It’s a new year for Week in Swing. About time since it’s already February. We’re making some changes, refocusing our efforts and our content, and striving to bring you quality material, information, and access.
We’ve taken down the Newsreel, it was just too ambitious for us at this stage, especially since we are no longer actually living in San Diego.
We’ve taken down the Calendar for now, as it is still very buggy and wants all events to end sometime in 1969. This causes the events to not even show up on the calendar and defeats the idea of being automated to begin with. Until this is fixed, we’ll be linking exclusively to the Swingcats Calendar.
We’ve got a lot of content lined up for you, still planning on weekly updates every Sunday evening. If you have any suggestions or comments, please do not hesitate to contact us either via Facebook, email, or leave a comment below.
If there’s one thing that is never taught in Lindy Hop classes, it’s how to be polite and respectful IN Lindy Hop classes. So here’s a breakdown of the worst offenses and how to deal with them both from an instructor’s point of view, and as a student.
The Second Teacher
As an instructor, this is my biggest pet peeve. The second instructor is the student who joined your class who is usually at a higher level than the rest of the class and takes it upon themselves to teach the class that isn’t being taught; filling the “gaps” they believe need to be filled. In my experience, they’re usually teaching some super basic technique that the newer dancer barely learned in their beginning class, but haven’t mastered yet.
Why this sucks:
Lindy Hop instructors spend a lot of time working out their teaching material, and how they teach it isn’t an accident. So when someone is distracting one or more students, it starts to undermine all the teacher’s hard work. From a student’s perspective, you end up missing out on key information, thus making the class that you’re paying good money for worthless.
How to deal:
As an instructor, the easiest way to deal with the Second Teacher is to rotate partners as soon as you notice it happening. It’s not always easy to time it, but the Second Teacher usually starts teaching right after they try the concept you are trying to teach. So if you rotate after your students practice a little, then explain concepts, it works out pretty well. As a student, you have to be a little more forward about it. I usually do one of two things. Either shush them with a little “I can’t hear the teacher” or “hold on, I want to hear this”, or I’ll disconnect from my partner and stare VERY intently at the instructor and ignore any attempts by the Second Teacher to interrupt my learning experience. I paid to learn from the teacher, not some yahoo.
The Jerk Who Forgot Their Watch
As stated before, Lindy Hop instructors put a lot of time and effort into their class material. When a student arrives “fashionably” late (we’re talking 30 minutes late to an hour lesson) it’s REALLY disruptive to the rest of the class. As an instructor, you’ll have to catch up The Jerk on everything they missed and takes the teacher’s attention away from the lest of the class. As a student, The Jerk can actually detract by either asking YOU what they missed, or wasting your time by trying to figure it out on the fly.
How to deal:
As an instructor, the easiest way to deal with The Jerk is to simply ask them to leave, or not join in the first place, or ask them to sit out of rotation until you can get around to helping them through the material at your own pace. As a student, it’s much harder to deal. What it comes down to, it’s actually the Instructor’s call as to weather or not you should be allowed in the class as late as you are. It’s much easier to avoid being The Jerk in the first place. If you are over 15 minutes late to your class, seek the Instructor’s approval as to weather or not you may join the class in progress as it’s really their call. If you really MUST join in the class, take a few minutes out of rotation to listen to what the teacher is teaching, and try to pick it up quickly before jumping in on the rotation.
Nobody hates having their learning experience interrupted and the less that we see of these guys, the more enjoyable your time will be. So get out there and take some classes!!!
I reconnected with some family members this week and casually mentioned that I got into swing dancing a couple years back. My 16 year old brother had no idea what it was so I sent him a video.
The video I sent him is the first video I ever found on YouTube featuring Lindy Hop. Every Lindy Hopper has seen it, and it’s currently hanging over 5 million views. It’s the 2006 ULHS Liberation Finals:
But why is this video so popular? There are certainly more impressive routines, more important moments in Lindy Hop history, and much more difficult air steps and dance moves. Yet the “Fast Swing Dancing” video still beats them all in popularity. Let’s break it down.
