Weekly Note #18
©February 27th 2012
The Tenets of Swing
*Book Version*
Quote of the Week
But I dazzle you with that footwork.
-Bobby Darin

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#1: 'Boogie' Music?
#2: Soft vs. Hard Abstract
#3: Swing is Swing
#4: Scary, Scary, Scary!
#5: US Open 'Z'DC?
#6: The Judging
#7: Groupies & More
#8: Thanksgiving Beauty
Judging the Open
#9: The Results are in!
#10: Light on Last Week
#11: Best Gift Ever!
#12: Slowing Down... to 130 bpm?
#13: 2012 Dreams
#14: Location Location Location
#15: New Routine
#16: Capital is Coming
#17: Watering the Tree

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This Weekly Note has been updated from its original release as a sneak peek into what the book Setting Dancers Free offers readers. Please enjoy. Katherine
Dear Reader,
I had the rare joy of rediscovering my love of swing this weekend. New routine started? Check. New WCS DVD's taped? Double check. The three amigos did some damage.

But during the hair & makeup preparation for the DVD's, I found myself playing "Jim Dandy" over and over again, having been captured by it when I found Sonny Watson's US Open routine in doing research on the Generational Swing video.

Wow. Now that ramped me up! And then, when it was all over and I was completely drained, Nick found an amazing backstreet blues radio station. Double wow. I haven't heard blues like that in years. It was like soothing medicine to my soul. I was totally drained, completely exhausted... but this music... this music healed my soul. And made me starting dancing in my seat! (Okay, it made me start singing too... I'm not ashamed to admit it!)

I was born to swing. You were too! So let me share something I'm working on with you... xoxo, Katherine
Saving Swing: The Tenets of Swing©
Swing Finally Defined for the First Time in Its Near Century-Old History
The Charleston Stamp Exemplifies Tenets

The terrible misuse of the saying "Swing is Swing" has wreaked some incredible havoc on our community. I have no idea why, but it has been used to wipe out any definition of swing whatsoever lately.

So when I heard it used to justify the refusal to violate anyone on swing content a few years ago, it had the opposite effect. It didn't make me accept that everything is swing. It made me wonder... 

Exactly what is swing?
What does define it?

Up until now, for an entire decade, everyone's been saying "that isn't swing!" and "this isn't swing!" and "I don't know what it is, but I know what it isn't!" IT ISN'T SWING!"... 

But in all that time, no one's been bothering to actually write down what swing is, instead of what the dance isn't. And I suddenly realized, at that dismal US Open of 2010 when Swing died dead and never rose there again, that we needed to learn the definition of swing, and write it down, or swing would not survive another generation.

And when I say SWING, I don't just mean West Coast Swing. (I cover that in Swing Essentials.) I mean, what is it that makes a dance a "swing" dance, instead of a latin, smooth or folk dance? I began thinking. And I thought about all forms of swing... Balboa, Shag, Lindy, East Coast, West Coast... all of them.

And the more I studied, the more settled I became upon the following points below. I call them The Tenets of Swing©.

And the more I studied, the more swing inventors I interviewed (yes, they're still with us!), the more legends I talked with and the more videos I watched (oh! the enormous amount of videos I watched!), the more settled I became upon the following points below. Once I had them, they locked in. I see them everywhere. No matter who I talked to, or what I watched or saw - they all stood the test of swing - according to the definition I'd finally come up with thanks to everyone above.

I call them The Tenets of Swing©.

(2016 Note: These Tenets have now been both published and accepted by the teaching community, as well as confirmed by the leading historians of these dances today. It's been and honor and a pleasure to learn so much from so many. I'm grateful for the journey.)


1. Swing is Always Lead and Follow

It may sound obvious, but a slew of teachers worldwide are telling students to "improvise" and "suggest" instead of actually leading and following. That does happen in other forms of dance, such as modern earthy dances  you see people dancing on their own, touching every once in a while. 

But swing isn't like that. We are in contact at all times, and there is always a lead, and always a fallow. All swing patterns, no matter what form of swing you're dancing, require a leader who decides what moves take place and when, and a follower, who is responsible for following these leads.

2. In Swing the Follower "Orbits" the Leader

The different styles of swing have different types of orbits. Some have a circular orbit, some have a slotted orbit and some orbit in a nice tiny square. But any way you slice it, the man navigates the women around himself in some form of an orbit. Click here or click on the video below to see a variety of swing orbits.

Watch as the woman always moves around the man these clips of various types of swing dances. Again: The orbits don't have to be circular at all - but the man does stay in the center of the dance, while the woman moves around him.

