As per the request of one of the DanceNet readers, here are copies of the past ramblings of the DanceNet Webmaster.
How many of you have seen the movie, Shall We Dance?? I just saw it on video and I thought it was pretty good. They said that dancing changes the way we walk and we're usually the last ones to notice. Hmmm...I gotta be careful from now on. :^) There were some good lessons to be learned, including taking care of your partner and why we dance. Hint for the guys: it's a good date movie.
It has always seemed to me (and mind you, I do like West Coast Swing) that the push in West Coast Swing in Boston has always been to enter competitions and to look good on the dance floor. Those two goals always seemed to be the driving factors, as opposed to the feeling in ECS/Lindy that we were suppose to be having fun. The majority of the swing dancers are out to have fun and have no need to see who is "the best". I, for one, am not inclined to attend the dance weekends that featured mostly alot of competitions because it seemed like I was subsidizing the competitors and not paying for the workshops and dancing (one reason I always liked Boogie In The Mountains).
It has been my feeling (and that of some of the dance teachers in Boston) that the push to import "national-level" teachers, such as Mario Robau or Robert Cordoba, and to enter competitions has hurt the WCS community by driving away the social dancer; there has been no effort to promote West Coast Swing among the beginner dancers. The spotlight has always been on the best dancers and why we should be in awe of them. While the hardcore West Coast Swing dancers are getting better and better, there is no influx of fresh blood to keep the community going and as some of the dancers move on in life (get married, have kids, etc), they leave the scene and there is no one to replace them. How many teachers have stopped teaching West Coast Swing? Many people have left the ECS/Lindy scene (I've been around long enough to see the transition), but they've been replaced by new and eager faces. The bread and butter of places like IC Dances and Ken's Place is still the beginner dancer and they cater to them in hopes that they'll come back after the first visit. The West Coast Swing scene has been declining for years and I've seen no change in the strategies to promote the dance among the newcomers. Even the Argentine Tango is growing faster than West Coast Swing and there are more people in Boston teaching Tango than West Coast Swing.
I do see some hope for West Coast Swing in the Boston area, though. For one, Maxwell Ho , a winner at the US Open Swing Dance Championships and a part-time Bostonian, shows how much innovation and creativity can be found in West Coast Swing. Unfortunately, he's been around Boston too long and many of the local WCS dancers and professionals see him as a "local teacher" and therefore, "not good enough", even though his dancing is more creative than that of many of the national "champions". I like his personal style because when he dances for fun, he's showing us that he's *dancing* and being creative, not just doing a bunch of choreographed "cool" moves. I think that this is what the local scene has been missing. While WCS is a specific style of dancing, it is still *dancing*. It's suppose to be done so that you and your partner have fun *dancing*.
At the same time...
I think that West Coast Swing is a really neat dance, particularly for the slower music (I'm not really into Foxtrot). It's an extremely energy-efficient dance and forces people to think of dancing with their body more than with their feet. Some of the local dancers, particularly those self-proclaimed "lindy snobs", would benefit from learning West Coast Swing. Despite prevailing (lindy) opinion, it is not necessary to dance Lindy Hop to slower music (for example, 125 bpm). It's not that they have to dance West Coast Swing, but they can adapt the style of dancing into their ECS or Lindy; for example, I've been told I do a West-Coasty East Coast Swing. It drive me crazy to see dancers doing high energy acrobatic dancing to slow music because they just get more insane when the music speeds up (as my bruises can testify). Learning West Coast Swing would show dancers that you don't have to do lindy all the time (as you get older, you'll understand. :-) ). I wish Maxwell Ho and Bill Cameron, two of the biggest West Coast Swing names in the northeast, would show up more often at ECS/Lindy events to do some cross-pollination of the dances, as they are excellent dance teachers and can demonstrate how the two dances can co-exist on any dance floor. Moreover, they are not WCS snobs; they can also dance and teach (East Coast) Swing. Perhaps we can now convince Maxwell that, after he returns to Boston next month, he should run more WCS dances (and perhaps throw in more ECS/Lindy music)?
Finally, I think that dances that offer only West Coast Swing or only East Coast Swing/Lindy music cut themselves off from half the available music for dancing (not to mention the dancers who like to do both dances!). I know that I would probably sit out less at "mixed" dances because I know that bands or dj's would have twice the amount of swing music available so they can play more of the better music instead of having to fish for filler music when they run out of the cool stuff. Neither side of the swing world truly has the claim to the word "Swing" and each side should acknowledge that there are other kinds of swing dancing other than their own. I am particularly impressed with the Hartford Swing Dance/Jam that offers music for both Lindy and WCS; the dancers there co-exist very well. It's too bad that good bands like The O-Tones or The Hornets aren't invited to perform in the Boston because they have the repertoire and range to play for a "mixed" crowd.
Is there anyone that I've failed to offend today? :-)
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