I hope this article will open up conversation that leads EVERYONE who dances WCS anywhere to become more musically diverse – because musical diversity is certainly the heartbeat of our dance.
Probably 95% of the time when I ask someone what made them take up West Coast Swing, the answer is “the music”. I saw people partner dancing to music I like and I wanted to be able to do that, too. That’s probably the most amazing thing about WCS … and for organizers and DJs one of the most challenging, because “the music I like” is subjective and varied.
This article was inspired by recent conversations I’ve had with newer and younger WCS dancers. One of them stated what I suspect is a common thought among young new WCS dancers today: “Blues music is still played at events and competitions because there is still an Old Guard dictating things and hanging on to a past that doesn’t exist anymore. In a few years the Old Guard won’t be as powerful and we’ll get to dance to our own generation’s music.”
The musical preference expressed by WCS dancers here in Ottawa leans strongly toward contemporary pop and acoustic covers in the 100 BPM-and-slower range. But I insist that my DJs play a more diverse range of music – including Blues, Motown, R&B, and the odd jazzy swing song – because my focus is to bring the experience of large WCS events and competitions to this community.
At MAD Jam this March – one of the largest and most international competition and learning events for WCS – a Blues song was played in every single competition heat at every level, along with songs from the past three decades. All competition events play music in a range of speeds, from 80 BPM to 120 and sometimes beyond. At Boston Tea Party also in March, pro staff danced the Invitational Strictly to Motown hits, which about 1/3 of us were either not alive or too young to have heard when they were first released.
So I wanted to explore this topic of West Coast Swing dance and our music. I thought that the dance’s most-travelled top DJs could shed some light onto why they play what they play.
In the article below, I first give my thoughts and opinions, which are completely separate from the unedited DJ Interviews that conclude the article.
Various Disclaimers: (1) This is not an exhaustive list of great WCS DJs and my inclusion of these five is in no way an exclusion of any others. In fact, any others who may want to respond to the same questions can email me their responses and I will add them to the article! (2) I “borrowed” all of the DJ photos from Facebook and Google and did not ask permission to use them. (3) The opinions expressed prior to the “DJ Interviews” portion of this article are mine and mine alone and the DJs don’t condone them. (4) The opinions expressed in the “DJ Interviews” portion of this article are theirs and theirs alone and I neither condone nor condemn them.
Dance is History
To start, I’ll get this bit out of the way: Whether or not you appreciate it at first, when you start dancing West Coast Swing, you are taking up a long tradition of Swing dancing. Especially now with influences like YouTube, Dancing with the Stars, and So You Think You Can Dance, people are introduced to WCS in interesting ways, and often, it’s not from experienced practitioners of the dance.
But, WCS is of the Swing family. “Swing Content” is judged in WCS competitions. While there may be a fair amount of debate that occurs in the general WCS community about what Swing Content is (and no wonder if most of what new dancers are watching is each other or if they are learning from teachers who are also new to Swing dancing), there is little to no debate about that among the champions, pros, and judges. Swing is:
- A rhythm. Doubles and triples at minimum. Swung triples when the music swings.
- A connection that includes both stretch and compression, and a constant transition between those two modes.
- Particular patterns that can be generally reduced to: pushes, passes, and returns.
- West Coast Swing is all that plus: a slot/linearity, forward-forward on 1,2 for the follower, and some kind of anchor during which the linear energy is redirected.
Another characteristic of West Coast Swing is that it has always borrowed influences from popular dances from every decade, such as hip-hop, hustle, Zouk, and even now Contemporary. But in order to be considered Swing, those influences have to be incorporated into the Swing rhythm, connection, and pattern types.
Yes, it is fun to dance using a delicious, stretchy connection without doing any triples, and without using much or even any compression. But then it’s not West Coast Swing – it’s something else; perhaps it’s “West Coast” or “Fusion” or a new dance. And that’s OK … but not if you are competing in a West Coast Swing competition, and not if you are teaching something that you call West Coast Swing, and not if you are telling other people that what you are doing is West Coast Swing.
As multi-time US Open winner and popular Head Judge Gary Jobst recently said, “West Coast Swing can go anywhere – you don’t have to change its structure to do that.”
