West Coast Swing (WCS) is alive and well in Dallas. The 3rd annual ‘Wild Wild Westie’ took place July 3rd – 6th at the Holiday Inn Express in Dallas. It was organized by a trio of veteran West Coast Swing dancers: CJ Caraway, Tracy Wang, and Jay Tsai. All three started and dabbled with other partner dance styles before transitioning to WCS, and the Dallas dance community is better off for it. This years ‘Westie’ featured 18 workshops, socials that lasted well beyond 4am, high energy Jack & Jill dance competitions, and a pool party.
The Westie is the brain child of Tracy (pictured left, in orange) who approached CJ (pictured left, baseball cap) about doing a WCS event in DFW. She knew popular WCS instructor Ben Morris from her time living in California and wanted to involve him in the event as well. Initially they thought about holding a workshop weekend with Ben, but they nixed the idea and decided to do something a little larger in scope.
They pondered over ideas and later brought Jay into the mix. The momentum continued.
Jay Tsai (pictured above…and VERY enthusiastic) actually came up with the title of the event, and he spoke about the naming process.
We were looking for a name that made it unique. Other events have unique names like the event in San Diego is ‘SwingDiego’. One evening we were spitballin’ ideas and everyone had heard of the wild wild west. Our event is about West Coast Swing…so why not Wild Wild Westie?
Initially Tracy didn’t like the title as it sounded almost too southern, but with CJ and Jay’s convincing (and a vote) the name grew on her. Thus, the Wild Wild Westie was born. A feature they wanted to make sure was incorporated into the event was ‘leveled workshops’. Both Tracy and CJ agreed that dancers should take classes and learn with others who are on the same skill level. Therefore dancers who are beginners wouldn’t be stuck or tempted to take advanced classes featuring turn patterns or steps they weren’t capable of doing just yet, and advanced dancers wouldn’t get bored with being relegated to beginners courses. The organizers wanted it to be a fun experience, but also would grow their skill level. Tracy said,
I want them to takeaway that this is a friendly learning environment and to encourage them, and get them excited about improving their West Coast Swing and enhancing their love of it.
The participants at the 2014 edition of the ‘Westie’ had an impressive selection of instructors to learn from. Ben Morris, Jennifer DeLuca, Michael Kielbasa, and Malia San Nicolas headlined the roster. Jennifer DeLuca managed to fulfill her commitment even with an arm injury suffered prior to the event. Tracy provided her with a sling so she could feel more comfortable. Tracy spoke about the instructors they contract for the ‘Westie’.
We have amazing pro’s that come out every year, and we appreciate the support from both local instructors and those that come from out of state….We consider them friends.
Instructors and students alike enjoyed this years ‘Westie’ because of the atmosphere that the dancers created. There was an incredible amout of enthusiasm, applause, and support for dancers competing at Jack and Jill contests. Ben Morris is an extremely popular West Coast Swing instructor and performer, and has certainly been to his share of events across the globe. He served as a judge at the ‘Westie’ J&J competitions and he talked about the environment.
It had ridiculously good energy. The crowd was so loud at certain points I could barely hear the music. It’s got a really fun vibe, and wild energy.
The organizers feel that perhaps outside of California, the WCS scene in Dallas (and to a larger degree, Texas) definitely compares to other swing hot beds like Chicago, New York, and Florida. This year saw record attendance with over 200 people participating, and the crowd was a diverse melting pot of cultures and backgrounds.
Both national and international dancers (some from as far away as Australia and Russia) ventured to Dallas to experience what the metroplex WCS community had to offer.
An integral part of any multi-day dance ‘congress/festival’ are the DJ’s. Helen Toco, Ruby Lair, and Cher Peadon definitely kept the dancers swingin’ and they received rave reviews for keeping the vibe upbeat, and (most importantly) playing what the crowd wanted to hear.
Tracy feels that the community of WCS dancers is special not only in Dallas, but through out Texas.
What’s amazing and unique about Texas is the support. When people go out and compete you always have a huge contingent of people from Texas…it doesn’t matter what city you’re from. When you’re nervous and competing, it’s amazing to have people from your state cheering for you. Texas does very well in competitions!
CJ stressed that the people who come to the event represent WCS well.
It’s not about the quantity of dancers, but about the quality. We have some really good dancers from novices to advanced.
The ‘Westie’ triumvirate works well together, and one of the reasons is that they have specific roles and responsibilities that don’t overlap. CJ handles the financial matters, Tracy the promotion and marketing, and Jay is the ‘foundation’ who fills in the cracks with technical expertise or other important details. With any event planning there are challenges. CJ talked about one of the biggest hurdles, finding the venue.
We have been in existence for three years, and we just received our World Swing Dance Council sanction this year…So we absolutely needed to find a hotel. We were on a shoe string budget, and we were lucky to find a place in a good location.
The ‘Westie’ will continue to face challenges going forward (particularly if the attendance continues to grow), but it appears to be in very capable hands from both an organizational and community standpoint. And if the success and excitement of this years event is an indication of the future, expect the Wild Wild Westie to be a annual treasured staple in the Dallas WCS community for years to come.
The winners of the J&J competitions are below:
Novice: Emma Richards & Eric Easthope.
Intermediate: Natasha Veal & Tyler Jones.
Advanced/All-Star: Rochelle Hoffler & Brandon Parker.
For more information on the event visit WildWildWestie.com