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West Coast Swing

by Wayne & Barbara Blackford

West Coast Swing or Slot Dancing has the form of the woman moving forward and backward in a “slot” with the man moving momentarily out of and back into the slot. West Coast Swing is a mixture of Single, Double and Triple Swing as elements of all of these can be found in the dance. It is considered to be less jumpy and much smoother than Jive. Jive is usually dance at 40 – 45 mpm and West Coast Swing is danced at 32 measures per minute, which may be more comfortable. Jive has a strong bounce while West Coast Swing has soft movements and turns with less bounce. It is very soft, sultry, smooth and down & dirty. Recently there has been a lot of new theory to dancing WCS. We will address the "traditional" style (which is what RAL has defined) of WCS.

There are two basic timing groups in West Coast Swing; 6 count and 8 count timing. The 6 count standard timing is 1,2,3&,4; 5&6 which requires 1 1⁄2 measures of music. The 8 count standard timing is 1,2,3&4; 5,6,7&,8; which requires 2 measures of music. There are generally NO rock recover steps in basic West Coast Swing. The man moves away from the woman on step one (moving from his center point of gravity) and the woman moves forward toward the man on step one.

There are four “families” of figures in West Coast Swing. They are:
  • Basic Action
  • Sugar Push Family (6 count figures)
  • Passing Family (6 count figures)
  • Whip Family (8 count figures)
Many people do not consider the Basic Action as a family, but we like to include it because it does have several different basics. Most all of the West Coast Swing figures will fit into these families.

Each “family” has it’s own rule.
  • Sugar Push Family - does not change direction & there is no passing
  • Passing Family – the woman will pass the man on either his right or left side.
  • Whip Family – involve the man rotating around the woman as she moves forward and back or turns on the slot.
  • Basic Action – these figures are usually the ending actions.
In standard 6 count figures (no variations) the following applies:
                     MAN:                                               WOMAN:
Step AWAY from partner on count 1            Step TOWARD partner on count 1
Step TOWARD partner on count 4               Step AWAY from partner on count 4       
Step IN PLACE on count 6                          Step IN PLACE on count 6

In standard 8 count figures (no variations) the following applies:
                     MAN:                                               WOMAN:
Step AWAY from partner on count 1            Step TOWARD partner on count 1
Step TOWARD partner on count 4               Step AWAY from partner on count 4
Step TOWARD partner on count 6               Step AWAY from partner on count 6
Step IN PLACE on count 8                          Step IN PLACE on count 8

FIGURES GROUPED BY FAMILY

“Sugar Push” Family – 6 count figures (timing 1234; 5&6)
Sugar Push                      Face Loop Sugar Push
(Sugar) Tuck & Spin       Cheek to Cheek
Sugar Bump                    Sugar Push Hook Turn
Sugar Wrap

“Passing Family” – 6 count figures (timing 123&4; 5&6)
Underarm Turn                         Left Side Pass
Right Side Pass                         Man’s Underarm Turn
Alternating Underarm Turn        Traveling Side Pas
Passing Tuck & Spin

"Whip Family” – 8 count figures (timing 123&4; 567&8)
Wrapped Whip               Tummy Whip
Whip Turn                      Whip Inside Turn
Whip Outside Turn         Whip w/hand change behind back
Surprise Whip                 Side Whip

“Basic Action” – (timing 1&2)
Coaster Step                                      Anchor Step
French Cross (used by the woman)     Hook Turn

When dancing West Coast Swing, you can think of dancing along the outline of a cross. The “slot” is the longer arm of the cross and this part belongs to the woman. She moves forward & back while remaining in the elongated axis of the cross (the slot). The man must position himself to direct the woman’s movements & turns while she stays in her slot. The man dances/steps to one side or the other on the “short arms/axis” of the cross – across the slot.

From clinic notes prepared for the RAL Convention, 2015, and reprinted in the Dixie Round Dance Council (DRDC) Newsletter, December 2019.


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