Who is West Coast Swing Montana?

West Coast Swing Montana (WCS MT) is a Montana non-profit organization.

Our mission: building community through dance.

WCSMontana started in 2009 when several local dancers helped to find a venue for a couple of unrelated but talented West Coast Swing dancers who had recently both moved to Red Lodge.  There was much more interest in Billings, and soon Katia Grigoriants and Lee Candiotti were traveling several times per week to Bones Brewing, and later the American Legion Post #4 to teach and participate in local dance opportunities.

Lee moved away, but Katia stayed and started expanding the program by creating lesson plans, training instructors, choreographing competition routines, producing workshops with nationally-ranking competitors, and coordinating travel to national events.  In 2010 we moved to a larger space in Elysian School after being adopted by their Adult Education program.  By 2012 hundreds of students had taken our beginner lessons, and West Coast Swing Montana dancers were placing in national events. Katia moved away in 2012, but before she left she helped us to create an organization that could continue the work she started.

WCSMontana is an all-volunteer Montana 501(c)(4) non-profit organization.  We are managed by a Board of Directors, and assisted by many volunteer instructors and coordinators. We provide free beginner and beyond beginner lessons weekly, monthly social dances, and workshops with nationally-ranked competitors. We typically see 12-30 students per class. Our funding comes from donations and fundraising activities held during our workshops.  At an average value of $7.50 per hour for group lessons, we have donated over $50,000 in lessons to the regional dancing community over the past 5 years.

About WCS  – The Dance
West Coast Swing is a slotted dance danced to 4/4 timing that originated in southern California in the 1930′s and has evolved through many “phases.”  Originally called “Western Swing” to differentiate it from bouncier East Coast Swing dances like triple-rhythm, Jitterbug, and Lindy, the name was eventually changed to West Coast Swing when Country and Western music became popular in the 1950’s.Originally a smooth dance danced to tempos from 96-102 beats per minute (BPM), it was characterized by tap-steps and coaster steps for the follower.  These steps died out in the 1960’s and were replaced by triple steps and the anchor step.  Today the basic patterns are sugar push, left side pass, underarm turn, sugar tuck, tuck turn, and whip.It is now a mostly “gooey” elastic dance where connection, musical interpretation and stretch are highly regarded. We dance primarily to contemporary (think top 40 stuff) and blues music, both fast and slow, although WCS is one of the most versatile dances and can be danced to a wide variety of music. The current tempo range is from 75-130 BPM.
Common competitions on West Coast Swing circuit are as follows:Jack & Jill: Started in the 1950′s. Both leaders and followers sign up. There is a random pairing of leaders and followers and also random music. Generally you dance three songs (1 contemporary, 1 faster, and 1 slower song) with three different partners. You wear a bib number and are judged independently in prelims and semi’s.  If you make it to finals, you dance three songs with the same partner and you are judged as a team.  Participants are judged on timing, technique, and teamwork, as well as musicality and performance in the higher levels.Strictly Swing: Similar to Jack & Jill, but you pick your own partner. Unknown music & still three songs played in prelims, semis & finals.Classic: This is a choreographed division where a very small percentage of dancers compete – generally the professionals and aspiring professionals. You know your partner, music, have coordinated costumes, hair and makeup.Showcase: Similar to Classic, but there must be 3 lifts above the waist.

First video on our list is a short documentary by Vino. You will learn the history, culture, and style of west coast swing!

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Most of these videos are Jack & Jill competitions. Definitely all lead and follow.

Benji Schwimmer (SYTYCD Winner) & Torri Smith – dancing to a slow contemporary song

Michael Kielbasa & Melissa Rutz – dancing to both fast & slow contemporary (common in competitions)

Ben Morris & Jennifer DeLuca – dancing to both “hip hop” and blues

Parker Dearborn & Torri Smith (she was only 16 here!) – slow contemporary & fast blues

Jordan Frisbee & Tatiana Mollmann dancing to slow contemporary

Other good links:

Wikipedia about West Coast Swing

World Swing Dance Council