The West Coast Swing dance style evolved from several different types of dance dating as far back as the 1920’s and the Lindy Hop. It is characterized by its “elastic” look –a very smooth style of dance where the leader stays in the centre and the partner travels up and down a “slot” on the dance floor
It’s unique in dance styles as it encourages partners to improvise steps and it can be danced to a huge range of different styles of music.
There is an East Coast Swing as well, which is usually called “jitterbug.” West Coast Swing is generally seen as a slower, more formal swing style than East Coast, although they are both fun dances.
Widowed Friends members Diana W and Don D first came across West Coast Swing when they attended Sunday afternoon dance lessons with other WF members in a studio in Bronte. Although the Sunday afternoon lessons were salsa oriented, Diana and Don explored other dance styles with dance teacher Julie and soon found that they were enjoying West Coast Swing more than any other style.
Diana and Don kindly offered to share some of their experiences and knowledge about West Coast Swing with us.
Q. How did you get involved in West Coast Swing.
A. We were taking West Coast Swing lessons from Julie who unfortunately had to stop dance classes, just as we were beginning to really enjoy it. We looked around Halton but didn’t find anyone else offering lessons locally, so we were fortunate to find another West Coast Swing studio offering lessons in West Toronto.
We’ve been going on Sunday nights for lessons followed by a dance for about a year, and are really enjoying the experience. There is a lot to learn and to remember with all the steps and patterns, but also a lot of fun.
Q. What makes it fun – why do you enjoy it?
A.The big thing for us is the challenge. It makes you think while moving to great music all the time.
It’s much more social than ballroom dancing – we often change partners in a dance so you can learn from each person and try some new things. It is really a fun atmosphere; everyone is happy, friendly and enjoying each other’s company. Best of all it is casual, no need to dress up and wear high heels – the key is to be comfortable and just have fun.
There is also less emphasis on male/female partnerships than you see in ballroom dancing; with West Coast Swing there are ladies dancing together as well as some gentlemen dancing with each other.
Q.If someone from Widowed Friends wanted to learn more, what would you recommend?
A. There’s a great group not too far away in Ancaster that meets monthly on a Saturday night. They do lessons first and then hold a dance after; it’s a great way to see what it’s all about and to try it out. The next dance is Saturday November 11th – here are the details:
Marshall Memorial United Church 20 Gilbert Avenue, Ancaster, Ontario
Beginner lesson 7 – 7:45pm
Basics and Beyond lesson 7:45 – 8:30 pm
Social dancing 8:30 – Midnight
Admission $10, $8 for students
Another great spot is Dovercourt House at Dovercourt and Bloor, which offers free West Coast Swing lessons on the first Tuesday of the month as well as dances throughout the month.
Diana and Don also recommend Shelleydance.com that offers great classes.
Feel free to chat with Diana and Don at a WF event, if you’d like more info on West Coast Swing!
Here’s a video of a dance demo ( you’ll see Diana and Don in the background on the right) with their instructor, taken at Harbourfront this summer. As this was a demo, it has more choreographed routines than normal. Usually couples dance according to their skill level and how they interpret the music.