What to Expect at a West Coast Swing Weekend Dance Convention

If you have never been to a WCS weekend dance convention, here is what you can expect.

WCS weekend events are usually booked at a large hotel to accommodate the multiple ballrooms and workshops rooms (also where most of the people stay). Canadian events are typically 200-300 dancers, US events can be much bigger. A general event schedule might look like:

  • Thursday: kick off dance
  • Friday: a few workshops and late night social dance
  • Saturday: 4-6 workshops, competitions, late night social dance
  • Sunday: 4-6 workshops, competitions

Its a full weekend for sure – and you can be as busy as you want to make it! Of the three main activities (social dance, workshops, competitions) it recommended to only pick two!

Workshops with top professionals:

WCS is such a big, broad dance with so much to learn all the time. One way to learn new moves and skills is to attend WCS workshops. These classes are taught by top professionals, who see what’s new in the world of WCS and bring those new stylings to you at the event. The workshops are typically an hour long and are a great way to meet people at the event – people who you might want to approach later at the social dance. At the end of the workshop, you’ll often have the opportunity to video a 5 minute summary of what you just learned. At events you can expect 4-6 workshops a day (!).

Social dancing with new people:

Every event is different, but social dancing will generally start around 9 or 10 pm, and go late. The dances are just like your local dances but bigger. You’ll have the opportunity to dance with lots of new dancers from different parts of the world, and make new dance friends. Maybe even score a dance with one of the ‘pro’s who often come out to mix with the crowd.

Compete for fun, compete to learn:

Competitions can be a great way to meet new dancers, and test your dancing skill. If you compete make sure you get a friend to video your performance to review later.

The main types of competitions for WCS are:

  • Jack and Jill: You are randomly assigned a partner, and you don’t know the music.
  • Strictly: You sign up with a partner, but you don’t know the music.
  • (There are others types as well, but these are the main ones)

For the comp, you’ll get at least three songs to dance to, of about 90 seconds each.

There are also different levels of competition. Here is a list of the starting levels with my notes on who they include:

  • Newcomer: Anyone can enter, competitor has likely been dancing WCS for a year or two.
  • Novice: To get to this level, you would have won or placed at the Newcomer level. Sometimes experienced dancers can petition to be allowed in. Its for competitors who have been dancing for a few years. Usually its the biggest group of competitors. Most of the typical experienced social dancers would fit in this category.
  • Intermediate: To get into this level, you would have had to have won or placed at the novice level a few times.
  • Beyond Intermediate, you are likely a serious competitive dancer, travelling often to international events. The levels that follow are Advanced, All-Stars, and Champions.

Age categories: There are a couple of age categories that can also be available:

  • Sophisticated: Over age 35 – will include all levels.
  • Masters: Over age 50 – will include all levels.

Private lessons with top professionals:

If you look at any of the top dancers in your community and wonder how they got so good – its very likely because the get regular coaching and feedback from a top pro.

And who better to get feedback from than top pros who are at the event? A private lesson is a one on one session with an instructor focusing on what you need. Bring a partner with you if you can. Contact the pro directly (though their website or socials) to book your time. Expect to pay over $100+ / hr for their time, but the advice you get will be very valuable to your dance journey.

So this was an overall picture of what an event weekend can look like. Of course every event has its own flavour – so check out WCS events (near or far), and keep learning!

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