Sometimes routines (even Champion routines) and social dances push the boundaries. We use some elements of the dance to create something fabulous and new, usually inspired by un-swung music that we like. But when those adventures are judged to be “not swing”, we quickly recalibrate to the foundations of Swing, and usually have found interesting new stylings and patterns to incorporate. So experimentation is fun and necessary – but it’s not necessarily Swing.
Dance is Music
With that out of the way, let’s think about the music and the role it plays in what we create as dancers.
Music is the inspiration for dance. Dances are created for music and because of music. Beats inspire humans to want to move their bodies. Music can be the beginning and the end of the dance – if the music dies, so will the dance. Those dances you see in period movies from the 18th and 19th centuries are gone because the music is no longer part of our popular culture. Hustle “died” with Disco music and is now enjoying a resurgence to contemporary House and pop music.
One of the reasons that WCS is in a constant growth pattern is due at least in part to it being versatile enough to be danced to the popular music of the past six-plus decades.
Popular music is inherently simplistic. This is true of anything that is mass produced. You’re probably familiar with this pop song about how to make a catchy pop tune: https://youtu.be/4kpWkV7IBUw. And, here’s Stromae on how he made the hit song Alors on Danse: https://youtu.be/PaZ3ZW0QzpA.
It is not to say that current artists aren’t making great music, because some are – “classic” songs are still being created today. But the majority of popular music is generic because that’s what makes it easy to consume and sell.
The Establishment had The Formula figured out in the 18th century: protestant hymns were structured to be simple, repetitive, and predictable to make it easy for the masses to join in. The motivation then was to sell dogma. Today, the motivation is to sell brands. The faster we connect to a song by Beyoncé or PItbull or Kanye, the more likely we are to relate to that brand and buy its clothing, cologne, cosmetics, jewelry … and oh yeah, the music, too.
Likewise, the faster new dancers catch on to West Coast Swing, the more – and more quickly – the WCS industry will grow, and we all want that. We want more dancers dancing the dance, more events, more fun, more new friends … and oh yeah, more points.
Striving for Diversity
To advance in anything, one needs to push beyond the expected, predictable, popular, and common. To become better dancers we need great music. What separates a solid Novice dancer from an Intermediate dancer? Variety and contrast – but if we’re practising to just one dimension of music – music that inherently lacks variety and contrast – how will we develop those skills? (And I don’t think that one song covered in 15 different ways constitutes variety or contrast).
Blues music has variety and contrast within a single song, and that’s a big reason why Blues is still played in competitions. It separates the really good dancers from the okay ones. It separates the diverse, talented, and musical dancers from the generic, talented, and predictable ones. (By the way, this is the one point on which ALL of the DJs interviewed below agree).
It’s not that people don’t WANT to dance better or with greater variety; but they often don’t connect role of the music to their dance goals. Many dancers ask me to help them develop variety in their footwork and styling. But if they are only dancing to “four on the floor” boom-boom rhythms, or to acoustics that are essentially void of rhythms, or only to music in the sub-100 BPM range, they’ll never encounter a situation where they would be inspired to develop those skills and variations.
Ironically, Blues music actually shares most of the foundations of popular music today. Blues musicians introduced the idea that music could be made about mundane, everyday experiences as well as taboo sexual experiences. The use of repetition in Blues lyrics and “riffs” makes it easy to catch on to and sing along with. But the musical structure of much Blues is complex: 12-bar phrases; swung triples; surprising hits and breaks; and bridges with more – rather than less – instrumentation. Every time a riff is repeated in Blues, it’s changed just a little bit – we’re being asked to feel it (and as dancers to express it) just a little bit differently each time.
Blues isn’t the only music that can offer the inspiration to become a more interesting and well-rounded WCS dancer, it’s just the genre that inspired this article – and the DJ Interviews that follow.
I contacted a variety of top WCS DJs and the following responded prior to publication – click on their names below to learn more about them, and read on for their responses to my questions. I have not edited their responses except where clarity or spelling/grammar corrections were needed.
I am SO thankful to these busy people for making the time to share honestly and openly with us!
April Prince: Many (but not all) great songs often have contrasting sections that can draw in a listener, solid harmonies, and nice chord progressions. Though rare these days, songs that contain a bridge provide instant variation and can make a song feel like a journey. Real instruments are still a treat for the listener as more and more music has become synthesized.
