West Coast Swing Figure Groups
© by Susie & Gert-Jan
West Coast Swing belongs to the Jive
Family, and while there are similarities, it also has it's own
"flavor". Sometimes we will see West Coast Swing danced to
jive music, and while the figures "fit", the atmosphere of
the dance is not quite the same. We know that there are other types
of music for West Coast Swing, but the basic atmosphere that we most
enjoy is what we call "down low and lazy"; the "blues"
type of jive music. Also, in contrast to the jive, the West Coast
Swing has longer, smoother actions. The action is more elastic, while
the jive is more bouncy or up and down. Sometimes in dances, West
Coast Swing is mixed in with other jive figures. This type of dance
we would generally not use in introducing West Coast Swing since it
is often difficult for dancers to switch between the two different
When we start to teach a new rhythm it
is often easier for us, as leaders, and also for the dancers, if we
take the time to group the figures. There are many ways to do this. I
have made a grouping here according to the general timing of the
figures, and have tried to relate some of these timings to figures
the dancers probably already know in jive.
This is not a teaching order, though
normally we do teach some of the sugar family first, since they are
slower figures. This gives the man time to realize that he steps
back, and the lady steps forward. This is different, and has quite a
different feel to it than the jive action of rocking apart. Here the
man really needs to learn to lead the lady to follow him with a step
Some general rules:
Most figures start and end in left
open facing position.
On count "one" of the
The man will step away from partner to where he would
like to lead the lady.
The lady will step towards her partner.
On the last 3 counts ("5a6"
Both partners will do an anchor step
(option: coaster step).
Coaster step – starts with trail
M – sailor shuffle; W – back hitch
BOTH – back
triple in place (bk/cl, bk)
French cross (fwd R, XLIF start to
trn, bk R)
May be lady's footwork on a passing step, instead of
"run, run, turn"
Three West Coast Families:
The Sugar family (timing is: 1,
2, 3, 4, 5 & 6)
sugar push (IV)
tuck & spin (IV)
cheek to cheek (V)
sugar bump (V)
The Passing family (timing is:
1, 2, 3 & 4, 5 & 6 - so "normal" jive timing)
The Whip family (timing is: 1,
2, 3 & 4, 5, 6 7 & 8 - so "normal" jive whip
2007 & reprinted in
the Dixie Round Dance Council (DRDC) Newsletter, November 2011. For
a round world, Gert-Jan & Susie Rotscheid.