We hear the same things so often from people who wish they could dance but have not yet given it a try.
“I have Two Left Feet…. I have no rhythm…. I am the world’s worst dancer… it’s impossible to teach me to dance ……
My response is simple. It’s about making the decision to turn up to your first class with an open mind. If you have already decided that you’d be no good then you are not giving yourself the chance to try something that you might come to like a lot. You don’t know unless you try!
Learning to dance takes time but it won’t be long before you’re having fun if you allow yourself to relax, enjoy and see what it’s about. To enjoy the experience, my advice is to follow the instructions but don’t be tempted to do anything that is distracting or unhelpful to yourself. I see so many new beginners looking at their feet so that they can assess their progress. It’s very distracting if you are busy assessing yourself whilst trying a new skill at the same time. You will learn much more easily if you allow yourself to follow the class without checking if you’re doing the right thing. Everyone makes mistakes and you will, too, so just keep moving as it doesn’t matter.
One thing everyone needs to realize is if you think everyone is looking at you, think again; they are probably worrying about the same thing as you and are too worried to be looking at you!
You will never know if you can dance if you don’t give yourself the chance to try. Everyone was once a beginner and most of these beginners are now enjoying the fun of dancing to fantastic live bands and having the most amazing social life. Imagine how you’d feel by this time next year, when you, too could be dancing like it’s the most natural thing in the world.
Anyone can enjoy social dancing. This kind of dancing will not require you to do the splits, spin on your head or even memorise a routine! You just need give yourself the chance to take your first step, and that is to try a class.
Your first visit to Lindy Jazz is free so you can check it out for yourself. Try one class and if you feel OK about it, then maybe try a course so you can give yourself the chance to make progress.
How many times have you learned an amazing new technique or move in a workshop and said to yourself: “That’s incredible! That’s one I’m going to keep using forever….”
As for me? Honestly? I have no idea. It’s happened a lot – but I keep forgetting them. Which is a little ironic…
Too many times, I rush out of a workshop, and straight into the next one… before the first one has fully “taken” – and no matter how well taught – how great the material – it’s vanished from my head. In a well-intended attempt to provide as much for its students as possible, a camp has quite simply made it much harder for me to retain what I’ve learned.
In other words – after decades of going to dance camp after dance camp, experiencing workshop upon inspirational workshop, from teacher after wonderful teacher…. from which I’ve remembered far too little… I’ve come to realise some key things about workshops:
An hour for a workshop is not enough.
Practice it right away, or lose it.
Recap videos are useless once you’ve forgotten the workshop
Small class sizes are great
For DJam 2018, we’ve decided to put a big focus on providing a truly transformational learning experience – so we’ve made some key changes to the core workshop format.
Each core workshop will last an hour and a half, so you really will have time to learn, absorb and practice the techniques and ideas that are being taught.
Each core workshop will be followed with half an hour of practice / consolidation time, so that you can make the most of what you’ve learned. Practice with your partner, or with others in the workshop. Work with your fellow students – they may have had insights that will help you – and you may well have insights that will help them.
The class sizes will be smaller and more intimate. This lets the teachers give a lot more personal attention to the individual students, giving them the help that they need to make the most of the material.
In this way, and by choosing some truly wonderful teachers that we love learning from, we hope to make DJam 2018 the best learning experience it can possibly be. I’m so excited for this event – and I truly hope it helps make DJam the perfect event for people that truly want to focus on transforming their Lindy Hop or Balboa, and reaching the next level in their dancing.
So you’ve been attending beginner classes on and off for a while and you’re wondering when you can join the Intermediate Class? Here is everything you need to know!
I’m often asked by dancers if they can join the Intermediate Class as the class time suits them better or they have previous dance experience in another style and therefore consider themselves to be able to pick up new steps quickly or they feel it’s been some time since they’ve started beginner classes, and although these are all valid reasons, there are certain skills and qualities that I look for before inviting dancers to join the Intermediate Class.
It is worth noting that progress is not always related to the number of weeks or months that you have been dancing in the class. Progress usually relies on both attendance and engagement, so if you turn up to class regularly and engage as fully as possible, then your dancing will improve quickly, whilst if you attend class sporadically, you have to leave early and you rarely dance with other students, then your progress will be slower. It is important to really focus on building your basic Lindy Hop toolkit, so that you don’t struggle or hold others back in the Intermediate Class.
What do I need to know about joining the Intermediate Class?