For WCS, many of the hits tend to be songs with repetitive melodic hooks or songs with distinct but repetitive rhythms in the background instruments or drums (Examples: Lose Yourself to Dance, Uptown Funk). Songs with accents on beats 2 and 4 are generally more popular than songs with a straight beat throughout as these songs pulse more naturally. In the past few years, acoustic covers that are generally slower than their pop originals have been popular. People already know the songs, but the new arrangements can often give the song a slower or softer feel for greater interpretation.
Helen Tocco: I think there are a lot of components to a great song, and some of it is very subjective. A few of the things I look for are: a great intro to get people excited and into the floor, a good beat so people can stay on time, lyrics we can connect with, enough instrumentation to give us musical nuances to play with, a tempo not too slow and not too fast for west coast swing (usually between 80 and 130 bpm). The genre of a great song can really vary -I can think of some great Blues songs, as well as contemporary, R&B, etc.
John Lindo: A good song has to have a strong up and down beat and I love songs with triple rhythms in them, like Beyoncé’s “Love On Top”.
Katie Fallon: One of the reasons why West Coast Swing is an attractive dance to so many is because there isn’t one set standard that makes a song great. Many people love the top 40 hits like “Uptown Funk” by Mark Ronson and Bruno Mars, “Adorn” by Miguel for its romantic gooeyness, “Back to the Middle” by India Arie, or “The Sky is Crying” by Stevie Rae Vaughan for its raw instrumentation and soul. My favorite part of being a DJ is I get to fall in love with all of it. Every DJ has their own style but they have to be able to play for every crowd.
Louis St. George: A song that has lows and big highs and that brings some kind of emotion out of you that makes you want to express it visually.
Victor Loveira: It should tell a story and hopefully, like a good book, have a beginning, middle and end that climaxes and takes you for a ride. For example, a good Blues song has great guitar licks and piano and a heavy-set woman singing it. For contemporary, I like music that was made with real musicians and has a syncopated rhythm, like Uptown Funk.
What kind of music is the WCS community’s preference currently trending toward?
April: Lately, songs with a hip-hop or urban feel have become more popular. (Examples: All Hands on Deck, Don’t Tell Em, Fancy, Touchin’ Lovin’).
Helen: I have noticed a big trend lately towards a genre I refer to jokingly as “hip hop lite”. It’s not something people are necessarily talking about, but from the DJ booth I notice that songs like Na Na, 2 On, Somebody, Love Robbery, etc. get almost everyone excited and on the dance floor. I think it is because the music is slow enough to be accessible to everyone, but interesting enough to give the better dancers some things to play with in the music. I have also noticed a big trend away from fast contemporary and towards slower contemporary, songs like Missing You by Betty Who. Fast contemporary doesn’t really fill the floor any more like it used to a few years ago.
John: I would say primarily right now it’s contemporary, but that changes all the time. When I started to DJ it was R&B because that’s what was hot at that time.
Katie: It’s fun to see the trends of West Coast Swing music throughout the years! The top 40 lists play a huge part in our music because of its accessibility. Right now, remixes, electronics, and groovy R&B seem to pretty hot.
Louis: Unfortunately, thanks to T.V. shows like The Voice and American Idol, it’s remakes and covers of old classics.
Victor: I think we are still a contemporary pop-oriented community with a large liking of acoustic (lyrical) and hip-hop. Sadly, we are losing our footprint in this dance, which is Blues.
What (if any) differences do you notice about musical preferences in different WCS communities?
April: Geography plays a part, but so many people travel to conventions that the music they hear at conventions tends to dominate the local dances nearly everywhere. Dancers often bring back the songs they heard to their local scene. When I am spinning for a room with an older population, I will play more of a variety and may play more current remakes of older songs to bridge the gap between older and newer music. I always play a certain amount of current music, though, as everyone knows the biggest radio hits.
Helen: I definitely notice some regional differences in preference. I think this is driven by the music that the dancers get used to from their local DJs. I think if you look at the group of us fanatical dancers who travel constantly, our favorite songs are probably pretty consistent. I do notice that some of the older dancers have a harder time connecting with some of the newer music, particularly if it has a lot of rap in it or is very lyrical with a beat that is hard to find.
