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Friday, October 30, 2020
Home News The International West Coast Swing Rally (Flashmob) 2020

The International West Coast Swing Rally (Flashmob) 2020

The International West Coast Swing Rally (Flashmob) 2020

When I just started this project, writing a report about this year’s International West Coast Swing Rally (Flashmob), I was mainly curious.

I wanted to know what’s going on in other parts of the world and get a glimpse into the lives of other communities.

However, the further I went with this project and the more community leaders and teachers I communicated with, I realized there’s much more to it.

This year, with COVID-19 and other disasters and catastrophes that shook our globe, the 2020 edition of the WCS Flashmob was a precious piece of normalcy in an insane world.

So, before I bring you these amazing flashmob stories, let’s learn some things about this wonderful tradition.

What is a flashmob?

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, a flash mob is “ a group of people summoned (as by e-mail or text message) to a designated location at a specified time to perform an indicated action before dispersing.”

However, I personally prefer the Urban Dictionary’s definition: “The term ‘flash mob’ originated as some kind of strange gimmick where net-savvy nerds met in a public place to do something ridiculous, then quickly disperse.”

The term was coined in 2003 by Bill Wasik, senior editor of Harper’s Magazine, who organized the first documented “flash mobs” in Manhattan. He claimed that his goal was to poke fun at hipsters and to highlight the cultural atmosphere of conformity and of wanting to be an insider or part of “the next big thing”. Go figure.
The term itself may come from the story “Flash Crowd” by Larry Niven. In this story, people used teleportation to witness an event reported on the news, and since many people gathered there, it eventually led to a riot. It’s just getting weirder, I know. And if you want them to get even weirder, check out what Wikipedia has to say about flash mobs.

The history of the West Coast Swing Flashmob

The first West Coast Swing Flashmob I’m aware of took place in 2010. As far as I know, only North American communities performed the Flashmob that year – in the US and Canada. Gere are some examples: Houston, Vancouver, San Francisco, Chicago, Washington DC, North Carolina, Dallas, Denver, Lake Tahoe, Little Rock.

If anyone knows who created the original choreography and connect me with them, let me know in the comments or send me a message. I’d love to credit them for that 😉

Afterward, the West Coast Swing Flashmob started spreading to other countries around the world. The first video I found was from New Year’s Eve 2010/2011 in Singapore. Then, it got to Tokyo in February 2011, to the Russian Open in April, and to Paris one month later. Gregar Bakka ads that the community in Oslo performed the Flashmob in 2011 as well.

Up until 2014, the same routine was performed on different occasions around the world. The song used was DJ Got Us Fallin’ In Love by Usher, by the way.

However, in 2014, Olivier and Virginie Massart from Lyon, France, took it upon themselves to select a new song and create a new choreography every year. We should all thank them for this fantastic tradition. This is how the first international Flashmob video looked like in different countries in 2014:

Until the WCS Flashmob 2017, such a video featuring all the communities from all around the world would be posted on YouTube. But, starting from 2018, each community had to post its own video, as WCS became very wide-spread and it became an impossible task to combine all the different videos.

Another change that took place in 2018 was changing the term “Flashmob” to “Rally”. I can only guess this was because of the criminal connotation the term “flash mob” got in the US. That’s also the year in which the useful hashtag #IRWCS was born.

That’s it for today’s history lesson.

And now I wish to share with you the touching stories I received from 29 communities from 15 countries.

Gold Coast, Australia – Emma Keating

Did you think of canceling this year due to COVID?

We did think of canceling this year’s West Coast Swing Flashmob/Rally, but like many COVID-related things, we decided we would try to evolve to fit in with the restrictions upon us.

Our dance community is suffering like many other communities around the globe.

The Gold Coast is in the State of Queensland, which currently allows certain businesses to run under strict government-approved COVID Safe Plans. As such, we were able to teach the routine to those who attend our classes in this new world we live in.

How did the dancers react and how many couples took part?

Whilst our dancers really wanted to go through with the public Flashmob, we decided to show off our love of partner dancing in a public area.

However, while there are so many restrictions on numbers at gatherings and social distancing limitations, it was not the right thing to do at the time.

Instead, we managed to get 8 couples to meet at our studio (The Dance Shed) and enjoyed a fun afternoon with our students, practicing and then filming the routine.

Did you feel a difference compared to previous years?

Because we chose to do the routine indoors this year and not in our favorite location at the beach as per previous years, we did manage to avoid any negative responses from the public, and no fines or poor media publicity were received.

The last thing our dance community needs is negativity. We focused on the positive aspects of what participating in the routine brought to our dancers and their mental health and well-being.

Video

Coming soon…

Altach, Austria – Monika Hans (Happy Dance)

Did you think of canceling this year due to COVID?

We got the choreo from Olivier during the lockdown in April and so we had enough time to learn how to do it and to get ready for teaching it.

We always were in touch with all our westie couples and most of them were looking forward to coming and practicing with us.

So, we never thought of canceling due to COVID. We decided to do it outside and keep the necessary distance between couples.

How did the dancers react and how many couples took part?

As I already mentioned, most of the couples wanted to take part in the West Coast Swing Rally. But in the end, there were only 8 couples dancing it. Last year there were 23 couples.

Did you feel a difference compared to previous years?

Yes, we felt a difference.

In the end, we were only 8 couples. But these 8 ones really wanted to dance.

