West Coast Swing is a dance style that combines the structure and personal connection of lead/follow partnership dancing with the freedom and expression of freestyle dancing. You keep the strong feeling of a mutual experience of lead/follow partnership dancing common in ballroom, Latin, and most swing dancing. But you also gain the improvisational fun of dancing to the way the music makes you feel as both the leader and the follower. That "best of both worlds" aspect of West Coast Swing, as well as being danceable to nearly any music, is what makes it our favorite dance style.
Unlike most ballroom forms that remain mostly in a highly controlled two-handed connection, West Coast Swing is primarily a one-handed connection leaving the other side of your body more open for styling and expression. And while most ballroom forms are danced primarily very close to one another, West Coast Swing spends a lot of its time at arms-length away from each other allowing more freedom to play with your footwork and for body styling. The end result is a far greater feeling of dancing to the music with someone.
The combination of being both structured and open is not only what makes West Cost Swing so enjoyable, but is also what makes it one of the most challenging dances to get started with.
The key to learning West Coast Swing isn't the number of patterns you know. That is more important for ballroom dancing because of its lack of freedom. Instead, focus on learning three simple basics, the push break (also called a "sugar push"), the left side pass, and the right side pass. Visit the "Instructional Videos" page of our site for help with those, starting with the "Starting With The Basic Patterns" and "6 Count Pattern Core" videos. There are other videos there as well that can help you out with your technique. Dance those patterns relentlessly until they become almost second nature. Feel free to ask someone if they wouldn't mind dancing just those patterns with you. If they are an experienced dancer, they can practice their musicality and technique. And we were all beginners once as well.
Once you have those three basics down to where you don't have to concentrate on your footwork or technique, you can begin sparing some of your mental attention on the music. Start adjusting your footwork, shifting your shoulders, or otherwise moving your body to the music while continuing to follow those basic patterns. There are also some instructional videos that will help you make that transition as well. Now you are truly dancing West Coast Swing and can begin looking to expand your pattern repertoire.