John: There are differences in every region. I am always asked to play a particular mix of Blues and contemporary based on the club or group brining me in. For example, at Next Generation Dances I play more Blues at the beginning of the night and more contemporary later on in the evening.
Katie: Musical preferences seem to differ depending on what other dance styles cross over in that area, the age groups, the local DJs, the local pros, where that community is located in the country (or world), and many other factors. For example, Cleveland leans towards both older and newer West Coast Swing but also Hustle. Lots of “swustle” music!
Louis: In the South and the Midwest they still like Blues and I think that’s because the older crowd still out-numbers the younger crowd in those areas. You can also still find Blues radio stations in those areas. On the West Coast it’s more pop and Latino influenced.
Victor: The East coast is still Blues/contemporary, the Midwest is the same, and the West coast is contemporary/hip hop/acoustic.
Do you think Blues music is still relevant to WCS and if so, WHY?
April: Traditional WCS naturally dances very well to Blues. The rolling count easily subdivides the anchor step. I find myself playing blues less frequently, though, because it fills the floor less than it used to. I think it is still relevant, especially when teaching beginning dancers because it helps them to feel the triple step rhythms more easily, and in competitions. Many judges have told me how they appreciated the Blues song in a competition heat as it demonstrated which dancers could dance to different styles.
Helen: I definitely think blues music is still relevant to WCS. Aside from historically being part of our roots, WCS is also a dance that is based on footwork and rhythms that were designed for Blues music. I know there has been a big argument the last few years about what makes our dance “swing” but I think as long as we maintain a balance where we allow new music in and allow the dance to evolve, while still keeping some Blues influence, we will stay true to our “swing” history. After all, if the dance had never evolved from Lindy Hop in the first place as the music changed in the ’50s and ’60s, our dance would never have become what it is today. We need to respect our roots but also understand that ours has always been an evolving dance.
John: Absolutely, Blues will always be a part of the WCS community. It’s what this dance was started on and even though I love that you can dance WCS to most genres of music, Blues will also be played. [WCS without Blues] is like asking a baseball player to go up to bat without a bat and ball.
Katie: West Coast Swing is a melting pot dance and has evolved greatly. But remembering where our dance came from keeps us rooted. Other young West Coast Swing dancers, like myself, would appreciate the history and Blues more if the history and understanding were shared more often.
Victor: It is still relevant but sadly only during competitions and less for social music. I feel the reason for that is lack of a constant stream of new Blues music being made/available.
How would you respond to the statement that the only reason Blues is played at all anymore is because of an Old Guard hanging on to a past that doesn’t exist anymore?
April: There are great WCS songs from nearly all music genres and decades. This includes Blues. I don’t know about the Old Guard vs New Guard war. I do know that playing music that has a variety of styles and tempos has better odds of pleasing the majority of the crowd than playing only the popular music of the present.
Helen: I definitely think Blues music is still relevant to WCS. Aside from historically being part of our roots, West Coast Swing is also a dance that is based on footwork and rhythms that were designed for Blues music. I know there has been a big argument the last few years about what makes our dance “swing” but I think as long as we maintain a balance where we allow new music in and allow the dance to evolve, while still keeping some Blues influence, we will stay true to our “swing” history. After all, if the dance had never evolved from Lindy Hop in the first place as the music changed in the ’50s and ’60s, our dance would never have become what it is today. We need to respect our roots but also understand that ours has always been an evolving dance.
John: I would tell that dancer to go learn our dance history, where it came from and the music we played.
Katie: When I first started dancing West Coast Swing, I was 18 years old and didn’t really understand Blues music. Pop songs repeat and stick with a formula that is easy to catch on to. It was hard to understand how to interpret Blues music into my feet and body. Today I appreciate Blues because the music isn’t cookie cutter. Blues is straight from the soul and very organic. Both the artist’s voice and instrumentation are used to speak and feel. Also, older Blues music is incredible because it is preserved history. How it was to have hardships, love, daily life in a different time period… it’s more like poetry.
Louis: I think that is an absolutely correct statement!!
Victor: Good luck with that…’cause even thenew guard has been around for a while. They know where this dance came from and keep it alive by using the music in workshops or talking about the music in workshops. And they still enjoy dancing to Blues in comps.
Why is Blues music still played in competitions? Is it your choice? Does the event director or head judge ask you to play it?
