Dr. All-level (Or How I Learned To Stop Being Pretentious And Love The Lindy Hop)

And I’m back! HA!

This post stemmed from a comment I made on Jerry’s post a while back. Ah, If I had a dollar every time I said that.*

In early December I attended Killer Diller Weekend, which proceeded to blow my mind on what a dance event can be and how all level classes can be so much better than an uber-selective masters track. It is a small-ish, local event in Seattle. This year they brought out Skye Home-fries and Naomi Uyuma to teach the classes. Even though the classes were all levels, I had absolutely no hesitation in signing up for the full weekend package. The classes were incredible even though there were people in the classes that had very (VERY) little lindy hop under their belts. Every class was insightful to advanced dancers yet managed to keep the (barely) intermediate dancers busy as well, and not overwhelmed. It shows that when you really think about how to present material to a true all level class you can keep every person in the class busy and fulfilled.

Note to small, local event organizers: A few lessons to be learned from Killer Diller.

It is exponentially more benefcial to bring out two incredible teachers and to bring out eight or more crap teachers for the following reasons:

  1. Two (or even one) incredible teacher will appeal to the more advanced dancers in your community which gets more people to your event than hiring a lot of uninspiring teachers so you can market them as rockstars only to fool the beginners.
  2. The beginners will learn from the best right away. This helps them become better dancers faster because they don’t learn bad technique or habits (which will improve your scene). Plus it eliminates taht whole hero-worship awkwardness when you introdce beginners to the movers in the scene early. It also gets rid of the whole weirdness when you watch someone on youtube for 2 years straight and then try to ask them a question in class without staring at them like a stalker (uber-guilty!).
  3. All-level classes (with premiere teachers) will unite the advanced dancers and the beginners and eliminate clique-i-ness factor. It will empower the beginners to ask the more advanced dancers to dance and not be intimidated by them, which will also help bring up the beginner faster and force everyone to have fun in the process.

This brings me to another point. Why does it take so friggin’ long to be at least decent at lindy hop? From that first beginner class at your weekly dance venue, how long did it take you to become a strong intermediate dancer? How does this affect our dance scene?

It took me more than a year to really get comfortable enough in the dance to get a good hang of it and to at least start to feel like I knew what I was doing. And then I realized how many bad habits I have. I got it from crap teachers who were overly confident on what they were teaching even when they barley had thin grasp on what they presented as the ultimate truth. How can one be so confident in their technique when they only teach at a place called Lindy Groove? Wah, wah, waaaah…

Our dance community insists on teaching fluff to beginners simply because they are beginners. Dubbing proper technique and connection as “too advanced” for them. It’s like playing neo-swing and bebop for the beginners at the start of the night, it doesn’t make sense. If you fell in love with lindy hop because of swing music, why not entice beginners the same way? Play medium tempo real swing in your beginner classes and dances, it will make it easier for the beginners to dance to than no-beat bebob or neo-swing. We should do the same with the material we teach. I understand you have to be able to to teach them enough to get them started so they can have fun right away, but you can plan your lesson and teach moves that require some technique. You don’t need to get all conceptual on them and start rolling water bottles across the room (hehe, you know who you are). You can blend your lesson to have moves and technique. Every once in a while tell the class to relax their arms, tell the leaders to really step back on the rock-step so their body goes back, teach the follows to rock-step on 1 and 2. That is all I ask for, it’s not too much is it? Basic technique is not “too advanced” for anyone. Especially beginners.

When you teach people good technique they are able to enjoy the dance more which means they are hooked. They will also pass on that joy to their friends and now you have a growing community. Sometimes I wonder how many amazing dancers quit because they could not get rid of their bad habits which they learned in their first month or two of dancing.

 

*I would be able to donate $65 to myself so I can go the the Cancer Dance-A-Thon this weekend. Speaking of which, please DONATE to get me there and support cancer research! I still need $55 more!100% of the donation goes to City of Hope!

 

P.S. I’d also like to point out how awesome James Bianco is. He says I’m a really good writer. HA! Take that, my 12th grade English teacher who failed me! But seriously, you are much to kind, you amazing person you.

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3 thoughts on “Dr. All-level (Or How I Learned To Stop Being Pretentious And Love The Lindy Hop)

  1. Beth H. says:

    I can’t agree with this enough.

    I was fortunate. When I started dancing, the only studio in Nashville was run by two dancers who started pushing technique and connection in their East Coast classes, and continued this through all of their Lindy and Charleston classes. As someone who WANTS to improve, and to improve consistently, I don’t know how long I’d have stuck around if I’d had to fumble through learning from people who thought those concepts were “too difficult” for beginners. They’re only difficult if we are too lazy to introduce them early and the result is bad technique that later needs to be changed.

    I’ve also found that my favorite workshops tend to be ones that are all levels combined – Rhythm Is Our Business in Knoxville, TN with Skye and Naomi, and then LaBLove in Philadelphia, PA with Joe and Nelle. I firmly believe that taking concepts that beginners need, and presenting them in a way that also engages your advanced dancer and allows the beginners to work with the more experienced benefits everyone.

    • Great, great comment! Thank you! I agree with you about the laziness. The longer you have bad habits the more ingrained they become and each dance makes it harder and harder to get rid of them to adapt better ways of doing things. Like smoking…
      I have found that some teachers are really good at thinking about how they say things and how different levels of dancers might interpret everything. At lindy focus, the master track was kind of weak.
      Some teachers taught moves. Not only where they moves, they were moves that I’ve seen this same teacher teach to an intermediate class.
      However, Laura and Jeremy made the class very cooperative and let the students in the class guide the learning process (sort of like a group private) and blurred the line between who was teaching and who was learning. This truly felt like an advanced class.
      I understand it’s hard to present novel materials to people that have been dancing for many years, but it’s not impossible. I was with L&J as they were thinking about what to teach and what really stood out to me is that they put the same amount of thought and work into their beginner balboa class as into their master class. Ah, the mark of greatness!

  2. Apache says:

    Hey Alice, good to see you writing again. I was starting to get afraid you went the route of lindybloggers.

    The first time I saw people swing dancing they were dancing Lindy Hop and doing swingouts, I was excited and wanted to learn that. When I went to my first lesson at the swing dance club at my local college, I learned East Coast Swing… for almost two months (then a smattering of charleston and some Lindy Hop after that).

    As a newbie it was really frustrating. I really wanted to learn the cool swingouts I saw, not this east coast crap. However it did not even come close to the frustration of when I went back home to California for the first time. My first night dancing in the California swing dance scene I went to Atomic and struggled heavily in the beginner lesson. After dancing for four months, I had a lot of bad technique and habits that had to be unlearned.

    I still carry that with experience with me and as a teacher for that college I started from, I strive hard to push good technique and connection in my classes (in spite of many people saying I will bore newbies too much). I tell my students while it may seem monotonous at times I would rather teach them a few things that they have the chance to do well then a lot of things that they may not get a good grasp on (move-move-move… move! theory of teaching).

    P.S. If you are Alice like “Alice in Wonderland”, I think I met you this past week (Since I met the only Alice I have ever met in Southern California this past week). However I figured it would be awkward to ask a stranger “Hey do you write an online blog called, “The Rantings of a Lindy Hopper?”.

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