West coast on the east coast
West Coast Swing as we know it today in Halifax has a history of about 8 years. Classes were taught by Suzanne Bechard, who studied under Skippy Blair, at her studio in Spryfield. Her students created the Facebook page and had regular dance practices. The studio closed, and dancers eventually stopped practicing. Edgett Dance Studio also has taught sessions off and on over the years.
Around 2012, Dalhousie Swing Dance Society responded to interest in WCS by adding a Friday night beginner class to an East Coast Swing workshop. Byron and Natalia from Swing Dynamite in Ottawa conducted a class of over 20 participants. Months later Jill Grant and James Waldner taught a couple sessions of West Coast Swing, within the Dalhousie Swing Dance Society umbrella. The classes were smaller but dedicated. About a year later interest surfaced again, and James Waldner offered another series of classes with assistance from Charlotte Gabitos and Bonita Squires. Close to 20 people attended, and there were some very dedicated dancers who wanted to continue learning this dance. Brad Willis of DanceBrats in Ottawa had met a couple of the original dancers and offered to help get us on our ‘feet’. He and Laura Cancela conducted a workshop and private classes in December, 2015 with close to 30 participants from absolute beginners to those with years of experience.
The current Halifax West Coast Swing community was born! A small group of dedicated dancers found a place to practice, and although no teacher was available, resources were shared, and an almost weekly practice started to form.
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different backgrounds & trainings
Everyone brought different backgrounds and levels of training and shared the love of West Coast Swing.
Brad and Laura returned twice a year to keep the community growing, offering progressive classes and private lessons. They introduced this small community to the bigger world of West Coast Swing dancing, and events that offer classes, competitions, and social dancing.
A dedicated group formed to learn, perform, and submit the International West Coast Swing Flashmob 2017 routine. Halifax is part of the compilation of 246 cities and 41 countries, and we hope to learn the 2018 routine as well! The Halifax West Coast Collective was formed from the most dedicated participants in the weekly practices. A small committee was formed to share the workload and enable future event planning to continue. Brad and Laura’s most recent workshop in September 2017 had almost 40 participants, including New Brunswick and PEI’s West Coast communities.
Four other local dancers attended their first West Coast event at the Montreal Westie Fest – they’re eyes were opened to the Westie world of social and competitive dancers. They were able to network with the Ottawa, Toronto, and Sherbrooke groups, and meet many pros and advanced dancers. They attended classes from a variety of pros and took private lessons from Kyle FitzGerald.
Two Halifax Westies competed in their first Novice and ProAm Jack and Jills. Mark Manser again was successful in his competitions, placing and winning prizes!
November 2017 saw a couple of Halifax Westies participate in a workshop taught by Brad and Laura in Charlottetown, with great networking, helping to expand the Westie community in the Maritimes. December 2017, we were fortunate to have Kyle FitzGerald, a rising-star pro, conduct a progressive workshop, social dance, and private lessons. A slightly smaller, more focused group of 24 attended, including a contingent from PEI, and other dancers joining us at the social dance. The Committee continues to meet regularly, planning weekly practices, social events, and instructional workshops.