June 20, 2014

The Basics of WCS

The Slot of WCS
The dance of West Coast Swing (WCS) is extremely unique in the world of ballroom dancing. If you've ever taken a class for any kind of partner dance, like East Coast Swing, Waltz or Cha Cha, you'll remember that you were taught one basic step at the very beginning.

That "basic," as we teachers like to call it, or "basic step pattern" to be technical, became the foundation of all the other steps you learned. Let's say, for example, that you took a Salsa class. Once the class mastered the beginning basic you were then taught little "extras" to throw into that basic pattern - like an outside turn or an open break.

But always, when you were done, you returned to that basic pattern. That one single solitary basic. How nice. West Coast Swing? Not so nice.

One basic? Try eight! I personally believe a student can succeed on any floor if they master the following 8 patterns:

  • The Starter Step
  • The Tuck Out
  • The Push Break (aka Sugar Push)
  • The Left Side Pass
  • The Tuck
  • The Underarm Turn
  • The Right Side Pass
  • The Whip

Yeah. That's a lot of basics! Now, not all of them are always taught in beginning classes. Some save the harder steps, like the Whip, for intermediate classes. It depends on the teacher and the ballroom. One teacher eliminated all rock steps, the tucks and added a bunch of others saying, at the end of it all, that there are 22 basics!

But the creators of WCS and the legends of the dance all teach and dance the 8 basics above, which is why, with them, you should succeed on any true WCS floor!

May 28, 2014

#85 2/2: The Cult, the Council and the End.

The Future, Here and Now
Weekly Note #85 has two sections. This is Part Two. Click here for Part One. 

I knew how hard the fall would be from that place - and how high the hands would reach to catch and scratch at me if I called out, loud and quite clear.

Saturday, February 26th 2011.

The date may not mean anything to you, but it means everything to me. It's the date of my very first swing intensive on something "more" than just swing. I didn't teach movement. I didn't teach basics.

I taught history. I taught essentials. I broke away from the herd and I... taught real West Coast Swing. 

It was treason. I knew it. But the right people had said yes, and the wrong people had said no and before I knew it...

May 24, 2014

#85 1/2: The Cult, the Council and the End.

Sins of the WCS Cult & Criminals
Weekly Note #85 has two sections. This is Part One. Click here for Part Two. 

Part 1: The Cult Culture of WCS
(This is the Rearview Mirror for #84: Playing Monopoly)

So let's talk names. There are about 300-400 highly active predators, criminal harassers and cyber-bullies in and around our on- and offline Swing Dance Council/Points communities of WCS.

Since their activity has largely gone unchecked over the last three years (cyber-attack legislation only just caught up with the times), they've grown even more aggressive - violent, even - to the point of not only recruiting other criminal elements to the sport, but driving out all healthy elements too.

They say they "love" WCS. They say everything is great with WCS- the sport, the community, the teachers... until someone voices an alternative opinion.

#84: Playing Monopoly

Naming Bill, Ethan, Mason & Jacob
+ Text Version of the Stories
Fraud is the daughter of greed. -Jonathan Gash

Last Fall I released a very powerful Audio Exposé called The Monopoly . It contains three large and in-depth stories of my time and interactions with people of various statures in the West Coast Swing competitive community.

The first story is about a well-played game of chess for the US Open teaching slots from the early 2000's.

The second is the bulk of the recording, a detailed description of a major WCS monopoly - one which created incredibly large changes in both the local community, and the global community too. WCS died in their kitchen.

And finally, there is the story of an event director and the silly promises they made - none of which are even possible today.

#84: Rearview Mirror - MJ or Coke?

I hope that last week's Weekly Note: MJ or Coke? helped you. I really do. It was a scary thing to write, of course, but once I was done... I couldn't believe how light I felt. I floated like a feather for a full day. The weight of my un-spoken knowledge must have weighed much more greatly upon me then I could have ever realized. 

