is almost a new dance.

With so much diversity it is really tough (silly maybe) to give advice on the West Coast Swing. But, after eleven years of dancing this/these dances I’m going to step out on a limb and share my personal no-no list. Here goes:

· 1. Don’t take large steps. Most steps should not exceed length of your own foot.

· 2. Don’t bounce up and down. Dance smooth.

· 3. Men, don’t push the woman around . Lead by indication, not by pulling and pushing.

· 4. Don’t break your frame. Forearms should stay parallel to the floor in open position.

· 5. Don’t let your elbows pass your sides in a push. In open position, keep your elbows slightly in front of your center line.

· 6, Don’t dance with your arms. Keep arms firm and don’t keep time with your arms.

· 7. Don’t let your hands rise up during a push. Keep forearms, wrists, and hands parallel to the floor.

· 8. Don’t float around. Anchor your weight at the end of each set of movements.

· 9. Don’t use your thumbs. Use fingers only, keeping your thumbs clear, and never squeeze!

· 10. Men, don’t advance forward to lead anything. Step to the side, and/or back, but not forward.

· 11. Don’t look at the floor. Look up, be proud, and smile.

· 12. Men, don’t start a pattern on the one count. Start on the "and-one."

· 13. Ladies, don’t back lead. It hurts our feelings.

· 14. Don’t get too far apart. Stay close, take smaller steps, and keep your frame.

· 15. Men don’t lift you hands high over the woman’s head to lead turns. Lift just above her head.

There you have it, Mark’s top 15 West Coast no-no’s. Do I keep to these rules? Well, yes, most of the time. But when I break a rule or two I just say "hey, that’s the way they do it in Tulsa, Dallas, Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco, Phoenix, Denver,, Kansas, Houston, or New York City."

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.

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