It meant a lot to them because they thought this dance performance would bring some “sunshine” and fun back to the dance community all around the world after all the sadness due to COVID.

Video

Klagenfurt, Austria – Midas & Sarah Wollinger, West Coast Swing Carinthia

Did you think of canceling this year due to COVID?

Canceling our events? Yes, but we won’t give up this community here.

We both love West Coast Swing so much and we won’t stop sharing our passion for this dance.

How did the dancers react and how many couples took part?

All the dancers here are afraid or insecure about the situation. It’s a new situation for everyone.

The pandemic threw us back to the beginning, but we have a little group of dancers, who stand behind us. In addition, we still have our cooperation partner. However, for new dancers, it is a really difficult situation.

Many of our dancers can’t dance currently because they have no partner living with them in the same household. We also can’t take students who have no partner. That’s why our community lost more than half of its dancers.

Moreover, not all the dancers in Carinthia know this dance and it is hard to get new people.

Did you feel a difference compared to previous years?

We feel a big difference. The motivation to dance isn’t the same as last year. It is a difficult situation for our dancing club.

Video

Vienna, Austria – Steffan & Nicole Raus

Did you think of canceling this year due to COVID?

Since we have a few students that are in the risk groups we were thinking a lot. But canceling was never an option.

We always said, when there is a rally, we will be part of it.

However, we did not teach the Flashmob as we used to. We told our students to learn the choreography from the video and offered an evening where we helped with technique and answered questions.

How did the dancers react and how many couples took part?

This year we had about 10 couples altogether, which is almost half of the attendees compared to last year.

Since there are strict COVID regulations, we were looking for certain places where there is enough space, that are outdoors and not far to travel.

Did you feel a difference compared to previous years?

We feel the difference in general. The number of workshop attendees went down and the number of workshop inquiries as well.

Usually, we have a lot of dancers from different dance schools or clubs. This year, only two groups participated in the Flashmob: our group and Stella and Chris’ group.

Another change was that we usually try to add a partner switching to the choreography, but we skipped that this year.

Video

The West Coast Swing Rally (Flashmob) 2020 - Vienna

Minsk, Belarus – Irina Artiuschik

Did you think of canceling this year due to COVID?

We didn’t think of canceling at all.

We wanted to take part in Flashmob as we did all previous years, but we have one big problem that ruined all our plans and the name of this problem is Alexander Lukashenko and his regime.

In brief, we have a dictator that rules the country for the last 26 years. During these years we suffered from a deep economical crisis, complete deprivation of human rights, and massive repression against the opposition.

On the 9th of August, the presidential elections took place. After dramatic falsifications, people went out to the street to say they’ve had enough and that we don’t want to live in a dictatorship in the center of Europe anymore. But instead of a dialogue, we have 6 people killed, 10 missing, and about 2,000 in jail right now. So what do we end up with?

We have Belarusian people who don’t want this president (=dictator) anymore, we have a dictator who doesn’t want to leave and wants to rule forever, and we have an army and police who support the dictator, not the people. So right now we have something very similar to Venezuela.

As you already understand, COVID is the last thing we think about right now. Anyway, we decided not to cancel the Flashmob but to postpone it for a week until it is more or less safe on the streets.

How did the dancers react and how many couples took part?

We had only six couples this year. It was very difficult to gather more people because of the situation right now.

The problem is that if the police see a big amount of people on the street, they don’t really care whether they’re dancing, walking, singing, or whatever. They have an order to detain people.

Sounds really crazy but it is what it is and we have to face this new reality.

Did you feel a difference compared to previous years?

Of course, we see a big difference compared to previous years.

But I can say that if we would have ONLY COVID without that political nightmare we have to live with right now, we would have had many more couples.

I’m sure about that.

Video

Red deer, Alberta, Canada – Rob & Kathie Ironside, Country Pride Dance Club

Did you think of canceling this year due to COVID?

We did think of canceling, but then we conducted a poll in our club and the overwhelming majority wanted to do it.

Since we had not been active since March we had higher attendance for the Rally than we normally do.

How did the dancers react and how many couples took part?

The reaction of the dancers was very positive.

Initially, almost 30 people were interested but eventually, we ended up with 24 who performed. All were very enthusiastic.

Did you feel a difference compared to previous years?

It was definitely different than in previous years.

We physically distanced and picked an outdoor location for the practice sessions and 4 outdoor locations for the performance.

The Rally always used to open our fall season and get people back out dancing. This year was the same in this regard.

Video

Victoria, British Columbia, Canada – John de Pfyffer & Darlene Pinch

Did you think of canceling this year due to COVID?

We absolutely thought of canceling due to COVID and we would have if it had been a few months earlier when everyone shut down dance lessons for many months. 

But our provincial health organization was by then allowing some activities to resume.

How did the dancers react and how many couples took part?

With social distancing, our lesson space suited only five couples plus us. So six couples in total. 

Three of the couples were married and one other “couple” plus John and I were happy to dance with each other in our “bubbles”.

We did not switch partners at all, even to help us teach. We socially distanced at all times. And we wore masks or face shields.

Did you feel a difference compared to previous years?

Huge difference compared to previous years.

We usually have a lot more people, we all switch partners, and it’s very social.

And, of course, we perform the flashmob outside on the day it should take place.

Video

London, Ontario, Canada – Gary Lythe, Heather Fisher, and Jessica Polzer

Did you think of canceling this year due to COVID?

