After spending a bit of time at the US Open Swing Dance Championships over Thanksgiving weekend, I kinda got fascinated with the differences between modern Lindy Hop and West Coast Swing. The two dances both evolved from similar roots, the West Coast and Jitterbug communities both inspired by dancers from the New York ballrooms of the 1930s.
There are plenty of places to find information on the evolving of styles, so I'm going to skip ahead to my short thoughts on the subject. It's a bit of a ramble, and probably going to be ongoing, but here's a beginning.
First a couple of examples of the dances as they are danced now:
West Coast Swing
There's an essential set of differences between the two dances. Lindy Hop is a primal dance, urban and boisterous. It follows the pounding of the bass and pulses like an animal. West Coast praises smoothness and sexiness; is rhythmic yet strives to defy the beat of the drum.
The comment I have heard most from West Coasters with regard to Lindy Hop is this: "we don't bounce." This follows the Southern California Lindy Hop tradition of smoothness. If we look to the old school swing dancers who were present at the birth of West Coast Swing, they praised smoothness above pretty much anything else.
The Dean Collins Lindy Hoppers - 1983
The central figure in the link between Lindy Hop and West Coast Swing was Dean Collins. Collins is credited with bringing Lindy Hop from the Savoy Ballroom in Harlem to Los Angeles. Many of his proteges still dance and teach today. There's a longer conversation in this, but I think it's better saved for a later time.
Anyway, onto more comparisons. As I mentioned before Lindy Hop is an urban dance. I think by contrast it would be easy to suggest that some influences in West Coast would remove those urban influences. It seems to me that in addition to smoothness, West Coast loves prettiness. On the other side of the fence, Lindy Hop has a sense of humor and a deep connection to its roots.
I'd briefly bring up Ballet and Modern Dance as a contrary comparison. I think I'm going to have to save those thoughts for later.
Anyway, if you have thoughts on the subject, I'd love to read them.