Why (and how) to improve your west coast swing dancing

Does any of the following describe you?

  • You’ve taken a few of our intro lessons at social dances, but you’re feeling stuck and not sure what to do next
  • You can do basic moves, but you’re getting bored
  • You see the advanced dancers doing cool things and want to do them too – but don’t know how, or where to start

Sound like you’re ready to learn more, and continue your dance journey!

Here are some suggestions for where to start:

Take some group lessons

What you will learn: In a six week series of hour long lessons, they will go over key concepts and basic moves including passes and basic whips.

Why? You’ll get to know the rules of the dance, social expectations, and build confidence in finding the beat, dancing on time and basic patterns. Also, its great to learn with people who are learning the same material together. (And people you know you can dance with at socials!)

Taking formal dance training is about getting the dance ‘into your body’ so you can do it when you need it without thinking too hard on the dance floor. The more that’s ‘in your body’ (that you can do automatically without thinking about it) the more comfortable you’ll be. So for this reason, people will often take the same beginner class several times.

Important: Dance classes are not like academic courses. Its totally ok to take the same class several times to get you feeling more and more confident on the dancefloor and with your partners.

Take a private lesson

What is a private lesson? This is you one-on-one with a pro instructor for about an hour (50 minutes).

Why? A pro can assess where you’re at, what you’re doing well and what needs work. They can also help you prioritize what you should work on next.

Private lessons will cost more than group lessons, but fixing problems early can accelerate your whole dance journey.

After you’re confident in the basics of the dance, then what?

Why learn more?

Once of the amazing things about West Coast Swing is that there are always opportunities to learn new skills and patterns. Dancers are encouraged always keep learning and improving, because:

  • As your set of dance tools expands, you have more and more options for what you can do on the dancefloor
  • You can dance better with people with more (and less) experience than you
  • You can match the music better, and create special moments that ‘hit’ the music
  • You can assess a partner’s ability, and choose moves that work well for them

I’m ready to learn more west coast swing, what should I do next?

As you look to expand your skills, you’ll need 3 things:

  1. A source of dance information
  2. A time/place/method to review and practice it (doesn’t always need a partner)
  3. A way to get feedback, and keep you on track

Lets look at each of these:

A source of dance information.

There are lots of good options out there, here is a starting list:

  • Take the next level of group classes from a local instructor (see our Edmonton list).
  • Attend one-off workshops. They will get into more specialized topics, and often do a video recap at the end of classes.
  • Many professional west coast swing dancers offer online programs and classes (such as Myles and Tessa’s Swing Literacy Program, or Gary and Susan’s Program or Jordan and Tatiana’s JT Swing Program). A great way to get high level instruction without having to travel.
  • Watch youtube videos of west coast swing spotlight dances. There are tonnes of videos from all the recent competitions from all over the world.

A time/place/method to review and practice it

This can be the most challenging step – but the one that will make the most difference in your dance.

First, social dances are not really practice. Yes, they are better than not dancing at all, but its hard to work on specific parts of your dance when you’re also listening to the song, managing your partner, and deciding what to do in the next musical phrase.

Practice is about building specific skills. Work through a new move. A trick. Timing. Different footwork. And then you get to show off those skills on the social floor when you’re ready.

Practice by yourself. Regularly practicing 15 minutes of turning, will definitely make a difference in your spins. And get you closer to doing those one-footed spins.

Practice with a group. Join a practice group – or start one of your own! All you need is one other person, and you have a group started! Need music? We got that for you on our West Coast Swing Edmonton Spotify account. Getting together even twice a month will help you keep the knowledge you get from workshops.