When joining the Intermediate Class, you will be joining a group of experienced dancers who have been working on their dancing for a while. They are also keen to keep improving all the time, and although you can expect everyone to be very welcoming and encouraging, please bear in mind that when you rotate partners all of you will affect each other.
If you’re interested in joining the Intermediate Class, then practice, attendance, an openness to teacher feedback and enthusiasm are key. My advice would be to stay back after class to practise with other dancers and to ask for feedback from your teachers as regularly as possible to build your foundation before moving to the Intermediate Class.
The focus of learning to dance at Lindy Jazz is personal development; to build our skills, confidence and to gain more joyful dance experiences. Our focus is not social status so you will find that we are not concerned about which ‘level’ we might be. Within the Intermediate Class, you will find that some dancers are more advanced, more skilled and more experienced than others and everyone has different aims and learn at a different pace.
What skills or qualities do you look for when inviting someone new to join the Intermediate Class?
Every scene or community runs classes in their own way, and at Lindy Jazz, we have some expectations of what we’d like to see before you join the Intermediate Class. These skills are taught at our weekly classes and weekend workshops, and we encourage you to attend these classes before jumping into the Intermediate Class.
1. a clear and consistent pulse (or ‘bounce’)
2. relaxed arms & shoulders that ‘stretch & release’ without over-extending
3. a ‘free foot’ when shifting weight
4. triple step footwork with ease
5. Charleston footwork with ease
6. an open attitude to feedback
7. a positive response to mistakes e.g. joy instead of stress
8. regular attendance at intermediate and beginner classes – every week if you can
9. regular attendance at weekend workshops – at least once a month if you can
10. regular practice – staying back to practise social dancing every week and practising your drills for 5 minutes every day if you can
When I see dancers meet most of the above expectations, I will invite them to join the Intermediate Class. Sometimes, I may invite them to join the warm up drills at the beginning of the class and then to observe the rest of the class, sometimes, I might ask a lead-follow couple to stay with each other instead of ‘rotating’ for a couple of weeks until their basics are secure.
Every class is different
Please remember that there are no set rules in the ‘world of Lindy Hop’ and that every class is run independently so the expectations as explained in this blog post are created as a guide for classes at Lindy Jazz. Having said that all Lindy Hop communities are united along similar key philosophies which are joy, fun and friendship through social dancing, so keep dancing!
Join Lindy Jazz classes on Tuesdays at Gosforth Parish Hall NE3 1YT
19:30 Beginners’ Class
20:45 Intermediates’ Class
21:30 Social Dancing & Practice
Join Lindy Jazz classes on Wednesdays at St Aidan’s Church Hall DH1 5BL
If you’re new to the world of swing dancing, you may have heard other dancers talk excitedly about DJam, an international swing dance camp. But what exactly is a dance camp? Are there tents and campfires, and most importantly, do the dancers actually go camping? If you love camping then I am afraid you won’t find log cabins and singsongs (well, not at most dance camps anyway); a dance camp is usually just a weekend of learning through structured classes, with social dancing in the evening to enjoy your new-found skills.
Now that we’ve got that cleared up, it’s time to talk about DJam! A blissful weekend of dancing, learning, meeting new people and having fun, DJam is a swing dance camp held in the stunning Beamish Hall Hotel in County Durham each year.
Most dance camps are attended by experienced dancers. That’s because experienced dancers know that to improve their dancing a lot, they need to start learning from world-class teachers and dance with a wider range of dancers. They know that if they only ever dance with a small group of people and never venture outside of their local class, their dancing progress will plateau. As organisers of DJam, we also teach a local weekly class which attracts a regular influx of beginners so we know the worries that new dancers have when thinking about improving their dancing and how they don’t feel confident enough to come to DJam or come on their own. So I’ve summarised some information here to help all new dancers to get a flavour of DJam. At the time of writing, we have just 10 places left in the Lindy Hop beginner level ‘track’. So…..what is Lindy A? What is a track? What happens at DJam? If you’re a new beginner, read on……
At DJam, there will be several tracks meaning different classes in different styles. Once you’ve decided on your track eg Lindy Hop, the next thing to do is to choose your level and Lindy A would be the beginners level where no previous dance experience would be required. Your teachers will know that everyone in your group will be new and possibly nervous! DJam teachers are hand picked not just for their dancing and teaching skills but also for their warmth, friendliness and care for new dancers.
The teachers and the DJam Team are very approachable and will be happy to answer any questions about dancing; even if the questions may seem basic, for example, what to wear to the evening socials, how to ask for dances, what time the cabaret or competitions are on, what’s for lunch, anything!
