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.
If you’re new to the world of dancing, you may have heard other dancers talk excitedly about dance camps, workshops and exchanges. 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. A workshop however, is a one or two-day long weekend of classes. Or for those of you who just want to get together and have a dance, an exchange is a programme of daytime social activities, with live music at night to dance to.
Now that we’ve got that cleared up, it’s time to talk about DJam! Four days and nights of dancing, learning, meeting new people and having fun, DJam is a swing dance camp held in the stunning Beamish Hall Hotel in Durham each year.
Perfect for both beginners and those who are more experienced, the workshops will offer different styles of swing dance with a few taster classes to let you try out some other dances too. Because there are so many ballrooms in our amazing venue, I’ve challenged our team to put together a schedule that will allow dancers to focus on their preferred style of dance, whilst still being able to dip their toe into a few other styles as well when they choose. These taster classes are open to anyone, and most of the time you can just drop in without booking, making them the perfect way to try something new!
So what are these different styles and how do you know which ones to focus on?
New for 2017, we are introducing Swing Dance for Beginners, which offers newbies 8 hours of tuition with friendly, helpful teachers who have a lot of experience teaching beginners in their local classes. With two-hour blocks of classic dance styles like Lindy Hop, Charleston, Blues and Balboa, you will be taught the basic techniques so you can feel comfortable dancing at the socials, and have an idea of which styles you’d like to continue learning.
What started as a weekend workshop for 40 local dancers in 2007 is now an international festival with over 400 dancers attending from all over the world. Whether you choose to take it easy by attending just a few classes, or dance non-stop off from 10am – 4am, we promise that you’ll have the most amazing time having fun, learning new techniques, making new friends and experiencing exceptional kindness enthusiasm, encouragement and support for your dancing at DJam each year.
If you’re new to swing dancing then this ‘Beginners’ Swing Dance’ track may be what you’re looking for. Places for beginners is limited to small group each year so look out for registrations opening from 31 July.
Is injury causing you to miss out on the fun, friendship and learning that you enjoy? Injury can be so frustrating!
However, it is really important that after an injury, you prioritise your recovery and allow yourself to get better. This may be weeks or even months before you can dive back into dancing. However, there is no need to sit out and miss out.
You may be feeling down about not being able to dance but there is no need to stay away and miss out totally. Sitting out during a class can be so frustrating!
This is not uncommon and has happened to other dancers. Not to worry! We have a plan to keep you learning and enjoying the fun and friendship that you enjoy every week.
Is sitting out better than staying away?
This all depends on how much you want to want to learn. If you have an injury (or even if you are OK), sitting out to observe a class can still give you lots of information. But what should you be looking for? To help you we will give you some written guidance with useful bullet points to get you started. Observation skills are a key learning tool and, after a while these will develop and you will gain more and more from watching other people dance.
Try to focus on one thing at a time. Start by watching one body part. For example, what are the dancers doing with their arms? Are they relaxed and connected? Next, watch their feet. How far apart are they during triple steps? Then watch their shoulders. What are the signs of tension and what is the result of tension? How about their bounce? What happens when someone does not bounce at all?
Learning to dance covers so many aspects, from learning about the music, to watching videos, to watching a class in action. So watching a class in a focused way is a great way to learn and I would encourage everybody to do it at some point even if they aren’t injured. It’s easy to be so busy dancing that you rarely get to just sit and watch.
What Will You Learn By Watching People Dance?
This is a good question! Peter, whilst recovering from an injury (I hasten to add this is due to more adventurous outdoor pursuits!) instead of staying away he came to classes regularly and observed the dancing. Here are his comments on the experience.
“Yes, it sucks being injured! But I felt I got a tonne of information by watching people. It was interesting to see just how different people lead and follow. And I’m not just talking about how different levels dance. I’m talking about how all dancers of all levels dance so differently. Although I think I’ve also realised this by starting to follow (trying to anyway!). You could blindfold me and I could tell exactly who I’m dancing with, as they are all so different. One of the most important things I learned though was, as obvious as it sounds, was if ya gonna lead, lead! Don’t half lead. Lead with confidence, even if you lead with confidence and something doesn’t quite work it’s better than not really leading in the first place.”
As keen Lindy Hop dancers we all love watching YouTube clips of impressive dancers from all over the world. Let’s take some time in the coming weeks to watch a class or watch some social dancing. I am sure we will discover many things that we are not aware of when we are busy dancing.
When I invite a teacher to lead a workshop at Lindy Jazz or DJam, I like to ask them lots of questions! It’s my way of getting to know what they think and it’s also because I hear these questions quite often. Questions about levels, auditions, competitions, dancing with teachers and the secret of being awesome! Here, Natalia Eristavi, a beautiful dancer, international teacher and competitor answers my inquisitive questions and I am really excited to share her guest blog with you.