3. Swing has Fancy Feet

Rock steps, kicks, heel-toe action, shuffles, slides... oh my! You'll never see anyone call swing dancers "lethargic" will you? Nope. All the dances have quite a bit of energy, because they all require quite a bit of footwork. Every style has a totally different kind of footwork, but none of the styles are without it.

If you have studied any of the ballroom dances, you'll know that they are all almost exclusively comprised of Single and Double Rhythms (Slows and Quick Quicks, etc, etc). Not so with the swing dances! On the whole they are comprised of rather complicated rhythms. The dancers in swing are virtually still on top compared to how active they on the bottom. In swing, it's the feet that do the talking - always.

4. Swing is Positive

I've said it before and I'll say it again: swing music, no matter what style you're dancing, will make you "check in." It makes you alive. It makes you want to live. To expand. To get out of your seat! Some forms of swing celebrate passion and some forms of swing celebrate life... but either way, it makes you feel brighter. It highlights the good things in life.

It's not dark. It's not depressing. It's not degrading and it's most definitely not designed to make you "check out." I saw a routine recently that was so sad that it made you want to cry... and I felt my bones breaking a little. Swing shouldn't make anyone cry. Swing makes you... SWING!

And there you go! They've been in my head for six months now, and the more I study our history and watch our videos, I can see them all... over and over again... throughout the decades.

We are a passionate people, we swing dancers. But I believe that true swing dancing brings out the best in us... and when it brings out the worst, then perhaps the dance has lost its way.

Let's start listening to our music again, and seeing if it really makes us want to live, to expand, to grow and to move... and let's look down at our feet and rediscover what they are made for... and let's rediscover the joy of true leading and true following.

Let's rediscover... swing. 

Swingin' It,
-Katherine Krok Eastvold
Street Swing.com

Living in the birthplace of West Coast Swing, it's easy to take some things for granted. Like this site, for example. I've known about this site for so long, and I've heard so many different generations reference it, that I've often assumed everyone knows about it.

But the response to my Holiday History Notes taught me better. And these Notes do reach every corner of the globe now.

So if you haven't already been, you should really check out Sonny Watson's infamous  StreetSwing website.

It's a jungle, but it's definitely worth perusing. It contains an enormous amount of WCS history and documentation that, to my knowledge, is unmatched online.

As is expected in our community, not every piece of information is agreed with or verified, but Sonny himself says this at the bottom of every page.  

But where else are you going to find an in depth description of how WCS became Cali's state dance... or even provides the exact bill that was passed?

No one. 

So check it out. It's a bit of goldmine and as I always say, knowledge is power. So check it out!

Here are two other sites with a bunch of WCS info that are well known in the community here in California.

Again, I don't necessarily agree with or stand by everything that's posted on these websites, but at least you'll know what other people sometimes reference.
Discussion Questions
'Word' Groups

1 Listen to Jim Dandy again. Do you think you could WCS swing to it? Socially? Do you think anyone could? Why or why not?

2. How do you feel about the Tenets of Swing? Which ones surprised you? Which ones did not?

3. I mention that swing is positive. Considering swing's roots (the music), do you think that is true? Watch some videos of Boogie Woogie, Lindy Hop and Shag to compare.

4. Can you think of another style of partner dancing where footwork is the focus? How are they similar and how are they different?

5. Browse the new sites... what interesting or new facts did you learn? What did you learn about WCS's history that you did' t know?

6. Identify which of these sites supports the cult within WCS and which do not? How can you tell? Do any ride the fence? Why or why not? 

7. Swing dancing has never had a definition before now. But the creators never thought it needed one either. But definitions are important. And not just in light of protection. They are important in the role of education, expansion, quality and comprehension. 

What do you think? How important is it to you that Swing be defined? 

About Katherine

A Champion dancer who fell in love with West Coast Swing in the very city where the dance was born - Katherine quickly went on to become a champion dancer, instructor, studio owner, and US Open Swing Dance Championships Competitor and choreographer. 

She made history by writing the very first definition of swing dancing, the first definition of WCS content beyond the dance's basic patterns and was the first to identify and label the "new" dance that's appeared on WCS swing floors: Abstract Improvisation. She authored two bestselling swing books as a result.

She currently serves on the Board of Directors for the CA Swing Dance Hall of Fame. 

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 always will, listen.

Want to know more about Katherine? Read her biography here.


Copyright © 2016
Katherine Krok-Eastvold