Yes, we did consider canceling this year’s international West Coast Swing Rally. However, we also knew that this is a very popular event in our community.

Over the past few years, we’ve had about 40 people take part in the rally, including those who are regular WCS dancers, those from other dance backgrounds, and those who are brand new to dance.

So, after much discussion and careful deliberation, we reached out to some of our regular members to see if there would be interest in learning and performing the choreography in a small group.

Since we were unable to pair up single dancers, we reached out to people who already knew WCS and who were in their own dance partnership “bubbles” or who might want to form a “bubble” with someone they knew.

We (Gary and Jessica) formed a dance “bubble” in March so that we could continue doing online training during the pandemic. We taught the choreography outside in a downtown park over 4 weeks and limited the size of the group to 4 couples, in keeping with the local public health guidelines that were in place in July.

How did the dancers react and how many couples took part?

Overall, the response we got was very positive – some couples responded to our call right away and others took a bit longer to decide.

An additional couple learned the choreography on their own and joined the other 8 dancers for practice sessions we ran at the end of August and for the ultimate performance in September.

Did you feel a difference compared to previous years?

In some ways, performing the West Coast Swing Rally this year seemed especially important because we’ve been so deprived of social dancing.

As organizers, everything was turned on its head because what is normally a pretty straightforward process was laden with difficult decisions about how to best proceed in order to balance our goals of sustaining enthusiasm in the dance with considerations of health and safety.

Certainly, this year’s performance was less about performing for a crowd, and more about maintaining a sense of community during difficult times that have required us to be physically distant and have resulted in social isolation for many of us.

While it was strange to perform as a small group and not for a crowd, this also opened our opportunities for filming and locations, which proved to be visually interesting (big shout out to Malcolm Donaldson who did the filming for us!).

As always, it was truly wonderful to see dancers learn and master a routine and to have an amazing amount of joy in the process of doing so.

Comments from the local dancers

Both Ted and I had mixed feelings. We were so glad that we could do a routine this year and did quite enjoy the smaller group and the ability to go to different places for almost private performances. However, we did miss the energy that the bigger group gives you as well as the bigger audience. Although better a smaller group and still be able to pull it off than not being able to do it at all.

-Barb and Ted Rice

Due to the pandemic, learning and performing the rally was definitely challenging. I truly didn’t think we could pull it off. I never thought that anyone else was as addicted [to WCS] as I was. Obviously, our small group who have West Coast Swing in common were not going to let a pandemic get in our way despite wearing masks and keeping social distance. It’s always a wonderful, gratifying experience. This year’s Rally experience helped me feel more connected in this disconnected world.

-Deb Riopelle

I am in the over 50 age group (by a bit yes) and this was my first year doing the rally. Loved it thoroughly! Loved the work needed to get the body doing what the brain was telling it to do. I had to break it down into stages and had to learn the lyrics to the song before I could meet the music cues the leader seems to need to know. I have about 30 pages of notes to myself on how to meet the music and lyrics cues. It’s a great exercise for the mind and body. For me, there was no fear and I am looking forward to the next one next year.

-Vic Ouellette

For sure, this year was different. We didn’t (couldn’t) have a big crowd like in the previous years; but as always, it was the process that meant the most. The weeks of learning and practicing the routine with my quarantine dance partner were like an oasis of joy for me in this time of social dance absence. I’m super grateful to our instructors and community for providing that. I’ve always enjoyed the Flashmob experience, but I felt a special intensity of appreciation this year.

-Alisa Donaldson

I agree [with Alisa]! Presenting the Flashmob is a bonus, but as always, it’s about the love of dancing and expression. But this year was a reminder of how awesome it is to be a part of a social group, especially coming out of a time of being stuck at home. It was really nice to be in person (at a safe distance) rather than talking through a screen.

-Sarah Rodger

Video

Helsinki, Finland – Mikael Mölsä

Did you think of canceling this year due to COVID?

I did consider canceling the Rally this year, yes. With so many things canceled, it was definitely a thought I had.

Even the Westie community was a bit divided over whether we should organize it or not. I’m sure you noticed the poll that was conducted on the official Rally page.

Some of the arguments made against organizing were good, such as the claim that we should set an example for non-dancers. Ultimately, the will to provide some normalcy to the dancers (and the people in general) was the reason I wanted to organize it.

Our practice sessions were always outdoors, so I thought the risk was small enough to chance it, as long as we took precautions.

How did the dancers react and how many couples took part?

As you know, our dancers are a bunch of people with varying backgrounds and opinions. So, I expected some to be pro-Flashmob and others against it.

Ultimately, those that chose to practice came to practice, and those who wanted to stay away stayed away.

I respect everyone’s opinions regarding the participation, as there isn’t really a right or wrong answer. There was also a couple that wanted to participate but didn’t want to practice with anyone else. Hence, I made sure they could do that and provided them only with visual explanations, without dancing with them.

Some people also weren’t as committed to participating as before because they haven’t been dancing WCS for about 6 months and found other things to do instead. However, on the flip-side, many people were really committed to make this an “our” thing rather than “their” thing, meaning they would socialize with each other rather than staying in “cliques”.

Many participants told me after the event that getting to practice the routine and getting to dance at least a little bit was the thing that saved their summers. All because they could have at least a little bit of normalcy in this unusual situation. So, that made me feel like my decision to organize the Rally was the right choice.