In my previous post, So What Now? (Part I), I wrote about what I currently use as the general structure of dance to improve my dancing. You, Your Partner, and the Music were three basic elements of a dance, and for dancers who are stuck on whatto work on, I think getting a big picture perspective of elements of the dance besides our own moves or specific techniques might be helpful.
In the next section, I’ll talk about howto go about improving, and list what I think are a few essential elements of progress. Continue reading →
Atomic Ball Room posted an article about Dance Bloopers the other day that I found really refreshing. This video especially caught my attention.
In it, you’ll see several “rock stars” of Lindy Hop and “lay people” from all over the world botching air-steps, kicking each other, and generally having an off day both in practice and competition/performance.
This got me thinking about all the time I’ve spent in practice and training just to fail when I hit the dance floor. It’s frustrating, humiliating, and demoralizing. So why compete if you’re just going to make a fool of yourself?
In 2010, SwingFX decided to take on the Camp Hollywood Team Competition. We had to work out a routine, get the tricks down, and polish everything in 3 months. To give it a little perspective, I’ve heard of teams working their Camp Hollywood routines a year in advance. So we busted our asses. We worked several times a week for hours on end running the routine, working on lines, and critiquing ourselves.
This is what we ended up with:
It wasn’t a bad effort. We hit our marks, nobody fell down or screwed their choreography, and we were really jazzed afterwards. We checked out the other teams (all of which had significantly more members than us) and figured we could end up in the top 5. The scores come in at the end of the weekend and it’s unanimous…we were dead last.
I was shocked, and severely pissed off. All this work that we did should’ve shown for something right? I got over it about an hour later thanks to some advice I had received earlier that evening from Kim Clever. But I still didn’t understand why I should put in months of hard work and effort just to get dead last. A few weeks later, I found my answer. I put in months of hard work and effort to be a better dancer.
I may have gotten last place in that competition, but my hard work wasn’t wasted. I was a better dancer. I had never worked on lines, or slow body control, or air-steps before. Suddenly I had new knowledge, I had new skills, I can look back at that video and see what the judges probably saw. A really hard routine that needed another few months of work (at least).
I’ve competed quite a bit before and since that Camp Hollywood, and I’ve lost more competitions than I’ve won. Each competition gives me a reason to get better; to learn to skills and refine old ones; and each loss just spurs me on even harder.
So the next time you hear about a competition, find a partner and sign up quick. Practice, take private lessons (especially from the ones who will be judging the competition), and work on being better. The experience will not be wasted.
Sometimes, you need a list of new and inspirational things to keep your mind going. Thanks to the internet you have a plethora of new & inspirational things right at your fingertips! But where to start? Fear not, for we here at Week in Swing have got you covered with a list of new things to love & discover for every day of the week!
*The internet is a vast territory that Week In Swing acknowledges is full of other bloggers that run Lindy-centered sites & journals. If you want to add to the list, go ahead and comment! Additions are always welcome!
1. Listen to the teachers
You’d think this would be obviously, wouldn’t you? But I know that when you’re in the middle of trying to figure something out, it’s really tempting to keep working on it, even when the teachers have paused the class to say something. Resist that temptation! They’re probably saying something useful.
2. Assume all feedback applies to you
There’s always this temptation to think that whatever feedback the teacher is giving to the class doesn’t apply to you, because of course you’re already doing whatever they just said, thank you very much. When you stop to think about it, this makes no sense. What reason do you have to think you’re the exception to the rule? Even if it’s something you were already aware of, you can try to do it more/better.
3. Take it at your own speed Don’t be afraid to say things like “Can we walk through this slowly before trying to do it at tempo?” or “I’m still working on the easier version of this move”.
4. Ask for feedback
Once I think I’ve gotten the hang of the move or whatever we’re working on in class, I like to ask my partner for feedback, particularly if I’m paired with someone in the rotation whose feedback I trust. Even if everything feels right to me, my partner will often have a suggestion for how it could be improved. (And by waiting to ask until I feel comfortable with the new move, I make sure to get that feedback at a time when I can process it, rather than being inundated with information when I’m still trying to figure out what’s going on.)
