HOW TO GROW THE LINDY HOP COMMUNITY

How do we help the lindy hop community to grow? I believe we need to start from the followers: we need better followers … and keep reading if you want to know more about it
Claudio Santori

If you know me, you know how much I have been in love with the lindy hop since I started dancing in 2008. In October it will be 4years of dancing but I am not sure anymore how passionate I am  about it. Harlem, the lindy workshop in Vilnius/Lithuanian just finished and I had a great time, amazing dances, incredible live music and lot of friends I didn’t see for a long time. But…

We need more leader

My class ended up being splitted 50/50, maybe the first time since I am dancing. But at the party the usual problems: many followers around the dance floor waiting to dance. We have enough followers: it seems that for now all we need are more leaders.

How did they do it in Korea
I am not sure if this is true or not but when they built the community in Korea, some korean dancers told me that the followers stated to praise the leaders, lot of compliments, lot of support, lot of smiles. And the leaders felt so good that actually now they have more leaders than followers.

Girls/Followers, if you haven’t tried to lead an entire song you have no idea how painful it can be. You have no idea how painful it is to go to a dance floor with your girlfriend, both beginners, and watching her spinning all night and you? Not even be brave enough to ask someone to dance.

We need to help the beginners leaders

I was terrified when I started to dance and still I am, a bit, when I need to ask someone really good.
I am not sure followers  understand this. When you dance with a leader not so good you need to smile double, fake it until you make it. From my private dancing biography:  at my second international workshop I decided to ask a teacher to dance. The band was playing, I kind of counted the beats, seemed to be not too fast, she wasn’t dancing…I went and asked!
Turns out to be a song/speed out of my league, too fast for my swing out. So she is dancing with this beginner leader, I have no idea what I am doing, it’s live music so basically she has no idea when it’s going to end … I still dream her face at night :)

SMILE!!!!

In class, the music is usually medium tempo, not too fast, not too slow. Then you go social and the music is way too fast or way too slow (I hated live bands for my furst 1-2 years of dancing). No move works anymore when you go social and if you happen to dance with someone that is not even smiling…it takes just a wrong swing out to kill a leader.
A new leader can easily loose confidence: it’s damn hard to listen to the music, find the one, thinking of your step and on top of that also lead the other person. Girls, you know men are not good at multitasking.

Make their night!

2012 is not 1930. Society changed, now we are equal and you girls need to consider this: guys need more support.
As a follower, you should ask every night the guy that is more far away (farthest?)  from the dance floor. I do it all the time with girls, every night I always dance with someone that is looking the dance floor from far away. 90% they are total beginner, 10% superstar. It’s a lottery, I never know and I am happy to give someone a nice time. When they are beginners they usually excuse for 5 minutes before we can start to dance and I make only two rule: you need to pretend you are having fun so we don’t look bad (and I say this as a joke) and second rule is “You can’t look at my feet – do whatever you want but you can’t look at my feet!” and I make sure that if they are total beginners I bring them to a fun ride in the lindy world. Have you ever thought of doing that and asking a shy leader?
Don’t forget to give compliments, point out that the most important part of the dance is having fun. Smile. Smile. Smile. And have fun, as honest as you can. At the end it’s not just about the technique. If someone is too strong on the lead you can tell, we are men and we don’t always take it easy but try, it will make us better lead even if we don’t get it immediately and we get a little mad. And if it’s too bad, just dance one time, but make it count, make it a dance that he/she will remember.

It takes time to learn how to lead

Sometimes I don’t understand why followers take classes during workshops. Personally I would only take privates classes and skip the painful part of audition and having to dance with random most of the time not so good people.
At least not as good as the teachers. Classes are for leaders, to build better leaders. And it takes time to make a good leader. Be patient. Talk with us, we want to learn, we want to have fun and we want to look like it’s fun to dance with us. The right words are there, somewhere. You need to find them and tell us – with a smile! The smile is important, don’t forget it.

Lindy Hop Studios

Why not organizing time in the schedule of the studio for free practice. A time where students of all level can come, meet, socialize, talk, dance, they can dj, experiment, talk about moves, share, learn from each other. You don’t even need to be there. And they can bring their friends, for free. Dont’ charge for this. Be there but be invisible, make the students do the work…just provide the oil to make it smooth.

And why not thinking of organizing mixed levels classes. Leading classes, for beginners, where dancers are paired with more experienced followers so that they can feel how it’s supposed to feel. Whn you put two beginners together…it’s just a mess. And when you have these good leaders, let’s say intermediate, make them dance with the beginner followers. These might mean more work for the studio, more hours, but how much more valuable it would be for the dancers and the community? Something to think about

Social Parties

Do we want more leaders? We need to work on the tempo of the music. Live music is off limit for beginners. Unless they start with Groove Walk, it’s impossible to swing out to fast music when you just learn it. and it’s just hopping around, with no leading and following, just lot of pulling and pushing. Let’s work on a medium tempo, at the beginning of the night maybe. As I said, first 1-2 years I hated every band who played, songs where just too fast and impossible to dance or too slow.