In the end, due to last-minute sicknesses and date changes, we had 5 couples performing, 3 people filming, and 2 people watching over our personal stuff.

Did you feel a difference compared to previous years?

There was definitely a difference this year.

First of all, I myself was always looking at the COVID-19 situation and checking whether it’s getting worse.

I wanted the practice sessions to take place outdoors whenever we could. The dress rehearsal was the only session we were forced to do indoors due to heavy rain. The number of participants was lower this year. If someone felt sick, they would automatically stay at home rather than come to practice.

As for the organizing side of things, I made sure to write in the practice description that if someone feels sick, they should not participate. In addition, I clarified that if someone doesn’t want to dance with anyone else except for their partner, that’s fine.

And finally, getting permission to perform was more difficult than in previous years, as many places didn’t even respond to my requests despite numerous attempts. This led to the fact that for the first time in 5 years that I have organized it, I was forced to postpone the performance date by one week so that we could find a venue.

Special thanks to

Sini Pessala – for assiting in teaching the Flashmob.

Video

Bellerive, France – William Maussang

Did you think of canceling this year due to COVID?

Despite the health crisis, in no case have we considered canceling our participation.

How did the dancers react and how many couples took part?

The dancers were all delighted to participate.

We were only 3 couples this year. We would have liked to have been many more, but we only had little time to teach the choreography because of the restrictions due to COVID.

Did you feel a difference compared to previous years?

This year was very gloomy because we were the only ones to participate in Auvergne while the big cities like Clermont-Ferrand, where the WCS scene is much more developed, did not participate.

Video

Bordeaux, France – Vincent Lallemand

Did you think of canceling this year due to COVID?

Yes, and actually, we haven’t performed any outdoor flashmob training sessions during the summer as we did in previous years because of it.

But the idea came from a group of friends who wanted to perform it on D-day. We were few, which allowed us to organize it in accordance with COVID regulations.

How did the dancers react and how many couples took part?

We were only 4 couples as the idea was to keep it within a small group of friends, not the whole community, due to the current situation.

Did you feel a difference compared to previous years?

Yes for sure.

First, because no training sessions took place during the summer, and second, because we were not so many as usual, and we didn’t perform in the middle of a crowded place.

It was just us friends having a good time over the Dune Du Pyla!

Special thanks to

Everyone who took part in this West Coast Swing Flashmob 2020:

Anne Flore and Alexandre

François and Manon

Cynthia and Vincent  

Romain and Anne

Video

Rouen, France – Lucie Durand & Maïna Vila Cobarsi, MOVE & SWING

Did you think of canceling this year due to COVID?

Yes, of course, we had to consider canceling the Flashmob.

For a long time, we didn’t know if it would be allowed by the municipality of Rouen.

It was quite difficult for us to get permission to book a space for dancing.

And unfortunately, we couldn’t schedule practice sessions, as much as we would have loved to.

How did the dancers react and how many couples took part? Did you feel a difference compared to previous years?

The dancers were really motivated and were looking forward to going back to dance!

We were around 9 couples this year, which is more or less half the people we had in the previous years.

Some couples didn’t join us this year due to the lack of practice sessions. But some couples were ready to practice the choreography by themselves at home.

However, once everything was in place, everyone was happy to be there and have a good time together.

The local residents were interested and they stopped to watch and support us. Even with masks, the smile was visible on everyone’s faces.

Video

Erlangen, Germany – Bernd Kosmella

Did you think of canceling this year due to COVID?

Actually no, I was sure I wanted the rally to take place.

At first, I considered doing it later in the year though, maybe even around Christmas. And I took the current situation into consideration, of course, as I made sure we keep enough distance and considered practicing outside.

Although it was quite unclear how we were going to organize the rally in the beginning, I started a WhatsApp group for all those interested as early as April.

The group had more than 50 members at some point, so there was definitely some demand to do the rally despite COVID.

How did the dancers react and how many couples took part?

They were very happy to dance again. Moreover, finally seeing their friends again mattered even more to them 🙂
They also wanted to be sure that we would stick to the minimum distance, have good ventilation, and in general, ensure clear and reasonable hygiene rules.

In the end, 15 dance couples took part this year.

Unfortunately, we had some single dancers who felt a bit unsafe and disappointed that they could not participate as easily as they were used to.

Did you feel a difference compared to previous years?

The atmosphere was pretty good because we were all glad to have a chance to dance again.

However, we were fewer dancers than last time. That was to some part probably due to the fact that we weren’t allowed to change partners, which means that we couldn’t integrate one single follower.

When we finally took the video, everybody was in a somewhat adventurous mood. We made sure to observe all the rules of course, but we were some of the first to be seen outside dancing, and after weeks of preparation I think this made some of our dancers feel a little proud, too.

Video

Hamburg, Germany – Torsten Krause

Did you think of canceling this year due to COVID?

No, I didn’t. This wasn’t an option.

However, I wanted to make sure we follow the regulations and instructions issued by the authorities in Hamburg.

How did the dancers react and how many couples took part?

The community was very quiet.

As we announced our training sessions, only three couples were interested to join the

outdoor training. Three additional couples trained by themselves.

Did you feel a difference compared to previous years?

Yes, of course.

Last year we were about 20 couples and the year before even more.

People’s motivation wasn’t so high this year and the absence of young dancers was a pity.

