How to Create a Welcoming Atmosphere for New Dancers

We love that lindy hop is a bit of a niche hobby, a little too geeky and involved to appeal to the mainstream perhaps and that suits us just fine BUT we also love having new people to dance with. So how can we make sure that those that do work up the courage to venture into our little subculture stick around long enough to become excellent dance partners? How do we make sure that our dance communities continue to grow? Here are a few things that anyone can do to help keep new dancers coming back for more.

  1. Be seen. Try to find a way to hold at least a few events in public spaces; outdoor dances, a social dance held in a space that is also open to the public, a charity event in a public space. All of these give people an opportunity to see what you do and how fun it looks. Make sure you’ve got some fliers for local classes for anyone who’s interested.
  2. Keep on top of  Social Media Make sure you’ve got information about your classes online at least with a simple website and facebook page and keep the information up to date so that potential new dancers can find out where and when classes are held and how to get in touch.
  3. Make the first move. This is one that everyone can help with. Keep an eye out for new people that you don’t recognize at a social dance and make a point of asking them to dance or at least say hello and introduce yourself. Will you intimidate them? Possibly (more on that in a moment) but more importantly you’ll make them feel welcome and included.
  4. Be Gentle. Dancing with newbies can take a bit of skill but here are a few tips that can help. Whether you’re a follower or a leader try to have a really clear bounce to help your partner find the beat. Keep it simple, avoid crazy variations or tricky moves. Be ready take it slow, new leaders may spend ages just stepping before they attempt to lead a move, new followers may need time to recover between moves.
  5. Be Reassuring If you’re dancing with a beginner dancer chances are that they’ll be worried that they’re doing everything wrong and ruining the dance for you. Let them know that they are doing a great job, they’ll learn faster by getting out there and social dancing. Even if you’re just having a chat with a newbie on the sidelines you can reassure them that everyone on the dance floor was once a beginner, encourage them to ask someone to dance, maybe even point out dancers that you know are good at dancing with newbies.
  6. Avoid unsolicited feedback Whether you’re having a social dance with a beginner dancer or dancing with them in a class, the one thing to avoid is giving them feedback or tips on their dancing. It might sound a bit counter-intuitive because you know they just want to get it right. However getting lots of unsolicited feedback can be overwhelming for any dancer and can make them feel very unwelcome. When you already feel like a clumsy octopus surrounded by graceful swans, and you’re desperately trying to keep up with what’s going on, the last thing you need is for every partner you dance with to let you know just how terrible you are. The most welcoming and effective way to help new dancers in a class is to be reassuring, make sure they are able to listen to what the teacher is saying, and help them practice by doing only what is being taught in a consistent way.
  7. Play music they can dance to. If you’re DJing a dance that has newer dancers in attendance make sure to periodically play some music that they can dance to–this might mean playing some slower tempo music or playing tracks that you know they’ve heard in class. If the event starts with a taster make sure the first few tracks at the start of the social dance are are the right style and tempo for whatever style was taught in the taster.
  8. Invite them along. Getting invited to go along with a group of dancers to the pub after a dance or for lunch between classes can easily be THE THING that tips the scale for a new dancer and makes them feel like they want to invest their time in becoming part of our community. Even though it was more than 15 years ago now, I’ll never forget the first workshop I went to and the dancers who invited me to join them for lunch that day and told me about a dance happening in the evening–that, more than anything else, is what made me want to keep going.
  9. Give them the inside scoop. Another great way to help beginner dancers is by letting them know about other classes, events and social dances that they can go to. Let them know where to find information about what’s going on in the local area, if there is a facebook group they can join or a website or community calendar to check.
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Footwork Variation of the Fortnight #82!

This fortnight’s variation is Heel Rock!

We think you’ll be rockin’ this variation in no time.

Just make sure you’ve got good strong heels on your shoes!

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Learn the Fundamentals of Lindy Hop

We love introducing newcomers to our favourite dance. If you’ve been meaning to have a go at partner dancing our Lindy Hop Fundamentals course is a great place to start!

