History of Whip and West Coast
This was excerpted
from an article by
Rick Archer at SSQQ
The Whip is a sexy Swing partner
dance that originated right here in the heart of Texas.
Also known as Push in the Dallas area, the Whip is quite
similar to the national dance known as the West Coast Swing.
This is no surprise since in a way the Whip and West Coast
Swing are long-lost brothers. They were both born in California, but
separated at birth.
The Whip traces its roots to
a bunch of Texas-born GI's who returned home
from California after the
long fight of World War II.
The Whip was spawned in the dives,
bars, honky-tonks, and western joints that surrounded the Texas oil
fields and refineries back in the late 40's and early 50's.
Back in those days you had dark,
smoky lounges with plenty of cheap beer. and a rough crowd looking to
let off steam after a hard dayís work.
The jukebox played a steady stream of Texas Blues with a raw,
angry sound and rhythms best described as Stripper music.
Legend has it the Whip started as
a "pickup" dance that fit the suggestive "get down
& dirty" lyrics like tight pants clinging to a well-curved
woman. The man would lean
against the bar drinking a beer or smoking a cigarette with one hand
while a woman would grab his other hand for balance. Inspired by the
music, she would start to roll her hips, then glide forward and back
to the beat. As she strutted her stuff, the man would act cool and
pretend to ignore the performance, but no doubt the corner of his eye
tracked her movements like a hawk measuring its prey!
The Texas Whip is basically
an offshoot of the legendary
West Coast Swing.
Whip, spelled as it is with the
word "hip" in it, has always emphasized hip motion as part
of its Basic. West Coast
Swing traditionally has favored more emphasis on flashy footwork.
For 50 years, the two dances stayed separate. Modern technology
has changed all that. The Internet, the availability of dance
videotapes, national dance magazines, and the ease of travel (allowing
teachers and students to overcome the handicap of distance) have
brought about the change.
Here in the 90's the barriers that
separated the two dances for 50 years are fading faster than you can
say "Berlin Wall". West
Coast Swing dancers see the awesome hip roll of the Whip and decide on
the spot they got to have some of that.
The Whip dancers see those flying, prancing, dancing feet of
the WC Swingers and want a piece of that action too.
Today you don't have to choose.
The modern trend is to merge the two dances together and constantly
interweave from one style to the other.
The long-lost dances have been reunited.
You can have them both!
So how did the two dances
get split in the first place?
The earliest origins of Whip have
been traced to California during World War II. The 40ís marked the
height of the Big Band era. Swing Dancing was enormously popular in
USO dance halls across the country at this time.
During World War II the population
of the state of California nearly doubled with its massive military
industry, many military bases, and important Pacific theator seaports
like San Diego, Los Angeles, and San Francisco.
Dancing was the best way for boys to meet girls in an age where
time was precious. In
California the floors were so crowded that a new style of dancing
developed out of necessity.
save space couples would pack into tight pockets and dance in the same
direction across the room.
As the precursor to what we now
call West Coast Swing, a serviceman would hold his ground while his
partner would push off from him, shuffle her feet, and then snap back
to him like a rubber band. This
was the start of the WC Swing Basic with its famous Coaster Step.
When room permitted, the man and lady would trade places, which
gave rise to the Passing Step, the most common step in West Coast
Swing. The limitations of space created this "Slotted
Dance" where the man and woman always danced in a straight line
(as opposed to Lindy, Swing, and Jitterbug which allowed dancers to
face any direction they wish, but took up much more space).
After the war ended, Texans
returning from the Pacific brought their California dance home with
them and tried it to the slower Blues music.
Almost immediately they noticed
the music was only half the speed of the faster Swing music. This
changed the feel of the dance completely. Since no one really knew
what the footwork was, Texas girls would just grab the guyís hand
and move to the music. As the girls played around with the back and
forth movement of the California dance, they discovered a provocative
hip motion that fit the slow, sensual music maybe too well. This
adaptation created yet a new dance with a style all its own. Some
called it Push, some called it Whip, and some called it downright
Whip stayed hidden in the
honky-tonks till the late 50ís when the high school and college kids
started picking up on it.