And then I don’t know, a beginner corner, a line somewhere on the dance floor where shy dancers gather and they want to be picked. I go there if I don’t dare to ask and I don’t want to say I am sorry. I just want to dance without excuse my bad skills. And if anybody wait in the queue more than 4/5 songs then the music stop and I don’t know…something, let’s think about it. But let’s find the space for people that are not so aggressive but still they want to taste the joy of dancing.

How did I loose my passion for lindy hop?

The suggesting part is over. Now I am about to share with you what I have been feeling in the last year of dancing.

I am not sure I lost the passion or not. 2012 I haven’t dance almost at all. As I said Harlem is just over and I had an incredible time. But I want to share with you my feelings, something I have been feeling for the past months and part of the reasons why I have taken a break from dancing.

I am not on the top good dancers list. I attended regularly Intermediate/Advanced – Advanced classes but I have never competed, I am working on my lead and my moves and I know I am not musical, I have been having hard time with musicality forever.
I am more on the  fun side (as a matter of fact I won the most fun dancer competion last at Herrang Dance Camp 2011 :). I want to believe (please don’t crush my dream) that I am fun to dance with, that you can feel my energy when I dance, it looks not too uncomfortable and people can see I am not too hard to dance with, I lead easy stuff and as a result anybody dare to ask with me. While lot of beginners are afraid to ask teachers to dance, they have no problem asking me. And during a night I am hunted, for real. I finish the second dance with someone and immediately after we break the last connection someone grabs my hand/arm. And at that point, even if you are tired, you cant’ say no. And the same will happen after two songs. I don’t want to complain, I love to dance and if I could I would dance all night with everybody. I come to a party with a mental list of people that I absolutely want to dance. I have my hardcore people, the ones I enjoy to dance the most, then new people from class and then someone I want to try cause we never danced. do you know usually with how many of these 20 “dream followers” I dance? Sometimes 2, most of the time 1, the first dance. Then I go random. And random means people that squeeze your arm, people that I have never danced before with, people that smells (sorry to tell you but yes, some of the followers, as much as some of the leaders, do smell bad in the lindy community). But you know what hurt me the most? sad faces!!! More than wet dresses, smelly skin, bad breath, what I hate the most is to dance with someone that looks away most of the time and doesn’t smile the all song. Luckily I have danced long enough not to let this crush my confidence or ruin my night but I remember the time when it was painful.

So, please, next time you dance with anybody (or at least with me) try to have fun. It’s the all point of dancing, at least for me.

Leads like to follow too…

I am a man and I started dancing as a leader but you know what? I love to follow. If I could I would dance most of the time as a follower but I understand, when two leaders are dancing there are two girls waiting somewhere. But I get mad when someone (and there is always someone) come to steal. I am having my one dance when I follow and you DO NOT COME TO STEAL ME! I love to follow. What you can do instead is learn how to lead. Easy easy moves, so you can keep dancing if there are not better leaders around, or you can make a leader dance as a follower. You will both improve in the process.

I would love to dance with you

A friend of mine one time asked Skye to dance and he answered “I would love to dance with you” and she almost cried. So this is what I tell most of the time, “Yes, I would love to dance with you”. But then sometimes I have to say “No, sorry, I can’t…” So I had to learn to say no. When I am tired and I can’t dance anymore I have to say no. But people take it personally. They come and ask you, I understand is painful, and then they get a no as a response. And even worst you say no to 3 people in a row then the 4th one is someone you promised the day before and you have to dance and you have 3 enemies. It’s painful, sometimes I feel guilty but I think I shouldn’t .Does anybody understand what I am talking about?

To avoid the NO! part I came up with couple of techniques. When I see someone is waiting for me and I know they are going to ask I

  • change position on the dance floor when the song is ending
  • ask to dance the 3rd song with the person I am dancing so hopefully I end up on different rotation group and I dont’ have to dance with that person for a long time (this is drastic technique and I use it only for people I really feel uncomfortable dancing with)
  • I ask the person I am dancing with to excort me to the bar or far away from the dance floor
  • I just say no but I can see the pain and I realize some people now think I am you know, selective or I think I am too god for them – probably they asked twice and twice I was tired, that’s enough to go on the black list and I understand that

Conclusions

I don’t even know why I wrote this. Part cause I would like to find the passion again, part cause I just love to talk about dancing and part cause I really wish that the all world would know how to do a swing out, whatever technique they use!

What do you think about it? How do we get more/better leaders? How do we make sure that we don’t loose dancers on the way, that we don’t make it hard for a leader to progress and become an acceptable fun dancer?

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