I am so honored to have been asked to write a guest blog for Joo-Lee!
Firstly let me tell you a little about myself. My name is Natalia Eristavi and I have been Swing dancing for about 5 years starting in Orange County California when I was 17 years old. Since then, I have picked up Lindy Hop, Shag and Balboa and have had the pleasure of teaching it both locally and internationally as well as competing at multiple events around the world.
When it comes to watching videos of myself, I tend to be quite self critical and rarely enjoy the experience however I am quite proud of some of the routines that I’d choreographed and performed in at a number of international events.
Having been to many international dance camps and having competed in most of them I have often been asked about taking that next step into high level competition.
If you’re going to venture into bigger waters yourself you’ll be faced with the sometimes intimidating world of level auditions for camp classes as well as prelims for competitions.
Looking back at when I was a newer dancer, I remember how nerve-wracking a first experience at competing can be. I remember my first dance camp, Camp Hollywood in Los Angeles California; It was exciting and scary at the same time! The energy was incredible and there were so many people from around the world that I had never met before. In my first competition, I didn’t make finals and to be honest, it upset me. But the reality was that I was nowhere near the level of the dancers I was competing against, and I knew that in time I would begin to make finals and eventually place or win at those competitions. I decided to start to enjoy the journey of improvement more than the destination.
So where to start …
What do I feel teachers are looking for in level auditions?
For me personally, I look for a good and solid understanding of basics and a good quality of movement. In my opinion, these elements take priority over styling and musicality.
What do I regard as an Improver, Intermediate or Advanced level?
I see the difference between these levels as summed up in three general elements; the quality of footwork, movement, and connection. The higher the level, the cleaner these elements.
For example; moving from Intermediate to Advance I’d be looking to see –
• Is your footwork under your body (are you balanced)?
• Are you using the floor to move efficiently through rhythm?
• Are your rhythms clean?
• Are you moving from your core?
• Does your body maintain a seated position?
• Are you using your fingers and back muscles to connect to your partner?
• Are you stretching and compressing through connection? And does this connection match that of your partners?
Most of us are familiar with watching high level dancers and being both secretly jealous and definitely inspired by them. But what is it that keeps us from achieving this level of dancing ourselves?
One habit that may stop you from achieving your goals is an unwillingness to criticize yourself and/or take criticism from others. It is important to trust your partners with feedback; they may offer you something you may not have thought of before!
Why do some competitors never get beyond the prelims?
Sometimes you can be the best follow/leader in the room, but you may not stand out enough aesthetically. The judges cannot feel how you feel because they’re watching you, not dancing with you. In order to stand out to the judges, you need to work on your quality of movement and shapes.
A big advantage of attending dance camps is being able to experience dancing with the weekend instructors and other high level dancers. Experiencing the connection, flow and rhythm of a professional dancer can give you a hands on understanding of what to aim for in your own dancing. However it can sometimes be intimidating to approach these individuals. From my experiences from starting out as a beginner dancer to growing to become an instructor myself, I can say quite confidently that instructors are happy to dance with you! Just walk up to them and politely ask as you would with any other dancer on the floor. If they promised the song to someone already, wait until the next one!
Then when you get that dance, relax and enjoy the dance; look into their faces instead of your feet, practice breathing in and out if you get nervous, and most importantly; smile!
We are often held up on trying to impress a high level dancer but what has always impressed me even more than fancy moves is just having a positive attitude. Smiling is underrated! If you connect with me visually and smile, the experience becomes a lot more enjoyable for the both of us!
Dancing like a pro doesn’t just happen over night but there are a few things to keep in mind on the journey – determination and patience.
If you want to push your dancing to the next level, I recommend attending as many camps as you can and taking as many private lessons as you can. However, the work doesn’t stop there; it is important to take everything you have learned and practise it consistently either with a partner, on the social dance floor or both. Video yourself dancing and compare it to a video of a leader/follower that inspires you. Individuality is a great thing and I encourage it but mimicking dancers for a short period of time is a great way to improve. Ask for feedback! Ask anyone and everyone! Your partners, your teachers… everyone! And when you get your feedback, work even more to improve! And lastly, enjoy the journey! Nothing makes me sadder than to see a discouraged and impatient Lindy Hopper. This is a fun dance! Every step is a joyful one!
I will be moving back to the US in the Summer but before I do, I have the wonderful privilege of teaching a workshop in Durham, home of DJam (which happens to be one of my favorite events!). I hope to see you all in person on the fourth of June.