April: This really varies by event for me. Sometimes I have an event director or head judge that wants Blues. Sometimes I have a head judge or event director that doesn’t want any Blues. Sometimes they give me no input and trust that I will use my best judgement. In general, I will play one Blues song in a heat of 3 or 4 songs. One slow lyrical song, one Blues song, and one faster pop song gives the dancers a variety of styles to prove their abilities by demonstrating their ability to dance to a rolling count (Blues song) or a straight count (most popular music). This format can allow the judges to “separate the men from the boys.”
Helen: I still play Blues music at competitions and events. Sometimes the event director will request it, but usually they leave it up to my discretion and trust that with my experience I will strike the right balance. At 5280 this past weekend, I used a set of well-known mid-tempo Blues for the Novice jack and Jill spotlight final, and my favorite dance of the weekend was probably the first place novice couple. I also gave the champions a choice of fast Blues and slow contemporary for their jack and Jill spotlight, and in spite of the altitude three couples still chose Blues. You might be surprised to learn that some of the younger champions actually prefer to dance to Blues music. I have had several specifically ask if the champions could please have Blues as an option.
John: I play Blues music in a competition to make sure the dancers are able to dance to a diverse range of music. Most head judges will ask for a Blues song in a contest to separate the men from the boys and the women from the girls, so to speak. When you dance to Blues music you dance differently.
Katie: Blues music is still played for us to stay connected to our roots. It’s also a way to separate dancers in ability during competitions in the higher competition levels. Are they able to dance to straight count and swing, and how well?
Louis: Yes, some event directors do insist on Blues being played. I choose to play it because most of the people young and old who are being taught in the last five years have no idea how to dance to Blues, so it’s a way that we DJs can help the judges sort through the crowd [of contestants]. Especially if it’s a faster Blues song.
Victor: It is my choice but many head judges and judges in general want to hear it because it’s a different genre that should make you “swing” when some contemporary music doesn’t. I ALWAYS include Blues or R&B in my competition music selections.
Are there any Blues artists making good NEW music – not just covers of old Blues standards?
April: Sure. Now you have to define “good” new music 😉 Music is insanely subjective. I love a good Blues cover, I have to admit. Aside from covers, Dion came out with an album that had some really nice stuff on it a couple years ago, Brother Yusef just came out with a few new tracks, and there is a really nice cut on the new Joe Bonamassa release. There are not as many as I’d like to see but there are not many Blues artists, either, compared to pop.
Helen: There are plenty of new Blues artists making music, but they are not as prominent because they are not featured on the radio. But pay attention when you are in coffee shops and bookstores – sometimes that is where I find the best new Blues music coming over the speakers! Some current-day Blues or bluesy artists I enjoy are Susan Tedeschi, Diana Krall, Big Bill Morganfield, and EG Kight. There are lots more out there! Plus blues artists like BB King and soul artists like Aretha Franklin are still out there killing it.
Victor: There are some but it’s not as constant as Top 40.
Louis: Yes, there are a few but there is no big media promoting it.
John: Yes, DJs just have to look for them but they are out there.
Katie: Keb’Mo, Buddy Guy, Joe Bonamassa, and Gary Clark Jr. are awesome Blues artists who cover old Blues standards and create their own rockin’ music.
If we want to constantly attract young and new people to the dance, events, etc. why not just play all the current music they like and know?
April: Are we constantly trying to attract just the young and new people? I think the dance is about more than that. I meet people of all ages who just started learning WCS or who have been dancing it for many years. It’s not all about age; it’s about learning and having fun dancing no matter what your age is.
That being said, who is your current crowd? You run the risk of alienating everyone else in the room if you play what you think only the young crowd wants to hear. You may have some really sparse dances if your main crowd isn’t interested in the music you are playing and then it becomes a question of survival. Some of the current pop music appeals to people of all ages because unless you have been living under a rock, you are exposed to the biggest hits of pop music everywhere – the mall, the radio, restaurants. So all ages know the biggest hits. Often at dances, as it becomes later in the night, the younger dancers remain. So naturally, I will play more of the music they want to hear. I cater to who is in the room which is always priority number one. However, I will still play a variety within the more popular music – some acoustic, some slower, some faster, some that were hits from the past few years, some with a different beat styles etc. Nothing is worse than one pop song after another with the same beats per minute, same style, and same everything. In general, I aim for a variety of new and old music and a variety of different genres including pop, blues, soul, acoustic etc. The most current pop songs that everyone knows are always included to please all ages.
