As much as I wish it wasn’t true, lindy hop is challenging to learn. That’s likely one of the reasons why it wasn’t included on Dancing with the Stars and So You Think You Can Dance until well after the first couple of seasons. When Craig and I teach, we endeavor to strike the right balance between instruction and fun. And even though a move can be tough, we try to make it approach-able and do-able. Most of all, I try to convince students to be kind to themselves and allow that learning is a process; it usually doesn’t happen immediately. Type A students, typically folks who have been rather successful in many other areas of life, are often the most unforgiving of their inability to master a move within half an hour. I actually have a specially formulated speech for this type of student that goes like this: “If you know yourself to be a Type A person, take yourself aside and say, ‘Okay self, learning is a process.’ I don’t expect you to learn this move tonight. In fact, that’s why we have weeks of class left to master it. Do not have that expectation of yourself.”
There are two common outcomes when beginner students encounter a move that’s challenging: resignation or mastery.
Let’s start with the former. I imagine the thought process goes something like this: “It never takes me this long to learn anything! Ever! I hate this stupid dance.” Here is where I find it’s critical to keep class fun, point out how much the student has already learned, and reinterate that learning the swingout (usually the biggest hurdle) takes time.
And now for the latter, which sounds something like this: “This is tricky, but I love this dance and I WILL GET THIS MOVE if it’s last thing I do!” This student comes out dancing, asks for feedback, and does whatever he or she can to have more experience.
I’ve had students that were doing better than I expected based on their experience level, but they were so self-critical that they couldn’t continue. I’ve also had students that might not have had the most natural “fit” with lindy hop, but really wanted to learn how to do it, and by golly, they did it. Natural ability is nice, but unless you have it in spades, tenacity is more important.
Applies to the rest of life too.