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West Coast Swing Figure Groups

© by Susie & Gert-Jan Rotscheid

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 actions.

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 forward.

Some general rules:

  • Most figures start and end in left open facing position.

  • On count "one" of the figure:
    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" or "7a8"):
    Both partners will do an anchor step (option: coaster step).

General figures:

  • Coaster step – starts with trail foot
    M – sailor shuffle; W – back hitch

  • Anchor step
    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)

  • left side pass (IV)

  • underarm turn (IV)

  • man's underarm turn (IV)

  • right side pass (starts ususally from tandem or "L-shaped" position) (IV)

  • alternating underarm turn (VI)

  • traveling side pass (VI)

The Whip family (timing is: 1, 2, 3 & 4, 5, 6 7 & 8 - so "normal" jive whip timing)

  • wrapped whip (IV)

  • "normal" whip turn (V)

  • tummy whip (V)

  • surprise whip (V)

  • side whip (V)

  • whip with inside turn (VI)

  • whip with outside turn (VI)




© 2007 & reprinted in the Dixie Round Dance Council (DRDC) Newsletter, November 2011. For a round world, Gert-Jan & Susie Rotscheid.




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Past DRDC Educational Articles by
Jim & Barbara German, ca. 2000-2001
Chris & Terri Cantrell, 2001-2005
Harold & Meredith Sears, 2005-present

Some articles and dance helps by
Sandi & Dan Finch
Gert-Jan & Susie Rotscheid (see Notebook)



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