The course will give you a solid foundation of basic lindy hop moves and techniques so that you’ll be ready to strut your stuff on the social dance floor! The course is ideal for people who’ve never danced before or those who’ve tried other styles of dance but are new to swing dancing.

We keep these classes small so that you will get to know a lovely group of other new dancers. This way you’ll have friends to dance with when you come along to a social dance or drop in class.  Appropriate for absolute beginners and anyone else who wants to re-visit their basics

–Course Details–

The Fundamentals Course is very popular so we run it throughout the year!

The next course will be 6th to 27th March
Wednesdays 6:30-7:30pm
at Dance Studio Leeds
cost: £32 for the 4wk course

For a full list of course dates visit our courses page

Pre-booking and payment required in advance
to register email: swingdanceleeds@gmail.com

Have a look at this video for a taster of what you can expect on the course:

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Footwork Variation of the Fortnight #81!

This fortnight’s variation is Knock on the Door!

We hope you’ll enjoy this week’s energetic variation.

Great for practicing your fast footwork!

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Advanced Charleston Challenge!

Are you ready to throw down and take your Tandem Charleston to the next level? If you’re up for the challenge we’ve got a course that will push you. Four weeks of tricky tandem and hand to hand Charleston craziness. This course is not for the faint of heart–you’ll need to come with a good grasp of tandem and hand to hand Charleston and be ready to work hard!

Wednesdays 6th – 27th March 8:30pm-9:30pm at the Dance Studio Leeds £32 for the 4 week course

As with all our courses places will be limited to keep a small class size with personal feedback so that you can get the most out of it.

To book email swingdanceleeds@gmail.com

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Competitions

With the popularity of shows like Strictly Come Dancing people are often surprised to hear that Lindy Hop is not primarily about competing. Many keen lindy hoppers never enter a single competition and are happy social dancing for the joy of doing it. For other dancers competitions are an important and fun part of their lindy hop journey.  Here’s a look at some of the pros and cons of dance competitions, some great insight for first time competitors, and why it’s awesome to be in a dance community that values both competitors and non-competitors.

On Being a Non-Competitive Lindy Hopper

If you know us well, you’ll know that Rob and I don’t really enter competitions. It’s mostly my fault–they’re just not for me. I’m not massively keen on performing, I don’t like the pressure, and I feel conflicted about the role that competitions play in our dance community. When I go to an event and feel like I’m spending more time watching competitions than actually dancing I worry  that the competitive element will take over, that Lindy Hop will become just another “dance sport” that is only done to win awards and not danced socially. I worry that too much competitive dancing puts the focus on dancers connecting with an audience and working up flashy bits of choreography rather than connecting with their partner and the music in a spontaneous way. I also worry that competitions end up putting too much emphasis on dressing a certain way, having a certain body shape and following trends rather than letting individuality shine. When I’m asked to judge at events I usually decline if possible. Competitions are tricky to organise, it’s even trickier to ensure that everyone gets a fair shake and I really struggle with this. I hate to see lovely dancers have their confidence shaken because they weren’t what the judges were looking for or even worse because they just fell through the cracks of a very casual judging system. What I love about the lindy hop community though is that competition is just one aspect of the dance, you can take it or leave it and still be a “real” lindy hopper. So for those of you that prefer the social dance floor, I’m right there with you–keep being awesome! To talk about some of the positives of competitive dancing I’ve recruited a couple of friends to help out .

liamphoto

Liam and Grace, Mersey Swing Smackdown. Photo by: Cheeky Rastall

Why Competing is Awesome: An Interview with Fran Santilli and Liam Craddock

I called up Fran and Liam for this story because they are both lovely humans and keen competitors. Fran is based in Bristol and is part of the Bristol Swing Riot team. Her recent competitive accolades include taking 2nd place in the Leeds Swing Revolution Open Mix & Match 2018, and 2nd in the Gastroswing Jack & Jill 2018. Liam is based in Liverpool and teaches for Mersey Swing  Some of his recent competitive achievements include taking 1st place in the 2017 Birmingham Swing Festival Mix & Match and 1st place in the DJam Jack & Jill 2017 and 2016.