For those of you who have always known, or who didn't want to know - I don't know how you do it. I don't know how you can stay silent without paying a heavy price. I know I paid one. I'm starting to feel like we Deep Water people are, if anything, great at keeping secrets. I no longer think that's such a good thing.

How many kids could have been saved had we not looked the other way? How many people would have been spared abuse had we ever simply pushed back? And perhaps that's what you all share - abuse. I hope you become brave enough to stand up to it - to work towards preventing it - instead of waiting for it to lower the boom.

May 23, 2014

#83: MJ or Coke?

The Birth and Widespread Use of
Marijuana, Cocaine and Heroin in WCS
Every form of addiction is bad, no matter whether the narcotic be alcohol or morphine or idealism. -Carl Jung

In the famed movie The Labyrinth, which I still love to this day, the entire movie pivots around a single moment in Jennifer Connelly's performance. It's when she says, "You have no power over me."

She says it with such revelation - such surprise - as if she couldn't believe David Bowie's character ever did have power over her.

I understand that line now. I can finally relate to her. In fact, I feel as if that's me standing there, looking up with wondrous yet completely certainty at her abuser. You have no power over me... 

#82: Why the Hate Speech?

How "New" WCS
Dancers Hate
The WCS Revolution seeks to separate and segregate... but they only want to annihilate. Annihilate us not just from WCS events, but studios, clubs and anywhere else where we or the dance itself may be found. 

The quote above is the reason why we had to start the WCS Revolution. We certainly didn't start the war, like I say all the time, as I've often stated, but we certainly have to finish it.

We cannot let an entire culture, an entire dance, an entire community that's been around for 70 years just be burned to the ground, with no sign of ever existing, as they clearly so desire.

But I just have to ask... WHY is this true? Why do these contemporary-abstract-walk-walk-Vegas-thumping "dancers" want real WCS to "die already" as I've seen so many of them write in the comments sections of real WCS videos, instruction clips, and chat rooms, etc?

New Book Arrival: TOUCHDOWN

Read a Free Preview on
Joy to the World! -Isaac Watts

Merry Christmas! My third book Touchdown, is HERE! Yaaaaaay!!!! Touchdown: How to Score Curiosity, Joy and Freedom in Adulthood. I can't believe it.

And I am incredibly proud of it. It's not about swing - it's about everything! Living. Living life the way it was meant to be lived - whole, happy and incredibly joyful.

Even in adulthood. It's possible! Oh, and I threw a few bits of danger in there too. Adventure doesn't really qualify as adventure without a few dragons along the way, right?

So Merry Christmas to you, and to all a good night. Enjoy my favorite gift to you... the best of me and my love for you - all in one place:

May 22, 2014

The History of SwingDiego - New Audio Exposé!

The Truth About SwingDiego's
Inception and Creation
Okay. So this post is for my broken and beloved WCS community. It's meant to do a little - no - a LOT of healing. But I won't lie. Some people are going to be unhappy with this podcast. Very unhappy.

Heck. I wasn't even happy having to re-live some of these stories for you either. But once I was recording... it turned exciting. Huge secrets leapt up, insights clicked and clacked and BAM! Pure gold. (with a heavy side of "dirt")

Like I said. Some people are going to be so, so, so, so very unhappy. But they never should have lied in the first place. Period.

See you on the other side folks! Buckle up nice and tight. Here ya go:

What a finish, right? Share away with your friends. They'll love you for it.
And of course, these are all my own personal opinion, experiences and viewpoints.

May 21, 2014

#81: Prepare to 'Touchdown'!

My First Non-Swing
Book is Almost Here!
You're sure to do impossible things, if you know where to start. -Don Bluth

I remember teaching a Critique Session workshop at an event a couple of years ago. There was a woman who clearly loved dancing, clearly felt a lot of joy and happiness once the music was on, but danced with her head down and her shoulders up.