Additionally, I missed the support of the other local instructors a little bit.

Video

Nürnberg, Germany – Christoph Brückner

Did you think of canceling this year due to COVID?

Absolutely. When the restrictions hit us at the beginning of March, we went straight into a very difficult financial situation.

We relied on the monthly payments of our around 80 club members and according to German law, we were still able to collect those payments for the upkeep of the club, but it did not feel right to us to collect money without giving courses in return. So, we were left with zero cash flow while still having some financial obligations to meet, since our landlords would not let us out of our rental agreements so easily.

Fortunately, when we asked our members for voluntary donations, quite a few stepped up and helped us during the lockdown phase, which had put all indoor sports on hold from March until June (in our state of Bavaria).

The second problem occurred when we were permitted to offer indoor activities again at the beginning of July. Too many former members were cautious about going out and socializing again. In spite of our manyfold hygiene measures and heeding the local law regarding infection prevention, we were not successful in restarting our beginner’s courses.

However, with the intermediate dancers – probably since they were already more committed to West Coast Swing – we were able to restart one of our two courses. 

So, we had lost three-quarters of our members, but the people from this one intermediate course were really “on fire” to get back to dancing and do something attention-grabbing. Since the 2020 choreography was just released to the public in June, we were able to use this energy and transform it into a really cool WCS Rally video.

How did the dancers react and how many couples took part?

We had exactly 10 couples. A lot less than last year when we did the rally with 31 couples, but this year it was a special selection of highly motivated dancers. Without us as coaches initiating it, they organized outdoor training sessions and we received a lot more help with our work than in 2019. 

In spite of some technical problems, we ended our main shooting day ahead of schedule and received quite a few congratulatory messages, saying that it was much more fun than last year.

Did you feel a difference compared to previous years?

The main thing we noticed is that those who were more introverted were so much more reluctant to come to dance sessions again, while those who were more extroverted literally jumped at the chance when the ban on indoor sports was finally lifted. It seemed to us that the lockdown phase really accentuated pre-existing differences in personality.

Although this inadvertent selection definitely made for a very fun group for this year’s WCS rally, we don’t think that’s a good thing in the long run. Going out and meeting people is especially important for those who have a tendency to isolate themselves and dive into virtual worlds for days on end. However, too many people are scared right now, even though our hygiene protocols are very strict and there hasn’t been a single case of COVID-19 in our club or among any of our club members’ acquaintances.

In any case, we will now push on in a careful way and hope that over the coming months we can expand our local scene again and over time include those who are still cautious now.

Video

Regensburg, Germany – Sandra and Anton Kraus

Did you think of canceling this year due to COVID?

This year we were at first quite optimistic that we would be able to dance the Rally normally (2-3 dances in the historic old town or in the local shopping centers).

Then, when the official Facebook page posted a poll asking whether to perform the International Rally West Coast Swing 2020 or postpone it to 2021, we decided to go along with the poll’s results. Thankfully, by a small margin, it was decided to do it this year.

Sadly, the city of Regensburg tightened its COVID restrictions at the end of August, preventing us from dancing as a group in public places. The neighboring city of Neutraubling thankfully gave us permission to dance and film individual couples in its park and next to the lake.

It took a few weeks to put all the footage together, with the indoor group footage being filmed last (of course according to the hygiene regulations).

How did the dancers react and how many couples took part?

Each year we spend two months practicing the choreography, but for many dancers, it also serves as a social event where you can meet friends, talk to each other, get to know students from other courses, go out to eat afterward,etc..

As we expected, there were fewer participants this year – only 5 couples practiced with us.

For two of them, it was the first Rally ever. Another couple learned the choreography independently and joined us later for the recording.

Did you feel a difference compared to previous years?

One difference this year was that we posted practice videos in German on our dancing school’s video lesson website. This allowed our students to familiarise themselves with the choreography while the lockdown was still in effect and we couldn’t meet in person.

But the main difference was that we were not allowed to dance as a group in public. So, there was no opportunity to show our beloved dance, West Coast Swing, to bystanders, to hand out flyers, etc..

Instead, we did a lot of filming, resulting in around 50 video tracks. These were then edited into 7 videos.

Compared to previous years, it was A LOT more work. But people had a good time and were happy to get a very personal video of themselves dancing. And we feel that we have made the best out of the situation considering the circumstances.

Special thanks

All of this would not have been possible without the support of our dancing school DanceIMPERIAL. Big shoutout to the owners Roland, Thomas, and Felix!

Not only our students but also other dancers from Regensburg and the surrounding areas took part in the IRWCS in Regensburg.

It’s something that brings people together every year.

Video

Budapest, Hungary – Kati Urbancsek

Did you think of canceling this year due to COVID?

NO, I wasn’t thinking about canceling. I felt must do it, even if not so many people will take part 🙂

How did the dancers react and how many couples took part?

25 couples took part in the flashmob this year.

Did you feel a difference compared to previous years?

Fewer people took part this year compared to previous years because of COVID (in the previous years about 50-100 couples participated).

I told them that whoever is afraid of COVID can feel free to wear a mask, but it is not obligatory, so only 1 couple wore masks.

Anyway, we didn’t hug each other to make all of our friends feel comfortable.

Special thanks to

Orsi Zotter – for helping with the organization.

Ferenc Ulrick – for the music and amplification.