In a twist, the dance now had two
styles: the Whip and the Dirty Whip.
One was strictly footwork while the Dirty Whip obviously added
the hip motion. Danced here in Houston to black music at places like
Jimmy Menudis, the Cinder Club, and pressure cooker clubs along
Telephone Road, you also heard of the Push up at North Texas State and
the Whip at Garner State Park. The dance was pretty much limited to
back and forth strutting and was still simple enough that people could
learn it by imitation and observation.
However by the early 70ís the
bump & grind of the Dirty Whip had blended with West Coast
Swing-style fancy footwork. Women
could use a social form of the dance with more subdued hip motion for
general dancing. If the song and the man occasioned it, they could add a
little spice and make grown men weak with a nasty Bump Step that
brought home whatever they had to deliver.
Double Turns and complicated
patterns were also being added. The
Whip was developing into a far more interesting and complex dance.
The hip motion was still the signature move of the dance, but
now there was even more to learn. At this point, the Whip had become
almost impossible to learn just by feel, so whip dancers banded
together. The 70's marked the creation of several Whip clubs here in
the Houston area. Their main purpose was to teach the dance and
provide their members opportunities to practice. The 70ís were good
for Whip due to the terrific soul music of artists like Barry White,
the Commodores, and Al Green. "Love
and Happiness", "Heard it Through the Grapevine",
"Midnight Hour", "Mustang Sally", and
"Respect" are some of the unforgettable Whip songs
from the 60's and 70's.
The Double Turns were a
Neck wraps, free spins, waist
wraps, spin to the Bump...every pattern had some sort of turn in it. Sometimes you take things for granted, but WC Swing dancers
exposed to the Whip for the first time all comment on the staggering
array of different turn patterns. Indeed, a woman who did not spin
well faced an enormous obstacle.
She either learned how to spin or found another dance.
Not only are Texas women famous for their blue side of town hip
motion, but they are given a lot of respect for their turning ability
as well. I believe it is survival of the fittest.
Women who never learn to turn usually are forced to pack their
bags. The dance just isn't fun if you fear for your life.
The late 70ís and early 80ís
saw Whip go underground as the Disco and Urban Cowboy eras dominated
the dance scene. However the second half of the 80ís saw Whip hit
its all-time peak in popularity. Many of Houstonís best Western
dancers were looking for a new dance challenge at the same time as a
series of great Whip music was being recorded. For example, Marvin Gayeís "Sexual Healing" and
Tina Turnerís "Whatís Love Got to Do With It" won back
to back songs-of-the-year in 1983-84, setting the stage for artists
like Michael Jackson, Madonna, and Billy Ocean to record many
marvelous hits perfect for Whip dancing.
Whip classes were full, there were plenty of clubs playing Whip
music to practice at, and dance competitions were popular.
"Billie Jean", "Caribbean Queen", and
"Lucky Star" were some of the big hits during this Golden
Unfortunately, Whip took a
big downturn as the 90's began.
The start of the 90ís saw the
powerful "Boot Scoot BoogieĒ Western era begin while at the
same time there was a sharp downturn in dance music favorable to
dancing the Whip. Sadly
the influence of Rap music and Seattle grunge rock led to a lot of
music far removed from the "Whip Sound".
shows when the music dries up, so does the dance.
For example, the legendary Lindy Hop vaporized when the Big
Band Sound died after WW II and the Latin Hustle went poof when Disco
bit the dust. Not
surprisingly, interest in Whip dropped sharply for the first half of
the 90ís. It has
recently had a comeback.
A letter from Chuck Williams about the Garner
State Park Era of Whip
My name is Chuck Williams, a
"displaced Texan (Corpus Christi) who now lives in Omaha
Nebraska. I am one of the
true "veterans of Garner State Park" and the Whip (1961 ~
1966). There are still a
few us around, however, my contact with many of them is very limited
since I live so far away.
