WCS for Salseros

by Tessa Cunningham

We have been dancing in the Salsa community since 2000, teaching, performing, and social dancing both in Canada and the U.S. We are advocates for both Salsa and WCS, and our stand is that both dances have something to offer and are worth learning! We understand both dances and how to convert between them.

So if you're a Westie-curious Salsa dancer, you've come to the right place! We know you have a few questions about learning West Coast, so we'll try to answer them here:

1. How is West Coast different from Salsa?

Salsa is a Latin dance, and Swing is an American dance. They borrow alot of ideas and moves from each other, but they are quite unique from each other. Salsa is danced with a constant, cyclical rhythm over 8 counts of music. WCS timing consists of triple steps and single steps, and the rhythm can change randomly, determined by the leader. Salsa is lead exclusively by the leader, with the exception of "shines", whereas WCS also allows the follower to contribute alot to the dance - the lead gets traded back and forth between leader and follower. WCS also has a critical added element of elasticity, which is absent in Salsa. West Coast is danced to a wide range of current and classic music: Blues, Top40, HipHop, Funk, Country, Rock, Soul, Jazz etc. Salsa is mostly only danced to a Latin music of a specific rhythm and tempo.

2. Do I have to start learning from scratch?

Absolutely not! You have an advantage over the beginner who is new to partner dancing. You already understand lead/follow, turning, and timing. It's all a matter of converting what you already know, rather than starting from square 1. The hardest part will be changing your techniques, like learning the grammar of a new language. But it is important to learn to speak the language authentically, not just the "tourist words".

3. But I've seen people doing WCS and it looks boring/stiff/ballroom-ish?

Ah, yes, that's what I thought when I saw it for the first time. But you probably were watching beginners. And beginner Salsa dancers don't look that great either! If you want to see the way Salsa is supposed to look, watch the advanced dancers and instructors. Same goes for West Coast.

4. Does it matter where I go to learn WCS?

Well, you've been to a few different Salsa instructors by now - do you think there's a difference in the quality of the instruction? Of course. Same goes for WCS. Do your research - Google, YouTube, etc.

5. Should I take group classes or privates?

Normally I would recommend group classes first for raw beginners, just so that they have some experience to take with them to a private lesson. But since you're not a raw beginner, I definitely recommend the opposite. To ensure a quick adoption of the new dance style, take a few privates first, then hop into an Intermediate level class.