Why do you like competing?

Liam: 1) It’s a scary, vulnerable thing to do! Scary fun is the best kind of fun. It pushes me outside of my comfort zone to make myself visible. 2) It puts me into the buzz and excitement of the event. 3) It gives me great pictures and videos of me dancing my best and lets me see how I actually look when dancing in the wild. 4) Putting myself in the spotlight with somebody else as a team is a bonding experience, and I’ve found some wonderful friends with people I’ve competed with. 5) It’s a healthy check for my ego to regularly get results I don’t want. I learn from the times I don’t dance my best or make mistakes as it makes me aware of how little I really know and how much more I have to learn.

Fran: I love performing and competing gives me the chance to do that but there is also a challenge in that moment, in that you need to push yourself a bit. If the music isn’t inspiring then you need to listen harder and find something in the song that does make you want to dance. You’ve got to read the situation in front of you and maybe take some risks, try a move that you’re not sure about or be a bit silly. Sometimes it goes a bit wrong, but that’s when the real magic happens, when you’re out of your safe zone and you can create something new!

Do you think having a competition makes an event better?

Fran: I think having competitions tends to attract different types of dancers. When I’m looking at which events I want to go to I will check if they have competitions and what types. If I’m looking to have some serious dancing and feel a bit challenged then I’ll look for events with more competitions that are at higher levels; but if I just want to go on a dancing holiday that’s pretty relaxed I would look for an event with either no competitions or just a mix and match. It depends what you are looking for each time.

In general I’m in favour of having at least one competition at an event, even if it’s a silly one (e.g. how long can you keep a serious face). Lindy hop was created on the social floor but competitions and jam circles were a big part of that – it was all about showing off to the other dancers what you could do and what you’d worked on, and the other dancers needing to up their game to be able to beat them. It’s fun to see other people having fun and showcasing their styles – you can pick up new moves or even a whole new way of dancing if you see something that you like.

Liam: I really enjoy watching comps as part of the evening entertainment. That works best when the organisers get them done efficiently and keep the number of them under control. It’s also often the only time when newer dancers get to see higher levels of dancing in person, instead of curated snippets of international comp highlights on youtube

What tips would you give to someone considering entering their first competition?

Fran: If you’re tempted then give it a go! Chances are that your first comp might be a bit terrifying and you might forget what you’re doing, but that happens to EVERYONE! It’s just the little hurdle at the start but once you’re over it you can really start to enjoy yourself. Also we’re amazingly lucky in the swing scene to have a really supportive feel to competitions. Every time I’ve competed I’ve always felt like the audience and the other contestants just want you to have fun and enjoy it. We’re all part of the same community and we’re all doing the same dance that we love so there is no need for negativity, only encouragement!

I’ve also found it really helpful to have a clear aim on why I’m competing. I’m competitive, and I don’t like losing very much (does anyone?). But I don’t enter competitions with the goal to win – I enter to have a good time and dance with some cool people and maybe get to show off some moves. Then if I don’t get first place I’ve still had a really awesome time, and it can be filed away in the memory bank as a happy moment.

Liam: I’d say it’s enormous fun, and you won’t regret the experience. There are also few times in life when you’ll have as warm and supportive an audience as you get at Lindy events. The comps are there for entertainment and the accuracy of the results are very secondary, although it never seems that way when you’re waiting for the announcements. Outcomes are a mixture of many things; the partner, songs, where the judges were looking at what moments, the artistic tastes of the judges, showmanship skills, who else is competing and of course, how you yourself actually dance in that moment. Most of those things are out of your control so as hard as it may be, care less about the comp results and more about what you personally think about your dancing, because that’s who’s opinion really matters.

fran photo2

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Footwork Variation of the Fortnight #80!

This fortnight’s variation is Scoot on 1!

Here’s a lovely little accent on the one.

This is a good variation to test your balance

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