West Coast Swing Dance Instruction Videos / DVDs

West Coast Swing Dancing

Picture yourself on a crowded dance floor with 50 other West Coast Swing enthusiasts. The air is infused with the deep bass of the blues backbeat that provides the under-girding for all music associated with the West Coast Swing. As you look around the dance floor you realize that your companions come from all walks of life, but are united by a passion for the unique, intense, partner-dance experience that West coast swing provides.

As a leader, you are in charge of the traffic pattern that you and your partner will create within your slot on the dance floor. Though your part of the dance is not marked by much movement of foot, it is branded by the rapid thought patterns and intricate leading action that make West coast swing the “dancer’s dance.”

As a follower, you are prepared to hang onto your heels because you'll be burning up the dance floor as the showpiece of the West Coast Swing. To successfully dance west coast, you must completely embrace the three rules of following without restraint. Don't hold on, don't let go, and don't think! The challenges associated with the varying time in west coast, as well as the intricate footwork, make mastery of the West Coast Swing a challenge for dancers at every skill level.

West Coast Swing (WCS) is a challenging dance that has evolved from spin-off status into a separate dance with a fervent following and a thriving competition circuit. WCS is the most intricate dance on the social dance floor and one that we've mastered the instruction on, both in-person and through our dance videos.

The basic is six-counts, but moves from elementary through a highly advanced range, from six to twelve or more counts per move or pattenr. This is very unique to West Coast Swing, differentiating it even from the other swing dances. Another key attribute that differentiates WCS from Lindy and other versions of swing as well as most non-swing dances is the slot.

Preview the West Coast Swing 6-Pack

Visualize the West Coast Swing (WCS)

Before starting your dance lessons, it’s recommended you take a few minutes or so to watch some West Coast Swing video clips or the first section of your West Coast Swing 101 DVD. Watching the dancers dance West Coast will allow your mind’s eye to start processing ideas for how to get your body to do what you’re watching. Visualizing the WCS will give you a good feel for what you’re about to learn and will make the transition into reality that much easier.

Once you have your own copy of the DVD, it’s best if you watch the WCS section one time through without trying to do any of it. Just give your mind a chance to absorb the material so it’s somewhat familiar to you when you hit replay to start the section over again. Watch how the dancers move, think about the words that are used, and then picture yourself dancing the WCS.

The second time you watch the DVD, it’s recommended that you take notes. Jot down the important parts of the WCS so you can engage other parts of the kinesthetic learning prior to getting up and dancing along. Write down what the connection points are, what the basic steps are called, how many counts are in a basic, how to align with your partner, and so on. Also, write down any questions that you might have about the WCS. There’s a good chance you will find the answer later in this chapter, and if it’s something you’re already pondering, you’ll be sure to remember the answer.

You’ll find that by time you get ready to stand up and try the WCS with the DVD, the dancing won’t be nearly as overwhelming. Writing down the key concepts will allow you to get a jumpstart on the rest of the learning. You’ll find that after you get up and try it, you’ll probably have more questions. As this DVD goes on, the steps will be broken out, pointers will be given on where you should be during different parts of the dance, and frequently asked questions will be addressed that should satisfy most, if not all, of your questions and then some.

The third time you view the DVD, go ahead and dance along with it. See how far you can make it just by watching and trying. You’ll probably find that one of the two of you is able to pick up and understand the material more quickly than the other - if that's the case, don't give up. Keep working at the dance until you're both equally as comfortable.

Special Note from Shawn About Learning West Coast Swing

This is a tough dance and one that should not just be "picked up" on the dance floor. If you're planning on going to group lessons or private lessons, do your research on the instructor(s). There are many more instructors that you wouldn't want to learn from than those you would - trust me, I've been there. If the dance isn't making sense to you in your lessons,

Don't just learn moves if you don't understand the timing, footwork, leverage, compression, hand positions, slots, and how the leading & following parts work and why. Start your lessons back up once you've gone through West Coast Swing for Beginners Volume 1 so you'll at least have the right foundation. Enjoy this one - it's a great dance once you "get it."
Shawn Trautman '11

The 6-count basic for West Coast Swing

The six-count slotted basic of West Coast Swing is made up of two walking-steps, a triple step (you'll later turn this triple step into a coaster step during several intermediate & advanced patterns), and a triple-step in the form of an anchor-step. The term “slotted” is used because the dancers dance on an imaginary line and travel back and forth on it, as opposed to a circular or progressive dance, in which the dancers move around the dance floor. Picture the slot as something similar to a train track that you’d be dancing within. Luckily, the follower does the majority of the movement in this dance. That’s right, guys: You get to dance in place for this one! (That doesn’t mean your feet don’t move, though.)

