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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Learn to Dance in 2019

The new year is a great time to try new things. Here are some compelling scientific reasons to have a go at lindy hop:

  • Partner dancing is good for your brain! Studies have shown that partner dancing can reverse the signs of ageing in your brain and help prevent dementia.
  • Physical touch is good for mental health Apparently we are living through a crisis of touch. If that’s news to you its probably because you’re already a dancer ;)
  • Exercise is good for you!  This one doesn’t have a link because we all know its true. Exercise that is fun and exercise that you don’t have to think about doing is THE BEST KIND.
  • Making friends as an adult is hard. Taking up a sociable hobby is a great way to expand your social circle and the lindy hop community is an extremely friendly bunch!

Take the plunge its totally worth it!

Learn the basics of Lindy Hop in just one 4-week course!

This course will give you a solid foundation in fundamental lindy hop moves and techniques, ideal for people who’ve never danced before. With small class sizes you will meet a lovely group of people, meaning you’ll have friends to dance with when you come along to a social dance or drop in class.  It is appropriate for absolute beginners and anyone else who wants to re-visit their basics

Course Details:

The Fundametals Course is very popular so we run it throughout the year! The next course will be 6th to 27th February
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 #79!

This fortnight’s variation is Shave and a Haircut!

Have a little play with this oh so familiar rhythm

For an extra challenge try it as a call and response with your partner (and send us the video!)

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Footwork Variation of the Fortnight #78 Joy Jump!

Jump for joy this Christmas with this weeks footwork variation of the fortnight – the joy jump!

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by | December 24, 2018 · 9:30 am

8 Ways to Improve Your Dancing Outside of Class

We try to make our classes fun and enjoyable but there’s more to Lindy Hop than just taking classes. Whether you’re in it for the fun and friends or you want train hard and really ramp up your skills here are some great ways to hone your dancing skills outside of class (in no particular order):

  1. Listen to swing music and learn more about it. A good place to start is Andy Lewis’s excellent DJ blog
  2. Social dance! Lindy Hop is a social dance so learning the moves in a classroom will only get you so far. In order to really work on your connection, reaction, improvisation, and musicality skills you’ve got to get out on the dance floor and dance a whole song or two (preferably way more!). Locally we recommend The Sunday Swing Set (and btw it’s FREE!) If you don’t have a well established social dance where you are see if you can get the room a bit longer after a class for a bit of practice time or try to find a local venue that would be willing to let you play some swing music on a typically quiet night. party
  3. Travel to events in other cities Even if your local teachers are international superstars it’s still good to get out and learn from other teachers. Because Lindy Hop has never been standardised, there are a wide variety of dancing styles and teaching styles out there and the dance is constantly evolving. So go out and experience a new perspective–see how other dancers and other teachers approach it. Dancing in a new place can also show you that you’re learning a truly international dance language that enables you to dance with other Lindy Hoppers all over the world!
  4. Watch other dancers Once you’ve got the basics down watching other dancers can be really inspiring, it can show you what’s possible and give you new ideas to try. When you go out to a social dance don’t forget to spend a little bit of time watching dancers that you like. Try to pick out what it is that you like about their dancing and try some of those things for yourself. There is also now a veritable smorgasbord of Lindy Hop videos available on the internet! You can see what Lindy Hop looked like “back in the day”. Bobby White’s blog is a great place to start. You can also catch hours and hours worth of performances, competitions and teachers demos from the past fifteen years or so. Here is an interesting blog post about some influential modern clips or just search for ILHC on Youtube and dive into the giant rabbit hole of related clips.tap
  5. Try other related dance styles At first the idea of learning yet another dance style might seem like it would make your head explode but once you get past that point it can be good to be a bit adventurous. Learning other swing era dances and/or dances that heavily influenced Lindy Hop can help you become a better dancer (they’re also lots of fun in their own right). Balboa can tighten up your footwork and help you explore new kinds of connection, Blues is great for working on control and improvisation, Charleston and vintage jazz are great for learning footwork variations, Tap can help develop your sense of rhythm and African dance can help you learn to loosen up and use your whole body.
  6. Strengthen your core. Core strength is super important for good connection and control so anything that strengthens those core muscles (yoga, pilates, pole dancing, aerial hoop, acrobalance, etc) will help your dancing as well.
  7. Build your endurance. Improving your technique and connection makes dancing faster much easier but even if you’re on top form dancing three songs in a row at 200 bpm is some serious cardio. Any activity that gets your heart rate up can help build your endurance–things like running, swimming, football and Zumba
  8. Invest in some decent dance shoes. This doesn’t have to be a costly effort but if you’re still wearing your Doc Martins to class getting a pair of  shoes specifically for dancing could make a big difference. Check out our recent blog about shoes for some good options to fit all budgets.

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