A Description of East Coast Swing
When your mom and dad talk about swing dancing to the music of Elvis Presley and Chuck Berry back in the 50's, this is the dance they were doing. Also called The Jitterbug, East Coast Swing is the official "sock hop" swing dance for jump blues. East Coast Swing is a circular, rotating swing dance that has many wraps, tunnels, and turns. The basic step is: rock step, triple step, triple step. Also, you may find instructors that teach the step in reverse using triple step, triple step, rock, step. This is a styling issue and neither way is right or wrong. Use what feels right for you. The basic step is tough at first. Fortunately, it's like learning to jump rope: initially it's awkward, but eventually it becomes smooth and nearly effortless. East Coast Swing is one of the most popular swing dance styles.
East Coast Swing Music
East Coast Swing can be danced to jump blues or to country swing songs. For beginners, the best tempo range is 135-155 beats per minute. You can’t go wrong with jukebox tunes from Elvis Presley and Chuck Berry.
History of East Coast Swing
East Coast Swing was derived from the Jitterbug, which grew out of the dance halls of Harlem during the 1920’s. Essentially, the terms East Coast Swing and Jitterbug are synonymous.
Prerequisites: There are no prerequisites to learn at a beginner level.
These classes should be open to all levels. It is extremely important to take and retake beginner classes as it allows you to really understand how your body moves and truly focus on your dance style. It is common, even for the most advanced dancers to be seen taking beginner classes. The fact is you can never do enough basics. In this beginner class you will learn the basic 6 count steps as well as some basic turns such as inside turn, outside turn and various others. You may also learn the difference between single count steps & triple steps.
Common Beginner's Mistakes
The biggest problem is taking steps that are too large. Keep the steps small, especially the "rock step." In addition, close the feet on the "and" of the triple step. East Coast Swing is danced almost exclusively on the balls of the feet and almost exclusively in third foot position. The "triple steps" should be taken by striking the floor with the inside edge of the ball of the foot. The triple steps are also a "digging" action as opposed to a "bouncing off the floor" action. As a triple step is taken to the left, the hips remain to the right. As a triple step is taken to the right, the hips switch to, and stay to, the left. In the "rock step," the spine stays in front of the "rocking" foot. The lilt comes from straightening the knee rather than from jumping. Lilt and energy are important. Also, do not over-extend the arms or jerk arms from their sockets. Keep the dance compact.
Prerequisites: Intermediate prerequisites would be a full understanding of basic movements such as the basic step, inside turn, outside turn, close, circle and various other moves. The dancer should be able to execute these moves as well as the basic step flawlessly.
Intermediate classes are typically reserved for people who have spent a reasonable amount of time learning the basic moves of the dance. These classes usually focus on advanced basic steps, connection and moves.
Common Intermediate Mistakes:
Without a full understanding of the basic moves in beginner classes most people have great difficulty with intermediate moves. It is very common to find beginner dancers in intermediate level classes. The reason is twofold, either the person is a true beginner and does not know the difference or the person believes they are intermediate but they are really a high level beginner. Remember just because you took a 4 week beginner class does not make you intermediate. Likewise there are many dancers that simply do not perfect there basic skill even after taking many classes and therefore they have a very hard time with intermediate level classes. If you find yourself struggling with an intermediate class it highly recommended that you take inventory of your skills and focus more on your basics.
Prerequisites: Typically advanced classes are by invitation or tryout only. The reason is because the advanced moves such as aerials can be very dangerous to learn if you don't know what you are doing.
Advanced classes are reserved for the cream of the crop. These classes are geared toward very high level dancers. These people have been dancing for years and have regularly attend dance workshops of all kinds. Advanced dancers have mastered many styles of dancing and have an expert knowledge of connection, musicality as well as various other aspects of dancing.
Common Advanced Mistakes:
To put it simply, too much too soon. If you are not invited to an advanced class it is probably above your skill level. It is very easy to get hurt at the advanced level even for those folks that are experienced enough to be there. You should work with you local instructors and dancers to determine your level. They will let you know when you are ready.
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