Sweet Summer
 
What's in a Club?
August 20th 2012
In Today's Note
Quote of the Day
"For you are the makers of the flag and it is well that you glory in the making."
-Franklin Knight Lane
 
Official IWCSDC Logo
Our new flag is here!
 
I'm happy to announce that I've finished creating the "official" logo for the IWCSDC. It was rather fun, putting it together and I just love the final product!

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Official IWCSDC Logo
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Katherine Krok Eastvold
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Dear Reader,  

I'd like to thank those of you who have written in. I'm looking forward to touching base with each of you. Exciting times!

 

Be sure to check out the author's note at the bottom of Swing Essentials this week. That discovery has helped a great deal in the teaching of Abstract vs Swing. I hope it helps you too.  -KKE

What's in a Club?
WCS Alaska
Last week I was pretty harsh on Boogie by the Bay. But, as most of you know, I used to be on the board for BBB. So what gives?

The answer lies in the people.

When I was a part of the BBB team, I loved the people I was working with. There are a few of them that I still miss dearly, and would do anything to work with them again, like Ana Burton and James Gafford. But you probably don't know those names, do you? Yet the parts they play for BBB are huge. And they've done it for years.

But they aren't the only ones. There are many more voices that go into that event, and when it comes down to a vote, the majority wins. And the majority, in many cases, is easy to persuade. 

So if you have even one Nissy on a board, you'd be amazed at what kind of change they can inflict on club, or in this case, an event. If you have two or three, or even a few groupies... well, then, look out.

And that's what I'm asking you to do now. 
Look out.

Because it only takes one person to change an entire club. One person. 

Here in California, one of last few standing Clubs that still honored and preserved WCS voted a major Groupie into the president's seat. Wow. What a difference it has made. All of the teachers hired for each of the monthly dances? Abstract. Only. The music? Downhill. Fast. The new staff? Clique-y. It simply does not resemble the Club that it was for the last 20 years.

How did this happen? The members weren't looking for this kind of change, and they are definitely stunned at their president's "rude" stances towards people that have worked hard for the club in the past. So why did they vote this person in?

Charm. And a soft spot. 

We as dance community have always had a soft spot for new blood. We think they have some key insight or perspective we haven't thought of, and we think the absolute best of them, never questioning or doubting that their intent is of the purest kind.

So a young blooded (they are not young in age, just maturity) club member wants to lead. They seem passionate. They seem to care about the position. Why not?

And now here they are. Knocked speechless after the very first meeting with this new president and his brazen new agenda... the stories of that meeting and the ones since have gone viral in the 'deep water' community. When it reached my ears I thought "But isn't that what they wanted? Didn't they know him?"

But I've never had a soft spot for new blood. I have a soft spot for earnest and sincere people, those who love to learn, those who radiate joy... those who absolutely love WCS, no matter how long they've been doing it... I have a lot of soft spots. But I'm not afraid to admit that someone might have their own personal agenda. I'm not afraid to admit that some people are just out for themselves. I'm not afraid to admit that someone is a jerk. No matter what suit and tie they put on.

I challenge you to do the same.

Our clubs, worldwide, are supposed to be a safe haven for our dancing. But with two different dances clashing and shedding blood everywhere, it's essential that you take care when you vote. That you really seek those people who are running and find out what they really think and what they really want. The same goes for your current board members too.

Obviously Abstract lovers tend to be charming and disarming... which is why you don't stop at one question. Do you know how many people have emailed me over the last year saying that they asked a certain event director what kind of music they played at their event, and they answered "a mix"... when statistically that same event director played 98% boom boom and lyrical music, and even crossed swing songs off of their DJ's lists? 

Don't take their first answer at face value. Get to know the people who want to serve on your board. Ask more questions. Be thoughtful. Be aware. It only takes one bad apple. In BBB's case, it took a few personality changes. And oh, the difference it has made.

It's time to start looking past "new blood," "young blood" and "different blood" and vote in whoever is BEST at representing you and the music, teachers and dance you actually want to do.
Swing Essentials 

for West Coast Swing

 

I find it very difficult to identify the core "style" of West Coast Swing. It's so versatile and has been danced so many different ways... from Big Band Swing, to Country Western, to Funk, tp R&B and Hip Hop music... good heavens. It can be danced so many ways. A man's lead can be light and precise, or strong and leveraged. A woman's feet can do a million little taps and toes, while another likes arm styling or wiggly hips. 

 

But the fact is, we are all able to dance together, no matter what our style, as long as we're all dancing West Coast Swing. It seems many of our founders are hesitant to bond WCS to any rules, lest it hinder its styles. But styles can transcend certain boundaries, and no matter who I dance WCS with, no matter where or what their background, these are the confines that bring us together.

 

First released just before The Time Has Come, here is one of my favorite articles, Swing Essentials (How to Identify WCS Content). I've included an author's note at the bottom for some new discoveries I've made since writing this. Be sure to check it out!

 

SWING ESSENTIALS

 

By owning, teaching and choreographing for my ballroom studio, I learned that there is a dance for every season of life. I learned the intimate details that make a Waltz a Waltz, a Salsa a Salsa and a Cha Cha a Cha Cha. I learned that every partner dance has a character, a step pattern, a pulse and a particular floor craft. 

 

West Coast Swing is no different. It too is a partner dance that's 'lead and follow' and danced on beat, with steps, rhythms, rules and a specific floor craft. In fact, its rules are quite a bit more complex than any other dance's. So what are the "Essentials" that help us identify the dance? How do we know we're watching a WCS dance and not a Tango, a Foxtrot... or even Abstract Improvisation or Zouk? To help, here are the defining characteristics of WCS:

 

THE FIVE WEST COAST SWING ESSENTIALS

 

Essential #1:

Defined Rectangle Slot

A Pure WCS slot is 2-3 floor squares long and one floor square wide. Old School WCS takes up about one to two squares. In Pure WCS, we can shift the Defined Slot's location on the floor, but then we stay there in a new established slot or return back to our original slot. WCS is NOT a rounded or unconfined dance. The slot does not extend very far on any one side.