Helen: I think it’s the DJs’ job to keep as many of the dancers on the floor as possible. That means always paying attention to what is inspiring the crowd in the room at any given moment. You might DJ the exact same dance two weeks apart and if you try playing a playlist that everyone loved the week before, they could hate it the following week. You really have to always be paying attention and in the moment with your dancers. I don’t think the act of DJing is becoming more challenging -if anything for me now with 10+ years of experience, I have had lots of time to make mistakes and learn from them, and now DJing is a lot easier. The only thing that makes it sometimes harder is the fact that so many new DJs are coming in to the scene -which is great to bring in new ideas and music, but sometimes can hurt those of us who want to ask a higher price tag in exchange for our years of experience. It’s hard to compete with free!
John: Because we also have to cater to the existing WCS dancer, and by playing a mix of music genres it will diversify the dance/event. I know I personally don’t want to hear one genre of music all night.
Katie: People like dancing to both familiar and new music. You can attract new dancers but can you keep them? Dancing can be very difficult. DJing known music can help build confidence in newer dancers by having a “constant”. Can you imagine going to an event for the first time dancing to hundreds of new dancers and all new music? Not everyone will take the challenge very easily.
Louis: Variety is the spice of life, and each style of music has its own way of being danced. Plus, my ears just need a break from BOOM BOOM BOOM!
Victor: Variety is the key. We don’t just want to attract young people but people to our dance (young, older,etc) and in order to do that, we need variety, such as new/old Top 40, blues, jazz, etc.
It’s impossible to please everyone all the time but I wonder if you feel WCS DJing is becoming more challenging than it was 5 or 10 or 20 years ago?
April: I don’t think it’s more challenging than it was 5 or 10 years ago. I don’t think I can ever please everyone, but I do my best to try J
John: It’s not possible to please everyone’s taste in music all the time, so a DJ must stay true to his song and what he likes and hopefully the majority of the crowd will like it as well. But it’s much harder now because of all of the different types of music that WCS dancers are using.
Louis: NO, because people have and always will be a pain in the ass. They think they know what they like when really they only know what we tell them they should like. Ahhh, my little dancing monkeys, how I love to mess with you.
Victor: ABSOLUTELY it has changed and become more challenging but just like the dance has evolved and has made people practice and take privates to better themselves, I have to stay current and in front of the new music to do my job well and continue to be the DJ that event directors want to hire.
O.K., one final FUN question: You get a view of EVERYTHING from the DJ booth. What do you wish WCS dancers could SEE that you see when you’re up there playing music and watching?
April: I’m privileged to have witnessed so many wonderful dances. It’s quite a nice show from where I sit.
Helen: I will say that this job is a lot harder than most dancers realize. You *really* don’t get paid much and most of the time it is a labor of love. I’m not sure what the dancers think we get paid but often if something isn’t going well, they can be a bit rude with feedback or requests! You have to have a really thick skin to be a DJ. I would just remind everyone that we are here for you -we want you to be happy or we wouldn’t be in the booth. I don’t DJ for myself, I DJ to try to make sure everyone has fun and that competitors have the best possible dances. So if you have something negative to say, feel free to tell us but please be nice about it, and I’m sure your DJs will be happy to listen
John: I’d like them to see how they interpret the music in their dancing. It’s awesome watching folks dance to the same sound but interpret the song completely differently.
Katie: The view from the DJ booth is amazing. I wish WCS dancers could see a floor completely packed from one end to other, with everyone hitting breaks and grooving together. You’ll see people of every level and style dancing in harmony. That’s when I like to sit back, smile, and get ready to play the next song that will keep everyone’s dance journey going into the early morning.
Louis: First off, since people started to wear TOMS shoes, footwork looks HORRIBLE!!!! And for the guys: HELLO, you have two hands and you could dance in closed position sometimes! For the girls, please stop dropping or leaning or embodying the air when there’s no reason in the music to do it!
Victor: How sometimes they are not dancing the way they should because a certain genre is playing or they are really not swinging to that song….other times they are dancing so fast or so determined to do a particular amalgamation that they just forget to dance to the song and let that dictate your moves.
