Thoughts on West Coast Swing Competition

This is important to me to share those thoughts with you because IMHO in WCS community there are a lot of misunderstandings about how to treat competitions and for some reasons the results of comps starts to be way to much important. I know this is not very short but I hope you can handle this and you will read to he end 🙂 
As some of you may know, my wife Kasia and I come from a background of competitive ballroom dancing, so we have a lot of experience with competitions (I was also a judge in ballroom dancing). However, we fell in love with West Coast Swing because of its focus on social dancing. Unfortunately, over the years, competitions have become more and more important to people, which, in my opinion, is not a good trend.
For us, West Coast Swing is about sharing a moment and making our partner happy.
Competitions create a lot of problems.
I would be much happier if competitions did not exist in West Coast Swing. Firstly, they divide the community by divisions, but many people are taking this as levels. Secondly, they give a false sense of our value as dancers and, unfortunately, in some cases, as human beings (this is tragic that people interprete competitions results that way sometimes). Thirdly, they make people train for the wrong reasons and aim for the wrong goals (think about internal vs external motivation). Lastly, they make West Coast Swing more focused on “me” in dance rather than on our partner.
Why does this happen?
We are taking competitions in the wrong way. Competition is not about us as humans or even as dancers. It is about how our dance looks at that moment, to that music, with that partner, compared to how others look. Many factors can be considered when thinking about competition results: how we feel that day, how other people feel, how the judges feel, the music, the draw/partner, and whether we feel the ballroom or the audience. The only factor we can control 100% is ourselves, and even this is not always possible.
Are competitions a good way to value ourselves as dancers?
In my opinion, no. It is only about how we look compared to others at that moment.
Dancing is much more than that.
It is about the emotions we want to share with our partner, how we feel our partner, how we communicate, what we give each other, and whether we care about each other. It is about smiling, accepting, and being positive. It is about what we want to create in that dance with that partner and to that music. It is also about creating something new and going often out of the box to explore the movement, the moment, and even the craziness together.
Movement quality
Of course, controlling our bodies is important, but does the creation we make with our partner have to look good? And what it means “look good”? Imho our movements should be consistent so our partner can have consistent information from the visual and physical connection, but does this mean it has to be movement perfection? Our movement should be an embodiment of our intention or emotion, but it doesn’t mean it has to look good always (sometimes we even could not want to look good…). The most important thing is to communicate, feel each other, and spend a great time together in that particular dance.
In theory, the more we control our body, the better chances we have of giving a great dance to our partner, but it’s not about showing off. Sometimes, it’s about calming ourselves down to make our partner happy. It’s about sharing time and experience together. Competitions are often in opposition to what social couple dancing should be, especially in prelims. Additionally, the competition system is not perfect, and neither are the judges. We are all human and make mistakes.
Competitive nature
Humans are competitive, but very often, we cannot handle competition time and results well. If we didn’t compete in sports as a child and don’t have a trainer or mentor who can explain everything and show us the right path, then we have a problem if we want to compete as adults. We put unnecessary pressure on ourselves. Probably, all of us have experienced where people we love to dance with at social dance floor are totally opposite to dance with in prelims because everyone is self-oriented and stressed.
Motivation and comps results
Some may argue that it is a good motivation for improvement, but imho, we do not need it. We do not need competition to motivate people to improve. If we take competitions as a main factor that motivates us for improvement it is only one, and very thin path, and it can make us to be external motivated quickly (by results) instead of internal motivated (Even in competitive ballroom dancing this is not good way if smb is external motivated).
There are A LOT of dancers who are amazing to dance with but they are not enough showing off oriented or not enough energetic so they don’t making finals or even semi, and instead of them we can see in finals dancers who looks good but it is difficult to enjoy dancing socially with them very often – and this situations is common in every division…
Also there is very common situation that smb is great to dance and have fun with but has one unconsistent factor in his/her movement – and if we consider how much time the judge has in prelims we will see that it can influence the results a lot… Really if you want to improove – great – but don’t think that competitions can confirm your improvement – usually it can’t…
Dance Varieties
West coast swing is amazing because of those varieties we have – everyone is different, have different background, move differently, can offer sth different in dance than other people – it is amazing! We can search for sth new always, learn every dance technique we want to and use this – it is great! And if we search all the time for sth new there is possibility that it will not looks “good” at comps…
If we are talking about varieties – there is also space for people who are looking for movement perfections (I’m one of them – I have a freedom in dance when I feel that I create extactly that motion I wanted), BUT still – what I’m giving to my partner, what we create TOGETHER, if my partner enjoy this dance are the most important things. I heard great sentence one time: “we don’t need technique to enjoy the dance – we need technique so our partner can enjoy dancing with us” – and I totally agree with this (maybe I would like to clarify: we need technique to be able to adapt to every partner and make this particular dance most enjoyable as possible at this moment for us both).
If you want to improve and need some confirmation, find a trainer or mentor and ask them if you’ve improved and/or ask how to do it. Take classes, take privates, take time and train and explore. Don’t think that competitions mean something in this case. We can win by dancing horribly and be last by dancing great. There are so many factors that results don’t really mean a lot.
Do we have to compete?
Long story short: I don’t think so…
If you don’t like how you feel when you compete – don’t force this. Don’t think that if almost everyone is competing, you have to do it too…
I know great dancers who don’t like competing, and they just don’t do it. There are a lot of people who just stopped competing, but also a lot who have never competed – and they are great dancers!
Competition is what it is.
It is not a good way to value ourselves, but it may be a good way to meet and dance with new people and have fun and share experiences.
Don’t take competitions too seriously!
The most important thing is whether your partner had a great time with you!
Hope to see you all on the dance floor!
Sending warm hugs.
Take care!
PS I forgot probably about some things I wanted to mention… There is a lot of topics that can be discussed when we are talking about dancing, comps, motivations, emotions etc….