When you arrive at Beamish Hall at the start of the DJam weekend, you’ll be made to feel welcomed by the organisers & volunteers. You will be given lots of information and introduced to other beginner dancers, who won’t know others either so they’ll be just as nervous.
The DJam schedule is packed with daytime classes, evening parties & various social activities. You can choose to do as little or as much as you want. In addition to your own track, meaning your set of Lindy Hop beginner classes that you have booked for in advance, you can also drop into taster classes. Taster classes are designed to give a little taste of other styles of dance and a whole host of interesting topics, for example. Blues, Balboa, Shag, Aerials, Swing Music. You don’t need to book for taster classes in advance. Once you’ve arrived at DJam, just take a look at your schedule and see what looks the most interesting to you.
Your Lindy A classes will consist of a small group of dancers who will learn ‘from scratch’ – how to dance, what to do at social dances, how to understand the etiquette of social dancing, how to move well, how to dance to swing music, how to lead, follow and dance with people you don’t know etc. In short, your dance skills and knowledge of dancing and swing music will be transformed and you will feel a lot more confident when you next go dancing.
You can choose your ideal ticket from a number of options and we call this a ‘pass‘, so you can come for just Saturday or just two days or make the most of it and come for the whole weekend or even stay over at Beamish Hall Hotel. The DJam team, the volunteers and I will make sure that you feel included, enabling you to make the most of this opportunity.
As the deadline for booking is fast approaching and there are only 10 places left, book now or contact me, Joo-Lee, for more information.
New beginners often ask us to teach them a routine or a sequence when in fact, it’s easier to dance if you learn the skills to dance rather than try to memorise a lot of moves. So often we see new dancers busy learning a whole bunch of moves. My question is, “Do you remember everything? Do your moves work when you social dance with dancers who haven’t done that exact class and those exact moves?” Perhaps what you’ve just learnt doesn’t work because you haven’t had the chance to consolidate anything and your body hasn’t had the chance to learn how to move. Then at social dances, you end up forgetting your moves.
When learning a social dance such as the Lindy Hop, it can be easy to get stuck in a rut by just dancing patterns and routines, rather than learning to move naturally and confidently so that you don’t need to think and concentrate hard when you dance. If you develop the skills to move well and train your body to do what you want it to do, then you will be able to carry out new and exciting moves. I truly believe that we all need to learn how to move easily before being concerned about how many moves we can pull off on the dance floor.
Using the building blocks and drills taught in class will give you structure, certainty and security when you dance. These are short phrases that you can practise over and over again until you develop the muscle memory for the basics, such as the pulse and rhythm. However, if you are new to this and have got used to set moves and routines, you may find it to be very unfamiliar but if you are able to spend 5 minutes a day practising these simple techniques, you will soon find dancing easier and more enjoyable.
Then you might be asking yourself, “Will I have enough moves to get through a whole song without being boring to my partner?”. Well, the constant repetition of techniques like triple steps and Charleston kicks in class is not meant as a pattern for every dance, but rather they should be practised as useful drills that can help you to develop muscle memory, so that, with practice, you will be able to simply enjoy dancing without thinking consciously about the actual steps. When you start to intuitively dance like this and let your mind relax, then you will find it easier to move to the music in a fluid manner, which in turn will give your partner a really good dance too. In other words, knowing a few rules without being rigid with the rules can give you a lot of freedom!
There’s no right or wrong way to dance, so if you prefer to dance a set of routines that you know, then that’s absolutely fine. As you gain more experience, you will find yourself naturally being able to take on these amazing and exciting skills.
So if you’re keen to take your dancing to the next level, and wondering what skills you need to learn so that you get a strong grasp of the techniques to social dance with confidence, then why not join us on Sunday 8th January for one of two excellent workshops, and give it a go?
Whether you’re a confident dancer, a newbie, or a dabbler, when it comes to dancing, sometimes there’s a bone of contention in partnerships when it comes to who is in charge. A recent interview I did with the BBC got me thinking about the dynamics of dancing, and just exactly who should be taking the lead.
When you go to a Lindy Hop class for the first time, it can often be quite a shock to learn that you don’t simply learn a dance routine off by heart and go on your way. Instead of being concerned with who’s in charge, and who should be doing what, it’s more of a conversation between you and your dance partner, rather than a rehearsed script that you learn off by heart. It’s important to feel what your partner is doing, and respond to it by using the moves and techniques you have been taught. Dancing, especially when it comes to swing dance, is all about spontaneity and communication and creating a connection with your partner that you can share. That’s why, when we hold classes we ‘rotate’ or ‘switch’ the partners so you’re not just dancing with the person you came with. This way you’re far less likely to have a dance domestic!
