Conventions 101

First time heading to a WCS convention? Check out our handy guide below! For information on current events and rules, visit the World Swing Dance Council.

What is a Convention?

A West Coast Swing convention is a 3-5 days event where Westies from all over the world gather to dance, compete and socialize.

Where to Start?

Okay, so you have decided to go to a convention and picked one. Now what?

1. Social Media and Website

Once you have decided to go to a convention, check out their website. Every convention will have a website with a lot of useful information such as schedule, registration, and accommodations. Next, make sure you follow them on social media. Every convention will have a Facebook event. This is the best way to keep updated with the latest convention news. Many also join Facebook groups to follow a convention and stay in the loop.

*Pro tip: Even if you aren’t going to a convention, it never hurts to follow their event. It is becoming a trend to live stream events for free! So grab a drink, sit back on your couch and enjoy the competitions right from your living room!

2. Plan Your Logistics

  • Buy your tickets – Usually convention tickets have an early bird rate to encourage you to buy your tickets earlier. It is not as common, but some conventions are now capping their attendance. Need to cancel last min or missed the early bird deadline? Most conventions’ tickets are transferrable and if you post on social media selling or asking to buy a ticket at “early-bird” prices, you could find someone to sell to or buy from.
  • Book your hotel – Unless this is a local event where you want to commute to, you will probably be staying at the convention hotel. Always check the convention website as many offer group rates for booking hotels. Book quickly as many conventions do sell out of rooms.
  • Find roommates –  Ask your friends, post on social media or join the event’s Facebook event and post there. Note that there are always people who book the rooms, and there are those who just stay the rooms that are already booked.
  • Figure out transportation – If you are driving, there is a good chance you will be able to carpool with other Westies from your community, ask around. If you are flying, keep an eye out for deals on flights!

Getting Ready

Don’t forget to pack the following!
  • Dance Shoes – Yes, there are shoe vendors at the convention, but dancing all weekend in new shoes is no fun.
  • 3-4 Days Worth of Dance Clothes – Yes, you will be dancing a lot!
  • Competition Clothing – If you planning on competing, don’t forget to pack your competition clothes. Be sure to check the convention website to see what the dress code is. The rule of thumb is that it never hurt to dress in a pair of nice slack and a nice shirt (for both lead and follows).
  • Toiletries – toothpaste, toothbrush, deodorant, etc.
  • Snacks – Yes. Most likely there will there are probably a restaurants near the convention site. But when you are busy dancing at 4am in the morning, it’s always nice to pack a snack

At the Convention

First thing first is figuring out when you want to arrive at a convention. This highly depends on what is important to you. Conventions usually start on Thursday and ends on Sunday but most attendees won’t arrive at a convention until Friday. This is because most competitions won’t start until Friday night. Keep in mind that intensive workshops that you might be interested in can start on Thursday at some conventions.

*Note that this differs for European events as they usually have leveled workshops where everyone has to audition into.

1. What to do?

Workshops – Conventions are great places to take a lot of workshops from top professionals from around the world. These workshops are usually very large and (depending on the convention) can even incorporate other dance styles.

Competition – Competitions are explained below. Champion competitions are usually the highlight of the night. You will find the ballroom packed at this point. Be sure to register for your competition as soon as possible as registration typically close one hour before an event.

Social Dancing – Conventions have a LOT of social dancing but some of your best dancing happens late at night and going to early in the morning. Those who makes it till the ballroom close – sometimes as late as 8am – are part of a “Breakfast Club” and can be even be featured by the DJ in a Breakfast Club photo. Also, some may argue that you get the best dancing Sunday night so if you have a Monday off, #alwaysstaysundaynight.

Meet New Westies – Conventions bring Westies from all over the world to one place. Here you will have a chance to make new friends from all over the world.

Have fun!! – Lastly, prepare to have a fun filled weekend full of dancing, learning and meeting new people. You might even experience being Swungover on Monday.

2. Competitions

There are usually three types of competitions (Jack n Jills, Strictly Swing, and Routines). Registration for competitions usually close an hour before a competition.

Jack and Jills – This is the most common type of competition. You can only compete at your level depending on WSDC points. Partners and music are chosen randomly and partners are rotated every song during prelims. Followers and Leaders are judged separately during prelims but partners are judged together during finals. WSDC points will be awarded to finalists according to the WSDC guidelines (note that this only applies to WSDC sanctioned events).

Strictly Swing – You register as a couple and will dance with the same partner throughout the competition. Music is chosen at random. No points will be awarded to finalists.

Routine – The routine division is where you have a chosen partner and music. Partners typically practice for months to put a choreographed piece on the floor. There is several types of routines (classic, showcase, rising star, masters, sophisticated).

Specialized Jack and Jills – Often times, conventions will have specialized Jack and Jills such as All-American, Pro-am (and Pro-am strictly), High Low, Jill and Jack, Generational, Sophisticated.

3. Levels

These descriptions are taken directly from the WSDC site, please click here for the full document.

Newcomer – New dancers / competitors should check event rules. While the WSDC requires a new dancer to start in a skill level no higher than Novice, some events make the Newcomer division mandatory for new dancers.

Novice – Novice is the first category that all dancers must pass through to demonstrate their basic dance skills.

Intermediate – Intermediate is designed to contain the most dancers while they perfect their social and competitive dance skills.

Advanced – Advanced is intended to be a very competitive category where a dancer may move up from Intermediate or return to from All Star.

All Star – All Star is intended to be extremely competitive, with constantly evolving and changing skill level, and requiring consistent placements to remain in this category.

Champion – Champion points are tracked in the Points Registry; however, Champion is a general category that is set by promoters for their higher skill level dancers in attendance.

Master – A level for anyone age 50 or over.