International Rally West Coast Swing in Norwalk, CT

On Saturday, September 7, 2019, our dancers performed the choreography for the "International Rally West Coast Swing" in four locations. The 2019 Rally, choreographed by Virginie & Olivier Massart from France, was intended to bring international awareness to West Coast Swing as a version of swing dancing that can be done to many forms of music, including popular music. This year's song was "Hands Up" by Merk & Kremont (feat. DNCE). These demonstrations started at our home studio, Dance Dimensions, and continued at public locations in Norwalk, CT: Mathews Park, the Maritime Aquarium, and Harlan Publick. At each location, the dancing became more confident. We filmed the routines, and the dancers performed it multiple times with various partners. This insured that we would have many different perspectives and opportunities for the best footage to put up alongside many other international performances. 

Deciding to do the Rally

Our journey to learn the "International Rally West Coast Swing" began in June, when one of our community's dancers, Bill B., suggested learning the choreography. I thought it might be fun idea to learn the routine and demonstrate it in public. However, I was also concerned that the Rally might be a little too informal to keep the dancers serious about the learning process and dedication necessary for performance—whether on stage or on the street. 

I decided to dedicate July and August's weekly classes to learning the Rally choreography. I figured that 9 weeks would be enough time to learn the choreography. However, a bout with diverticulitis subtracted one week from everyone's learning experience when I had to cancel class. With 8 weeks, almost all of the dancers from the intermediate class participated in the Rally. At one point, I was uncertain whether the dancers would be able to learn the choreography quick enough to be able to learn how to loop the segments together. I was also nervous that they wouldn't have enough time to polish their dancing, because its difficult to have everyone's arms and heads in the same positions while maintaining a smile.

Dancers take the initiative

Within the first month of learning the choreography, the dancers had taken many initiatives by themselves. They were getting together on Sunday mornings at the pavilion in Sherwood State Park to rehearse. Dancers who were stronger in the choreography were also helping other dancers who were struggling to become more comfortable. In essence, many aspects that would have suffered because of lack of formal rehearsal time were saved by dancer enthusiasm and resourcefulness. It is the secret desire of every teacher to see their students find the inner ambition to achieve. 

The "West Coast Swing" shirts 

One of the most fulfilling aspects of the Rally was seeing everyone in their West Coast Swing shirts. For years, I have thought about making shirts for the dancers. I felt it would give them a sense of pride and also an opportunity to provide information for someone who saw the shirt. I've never really thought of shirts as a marketing tool because I don't usually buy things simply if someone is wearing a shirt. However, if that shirt represents an interest I may have, I might ask ask that person about it. The tipping point to create the shirt was Janice F., who designed an elegant front and back; even the font was stylish. I decided to move forward on the idea. From one week to the next, orders were placed and t-shirts arrived. They were red with white lettering. On the front it said, "Connecticut / West Coast Swing /" On the back it said, "Music / Friends / Dancing /" When the shirts arrived people started wearing them almost immediately. It was wonderful to feel such a sense of community pride. When we finally performed the Rally, we looked uniform and together. 

The performances

Our first performance took place in the safety of our home turf dance studio, Dance Dimensions in Norwalk, CT. With multiple video cameras recording, we did about 4 takes of the routine. These studio runs allowed the dancers to burn off some nervous energy and get used to the logistics of partner rotation for each demonstration. Not having a formal audience at the studio helped our focus; however, I am thankful that my daughter and my parents were able to watch these private screenings. 

Our second location was at Mathews Park in Norwalk, CT, which was an spacious outdoor location. It also featured Lockwood-Mathews Mansion, which is regarded as "one of the earliest and most significant Second Empire Style country houses in the United States." Since the day was beautiful, we set up in a grassy area in front of the mansion. We did about 6 runs there, using various cameras and even Bill's drone for aerial footage. We had more of an audience at this location. Friends of the dancers met us there, giving everyone extra support. My parents and daughter were able to enjoy these performances too. 

The third location was adjacent to the Norwalk Maritime Aquarium. That area gave us a backdrop of the Norwalk River. Not only was it scenic, there were some people there that were unrelated to anyone in our group. We were able to perform about 4 times at this location. After our demonstrations, some of the people who were watching asked our dancers questions about what we were doing.

After performing by the aquarium, we walked to Harlan Publick, a bar/restaurant in downtown South Norwalk. We arrived and were well-greeted by the manager of the restaurant and more friends of dancers. After I set up the boombox and the GoPro, we performed about 4 runs in front of the open seating area. The first two runs got applause from the crowd, and we performed the second set of runs for ourselves to maximize our video footage. 

After our final demonstration at Harlan Publick, the dancers ordered drinks and food. My daughter, who had gone to the aquarium with my parents, rejoined me at the restaurant where we were all dining together in celebration of our achievement. It had been an excellent day. 


I was so impressed with our dance community for their participation and performance of the "International Rally West Coast Swing." At first I was apprehensive about whether the dancers would be dedicated enough to pull off a performance with only 9 classes (which turned into 8). However, the spirit that developed during those weeks created additional student-run rehearsals and student-to-student mentoring. I've always liked the rehearsal process more than the performance. Most people don't really understand that. In this case, the magic of partner dancing was not the actual performance; it was all of the synergy of the dancers during the rehearsal process. I am thankful for all of the people who worked so hard, helped their fellow dancers, wore their t-shirts, and strove to be better dancers. I was truly impressed. 


Dance Dimensions

Mathews Park

Norwalk Maritime Aquarium

Harlan Publick