Difference between East Coast and West Coast Swing

June 30, 2015 by Editorial Team

A good piece of music deserves a good grasp of its compatible dance moves. So, before hitting the road to that party or night club, or signing up for that dancing class you have always wanted to try,  it’s essential to understand the basics of dancing. Let’s look at two of the oldest categories of dancing – the east coast and the west coast swing.

Definitions

East coast swing
East coast/jitterbug dance in 1938

The east coast swing is a type of dance where partners move around and around the dance floor. This circular motion requires considerable floor space. Generally, the movements of the two partners resemble each other’s moves – so that if one takes a left step back, the other takes a right step forward and so on.

West coast swing
West coast swing

The west coast swing, on the other hand, follows a linear movement where the partners move up and down taking up relatively smaller floor space. The movements of the two partners generally differ – the lead partner moves shorter distances up and down a “slot” and around the follow partner who spins and turns as he/she moves.

Comparison Chart

East Coast SwingWest Coast Swing
Dancers generally move circularlyDancers generally move linearly.
Takes a relatively large dancing spaceTakes a compact dancing space
Dancers’ movements mirror each other’s movements.Dancers do different things
Variously known as jitterbug, boogie-woogie, jive, and lindy hopVariously known as whip, shag, and push
Easier to learnRelatively difficult to learn
Dancers mostly make fast and energetic movementsIs a little slower

Comparison

To help differentiate these two dance styles, let’s take a closer look at how each dancer moves, the speed with which they dance, the ease with which you can learn these styles, and some variations of each.

  • In the east coast swing, dancers move in a circular pattern. This takes up a relatively large dancing area. In addition, the general movement of one dancer is mirrored by the other’s movements. For instance, if one partner moves a step to the right, the other moves a step to the left.
    In the west coast swing, partners move up and down a particular “slot” utilizing a compact dancing area. Dancers make different moves while performing this swing. The follow partner spins and turns as he/she moves up and down the “slot”. The lead partner moves in shorter distances up and down the “slot” while moving around the follow partner.
  • The east coast swing is older and features faster and more energetic movements than the west coast swing. It is also very limited in adaptability, unlike the west coast one which can be used with a wide variety of songs. Of the two, east coast swing is easier to learn as it has basic movements.
  • The east coast swing has a number of variations such as jitterbug, boogie-woogie, jive, and lindy hop while the west coast swing has variations such as whip, shag, and push. 

Video

Here is a video of an improvised west coast swing style.