Is Our Dance, West Coast Swing, Going Too Contemporary?

I just read and engaged in a thread on Facebook about a dance attendee complaining that her style of music was not represented well at a local dance. The dance was a themed event called “The R&B and Blues Review” and after a night of dancing on a packed dance floor surrounded by happy dancers she felt the need to bash the event’s not having a enough “contemporary” music. This poor girl was upset that too much swing music was played at a swing dance!

In WCS the term contemporary has become synonymous with Top 40 but in the past it was a catchall for any genre that couldn’t be defined by the standard swing genres (Jazz, Blues, Swing) which included Top 40 but was by no means limited to it.

I bring this up because, just like the definition of contemporary (in WCS), has changed over time, our dance is eroding before our very eyes. The music is being selected by dance promoters from the Top 40 to actively attract younger dancers. Music that doesn’t fit the dance and historically would have cleared the floor, is being played at dance events and weekly parties to appease the collage crowd. On one hand its great that a new generation is coming up loving this dance but on the other hand they are starting to fall in love with a dance that is not the WCS we all grew up on.

The concept that you can WCS to anything comes from half of a Quote from Skippy Blair, the godmother of WCS, In her article titled “Music That Makes the Difference in Competitions” she wrote:

“Frequently, I hear DJs, as well as other interested people describe how they select music that really “SWINGS.”  When someone tells you HOW they select music that swings, you know that they have already become aware that there is a LOT of music that simply does NOT swing. The problem with poor music selection usually lies with people whose limited background allows them to assume that ALL music is swing music.  They confuse the fact that although it is POSSIBLE to dance Swing to almost anything – with the fact that doing so – is NOT an asset that will assist the development of anyone’s West Coast Swing skills.  Music really DOES make a difference.”

And man does it ever! Read her whole Article hear

In their attempt to fill the room with younger people, promoters are diluting the music down to the lowest common denominator under the guise of playing “contemporary” music. In order to keep the integrity of our dance, I believe we as mature dancers should ask for more from our promoters.  Don’t make the same mistake I have made in the past and bash the new music. When a DJ plays a set that has a good number of songs that really swing, we need to give them positive feedback.  Eric Cudmore had a killer set at his dance last month, and  Neil Kline typically plays swingier music for the first hour of his dance…If they hear good things every time they swing then they will swing every time they play.

Dance on!