We often find that if you’re dancing with a stranger (of course, they won’t necessarily be a stranger for long), you’re probably not going to be concerned with telling them what to do and how to do it, so your concentration and ability to communicate clearly improves. Dancing with a different partner also allows people of all different abilities and experiences to dance together, which can really help to develop your understanding and feel of the dance. Plus, it’s a lot of fun, and it’s definitely a great way to make new friends!
Whether you’re on your own, part of a group, or in a couple, there’s room for everyone at our swing dance classes, and no one will be left out; Lindy Jazz offers you your first class for free, so there’s no excuse not to throw on your dancing shoes and give it a go.
What would you do if you had the chance to compete in Strictly Come Dancing? Would you go for it or would you find it a nerve-racking experience? Imagine learning a brand new skill, wearing a glitterry costume and performing in public, then being judged by professional experts and watched by millions of people at home.
This got me thinking about why people dance, and how styles of dancing differ depending on whether you’re dancing socially, or for a competition. If you’re an entertainer, then you’ll enjoy impressing people with your skills, and for most beginners, it is this pressure to amaze that puts them off, but they needn’t worry. Dancing is a also a social skill, and when you’re not dancing for a competition or a show, it can be the most aamzing experience.
When you dance for social reasons it’s like learning a language. You’ll learn the words and the grammar, and then you put it all together into sentences. You don’t learn a language just so you can stand up on a stage and recite a poem, you learn a language so you can converse with others, and with social dancing it’s exactly the same.
After learning the steps and the techniques, you can then build your dance using what you’ve learnt. Much like going abroad and being forced to converse in a new language, dancing socially with different dancers is the best way to hone and refine your skills, and after the first few times you will have improved immeasurably.
Unlike professional show dancers who learn a set choreography, social dancing is taught using moves that can be combined to form a sort of conversation, rather than a pre-rehearsed, pre-determined script. With social swing dancing, it’s like having a real conversation; dancers come together with a live band or a DJ and ask each other to dance; neither knows what the other is going to say, how they’re going to react or what they’re going to do, resulting in a truly unique conversation that can’t be replicated. So if you have ever thought about joining a class or taking up a new skill, why not have a look at our Swing Dance Beginner course to help build your confidence before you dive right in?
Do you find that some dance lessons can be a bit confusing? This move, that move, do this, do that…….? Before you’ve grasped one thing, the lesson has moved on and now you’re expected to combine all the moves. You can’t even remember which foot to use never mind how to coordinate your arms too. What a nightmare!
The teachers look great. The demo is impressive. The experienced dancers are having a good time and everyone seem friendly enough. So, what’s wrong? If you’re a brand new newbie, you might be thinking, “Is anyone going to break down the moves or am I expected to ‘just do it’?
This is probably happening because you’ve joined a class that assumes some previous knowledge. Ask yourself, are you in a beginners’ class that’s tailored to adult beginners? If you’re in a class that’s ‘suitable for all levels’, then this may be pitched at a higher level than you’d like. The moves may not be broken down as the majority of the class don’t need this.
I must admit, when I was a less experienced teacher, I did at times leave some of my students feeling lost. I hadn’t realised that different people have different ways of learning and it was up to me to find lots of different ways to explain things. Fast forward 30 years, I’ve used my research from teaching thousands of music students to come up with ideas and techniques that can make learning music, dance or most practical skills, a lot easier. Teaching Lindy Hop to beginners over the last 10 years has also taught me so much about the things beginners struggle with. Everyone who has taken that first step to try a dance class is looking for some assurance that they too, can enjoy dancing, but all too often they come away with the feeling that dancing is too complicated. This is not because they can’t learn to dance but because the lesson material hasn’t been broken down into logical step-by-step instructions.
To give our beginners some extra help in between lessons, I’ve been putting together hundreds of short videos on the Lindy Jazz YouTube channel. Breaking down the moves into bite-sized, digestible chunks is something I love doing as I can see how much it helps everyone to understand and to enjoy dancing more. These video lessons were originally shared with just our regular Lindy Jazz beginners so they can practise in between classes. As more private students have also asked for these videos, I decided to create an online course so that dancers who want to be clear about their basics, will be able to practise from the comfort of their own home.
