Dance

Swing Legends: On Changing The Name of West Coast Swing [Interviews]

By on March 16, 2018
This article was first published in the This Is West Coast Swing Blog (blog.thisiswestcoastswing.com), a platform for empowering dancers and creating resources for the global dance community.

Someone who recently bought an I Speak West Coast Swing” shirt was asked what she would do with the shirt once the name of West Coast Swing changed next month. She was shocked, of course. What did this person mean by the name was changing?

If you’re wondering this yourself, let us catch you up on some recent developments in the West Coast Swing scene, and tie it in with the dance’s past.

Glenn Ball, current Champion level dancer and showcase competitor, posted on Facebook about how the name of West Coast Swing would be changing on March 1st. This status was shared throughout Facebookland and as the rumors spread without context, some Westies took it to heart and the name change became a hot topic of discussion. Three days later, Glenn finally admitted that the gig was up, saying his post had actually been an inside joke among friends and that the new name for West Coast Swing that they’d been joking about was  “Flow”. “The U.S. Flowpen,” “Wild Wild Flowstie,” … Glenn seemed to have a nice flow with the names.

In the end, Glenn himself admitted, “It was one of those moments we found funny at the time. I did not expect this to take legs like it did.” He adds, “Now, do I actually genuinely like the name flow. Yes. Do I think we need to change the name? Hmmm, nah.” He would like to point out that the “original post wasn’t meant to trick anyone. I assumed people would get it was a joke straight a way.”

This post did bring up many opinions on the current name.

Kellese Key, a Champion of Champions and creator of Swank Dance, states that the term Flow was, “Funny and in good jest, the reason it came out was b/c every time we go to explain West Coast Swing the explanation is difficult.”  Kellese goes on to say that people know what Zouk and Salsa (formally known as Cuban dance) is, but WCS is harder to identify because people associate it with Lindy Hop. “ To change the name is like trying to change history… I’m traditional,  I say leave it alone… but I think modern swing is great by Benji and I think Flow was being funny trying to get one word.”

Robert Royston, a Champion of Champions and world renowned dancer, choreographer, and MC  wrote in our discussion, “ There is a movement to change the name… I’m ok with it, it’s already had many names i.e. sophisticated, western, rock ‘n’ roll. The place I know people are coming from in the professional world is changing the name more for marketing purposes. It’s hard to explain what WCS is, but if you said you did modern swing they could picture something in their head… at least that’s the idea… we (the top pros) would like dance to stay true to its basic, but would like to change the name to maybe grow the dance commercially.”

Benji Schwimmer, current 13x US Open Showcase champion, spoke about changing the name to Modern Swing in his segment on “The Future of Swing” at Swingcouver this January. He has begun hashtagging #modernswing on some of his Facebook/Instagram posts and has been a proponent for changing the name of the dance. Benji also has more in depth discussions planned in the next coming months.

On the other hand Skippy Blair, a Teacher of Teachers, credited with popularizing “West Coast Swing”, and co-founder of the WSDC, wrote in response to the big question, “I don’t think it should change. WCS has a historic presence starting in the 1950’s. It had a reason to be called “Western Swing” because Arthur Murray’s East Coast Swing was called “Eastern Swing.” Later, Western Swing became West Coast Swing, which really made sense because this is where it developed, and several years later, Eastern Swing became East Coast Swing. This completed the picture. West Coast Swing has a classic sound and has earned a place in the history of swing dancing.”

Glenn Ball’s post in jest has sparked a discussion that many people did not know was such a hot topic. Should the name be changed to help sell the dance more commercially and make it easier to share with the world, or should it remain the same because of tradition? Weigh in in the comments to let us know what you think!

The good news is, it looks like you won’t have to replace your “I Speak West Coast Swing” shirt just yet.

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