Saturday, March 10, 2007

West Coasting

I just finished watching the finals of "America's Ballroom Challenge." The format of the whole competition, which is also known as the Ohio Star Ball, was changed this year, I heard, to reflect the interest in elimination/winner-takes-all competitions like "Survivor." If you didn't know very much about dance, you'd be impressed; if you knew as much about dance as I do (and I am familiar with only American style dances and only the Arthur Murray syllabus), this show would have blown your mind.

I know it's not on TV anymore, but I just had to say that. Hooray for Digital Video Recording! I would watch it again anytime.

Because I have chosen to take a "year on" and not work for pay, Zirpu and I have cut back the number of lessons we're taking at the studio. However, we plan to still use Monday nights for dancing, and this past Monday we started working on West Coast Swing with a video tutorial from DanceVision. It's not as easy as having the teacher right in the room, but we, who are used to using DVDs, are more frustrated by the time it takes to rewind the tape. Ron Montez is a good teacher and the video technique is as plain as can be, making it easy to see the steps. It is a little strange that his partner, Liz Curtis, doesn't speak at all, but she wears a short skirt so it's easy to see her legs.

According to this (and to Wikipedia), West Coast Swing was standardized by Arthur Murray, who noticed regional variations of the Lindy Hop. What we now call West Coast Swing is the way people were dancing it in the LA area fifty-plus years ago, and it became the state dance of California in 1987 (Oregon and Washington named Square Dancing as their states' dance in 1977 and 1979, respectively).

I think that "good" WCS looks like the dancers have wheels in the soles of their shoes. Here is a choreographed routine, and here you can see a (not-great-quality) video of the winners of a Jack and Jill competition, in which routines are not choreographed (Tatiana Mollman, the follow, is in both videos). My idea about WCS is that it's a relaxed dance, for playing, so thinking about competitive WCS seems counter intuitive, but I've caught the end of a WCS comp at the Allegro Ballroom and have danced two WCS exhibition routines at AM events with one of our dance teachers. Still, it seems to me that I should be able to drink some beer and still be able to get my West Coast groove on...

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