Attila Antal – for shooting and editing the video.

Video

Tel Aviv, Israel – Alex Leyzer & Gal Romem

Did you think of canceling this year due to COVID?

There was less organizational work to do compared to previous years since we could not teach the dance at the Media West this time.

In addition, a lot of people who joined in the previous years decided to pass due to COVID.

There definitely was a point when we thought it would be too difficult to organize it under the current circumstances.

How did the dancers react and how many couples took part?

We were 6 couples which is the smallest West Coast Swing Flashmob I (Gal) took part in so far.

A lot of people felt unsafe to join and decided to pass this time. In general, people were less excited about the Flashmob this year, which is understandable.

Did you feel a difference compared to previous years?

Of course. But personally, we’re glad that we managed to pull off something, even if it was smaller this time.

Video

Kawasaki, Japan – Shigeyuki Kiba

Did you think of canceling this year due to COVID?

No, I don’t think so. Because even if we can’t all get together in one place, I believe we can use online and other means to spread the word about how great WCS is.

How did the dancers react and how many couples took part?

Our group included one leader and three followers.

I would like to thank Niitsu Megumi Niitsu, Kumiko Endo, and Hideno Kiba for participating despite the hot weather.

Japan is relatively less restrictive than other countries, but even so, people are expected to refrain from getting together in large groups.

So we had to keep it small, unfortunately.

Our group had a nice little day trip as well, so we had a fun day.

Did you feel a difference compared to previous years?

In the past, the Rally was held in Tokyo, Osaka, Nara, and a few other places in Japan.

But this year, it has become difficult to get together in large numbers due to COVID-19, so each community had its own flashmob.

This time we had to keep our group small, but on the other hand, we were able to take pictures in a place where many people couldn’t dance because we had more freedom of movement.

Also, the place where we filmed this time is usually busy and full of families swimming at the beach, but it was much less crowded than usual, so we were able to dance without worrying about the people around us.

In between takes, we enjoyed eating seafood and shaved ice.

Even though we weren’t a lot of people, I thought it was nice to do it this way.

Video

And another video from Osaka

And from Tokyo

Amsterdam, the Netherlands – Jennifer Liu

Did you think of canceling this year due to COVID?

We kept an eye on the Dutch government’s announcements.

If the measurements allowed partner dancing classes/activities to restart in July (which they did), we would move ahead with the Rally this year.

We continued the planning, just in case it would be ok, and we’re really glad it worked out for the Netherlands in the end.

How did the dancers react and how many couples took part?

Our community was happy to have the opportunity to dance again!

Everyone was very supportive and happy to see that some kind of dancing activities could resume.

Although they were happy for the community, some dancers did not feel comfortable enough to rejoin this summer and we perfectly understood and supported their decision.

In total, about 5 couples joined us for the practice sessions and 4 of them were able to make it to the Rally itself.

Did you feel a difference compared to previous years?

Not much — besides having fixed partners for each practice, we were still able to execute in the same manner as before.

Each year, we do the Rally practices outdoors in public parks, so there was no impact on us during the practice sessions regarding the venue.

Everyone was aware of the precautions we needed to take but it was still a very positive experience for all!

Video

Szczecin, Poland – Daniel Klein and Bogna Galińska

Did you think of canceling this year due to COVID?

We did think about not taking part for a while but decided to go along with it with some restrictions which we’ll get back to in Q3.

Of course we were worried about our dance tribe, but we also know the Rally is a good morale booster and community builder, so the pros outweighed the cons.

We really love the idea of the West Coast Swing Rally, but we didn’t want to put anyone at risk.

Since everyone is an adult and can decide on their own and our participants didn’t want to give up on the Flashmob. So, we started teaching.

How did the dancers react and how many couples took part?

I (Daniel) think we were more concerned than they were, honestly.

The only couple that could not take part this year did so not due to COVID, but due to having a baby, so for a happy reason.

That being said, the community is growing slower this year and we suspect that COVID is the main reason for that.

The reactions were very heartwarming – our dance school was closed from March to June, so people really missed each other and dancing as well. In the end, 9 couples took part (1 dancer had no partner).

Did you feel a difference compared to previous years?

This year, we decided to teach the Rally with no couple-rotation (well, almost none, as we had one uncoupled leader, so we had to share one follower).

Normally we encourage everyone to dance with everyone else almost to the point of forcing it, but this year, we wanted to minimize the risk of spreading any infections in the community.

We are big fans of couple-rotation because, in our experience, it makes people learn better and feel better in class, and not having it for this year’s Rally showed it. It also didn’t help that the choreography this year was, in my opinion, a bit harder than in the past two years. 

But in the end, we made it and we had lots of fun. We are happy we could take part in this awesome event. Thanks and best wishes to Olivier and Virginie.

Video

Warsaw, Poland – Piotr “Badman” Lenart & Marta Nita

Did you think of canceling this year due to COVID?

Yes, we did but it turned out every other city decided to have one so we went through with it.

How did the dancers react and how many couples took part?

The response was pretty positive. We didn’t hear anyone say we shouldn’t have done so. If anyone didn’t like the idea they were never verbal about it.

Did you feel a difference compared to previous years?

We don’t think there was too much of a difference when it comes to the atmosphere. It was fun and people were eager to dance in front of other people.

We did hope for more people but we ended up with a bit above 20 people. 

