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How Long Until I’m a Good West Coast Swing Dancer?

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This is by far THE most common question we get from new students.

Have you ever been at a class, and looked around at everyone who seems to be basically pro’s at what they’re doing, and yet you’re struggling just to move one foot in front of the other?

It feels like you’re the only person struggling, which can leave you feeling just a touch dejected.

The truth is, you are definitely not alone. In fact, those people who you’re looking up to, are still struggling with aspects of the dance as you are.

So, let’s get realistic about where you’ll be at every step of your West Coast Swing journey.

Note: your progress will be unique to you. But here’s the general progress map we see from our students, and from students across the world.

What you can expect after your first lesson:

You’ll learn 2-4 moves, and despite the fact that you got the moves to work in class, you’ll more than likely struggle without being directed by your teachers. It’s all pretty new, but hopefully, you still had a good time.

The most challenging aspects are going to be:

  • The footwork: getting used to triple steps, and getting a little bit lighter on your feet.
  • The movement: moving “together” (ie. the leader stepping backward and the follower stepping forward) in the same direction to start each move.
  • The rhythm of the dance: if you haven’t danced before, this won’t be too much of an issue, however, if you come from Salsa, or a similar dance, you’re probably going to be struggling with the 6-count rhythm.

You may feel confident because you nailed all the moves in class, or you may feel a little (or a lot) out of your depth. And either way, that’s fine, because you’re only 2-3 lessons from actually getting comfortable.

This Beginner’s Guide to West Coast Swing will be invaluable for understanding the dance, and progressing through these first weeks.

What you can expect after 4 lessons:

Between the 3rd & 4th class is what we call “the Tipping Point”. That moment where you go from being confused, to actually being able to do this dance.

Depending on your teachers, you’ll learn around 12-16 moves, and you’ll be able to comfortably execute about half of them (meaning that this is the moment when you really start to “feel” like you’re understanding West Coast Swing). Yes, there’ll definitely be moves you can’t pull off, and some others that will seem like a complete mystery, but you’ll be up and dancing socially.

Look, you’re not going to have perfect technique on your movements, but you’re going to be starting to look like a West Coast Swing dancer. You’re going to be social dancing outside of class, and you’re going to be feeling MUCH more confident.

The things you’ll most likely be struggling with at this point are:

  • The footwork: still getting used to those triple steps!
  • Connection: you’ll be starting to think about how to “feel” better to your partner.
  • The timing: learning how to stay on the beat!

The progress you make between the first and 4th class is truly remarkable.

What you can expect after 4 lessons, plus a small daily practice of triple steps:

Yes, the footwork is generally considered one of the most challenging parts of this dance, even to people who have been dancing West Coast Swing for a really long time.

By simply taking 90 seconds each day and having a quick practice of your 6 count rhythm (walk, walk, step-3-times, step-3-times [or] slow, slow, quick-quick-slow, quick-quick-slow), you’re going to progress infinitely faster in this dance than those who don’t. You’re going to lock that rhythm into your muscle memory, and using it in class is going to get comfortable very quickly.

You’ll start to (within a very short amount of time) actually feel very comfortable doing your footwork rhythms, and when you get into class, your movements will be vastly improved because you no longer need to think so hard about your feet.

This is the #1 thing we would recommend to quickly improve your West Coast Swing.

What you can expect after 12 lessons:

After 12 lessons (or 2-3 months), you’re going to be really looking like a West Coast Swing dancer. You’ll have a growing level of confidence, and each time you hit the floor, you’re going to be learning new & improved ways of doing things.

The small “routines” you learn in class are suddenly not a problem, and you actually get to focus on how you’re doing the moves, instead of just what the moves are. Yes, expect to struggle with the higher level classes, but your social dancing is going to be feeling out of this world. Yep, you’re actually going to be having an absolute blast social dancing, and you’re going to be pretty damn good at it.

The things you’ll most likely be struggling with at this point are:

  • Connection: you’ll be really thinking about how to “feel” better to your partner, and how to use that connection to create new moves.
  • Styling: you’ll be starting to experiment with styling in the dance.
  • Musicality: you’ll be starting to experiment with hitting breaks in the music and interpret the song you are dancing to with your dance.

At this stage, you will definitely be looking like a West Coast Swing dancer.

What you can expect after 1 year:

One year of practice in West Coast Swing, and you’re more than likely one of the stronger dancers in your class.

You’re very comfortable with the basic moves you learn in class, yet you’re still struggling with the more advanced moves being taught in the Intermediate & Advanced classes. Your body has adapted to the dance, and most of the basic movements are completely natural now. Now that you can do the moves, you’re trying to do them with good quality of movement.

You’re even starting to feel comfortable with styling in your dance, and you’re probably even starting to build some of your own moves & patterns.

You’re being challenged with the more complex routines, stylings & techniques – this is when you’re really getting serious about taking Private Lessons, and you’ve probably even attended your first National West Coast Swing Event (maybe even to compete!).

The things you’ll most likely be struggling with at this point are:

  • Technique: how to make your basic moves look really good, without having to do excessive styling.
  • Footwork Patterns: you’ll be looking to add in an extra dimension to your dance, and starting to syncopate your rhythms.
  • Bad Habits: by this stage, you’ll have picked up a fantastic array of bad habits, and it’s about now you start trying to break them!

How long until I’m as good as my teachers?

It’s a great question! Most teachers not only have multiple years of experience in West Coast Swing, but they also have years of “focused practice” – where they have actively worked hard to get as good as they are.

Here at Swing City, your head instructors (Scott & Mel) have over 20 years of experience between the 2 of them in West Coast Swing, and well over 30 years of general dance experience, so there’s a bit to do to catch up!

In reality, after 3 years of dancing West Coast Swing, you’re starting to become really good, in fact, you’re probably doing some teaching yourself at this point! So, within just a few years, with a lot of practice, you can be one of the best West Coast Swing dancers in your state, and potentially even in the country.

So, where to from here?

If you’re just starting out, be comfortable with the fact that you’re struggling a little. Literally EVERYONE has gone through that phase, and as you can see, you’re starting to break past that phase in no time at all.

Your trajectory is something that you don’t need to worry about too much. Trust your instructors, whoever they are.

Don’t worry about the material or class content, just focus on surrendering to what you’re working on in that moment. Nothing more.

And by doing that, you’ll have a blast, and you’ll see some really rapid progress.

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