West Coast Swing is the ‘Oﬃcial State Dance of California’. Historically San Diego, San Francisco, and Los Angeles all argue about what city West Coast Swing originated in, however, the Los Angeles California area tends to win the debate on its evolution.
West Coast Swing roots back to or originated from an earlier dance known as the Savoy Style Lindy, which was done at the Savoy Ballroom in New York in the early 1930’s. Although WCS was not invented by, it was indirectly spawned by a man whose name was Dean Collins, who also danced at the Savoy while he was living in New York.
Collins came to California in 1936 to get into the movie business and brought with him ‘his version’ of the “Savoy Style Lindy.” Collins, after dancing in Hollywood for a couple years and swing dancing in many night clubs began dancing and competing in dance contests. He would get to know some of the other local dancers, which they have been said to have “not seen that style of swing before, but they liked it very much.” It was a lot different than what they were doing at the time … which they called it “The Whip” (NOTE: different than the later “Houston Whip” which is a Descendant of WCS … to make a slightly long story short,) “Sophisticated Swing” and/or sometimes the “New Yorker”.
When Collins started winning contests everyone wanted to learn his style. His first partner was Bertha Lee in contests and film, but later Collins joined up with Jewel McGowen who was to become the hottest female swing dancer who had ever “Switched” (swivel’d back and forth) with Dean. Jewell and Dean made many movies apart as well as together. When Dean would be asked what style of swing he was doing he would say “there is no style, there is only Swing.” He never said there is only Lindy Hop or West Coast or Jitterbug, etc., NEVER!, there is only swing. And being a true master of swing realized that “Swing is Swing”… period!
Collins started teaching “his version” to L.A. and soon everyone on the West Coast was doing it. During this time, the movies billed WCS dance as “Jitterbug or Rock and Roll.” Many soldiers danced this version of swing in W.W. II. The soldiers and U.S.O. took “West Coast Swing” AND OTHER FORMS OF SWING all over the world … disguised as the newer term of Jitterbug or Rock and Roll.
June 25, 2019