At the same time though, it was a time when a lot of people went on holiday because they finally could or had a wedding reception to go to because they finally could or some other finally allowed family/friends connected things.

The main difference was that we started preparing for the Flashmob quite late. Usually, we start in June, but this year it was in August as we waited for the final decision if there would be an international rally.

Moreover, we also had fewer expectations due to the situation. We had fewer beginner people. This year’s Flashmob was attended rather by those who are with Sezon na Westa for a longer time and are active in the community.

Video

Moscow, Russia – Irina Lisichka Avdeeva

Did you think of canceling this year due to COVID?

Did I think of canceling?

I would say that we started the preparation in the middle of August. Before that, we were just waiting and monitoring the situation and the student’s mood.

No, we didn’t think of canceling, more about how and where we could do it in these conditions.

How did the dancers react and how many couples took part?

The reaction was generally positive.

People that were scared just said nothing. The ones who already let the dance in their life regardless of COVID were happy to take part in the International West Coast Swing Flashmob this year.

Russians are a bit laid-back people 🙂

There were 16 couples who took part in the Flashmob.

Did you feel a difference compared to previous years?

Compared to previous years, there were several differences: 

  • Some couples practiced by themselves and didn’t come to the dress rehearsal. We were surprised to see new faces on performance day 🙂
  • Nonetheless, there were a few couples less compared to what we usually have. I think it’s also because of COVID, and not only because of the event that took place at the same time – Q-fest.
  • Moreover, we couldn’t dance at the place we planned (near the beautiful park). The gatekeeper said we should have permission to do a public event. We never tried to dance there, but we never had such problems in any other place in the previous years.

Video

Ryazan, Russia – Mikhail Koygorodov

Did you think of canceling this year due to COVID?

Yeah, of course, I did think about canceling. However, things turned out to be not so bad in our country.

We had restrictions, indeed, 4 months without dancing, but in July things somehow returned to normal, so we decided to learn the WCS Flashmob, and we did.

How did the dancers react and how many couples took part?

We had 2 groups in our area – Newcomers, who started in February, and Novice, who are the center of our small WCS community. Almost no newcomers came back (only two girls) after the lockdown, but all the members of the Novice group wanted to dance, and you can see them in the video 🙂

We had 3 leaders and 8 followers taking part in the Flashmob, so we switched a lot to get everyone captured in the video.

Did you feel a difference compared to previous years?

Only one thing was different – we started to practice the Flashmob in the fresh air and with no contact for two weeks, just in case. Later, things got back to normal.

Video

Kreuzlingen, Switzerland – Meike Robinson

Did you think of canceling this year due to COVID?

Yes, for a moment.

How did the dancers react and how many couples took part?

We are in Switzerland and most of the people are quite relaxed about it.

Did you feel a difference compared to previous years?

Of course, normally we hug and kiss a lot, and we miss it.

Video

Winterthur, Switzerland – Eveline Lauchenauer and Pascal Dürsteler, West Coast Swing Winterthur

Did you think of canceling this year due to COVID?

Sure we were thinking of canceling, but at this time the corona situation was quite under control in Switzerland. So, we decided to do it but it was clear that we’ll do it only with masks.

How did the dancers react and how many couples took part?

The dancers reacted very well.

Not all of them were happy to dance with masks, but in the end, they all accepted it and they still had fun.

24 couples joined us.

Did you feel a difference compared to previous years?

The difference was that we actually had more couples joining than in the previous year.

However, we felt a bit weird because of the masks and the whole situation. But in the end, we still enjoyed it a lot and we are really glad that we did it.

Video

Jacksonville, Florida, USA – Jennifer Norris, Derek Leyva, and Tanya Ziegler

Did you think of canceling this year due to COVID?

This was the first year Derek and I (Jennifer) were able to participate in the West Coast Swing Flashmob because we are usually working on routines and traveling between west coast events. With so many events canceling because of COVID, it gave us the unique opportunity to share the Flashmob with our dance community this year. The only challenge was in finding a way to safely perform it when the time came.

Since this was our first year teaching the Flashmob, it was important we see it all the way through for our community.

How did the dancers react and how many couples took part?

Overall the reaction was good. Since everyone had been in quarantine for so long, learning the Flashmob gave everyone the chance to dance, be active and creative, and to have fun! 

When the effects of COVID were forcing everyone to stay home, Derek and I provided videos breaking down the choreography for everyone to learn at home. Then as things began to normalize, we teamed up with Tanya Ziegler at The Dance Shack, who provided in-person group classes once studios began to reopen in the area. 

Overall, we had roughly 7-10 couples participate and learn the Flashmob, though not all elected to be in the video.

Did you feel a difference compared to previous years?

Absolutely. In previous years, our community has participated in the Flashmob and performed at River City Swing and other events across the US occurring over that same weekend. 

We decided to pick a spot to video the Flashmob that would showcase the city and allow us to do so safely with proper precautions! I’m glad it all came together as well as it did!!

Video

New York City, New York, USA – David Garwin

Did you think of canceling this year due to COVID?

I personally wasn’t even planning on doing the rally this year. It was very much a thing that came up in a casual conversation with the others.

One person – Jes Ann – typically led the rally in the previous years and there were usually dozens of people.

This year it wasn’t even on her radar until we spoke about it.

How did the dancers react and how many couples took part?

I haven’t heard much from the other dancers. This is partially because we haven’t shared much or spoken to many other dancers, period.