 

Essential #2:

Two Beat Anchor

WCS has an anchor at the end of all of its patterns, and that anchor takes a full two beats. Both the lead and follow may anchor in place while spinning, while doing footwork, and while doing arm styling... but it takes a full two beats. Anchoring is where we reconnect with our partner, get on the same page, make our point or get in the last word.  It's the period at the end of a sentence. Anchoring allows both dancers the opportunity to reground themselves, stay into the floor and prepare to 'rubber band' the "& a 1" of the next pattern. The anchor comes before the '& a 1' rubber-band action. They are two separate actions.

 

Essential #3:

Man in the Middle

In WCS, from the point of an onlooker, the man is visually in the center and patterns are used to move the woman up and down the slot. The man and woman do not stay at opposite ends of the slot and then switch, and the woman does not stay in the center while he moves around her unless it's to let her pass him on her way down the slot. He stays in the middle, and makes magic moving her up, down, in and out of the slot. Some call the man's actions to pin down the center of the slot 'posting.'

 

Essential #4:

Pulses the Upbeat

Every dance has a pulse. Without it, the dances mesh and meld together. The pulse of a dance gives it its character beyond footwork. Our true champions pulse the upbeat, some knowingly, some not. West Coast Swing pulses the upbeats in a song. It makes our timing tighter, and it determines a huge portion of how the dance actually appears on the floor.

 

Essential #5:

More Triple Rhythms

If you count out all the basic WCS patterns, you will notice that for almost every Double Rhythm, there are TWO Triple Rhythms. Not only that, but there are no Single Rhythms at all. Triple Rhythms are much harder to do than Single or Double Rhythms in a lead and follow dance, because they can't be danced 'split weight,' especially with good timing. Since the majority of other partner dances are made of Single and Double Rhythms, WCS really stands out with its exciting Triple Rhythm footwork.

 

 

Once a dancer has mastered the above characteristics, meaning they are able to do them with all Three T's: Timing, Technique and Teamwork, then West Coast Swing provides the complex freedom for three unique characteristics. I call them the "Higher Essentials."

 

Many try to skip to them without mastering the 'core' essentials, and find themselves doing another dance entirely. But when these characteristics are added to the core essentials of WCS, the results are truly incredible and addicting to all ages and generations.  As with all art, once done with incredible technique and skill, WCS can take anyone's breath away.  

 

The following are the characteristics that are not required, but can be uniquely attained in WCS:

 

THE HIGHER ESSENTIALS

 

  • Contrast- Contrast is not simply speeding up, slowing down or dropping levels. Contrast requires deft subtly combined with precise expansion. It's using an unexpected variety of movements to tell a story. Contrast draws people in... it prevents them from looking away... it keeps their attention and makes them hit the rewind button.

 

  • Musicality- Musicality as a Higher Element goes beyond staying on beat. It means dancing to the major phrase, doing a large movement to a large piece of music and a small movement to a small 'ting.' It's helping others hear things in the song they didn't know were even there. It's using the dance to paint a visual representation of the music.  The more challenging the music, the more exciting the painting.

 

  • Individual Style- Pure WCS requires a high level of leading and following because of how complex it is. But it also gives both partners the freedom to add styling, footwork variations (syncopations), breaks and conversation through movement. As a result, each Pure WCS dancer looks unique. I chose to study WCS instead of ballroom at an early age because the ballroom ladies looked very "cookie-cutter." Pure WCS allows individuality to appear within its strict confines. The more a dancer grows in the dance, the more individual their style becomes. If you're watching a floor where all the upper level women and men look the same, it's a clear indication that swing content is lacking.

 

The easiest trick to get started with identification is by watching the feet and counting to the beat of the music. Enjoy using these characteristics to identify true West Coast Swing dancing, and as always...

KEEP ON DANCING!

 

Click here for a printable .pdf version of Swing Essentials

Click here for a .zip file of all my articles.

 

Author's Note (8.18.12): 

 

Since writing this, I've learned that one of the easiest ways to identify a WCS pattern is by watching for a basic "walk walk" followed by a "triple step" at the start of every pattern. No matter what generation I watch, I've noticed that this has never changed. Every pattern begins with a very clear "1, 2" followed by a triple step. 

 

When I watch Abstract Improvisation, I notice that they very often start with a "walk walk" followed by another "walk walk." In fact, one of the easiest identifiers of Abstract Improvisation is looking for straight "walking" from the dancer's feet. In swing, the first "walk walk" will ALWAYS be followed up by a triple rhythm.  

 

It's a great little trick. Enjoy using it! -Katherine

About Katherine
A Champion dancer who fell in love with West Coast Swing in
the early 1990's, Katherine is on the Board of Directors for the CA Swing Dance Hall of Fame, has owned her highly successful studio, is a multi-finalist in both Classic and Strictly at the US Open, written articles for numerous magazines in the community since 1997, including 'In the Swing' and "5-6-7-8,' choreographed top 5 routines, been on the board for Boogie by the Bay and has traveled to over 42 states. 

She is not afraid. She loves beauty. She loves truth. And she believes it's knowledge that can bring a dancer more joy than they can imagine on the floor. 

She writes "for the people" and has, and will always, listen.


      Katherine Krok Eastvold


Katherine Krok Eastvold | PO Box 61555 | Santa Barbara | CA | 93160