Tag Archives: Newbies

Add Some Fun to Your Life

When was the last time you rolled down a grassy hill or stomped in a puddle or made up a silly song? These days we all find ourselves spending far too much time working and planning and networking and generally adulting and we forget to make time to just have fun!

At Swing Dance Leeds we’re here to help. We want you to have a go at swing dancing, not so that you can become a pro and impress all of your friends–I mean that’s okay too–but mostly we want you too see how much fun it is! We think you’ll love it and that you’ll enjoy spending time with other people who have set aside the time to just do something fun for the hell of it.

How to get started

Our Fundamentals course will get you off to a great start and help you feel confident in your new found dancing skills. Classes are small so you will meet a lovely group of new friends and find out all about the swing dancing community in Leeds and other activities you can get involved in.  This course is appropriate for absolute beginners and anyone else who wants to re-visit their basics in a structured learning environment.

Course Details:
Wednesdays 25th Sept – 16th Oct
6:30-7:30pm
at Dance Studio Leeds
Cost: £32 for the 4wk course

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

For a full list of beginner lessons and drop in classes have a look here. And for those who might be feeling a bit nervous about their first class, check out this blog post: How to Survive Your First Dance Class

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Science Says Learn to Dance!

It seems like every few weeks a new article is published with scientific studies demonstrating various health benefits of dancing. The latest article making the rounds states “researchers interviewed 1,000 people and found that often those who were dancing not only reported feeling happier, but also more satisfied with their lives, especially in relationships, health, and the goals achieved over the years.”

Dancing is great for your physical and mental health, can ward off dementia, and improve your quality of life. We’ve collected a few more articles on the benefits of dancing here. If you’ve never tried “proper” dancing don’t worry–the need to dance seems to be in our DNA! With just a bit of guidance you’ll be on your way to a healthier, happier life (according to science!).

Start with the basics

Our Fundamentals 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, so 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 in a structured learning environment. We run these courses regularly–the next one starts end of August.

Course Details:
Wednesdays 28th Aug – 18 Sept
6:30-7:30pm
at Dance Studio Leeds
Cost: £32 for the 4wk course

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

For a full list of beginner lessons and drop in classes have a look here. And for those who might be feeling a bit nervous about their first class, check out this blog post: How to Survive Your First Dance Class

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Learn to Dance Like Its 1935!

Ever wondered what it must have been like to go to dance hall in the 30’s? Fabulous dresses, dapper lads, couples moving and swaying across the dance floor executing intricate sequences of moves to the thumping rhythms of a live jazz band. Step back in time with us and find out just what it feels like!

Swing Dancing is alive and well today and you can find pockets of lively dancers in cities across the UK (and the world). Once you try it we promise you’ll be hooked. Sign up today for our Lindy Hop Fundamentals course and see what all the fuss is about.

Learn the basics of Lindy Hop in just 4 weeks!

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 in a structured learning environment. We run these courses regularly–the next one starts in May.

Course Details:
Wednesdays 29th May – 19th June
6:30-7:30pm
at Dance Studio Leeds
cost: £32 for the 4wk course

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

For a full list of beginner lessons and drop in classes have a look here. And for those who might be feeling a bit nervous about their first class, check out this blog post: How to Survive Your First Dance Class

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Is Lindy Hop for You?

Lindy hop is becoming more and more popular these days. There are a whole range of fantastic reasons to take up swing dancing! Some people start because of a love for swing music or vintage fashion, some are looking for a fun way to get more exercise, others are in search of a new hobby or a new challenge, some people are looking for a new way to connect with their partner or make new friends. Whatever the reason we’d love to see more people give swing dancing a try.

We take pride in the diversity of the Leeds lindy hop scene. You’ll see a range of ages on the dance floor, from 20-somethings to 60-somethings, in all shapes and sizes and colours. If you want to find out if swing dancing is right for you the best thing to do is pop along to a class. Our Fundamentals Course is a great way to start:

Learn the basics of Lindy Hop in just 4 weeks!

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 in a structured learning environment. We run these courses regularly–the next one starts in May.

Course Details:
Wednesdays 1st -22nd May
6:30-7:30pm
at Dance Studio Leeds
cost: £32 for the 4wk course

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

For a full list of beginner lessons and drop in classes have a look here. And for those who might be feeling a bit nervous about their first class, check out this blog post: How to Survive Your First Dance Class

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How to Survive Your First Dance Class

We run a few different classes that are open to complete beginners so we see a lot of folks coming through the door who have never taken a dance class before. If you’re considering having a go at dancing here are some handy tips to help you breeze through your first class like a pro.

Know That You Aren’t Alone If you’ve booked onto a class that is open to beginners it’s very unlikely that you’ll be the only newbie. Go in assuming that everyone else is starting from square one just like you. If you arrive a bit early chat to other students. See if they are feeling as nervous as you.

Dress for Success There’s nothing worse than turning up to a class in a leotard and tights when everyone else is in street clothes! Try to find out ahead of time what kind of shoes and clothing people usually wear to class so that you know you’ll be appropriately dressed. For most lindy hop or solo charleston/vintage jazz classes its a good idea to wear comfortable casual clothes and flat shoes that aren’t too grippy (plimsoles are a good cheap option)

Listen to the Teacher This might seem obvious but as adults we aren’t always as good at listening as we’d like to think. Some instructors might come round to give everyone individual tips, some may not so it’s really important to listen to what is being said to the class especially if you don’t think you’re “getting it”. Trust that the teacher has noticed your struggle and is about to tell you exactly what you need to do to fix it.