To give you a mental image of the dance, West Coast starts out with the leaders and followers standing a couple of feet apart, facing each other, and typically connected by a one-hand hold. The leader draws the follower toward himself until her next step is so close that it would be on his toes. The leader then uses compression to slow the follower’s momentum and push her back to her original position, where she uses an anchor-step to stabilize herself and to prepare for the next basic. Don’t worry; you’re not supposed to be dancing yet.

WCS is considered a dancer’s dance due to the complex timing and intricate lead-and-follow details (we cover them all in West Coast Swing for Beginners Volume 1). The good news is that once you get it, you get it. Let’s take a look at how the basic comes together.

West coast swing, in layman’s terms, is said out loud like this:
  • Walk, walk, triple-step, anchor-step,
  • Walk, walk, triple-step, anchor-step

If you’re more mathematically inclined and like to use numbers for your steps, it’s counted like this:

  • One, two, three-and-four, five-and-six,
  • One, two, three-and-four, five-and-six

To gain an appreciation of the right look of a WCS basic, you should picture yourself dancing on a tightrope with the leader staying in place and the follower coming in and then away again in a very repetitive motion. The leader will be in control, but the follower will be the one who gets showcased because all eyes will be on her.

To try the WCS basics in place (you can stand next to one another for this one), assume foot position 1 and be in your respective ready positions (remember, "Ladies are ALWAYS right!"). Next, you’ll want to simply step down on count 1 (changing weight), then step down on count 2 (again changing weight), then do a triple step change weight) on count 3, step down on count 4, then do a triple- step in place (or slightly backwards in the form of an anchor step) on counts 5 and 6. Try them with the counts now, and it’ll sound like this: 1, 2, 3-and-4, 5-and-6.

Layered Approach to the WCS Basic

Rather than trying to learn everything together at once, it’s best to learn WCS in layers. Work on one element, then work your way to the next, and so on. There are several pieces that make up the whole. Followers, these next few paragraphs are mostly for you, but make sure the leaders read along and do the pieces they need to. Each time the follower adds another element, the leader should do the basics in place while the follower is moving beside him. Each of you should go ahead and do your basics one time in place using the timing: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5-and-6, then begin.


Followers, you get to start out by traveling toward your partner. On the first two counts, take two small steps forward (this will be toward your partner when he’s in front of you). Leaders, you’ll do your first two counts in place. Do counts 3 through 6 in place and add just this piece. You can both now practice by saying the following: Walk, walk, triple-step in place, and then anchor-step. Followers, you should now find that your starting point is a little farther forward each time you do this.

Triple Steps

To even this out a little bit, followers, you’ll now add in a step going backward. On the triple-step, you’ll step slightly forward (just ahead of your left foot or even with it) with your right foot, then step together with your left foot, then back with your right foot (traveling backward and behind your left foot). Leaders, do your triple-step in place without going anywhere. Counts 5 through 6 remain the same when you go to practice this one. You now have the walk, walk (followers are going forward), triple-step (followers are now heading backward), and then the anchor-step (no movement yet). Followers, you should still end up a little farther forward than where you started at the end of each basic. (Note: the triple step here can also be done in the form of a coaster step - we cover both in our videos).


Now, let’s finish this by adding in the anchor-step, where counts 5-and-6 are now done slightly backward by the followers in third foot position. Followers, you’ll be moving backward because of your momentum. Don’t be alarmed by this. Leaders, for now, just go ahead and do a normal triple-step in place. Adding this piece in from the beginning, we now have a complete, mobile basic that has the follower going forward and then backward to her original starting point. At the end of each basic, the follower should be back on her left foot (in third foot position) and ready to step with her right foot. Leaders should be on their right foot and ready to step with their left. Leaders, while the follower is going back and forth, you should be dancing, for the most part, in place and without a whole lot of motion either way. It might sound a bit strange, but you’ll get used to it once you get going on the next part and understand more of the compression and what your roles are for this dance.


When you’re comfortable with the basics in place, go ahead and move into the next part, which will allow you to do the basics of WCS without having to worry about anything but the footwork. In going through your steps this time, stand directly in front of each other. Try facing each other, as shown in the figure below, but be about five feet away from your partner in a mirrored position. It often helps if you’re able to see the opposite steps, if for no other reason than to validate your own.
  1. (Step 1 - Count 1) From a ready position, leaders will step in place or slightly backward (only a couple of inches at most) with their left foot (second foot position) and followers will step forward with their right foot (fourth foot position) toward the leader, with each partner changing weight to the foot that was moving by the end of step or count 1.