You can imagine my surprise to
learn that the Whip is still alive and well, I thought it died with
those of us who stopped going to Garner in the mid and late 60's
because we went to college or Viet Nam.
There were several of us who were
very serious dancers during those great days, many were from Houston,
Baytown, San Antonio, Leaky (I hope I spelled it correctly, been away
too long), Uvalde, and Corpus Christi.
Garner Park was our central meeting place.
Most of us did anything (legal) we could to raise money to go
to Garner during the summer. I
lost track of how many lawns I mowed.
I would make three, to four trips a summer, each lasting a week
or longer. For the
serious dancers like myself, our biggest objective was to learn as
many steps as we could, and perfect our dance.
Of course, we managed to find some good looking partners along
the way. An added benefit
was the great entertainment that would come to Garner.
B.J. Thomas was a regular, in fact, he wrote a song called
"Garner State Park", which stayed on the jukebox for years.
Several others would come up routinely, Gene Thomas, Johnny
Winter, Roy Orbison, Jay Frank Wilson, Roy Head, and too many others
to mention. Many times,
after the dance, we would all go to this one girls camp site, Carol
Zimmermann, to listen to the jam sessions that would take place,
between many of the singers mentioned above.
Carol Zimmermann was an outstanding dancer who "lived to
whip". Her mom and
dad came to Garner every summer and spend a full month there.
They always had the best campgrounds in the main park close to
the pavilion. In case you
don't know, the pavilion was the place where we danced.
Some how, Mr. Zimmermann was able to finagle around the parks
policy of only being allowed to keep your campsite for thirty days.
Carols parents were the "parents" of so many kids
like myself, who would come to Garner without adult supervision.
During the day, we would meet at
the pavilion, and practice, practice, practice.
The "slick slab" was a section of concrete on the
pavilion floor that was dominated by those who would practice
spinning. We could
perfect our spin there, so that in the evening when the pavilion was
crowded with dancers, we had the technique down well enough to spin
without the benefit of a slick surface.
I'm not clear what year it was
when the style changes to the "push", but it really brought
on a lot of controversy. The
traditional style looked more like the swing, but the "push"
brought on stiff arms, shorter steps, and SPINNING!
The "rock step" was in and the swing was out.
It was amazing!
There were so many kids learning the whip, it was incredible!
Every night of the week, the pavilion was crowed with kids
learning or perfecting this dance. I forgot the year the park rangers started ending the dances
at 11:00 pm and enforcing a park curfew.
But even then, BJ Thomas and the boys would meet at the
Zimmermann's to jam... without amplifiers.
And believe it or not, after all those hours of virtually
non-stop dancing, we would still practice our steps on the dirt
campsite ground while the guys were jamming.
We were OUT OF CONTROL!
There was a section of the
pavilion designated for "learners".
Most of the more experienced dancers stayed clear.
God! We were
horrible.... such egos! As
with many dancers we develop subtle hand signals, so our partners
would know what step we were going to do next.
The competition became serious, however, we never had a dance
contest, as I recall. The
best dancers were just "kind of known".
After one full summers' practice
(1962) followed by the countless hours of practice with my partner in
Corpus Christi during the preceding school year, she and I returned to
Garner (summer of 1963) to finally be "declared" as great
dancers. That year, I met
a girl from Baytown, Judy Roush who I nicknamed (Popcorn).
Her family owned and operated a dance studio in Baytown.
Judy was an awesome dancer and could whip like an expert.
Some how, [there is a God in Heaven], Judy and I hit it off,
and my life changed. She
taught me so many steps, spins, techniques, it was incredible!
I thought I died and went to "Whip Heaven".
For the next three years, she and I went together [long
distance] and each summer would return to Garner.
She always seemed to have learned more new steps than I. (I'm
surprised??? ... after all she was a dance instructor at her parents
studio). She also
introduced me to some really good male dancers who were willing to
share their steps with me. My
talent was spinning, some how I had great technique.
Now days, I get lost in a circle!
This was excerpted
from an article by
Rick Archer at SSQQ