I could tell she was wounded. I could tell it would be hard, emotionally, for her to drop her guard while she danced. It would be hard for her to stop hiding from her partner and only letting her excitement peep out down below in her legs through footwork.

It didn't make for good partner dancing at all. The behavior would have to go. She wanted to be better, but I knew that would mean she would have to be brave - she would have to let go, and let her partner in - let the world in - to her little world of excitement.

#81: Operation Shoebox

We do not seek accolades, yet I find it very satisfying (and humbling) to know you believe in us. -Thank You Note from Officer Lewis Thomas

I've rarely had the joy of giving out Halloween candy to kids. I used to work that holiday for so many years! But this year I finally had it off and, oh! It was such a treat to hand out candy once again this year.

But I learned from last year that my Halloween candy can sit around for months and months without any hope of it disappearing. So this time did something about it: I Googled it. "What do I do with my leftover Halloween candy?" And up came Operation Shoebox.

Turns out the troops need TWO big things from us:

1. travel sized toiletries, and

Charlie Day's Amazing Speech

The Words of Charlie Day's Zeitgeist Speech
Of all the 2014 commencement speeches, the clear front-runner is Charlie Day. Speaking at his alma mater, Merrimack College, he managed to hit the ball so far out of the park, that his words are going viral.

That's right. We non-grads are tuning in too.

Why? Well, it's not because of his jokes, which were aplenty and it's not because he used the word, "sh!t," which is what all the reporters seem to think.

No, we have heard talented jokes before. And the use of a single bad-word does not a viral video make. (Well, not this word anyway.)  So I'm sorry, but I'm afraid it's the front-runner because of what he actually said. And meant. And taught.

May 20, 2014

#80: The Making of 'Walk Like an Egyptian': A Champion WCS Routine

The First Anatomy Lesson into the 
World of Champion WCS Routines
You move that starting position even one half square?... And you change everything. -Making of Walk Like an Egyptian

Let's get serious. Be honest. Up front.

Everybody in WCS wants to be a Champion.

A Champion WCS dancer. That's the goal. That's the dream. That's the victory that everyone desires. And we all know it isn't done by winning a competition. No way. One win in one division, let it be Classic, Strictly, or J&J's doesn't mean jack, does it?

No. To be a Champion you have to do something different. Be something different. Master something different. That's partly why being a WCS Champion dancer is such a desired goal... because the label is elusive... hard to get... almost impossible to find.

May 19, 2014

#78: The Monopoly

A New Audio Exposé is Here!
I am speaking for all of us. I'm the spokesman for a generation. -Bob Dylan

I am so glad you guys are loving the new Audio Exposé podcasts. At the start I was calling them my Memories, but after listening to my 10th confession or so, I realized these jam-packed podcasts weren't properly named.

The more I listened, the more I knew I wasn't just telling observations about my time with Boogie by the Bay... I was sharing tips, insights, secrets and scandals about everything... from The Ten, to the Council, to workshops, to... well, everythiiiiiiiing! So I knew I had to call them something else.

I've decided upon Audio Exposés: My Memories, Stories & More. Much more appropriate, yes? Or simply Audio Exposés for short. Ta da! Now, onto my most scandalous Exposé.

May 16, 2014

No Doubt-Jr's Sexism Spanked Abramson Out of NY Times

Powerful Plays vs. Nepotism Brought NY Times Down
Women battle to break through the glass ceiling. After that, what comes is walking on broken glass. -Frida Ghitis

It doesn't take a rocket scientist to know that Jill Abramson, the first female editor of the NY Times, was fired because she is a woman.

Or maybe it does?

Because people seem to think it's up for debate, especially men. They are certainly voicing their opinions. One man thought the entire disaster wasn't a disaster at all. He didn't think it was an action worth any ink on the page. Wow. I guess Ryan Gosling's character in the movie Crazy Stupid Love was right: "The war between the sexes is over. We won the second women started doing pole dancing for exercise."