Learning How To West Coast Swing Dance: Moves and Steps

Get Ready to Learn How to Dance with These Swing Dance Directions

Couple dancing

The West Coast Swing Dance, which developed on the crowded floors of dance clubs, is called a slot dance because it is danced with both partners moving up and down a single line or track. If you imagine yourself dancing on a single railroad tie, it will help you to remember to stay on your track. This slot helped the dancers to swing dance within a very small space without bumping into each other. The slot can rotate and change, however, it is important to remember that each partner continues to dance on a slot in relation to each other and not to the room.

In any type of partner swing dancing, there are basic elements of dance moves that together make the dance flow. These elements are the clean footwork, the correct timing, a strong dance position, and good lead and follow; all play a part in dance instruction.

Follow these directions for how to learn west coast swing dancing:

Footwork and Timing: Swing Dance Steps  The Sugar Push and the Anchor Step are both swing dance moves. Learning these patterns will help you to get started out on the dance floor when learning how to swing dance.

The Sugar Push

Man's part

  1. Step back with the left foot (count 1)
  2. Step back with the right foot (count 2)
  3. Tap the left foot to the right foot (count 3)
  4. Step forward with the left foot (count 4)
  5. Anchor step (count 5&6) - See below for explanation

 Lady's part

  1. Step forward with the right foot (count 1)
  2. Step forward with the left foot (count 2)
  3. Tap the right foot to the left foot (count 3)
  4. Step back on the right foot (count 4)
  5. Anchor step (count 5&6) - See below for explanation

Anchor Step The Anchor Step is one of the most basic patterns which is frequently used at the end of every movement. When dancing this step, you should feel anchored to the floor by taking very small steps in place. After some of the basic steps of West Coast Swing patterns become comfortable, the anchor step can be replaced with break endings, which are improv freestyle patterns.

Man's part

  1. Step on the right foot placing the instep of the right foot behind the heel of the left foot (count 5)
  2. Step on the left foot keeping it in place ( count &)
  3. Step on the right foot keeping it in place (count 6)

Lady's part

  1. Step on the left foot placing the instep of the left foot behind the heel of the right foot. (count 5)
  2. Step on the right foot keeping it in place (count &)
  3. Step on the left foot keeping it in place (count 6)


Dance Position  West Coast Swing is danced in an open dance position which means that the man and woman will dance facing each other holding hands. The lady should curve her fingers so that they form the shape of a "C." The man will hold his hands out in front of his body with his palms facing towards each other and his fingers curved inwards. The woman will place her hands on top of the man's hands so that her fingers rest against the man's fingers.

Lead and Follow  Leading is a nonverbal communication between the man and the woman. The man only needs to indicate to the woman where he wants her to go or what he wants her to do. The woman is responsible for moving herself where she is being led. The man should not try to make the woman move where he wants her to go and the woman must not decide what she is going to do before she is led. This is called backleading and makes leading and following very difficult. In order to lead and follow well, both partners must have a connection, which needs to be maintained at all times. In an open dance position, as in West Coast Swing, the connection comes through the hands. Both the man and the woman should pull their hands away from each other, creating a slight pressure, and must be practiced when they learn how to dance together. There is always an equal amount of pressure towards or away from your connecting point (in this case, the fingers). There should be not squeezing, or gripping of your partner's hands and no use of the thumbs. This may be challenging in the initial stages of when you and your partnet learn how to swing dance, but can be achieved as you practice together.

These are the most basic movements and techniques in West Coast Swing. Learning to dance takes a lot of practice and these steps and techniques should be practiced frequently until both you and your partner are comfortable with them. In the beginning, when you learn to dance, the steps may feel uncomfortable and even awkward, but over time they will become automatic and will feel natural. Once you get these basic steps down, you will be ready to start to learn the many turns and variations in the dance.


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