About the DJs
April has DJ’ed in the Chicago area since 2003, including primarily for West Coast Swing as well as Ballroom, Hustle, and Country dance events and competitions. In 2009 she was named the All Swing DJ of the year, and was recently inducted into the Global Swing DJ Hall of Fame. She holds Bachelors and Masters degrees in music education.
April DJs and manages West Coast Wednesdays in Chicago, a weekly event since 2010, as well as The Mix Dance. She is a house DJ for Chicago’s Swing n Country Dance Club and is the new co-director of Swing City Chicago.
National dance events she has spun at include: Swing City Chicago, The US Open, Meet Me In St. Louis, Indy Swing Bash, The Chicago Classic, Boogie By the Bay, Florida Swing Vacation, Dance Camp Chicago, Swing Fling, The Tampa Bay Classic, Sweetheart Swing, Summer Swing Classic, Miami Dance Magic, Portland’s Bridge Town Swing, The Lone Star Invitational, CASH Bash, The Sweet Side of Swing, Summer Hummer, Swing Fling, River City Swing, America’s Classic, Seattle Easter Swing, Swing Dance America, and the Worlds Country Dance Championships.
Helen Tocco (Los Angeles, CA) is a vibrant, popular swing DJ for jam-style competitions and social dance alike. She DJs regularly at both local dances in and around her home in Los Angeles, California, as well as many national events. Before moving to California, she could be found spinning tunes and teaching lessons weekly in Maryland and the DC area. Though her roots are in lindy hop, Helen started west coast swing dancing in 1999 and with several first place wins through the advanced level jack and jills and strictly competitions, became an all-star level dancer. She has now over 10 years of experience teaching and DJing West Coast Swing. Helen DJs regularly at national events, and before moving to California, she could be found spinning weekly in the DC area. Her mix of soulful and inspiring music gets dancers moving on their feet and has made her a sought after DJ.
After beginning in country-western dance in 1992, John Lindo quickly made his mark on the West Coast Swing circuit by garnering an astonishing number of awards and championships in Jack-and-Jills and Strictly Swings. Some of his First Place awards include the U.S. Open, Grand Nationals, Phoenix Champion of Champions. He is also sought after internationally for his experience and teaching, having traveled to five countries in the past year alone. Has been a DJ since 1992 when he began playing at local (New Jersey/New York) Country & Western dances. In 1998 he moved on to WCS with the help of Mr. John Festa.
Katie has been DJing West Coast Swing and Hustle dances and events since 2011. She began locally for Doug and Lori Rousar and the Cleveland Akron Swing and Hustle (C.A.S.H.) Club, and progressively started receiving opportunities to DJ around the Midwest and the rest of the country since 2014. She has DJed at Spotlight Dance Challenge, MADJam, 4th of July Phoenix, River City Swing, Swustlicious, and CASH Bash. She credits some key people for mentoring her, including Mineh Ishida, Doug Rousar, and Victor Loveira.
Louis is a full-time professional DJ serving primarily the West Coast Swing and line dance crowds, as well as country and ballroom circuits. With over 15 years of DJ experience, he loves keeping a dance floor rocking.
Victor has been a DJ since 1980 and started DJing at West Coast Swing events in 1996. He has DJed at many of the country’s top swing events, including The Texas Classic (formerly America’s Classic), The US Open, Dallas DANCE, Boogie by the Bay, USA Grand Nationals, Americas’ Classic, Liberty Swing, Swing Diego, Swing Fling, Summer Hummer, Tampa Bay Classic, Capital, MAD Jam, Seattle Easter Swing, and Phoenix 4th of July. Victor was also the first U.S. DJ to play at WCS events in the UK, Australia and Israel.
Victor was honored with the “Allswing DJ of the Year” in2005; was inducted into the DJ Swing Hall of Fame and received the “Wetzel Award” in 2012; and was inducted into the “Global Swing DJ’s Hall of Fame” in 2013. Victor is an All-Star WCS dancer; he Emcees at many events; and, he passes on his DJ knowledge through his workshop, Music and Dancing, as well as offering private lessons and mentoring to new DJs. In 2014, Victor became co-event director of River City Swing in Jacksonville, FL.