Look. I know a lot of you Europeans and "workshop" fanatics that adhere to that whole "audition" thing (yes, you'll hear from me regarding "auditions" soon), have been hearing about "other" essentials from other teachers. I have heard A LOT of crazy new "swing" essentials being thrown around by others. I get it.
You guys are studying up, getting into the dance, trying to understand it, and you ask smart questions, especially since I encourage you to think for yourselves. And so you've caught The Ten and the other "pros" they recommend (many of whom, by the way, have no respect from the deep-water people over here - we're constantly amazed at who gets hired overseas), and they are caught off guard.
Now they've read up, and they've started creating their "own" essentials. Let me give you a little tip:
I will get into how those differences are affecting our communities later, but for now, just keep that in mind.
Diagrams for the Defined Rectangle Slot & Man in the Middle
Writing a book gives you SO much more room to expand on things than trying to fit what you want to say into only one or two pages so that you can print them out for studios and conventions. When I finally realized I didn't have that boundary anymore... ummm... let's just say, I went a little nuts.
When I read my Routines 101 recently, I realized I'd turned a single paragraph... into three pages! It was really fun. You know how much I love to write long notes... so just imagine what I did in a book.
This freedom also lead the way for me to include charts and pictures. Man in the Middle can be hard to define in words. I have a much easier time demonstrating it to people. It's such an easy concept, but still... it's hard in words.
The new charts help with that, by giving you a birds-eye-view of the slot. The more familiar you are with these diagrams, the more quickly you will spot WCS when you see it, on and off the dance floor.
Since I've been writing, I'm sure you've noticed that a lot of the Abstract dancers have changed their dancing. Oh yes, a few of them literally changed their routines to actually fit my signs of Abstract (Flip Flopping in their routines, for instance), but the majority have suddenly stopped Flip Flopping all over the place, and running down the slot, or not having a slot at all.
It's been fascinating to watch.
Especially when they try to do footwork. Without training. It's most definitely a... sight.
And yet they are still doing Abstract Improv. Oh, they're dancing closer, staying tighter, in what seems to be a slot, but it's not WCS. A slot isn't everything. You need all the WCS Essentials. And a lot of dances can be danced in a slot.
So how can you tell if it's still Abstract? Because the man is at one end of his slot and she's at the other. And they spend the dance switching places. That is, in no way whatsoever, the Man in the Middle. The Man in the Middle isn't easy. But it sure is necessary. It's the foundation of every single basic pattern in WCS.
So study up on those diagrams in the new WCS Essentials. It'll help you so much in your dancing, learning, judging and instructing!
The Anchor is Out, Sentence Structure is In
Don't freak out. The anchor isn't really out, it's just been added to the mix of a bigger picture. If you hear a rumor out there that Katherine Krok Eastvold says that anchors are out, you have my permission to smack 'em upside the head for me (okay, so rolling your eyes and giving them a gentle but firm correction might be a more stable and peaceful way of snapping them out of their delusions. You can just tell them: "someone doesn't know how to read now, do they?") Read on, people, read on... don't go crazy now.
Basically, I've put the anchor at the end of a WCS "sentence," hence the term Sentence Structure.
Every WCS pattern is a sentence, really. Every WCS pattern has a Beginning a Middle and an End. And guess what that end is... yes! an anchor! Yay!
Now, can you tell me what the Beginning is for a WCS sentence? Yeah, it's in the book... but if you get it right - ooooohhh... you are one sexy person!!! Baby!
Pulsing is Out, Double-Triple is In
Okay, so there are two reasons I made these changes to the Essentials, beyond the reasons I gave in the whole "title" discussion above. The big reasons for the rest of the changes are 1) that I had so much room to expand that I simply expanded the sections (as I did in the Anchor to Sentence scenario) and 2) that I've been watching a crazy, crazy, crazy, CRAZY amount of real West Coast Swing lately.
When I first wrote the Essentials, I had just come out of living in Northern California, where a lot of this craziness first began. By the time I left, instructors were teaching that Anchors didn't exist and that dancing on the beat means dancing to the melodies in the song, instead of the real beat.
(Side Note for a second: I'm going to be addressing this in the final book, but let me just give you some much needed oxygen for a second. Dancing to the melody of a song, like Blues dancing, is 20x times easier than dancing to the beat of the music, and then syncopating within those beats to hit or paint melodies or lyrics in the song.
If someone tells you - "Oh! There's so much more FREEDOM in Blues," or in Abstract, etc etc... just know that yeah - when a dance is no longer a partner dance, with basics that follow the beat and rhythms of music... like Contemporary & Modern dancing that you see on SYTYCD, then yes - there's a heck of a lot more freedom... because there are NO BASICS, and thus it sure isn't swing. Modern dancing is the most basic form of movement - I took plenty of those classes at UCLA and everyone can do them - WCS??? Swing? All but three students would've dropped out - but they'd be the happiest students in the world. Enjoy your dance. You picked it for a reason!)
Sorry just had to say that.
Anyhow, I wrote the Essentials based on what I was seeing in the Bay Area and what I was seeing around the country while traveling. I had not been watching a lot of real WCS, not had I really had a chance to dance real WCS either.
But in the last two years since that first article, I've danced a lot of real WCS, with a lot of dancers from the era of WCS's birth and development. The dancing, the videos, the music... it awoke all the things I knew, but didn't know that I knew.
I was there when pulsing became a fad. And I can tell you that it was then that the music started really slowing down. By 1999, nearly every Classic routine was around the 100 bpm range, whereas only a few years before, things were much much faster. Of course, by 1999, nearly every competitor that was at the Open in 1997 had quit and either left the dance completely, or left the WSDC events.
I understand why now. Again, another piece for my third book.
But I dare you to go ahead and watch any WCS routine from anywhere before 1997 and see if there's a "pulse" in their dancing.
Please understand me. Seeing a division between the rhythms (two beat increments) does NOT mean it's pulsing - it just means it's a rhythm dance, and by that qualification, any dance from Cha Cha to Rumba should have a visible division between every rhythm as well.
Good ahead and dance with the people that have been around longer than the WSDC and see if they have a pulse. Go ahead and dance to a super fast song, and see if you can pulse. Go ahead.
Now - when it comes to Club Style swing, the kind that's all about slow music and dramatic lines, then fine - go ahead and pulse. But it's not an Essential.
What IS an Essential? The Double-Triple. Now THAT you can see in any WCS dancer's feet from 1952-2013. Anyone's. Walk, walk, triple step - the start of every single WCS pattern except the Starter Step, and every single variation beyond that.
Read the book
for more exceptions and descriptions, but the easiest way I've found to recognize swing content is to look down at the feet, and watch for that golden Double-Triple.
And there you are! I have much more to tell you, so make sure you check your inboxes next Monday @ 9:30am!
In the meantime, get your Kindle version of
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