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.

6 Replies to “Swing Legends: On Changing The Name of West Coast Swing [Interviews]”

  1. Wow, I feel very slighted, as I bet 1000’s of teachers do,by not knowing this was/is a thing. Is this to be a global, all dance studios and teachers have to abide by the name change or a “click” name change the dance pros that seems to have been pretty much the same for 20 years. and event directors who, by appearances seem to do ok and have a slot year after year as long as they hire the same members?
    I read it is hard to describe…so is samba, mambo,quickstep….non-dancers have no idea what you are talking about but if you say The Flow, you might get slapped. Most females and I bet male, think of the girls period,which is and always has been referring to her flow. Benji, you know in ballroom they also call Int’l style dancing “Modern” ,so no,won’t work. 2 main reasons are that if you mean “current” by modern, it won’t be current in 10 years. It has already lost the proper coaster step (where you step forward on 6 with NO weight,the music is rarely swing music, and when it is there is not much swing content, and it brings out the “Look at me trying to be a contemporary dancer” dancers. In 10 years, it’s hard to tell what it will look like. I’m also sure that there is a style already called this…the one where they kick instead of triple. Seems there is always a handful of bored people wanting to always change something that is the exactly what made it different and marketable. Leave the history alone and if you know the real history from Frankie Manning,then you wouldn’t dare.

    1. I think this is a good description, especially since WCS is mostly danced to contemporary music. I find It just sounds better and is easier to say (West Coast Swing is a bit of a tongue twister, imo).

  2. Wow, so some want to change the name of WCS? How about you create a name for the dance style you’re doing instread of WCS and leave us Swingers to Swing. The younger generation has chosen to modify their style of WCS until it no longer “swings” and that’s cool if that’s what you like. Hey, in the 70 & 80’s young Latinos didn’t want to dance Mambo so they created Salsa. If you don’t want to dance WCS create something else. Call it something else and people can choose how they want dance. Swing or contemporary.

  3. My questions are as follow:
    1. Do the pros want to change West Coast Swing (WCS) to another name OR do they want to change the dance itself.
    2. If wcs is so hard to explain…then how will you explain the dance with a new name.
    3. I think West Coast Swing is now known ALL OVER THE WORLD???
    4. If you do change the name…how will you explain where the dance came from?
    Just my humble opinions and questions.

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