When I first started dancing I was super enthusiastic, much to the dismay of many a follow’s arms. I wanted to know big and flashy moves, and for me that meant the Texas Tommy. Now, as I look back at that green well-spring of passion and flailing arms from eleven years ago, there’s so much I wish someone had told me. I mentioned this to Susanne, and she helped me compile this list of things that don’t often get talked about in the lindy world.
10 ) Murphy’s law of extra shirts. You will always need one more extra shirt than you bring with you. Those days where you forget an extra will be the time you need it most. So always keep one extra shirt tucked away in your car or your dance bag. Or maybe just leave one for yourself in the lost and found of every venue where you dance.
9 ) Not everyone is what they seem. Not all creepy guys and girls, aka “creepers,” are actually creepy. Most of them are just socially awkward people that gravitate to swing for the structured social interaction. Some of them are amazingly awesome people that will become friends over time. Likewise, there are some seemingly super cool and suave people out there that are total lotharios. Then, there are the actual creepers out there.
8 ) Get feedback. You are not an impartial observer of yourself. What you think you look like may be very different than what you actually look like. What it feels like to a partner might be vastly different to what it feels like to you. Ask people for input. Ask friends to videotape you dancing. Open up lines of communication for critical feedback with people whose dancing you respect and admire, and who you trust to be both honest and caring.
7 ) Good technique trumps lots of moves. It doesn’t matter how many awesome moves you know if you can’t lead them. It doesn’t matter how awesome your styling is if you never follow. Master the 6-count basic, tuck turn, swingout, lindy circle, charleston basic, and an inside and outside turn. A move isn’t worth doing if you aren’t doing it well.
6 ) Lindy hop is hard and worth it. Lindy hop is one of the hardest dances out there which is why it isn’t regularly featured on shows like So You Think You Can Dance. Check out this clip from the BBC version of the show where they tried it. These are professionally trained dancers doing their best to do lindy hop, and while they do a respectable job, it still doesn’t look that great. There are no other dances I know of that use shared body weight and momentum in the same way. Its tough. Professionally trained dancers struggle with it, and you’re gonna struggle with it, too.
5 ) What happens on the dance floor doesn’t always translate off the dance floor. I have made some great connections on the dance floor, fallen in and out of love more times than I can count. When I walk off the dance floor, none of that matters any more. Being able to express yourself on the dance floor doesn’t mean you have any capacity to have honest communication with words when the music stops.
4 ) Get comfortable shoes, and learn to maintain your body. Lindy hop is demanding, and the repetitive movements of dancing take their toll over time. Comfortable shoes help a lot. So does good stretching, and exercises that help to strengthen all of the muscles you are using and especially the ones you’re not using. When you start feeling aches and soreness, your body is begging for your attention. Learn how to give it the attention it deserves.
3 ) Expand your ear. Squirrel Nut Zippers and Big Bad Voodoo Daddy are great when you’re starting out. “Zoot Suit Riot” is great when you’re still trying to find the beat, but getting better at dancing requires getting better at listening. As you improve as a dancer, you won’t need that pounding steady beat, and will actually start to enjoy music that’s more subtle and intricate because you’ll know how to use your body to express all of those nuances.
2 ) You are good enough. Not everyone is going to be a master, but everyone can be passionate about the dance and continue to improve themselves. No matter what your level, you will go through plateaus and dance slumps. Sometimes something will snap you out of it, and sometimes you have to push yourself through. Hold on to that spark that lit your passion, and remember that it is always about finding your best expression.
1 ) The way of no way. There as many philosophies, theories, approaches to technique and the like as there are dancers. Keep an open mind. Listen to everyone, and always seek the truth and value in what they are saying or in how they are dancing. Synthesize it all into your own approach to the dance. At the end of the day, this is about your expression of the dance, and finding a way to share that thoughtfully with others.