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Swing into Summer — West Coast Swing workshop

A Beginning West Coast Swing Workshop sponsored by Let’s Dance! and taught by Deb Aspen will be held Sunday, May 9, from 3-6 p.m. and includes four practice sessions in May.

Intermediate West Coast Swing with instructors Richard and Debbie Love will take place Saturday, June 5. Additional West Coast Swing practice sessions are included in June.

There are no set rules: improvisation is the name of the game. Once you learn the basics, the dance is all yours. Join the fun as Deb teaches the basics, and some of the patterns and styling of West Coast Swing. She will get you ready for a more intermediate level of patterns and styling that will be taught by Richard and Debbie Love from Colorado Springs in June. And the cost cannot be beat: $20 per person per workshop. Get a head start on a new season of dance and join us as we “Swing into Summer.”

Sometimes described as the “Cadillac of Swing,” the California versions of the West Coast Swing stay in a narrow slot, suitable for a crowded nightclub. The dance remains pretty much the same since its creation in the 1940s, with six-count and eight-count patterns, lots of footwork, turns, body waves and syncopations. The man stays relatively in place, while the lady moves back and forth in the slot; therefore, the woman’s movements are more emphasized. At the end of patterns the man typically use an “anchor step” to discourage the follower from moving forward under her own power. Instead she “hangs out” until the guy remembers to lead. The man either leads her down the slot or starts her down the slot, then blocks her path, forcing her to go back to where she started. Then her assignment, (should she decide to accept it) is to move from one end of the slot to the other; preferably with something stylish in the process.

Other than the slot, another important distinction between WCS and other styles of swing has to do with the “rock-step.” Purists in the swing community claim there is never a rock-step in WCS but, by definition, the rock-step is strictly East Coast Swing. It may be that WCS was not really invented, but more than likely grew out of stylistic developments in the Jitterbug, Lindy Hop and the Shag. West Coast Swing dancers themselves do not consider it a ballroom dance in that the steps cannot be canonized. As it is a “living” dance, they are always developing, transforming, adapting and incorporating styles, etc. Regional swing dance clubs serve two groups: those interested in social dancing, and those interested primarily in competition. Ballroom dancers work towards an “ideal” of pre-arranged patterns, while social West Coast “Swingers” are encouraged to invent new patterns, body positions, footwork and syncopations.

This dance can be choreographed to a wide range of tempos and styles of music (15-45 measures per minute). Blues is a traditional style with its grounded “earthy” feel, but some like more contemporary rock. Or, it can be danced to oldies from the ’40s, ’50s and ’60s; and nowadays it’s being danced to funk and hip hop. Its versatility makes it a favorite of all age groups.

Stay tuned for more information about the Loves’ other classes and June’s schedule of events. All dance events are held at the Pagosa Lakes Clubhouse, 230 Port Ave.

For more information contact Deb at 731-3338 or