I am super, super excited to announce that registration for the ‘Swing Dance Beginner’ online course is open! If you’re new to swing dancing and have no dance experience at all, check out my easy-to-follow, step-by-step course that will give you the confidence with the essential basics before joining a class.
I’ve been working on something new and I can’t wait to tell you about it!
It’s mainly for beginners but if you’re not a beginner, it’d be fantastic if you can help by sharing this with your friends who are new to dancing. So, what’s going on…..?
Well, it’s been a busy summer with quite a few of you coming for one-to-one private lessons. Beginners want to have a sense of control so they don’t feel embarrassed when they attend their first class, whilst experienced dancers usually ask for a check up and tune up, where they can get feedback and make better progress. So, it’s great to teach so many private lessons. However, as my schedule is getting a bit crazy (in a busy & exciting way), I have decided to create Swing Dance Beginner, an online course so more dancers get the chance to build some brilliant basics.
This course is perfect for beginners who may be concerned about feeling embarrassed when learning to dance ‘in public for the first time’. By learning online in the comfort of your own home, you can learn how to do the basic steps and build your confidence before you join a class.
If you are no longer a beginner but you want to build strong foundations in your swing dancing, or perhaps you’ve missed a few classes and need to catch up, this course will not only show you what the moves are but will teach you how to do them step by step. You can also use the video lessons on this course to practise in between lessons and if you do this, you will soon become a more confident swing dancer.
Registrations will be opening on 12 September so check it out here and be among the first dancers to join this new course!
Beginning to learn to dance can be a scary and worrisome time and I often try to think about how beginners feel when they’re just starting out, and try to see things from their viewpoint to help make things less daunting.
Before you attend your very first dance class, you’re probably asking yourself:
Will everyone else be super advanced?
Will I fit in with the rest of the class?
Will I be able to keep up?
These are all extremely valid questions, and when it comes down to it, we all feel the same the very first time we try something new. You don’t want to feel like you’re floundering, or make yourself look like a fool in front of the whole class, but it helps to know that lots of people feel this way no matter how confident they look!
Did you know that overthinking things and worrying excessively can stress you out and can actually impact on your dancing abilities? The following are just a few traps that beginners fall into when they first come to a class:
Trying to prevent mistakes
Looking at what others are doing
Trying to assess your own progress
Trying to memorise the moves
These are all common mistakes, and ones that are easily fixed, so here’s some advice on how to cope when you find yourself falling into one of these traps:
1. When you worry or overthink what you’re doing you create tension and your brain can freeze up, causing your muscles to get stiff. This is not ideal when you’re trying to dance, and will make your ability to learn a lot more challenging. So try relaxing, just go with the flow and you will find yourself catching on in no time!
2. Take it from me; it’s absolutely impossible to prevent mistakes so why even try? Mistakes are a normal part of learning any new skill, so you shouldn’t worry if you miss a step or two. It’s not like you’re training to be a heart surgeon, dancing should be a fun and entertaining experience, so don’t take it too seriously.
3. It may be tempting to look at what everyone else is doing during the class, but your instructor is probably the only one who is doing it right! If you are busy looking at everyone else, you can find yourself not really knowing what version of the dance is correct, so simply focus on the teacher and you will find it a lot easier to learn.
4. Not everything in life is about grades and exams, and trying to assess your own progress while dancing can be extremely distracting. You don’t get tested in social dancing classes as it’s all about having fun, so just go for it! If you do want to know how you’re doing, you can ask your teacher for an update.
5. It’s simple; you don’t need to memorise the moves. If you try and concentrate too hard on remembering what comes next, your brain will be working too hard and you’ll seize up. Instead of over thinking, try to feel the moves and let it flow naturally.
As with any new class, everything will seem unfamiliar and confusing at first, but the more classes you attend, the more familiar you’ll get with how everything works. When you see experienced dancers out there enjoying themselves effortlessly at a social, you might be asking yourself what’s their secret? Here are the secrets! Experienced dancers attend regular classes, dance as much as possible outside of their weekly classes and they focus on what they are doing whilst staying as relaxed as possible. Most of all, they love dancing and find it a joyful experience.
I really hope that you found this article helpful, and that you’ll feel encouraged to try a dance class. In fact, attending a free class is a great way to find out if you’d like to learn more so look out for free classes that will give you a chance to try a taster. If you’d like to get to grips with the basics of swing dancing, then check out these beginner-friendly events in Sunderland and Gateshead.