  2. (Step 2 - Count 2) Leaders, step in place or slightly backward (again, only a couple of inches at most) with your right foot (second foot position). Followers, step forward with your left foot (fourth foot position) directly toward the leader again. Followers, as you take this second step, turn your left foot slightly to the right as you step so you’re at a slight angle, but still coming toward him. This slight angle change will also mean that your left shoulder is now pointed toward the leader and your right shoulder is away from him. Most of the space between the leader and follower disappears once the follower takes her second step. Rather than the five feet of space that you originally had, you should now have about 12 to 18 inches separating the two of you.

  3. (Step 3 - Count 3) Leaders, step on your left foot beside the instep of your right foot, and change weight. Followers, step with your right foot (toes) beside the instep of your left foot, and change weight. The term “beside,” as it’s used here, means as close to the instep as you can get without stepping on it.
  4. (Step 4 - Count 'and') Leaders, step on your right foot beside the instep of your left foot, and change weight. Followers, step with your left foot (toes) beside the instep of your right foot, and change weight. The term “beside,” as it’s used here, means as close to the instep as you can get without stepping on it.
  5. (Step 4 - Count 4) Leaders, you’ll now step in place with your left foot (second foot position) just as you did on the first count (Step 1), except this time, you’ll want to step slightly forward because you’ll need it to help send the follower the other direction. (You’ll learn more about that later in this chapter.) Followers, you’ll now step back with your right foot because you’re now going to be traveling away from the leader. This step, although you’re still slightly angled to your right when you start it, will be in fourth foot position; you’ll be squared up with the leader once you take your step.
  6. (Step 5 - Counts 5-and-6) This is that anchor- step we’ve been telling you about. Leaders, we had you doing a triple-step in place the first time, and now you’ll add onto it. You’ll do a modified anchor-step in place where your right foot steps back into the fifth foot position on count 5. You do the “and” step in place with your left foot (still in fifth foot position), and then you step out to the right with your right foot into a second foot position. You can say your steps like this: Rock-in place-side, or an-chor-step, or back-and-side, or any combination of three words that fit to help you with these three steps.

    Followers, your anchor-step will be just like the one you learned earlier. You’ll be traveling backward starting with your left foot in the third foot position. You’ll take your left foot back on count 5 into an extended third foot position, then bring your right foot straight back into a third foot position, then end with your left foot going back into an extended third foot position again. Ladies, it’s best to say your steps with just the anchor- step naming convention as you practice.

If you executed the steps correctly, you’re slightly turned to the left of your partner at the end of the basic, and if you were looking straight ahead, you’d have to turn your head to the right to align with your partner. Did you get it?

It’s especially important that at the end of each basic, the followers are on their left foot and they have not started coming forward toward the guys yet. Ladies, you have to wait until count 1 to start coming forward, and that will only be after the guy leads it (once we get to that part). Just make sure you’re still traveling away from the guy up through count 6.

When you’re both able to do a complete basic on your own, then another, then another, go ahead and practice what you just learned with music. It’ll be the last thing you try before you learn to dance it together. Leaders, count out loud to give the follower a chance to match you step for step when you start. The leader should say “Ready, go” or “Ready, and” or even just “5-6-7-8” prior to starting. This should make it easier for both partners.

The 6-count Basic as a Couple

Here's where it all starts coming together and the intracacies start popping up. The footwork (as described above) is but one small piece of the puzzle, yet it's an important one. When you're ready to get into the actual lead and follow ends of the dance and understand the compression and leverage (how to move your partner - for the leaders), how to hold your partner, what to look for on the dance floor, how to give the right signals to your partner, what the standards are so you can dance with anyone, and much more, you'll want to take a look at the West Coast Swing DVDs we've put together. Not only will you see and learn the basics, but your understanding of the dance will dramatically improve. Best of all, we stand behind our instruction and want you to be fully satisfied.

Are you ready to learn West Coast Swing, one of the most intricate and challenging dances on the social dance floor? If so, Shawn and Joanna Trautman (authors of Picture Yourself Dancing) are ready to help you learn with a unique teaching method they developed over the years that makes West Coast Swing easy and fun to learn.

West Coast Swing has many facets for dancers to explore such as rhythm, compression, connection, patterns, and musicality, which Shawn breaks down for you in clear everyday language with detailed step-by-step instructions and multiple camera angles so you won't miss a thing.

Shawn has been actively teaching West Coast Swing since the mid-90s, and now Shawn’s expertise as a dancer, coach, and choreographer are available to you with the top-quality DVDs from Shawn Trautman’s Dance Collection. Whether you are looking for just a good introduction to West Coast Swing or are ready to dive in with both feet, these full-length dance lesson DVDs contain the best video instruction available, hands down.

Be sure to check out the Free Preview Videos on each product page by clicking on the 'more info' buttons

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