5. Have your own agenda
Have at least one generally applicable principle in mind that you can work on simultaneously with whatever else you’re learning in class. Some examples of things in this category that I’ve worked on recently have been improving my posture, keeping my rhythm/pulse consistent, and matching my partner’s frame. These are broadly applicable, so I can work on them regardless of what else is going on in the class. That way even in the worst case scenario if I’m not learning from the teachers, I can at least use the time to practice my own stuff. And this isn’t just useful in worst case scenarios, of course! For example, in a lot of footwork/variation classes, the class will alternate between doing a leads’ variation and a follows’ variation. When you’re not working on your own variation, you might be asked to do the same move a lot of times in a row to help your partner practice. That’s a great time to have your own agenda that you can work on without interfering with your partners’ practice time!
Editor’s Note: This is a guest submission by the fantastic Pavel Tsinberg.
When I first started swing dancing back in my collegiate days, I had a very limited dance vocabulary, terrible technique (retrospectively), and virtually no knowledge of the swing culture outside of the ivory walls. Yet I don’t remember being happier with my dancing; every dance felt better the one before, I hardly ever set down, and was generally high on life.
Eventually I graduated and moved to San Diego, took some more east coast swing and my first lindy class at a ballroom studio (cautionary tale right there), and deemed myself ready to take the dance word by storm. My very first dance was a disaster; the follow asked me if we can “try some other time” halfway through the song. I ended up watching the good dancers for the remainder of the evening, wishing I could dance like them.
Ever since, I’ve been struggling to find that balance between fun and form, enjoyment and technique, self satisfaction, and desire to improve. I still enjoy dancing, it’s a passion, a hobby, whatever. Meanwhile, the issue that frustrates me most and takes the fun out of dancing is stagnation. How do I avoid getting too comfortable with my dancing, leading same moves over and over, losing creativity, and becoming too predictable with my dancing?
If I’ll assume a continuous diet of dance classes and, at least, one weekly social dance as a given, here’s what helps me keep my interest in dancing renewed, and staves off stagnation.
Try a different venue. It’s great to patronize one particular venue; doing so creates continuity and comfort for venue organizers and generates a fuzzy/comfy feeling of being a regular. The drawback of which is over familiarity with other regulars, and lack of inspiration. Going to a new venue once in a while, even if it involves driving a bit out of the way, regenerates that sense of newness, and forces one to dance with unfamiliar leads/follows.
Workshops/Bootcamps. By far the easiest way to get an injection of fresh concepts. The combination of intense series of lessons from out of town instructors and physical/mental exhaustion is a great palate cleanser. Typically, only a small amount of vocabulary learned at a workshop is retained, but the shake up the inventory of moves dusts the cobwebs off the forgotten ones. Meeting new dancers and bonding with them over the grueling training doesn’t hurt either.
Re-polish the basics with a different instructor. This isn’t for everybody, but I find it very useful to go back to basic/intermediate classes with an instructors other than one’s regular sensei.
Travel. This one is a bit of a combination of a different venue and workshop ideas.
Videos. Buy the vids from instructors at workshops, it’s a great way to give yourself a little boost when dance frustration sets in.
Crosstrain. Take classes/workshops in dance style outside of the standard lindy fare. Hip hop can help recreate that down in the legs feeling that marks lindy as a street dance. Jazz helps with all sorts of embellishments. Ballroom can help with traveling moves and frames. You get the point.
Pavel Tsinberg is a member of SwingFX and can be found teaching beginning Lindy Hop on Friday nights at Swing Jam Fridays. He’s also one of my favorite people, so don’t be scared! Snag a dance!
You’re no longer a beginner, but you don’t feel like an “advanced” dancer yet.
You’ve taken tons of classes, and do well in them, but they all seem to be too move-based, or too lead-centered, or too easy, or too choreographed, etc. You’re looking for that next thing that will take you to the next level, but don’t know what it is, where it is, or who can teach it.