Video

The West Coast Swing Rally (Flashmob) 2020 - New York City

Columbus (Worthington), Ohio, USA – The Crystal Ballroom Dance Center

Did you think of canceling this year due to COVID?

No, we did not consider canceling.

The point of the International West Coast Swing Rally is to introduce WCS to non Westies. We were able to get some Westies and some of our Ballroom students involved too.

In Ohio, we’re allowed to dance as long as we aren’t trading partners, so everyone had their assigned partners and were socially distanced while we were teaching the class and performing.

How did the dancers react and how many couples took part?

Everyone who took part in our Rally was happy that we chose to offer it this year since other clubs in the area were closed.

It was nice to have some semblance of normalcy even though there were masks, social distancing restrictions, etc.

We had 26 people in our area involved in the Rally.

Did you feel a difference compared to previous years?

This is actually the first year our studio offered the class.

We had decided last year to offer it, and when the local club was closed, we were asked by the community if we would be offering Rally classes.

I think the sense of community was more important this year to people, and it was a nice escape from reality to dance all over town!

Video

Salt Lake City, Utah, USA – Camie Webb, Good Vibes Dance Studio

Did you think of canceling this year due to COVID?

We actually felt that it was really important NOT to cancel, hoping to inspire everyone in the amazing GLOBAL community we have. Share a little dance LOVE & HOPE!!

We obviously are quite shut down and restricted but our team was amazing and was still practicing via Zoom while we were quarantined!

How did the dancers react and how many couples took part?

The Dancers who were able to come out and participate (about 12 Couples) loved it.

Our group consists of a lot of families that see each other on a regular basis, which was very helpful in the current circumstances.

Unfortunately, only about a 3rd of our regular group participated, but those that couldn’t join us for the performance because of health or family reasons were super supportive!

Did you feel a difference compared to previous years?

This was definitely different than in previous years.

That being said, we were so glad for the opportunity and grateful that it still happened!! We Love our LOCAL and Global dance family and always look forward to being part of the International West Coast Swing Rally!

Video

Washington, D.C., USA – Debbie Tuttle-Steffanina, Jeff Steffanina, Mané Rebelo-Plaut, and Roger Plaut

Did you think of canceling this year due to COVID?

Yes, we did.

We have organized the Washington, DC, area flashmob every year for the past several years, and we have also taught lessons each summer to help everyone prepare.

This year, we initially thought that we wouldn’t be able to do it at all. However, as the pandemic and the lockdown continued, we felt that the DC-area WCS community needed something to lift their spirits, to remind everyone how much we all love to dance and that eventually, we’ll be able to return to doing what we love.

So, we decided to make this year’s flashmob a completely virtual event. We had 10 online classes over the summer via Facebook and Zoom, culminating in a video consisting of couples who quarantine together and individuals “paired up” virtually. We are so glad we were able to do this!

How did the dancers react and how many couples took part?

When we discussed the fact that we would need to cancel the in-person Flashmob, those who had participated in previous years were upset. But, when we announced our plan to hold virtual lessons and put together a video, they were very excited!

We had 24 dancers participate in the online lessons to learn the choreography. Some of them were fortunate enough to be quarantined with dance partners, but most of them learned the choreography alone.

We made it clear that there was no requirement to submit a video for the virtual Flashmob itself because not everyone was completely comfortable with the choreography by the end of the summer. In the end, we were able to include videos from 13 people in the virtual Flashmob.

Did you feel a difference compared to previous years?

Yes, we felt a difference because Zoom is a bit impersonal, but it was definitely better than canceling!

Everyone understood that the process of learning the choreography was beneficial for both their dancing and their mental health. Being able to interact regularly online with a consistent group of people, all working toward a common goal, brought everyone a sense of community that was otherwise lacking during the quarantine.

For the instructors, it was not easy to teach the choreography online.

Roger and Debbie were in separate locations, so we had to teach and demonstrate the leaders’ and followers’ parts separately, assisted by our spouses. It was also admittedly a bit harder to motivate the dancers as it’s not easy for everyone to learn their part in a partner-dance choreography in a virtual setting. Moreover, it was especially challenging for those who were learning it on their own.

Ultimately, although it was not quite the same as dancing together in person and with a live audience, those who participated in the lessons appreciated them, and those who participated in the Flashmob video were really happy to see all their hard work come to fruition!

Video

Wrapping up

Damn, that was one heck of a journey!

We’ve had some unbelievable stories, such as the one from Minsk.

Also, we’ve had brilliant videos like “The End of WCS” from Nürnberg or “The Virtual Flashmob” from Washington, D.C.

We’ve traveled all the way from Australia to the USA, but most importantly, we got another reminder that we are all one big family.

Although social distancing keeps us apart, the West Coast Swing Flashmob brought us together.

It might seem far away, but we will get back to events and will see each other again. And when things get tough again and the pandemic seems endless, I recall the wonderful text written by Katharina, Throw Forward to After the Corona Crisis.

So, remember that there are westies all over the world keeping this fire burning. Even if you can’t dance right now, keep it in your heart.

Stay safe and healthy, better days await for us.

Yuval Yaary
Yuval is an ambitious entrepreneur and an enthusiastic dancer, who has combined those two characteristics in order to create the YY Westie. He also works as a content writer for marketing and besides dancing, he loves football, cats, pizza, and making friends.

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