Have Reasonable Expectations for Yourself Everyone learns at a different rate and different aspects of the dance may be easier or harder for you than they appear to be for others. No matter what your background is try to go into a new class with the expectation that it will be a learning process that will take a little time. Expect that you might understand something intellectually but still take a bit longer to get your feet to do it. If you feel like you aren’t getting something but the teacher hasn’t swooped in to help, keep trying, you’re probably doing just fine and just need to try it a couple more times to nail it.

Dance Like No One is Watching Because they aren’t. No one is looking at you thinking that you’re the worst dancer in the class, they’re all focusing on trying to get the steps themselves. Whatever new steps you’re trying just go for it and if you are going to fail, fail BIG. No one will notice. Except the teacher and then they’ll know what you might need help with.

Practice Makes Perfect With most dance classes you get out what you put in. Practicing between sessions is a great way to solidify your learning and help you feel ready to keep adding new material. How do you practice a partner dance if you don’t have a partner? You can still practice the footwork, commit that to muscle memory and you’ll have one less thing to think about at the next lesson.

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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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Let’s Talk About Shoes

Whether you’re going for maximum performance and comfort or authentic vintage style shoes are a very important part of any dancers wardrobe. We’ll have a look at what options are out there, some popular brands, and how to find your perfect shoe!

You Gotta Have Sole

One of the most important features of your dance shoe is what’s on the bottom! You want a shoe that will allow your feet to slide around on the floor a bit but there’s a lot of room for personal preference here–some dancers like just enough slip to be able to spin easily while others want to glide through every move frictionlessly. At some point you will probably end up with a variety of shoes for dancing on different types of floors so that you can always achieve the perfect combination of shoe and dancefloor to create your desired amount of slippiness. Here’s a rundown of the basic options:

  • Rubber: A rubber sole without too much texture (think plimsolls not walking boots) can be a great option for newer dancers and those who prefer a less slippery shoe. Rubber soled shoes are generally softer so good for those who are worried about stepping on their partners’ feet or have yet to master the art of floorcraft. Pros: Soft, durable, and easy to clean, forces you to pick up your feet and be more precise with your footwork, Cons: May be too sticky for some dance floors.
  • Suede: So long as you have a suede brush you can have some control over the slipperiness of sueded shoes. Brush them regularly to give them a bit of grip or leave the suede to matt down for a bit more slip. You can purchase dance shoes with suede soles, get your favourite shoes sueded by a cobbler or even do it yourself with a bit of superglue. Pros: versatility, Cons: Do not get wet! Also hard to clean so not  great on sticky bar floors
  • Leather: Hard leather soles will give you the maximum slide on most floors, soft leather can be slightly less slippery but its not as hard-wearing. Pros: excellent for slides and slip slops, hard-wearing (hard leather), Cons: May be too slippery on some dance floors
  • Split soles: Split soled shoes are popular for many styles of dance so you may see them around a bit. Rather than being one piece the sole is in two sections to allow your foot to bend in the middle. Pros: Can be very comfy, Cons: Prevent you from using your whole foot on the floor
  • Heels: Heels aren’t strictly necessary for lindy hop but many dancers love the aesthetic. We would recommend flats to start with for most dancers but once you’ve been at it for a while you may want to experiment with heeled shoes. Wedges or chunky heels are your best bet. Pros: Can really change the look of your dancing, preferable for some styles like balboa Cons: Takes a bit of practice if you don’t normally wear heals, will have an effect on balance
  • Sole Hacks: These are temporary solutions–none of them ideal but good to be aware of. Earlier in the revival dancers often put gaffa tape on the bottom of their shoes to make rubber soled shoes a bit more slippery. It is cheap and effective! Though you do have to keep an eye on them to make sure the tape doesn’t start to wear down and get sticky. Also once you’ve put tape on the bottom of your shoes there is no going back the sticky gunk doesn’t come off easily. Socks over shoes–some people seem to make this work in a pinch but it is a VERY slippery option. Talc–you may see some dancers put talc on the floor to make it more slippery. As a general rule, if you are sharing the dance floor with other dancers who have not consented to the use of talc PLEASE DON’T DO THIS. It changes the floor for everyone, and not everyone want’s to slide around like Bambi. Change your shoes not the floor.

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Look the Part

If you want to go for an authentic vintage look. Here is a rundown of authentic swing era shoe styles.

For Men: Leather suit shoes are your best bet, two toned brogues are an authentic 30s style. Plimsolls are also an authentic vintage style for men and women as revealed in our last style feature.

For Women: Women’s shoes came in lots of styles in the 20s-40s. Heels were the norm for going out but flats are not inauthentic as there were sports shoes available with a very small heel. Iconic styles from the swing era include mary janes, oxfords, brogues, T-straps and wedges.

The Vintage Dancer website is a great resource with lots of photos of clothes and shoes from different eras.

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Where to Shop

First Shoes: If you’re just starting out we highly recommend picking up a pair of cheap plimsolls from Primark. They are an excellent first dance shoe! If you want something a bit fancier Keds and Toms and also great for this style.

Shoe retailers popular with lindy hoppers in the UK:

www.remixvintageshoes.com

www.slideandswing.es

www.swingdancestore.co.uk

https://www.swinggear.co.uk/

The DIY Option: In our experience, even some of the more reputable brands of dance shoes can be very pricey and at the same time not very well made so another good option is to make your own bespoke dance shoes. Find a pair of shoes that are comfortable and have the look you want on the high street or wherever you normally shop for shoes. If the sole is already appropriately slippy then you’re done! If not, take your shoes to a cobbler who will be able to grind them flat if they are too textured, or resole them with suede, leather, or whatever you want (Cobblers are awesome). Voila the perfect dance shoe!

 

 

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