I’d Like To Change My Answer…(or: Inspiring Neo-Swingers to Lindy Hop)
At a talk on teaching I gave at the recent Atlanta Varsity Showdown event, I was asked the following question: “What do you do to inspire the 6-count/aerial/pretzel dancers to want to learn the sublime and complex world of Lindy Hop?”
My answer at the time was only partially true and even then not very helpful. I have since been rocking in a fetal position out of frustration, all because I can’t go back to that moment and answer the question differently.
Here was my response: “Well, ultimately, they have to make that decision themselves. You can inspire them, show how much fun you have dancing Lindy Hop, show how rewarding it is, but it’s ultimately up to them to take the effort to learn it.”
See? True, but not very helpful. Plus, it’s not very cheerleader-y, which, let’s face it, we’re going to need to keep building swing dance in the world. Luckily, my Atlanta friend Lyndsey Longstreth mentioned to the group that showing people clips of incredible Lindy Hoppers, at parties or even at dances, is a great way to inspire people to take the next step to Lindy Hop. I thanked her in such a way that allowed me to take some credit for her response, but my heart was still torn after the talk, and I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it since. So, mysterious question asker, I give you (assuming you ever see this) a little more thought to my response:
I think you have to decide how much want to put into it, and then plan accordingly. For instance, if you don’t have a lot of time or resources to put towards this goal, then an easy thing to do is make your own passion for Lindy Hop it’s PR. Strive to be a great Lindy Hopper yourself, perform some social dances, and when you dance and know people are watching, try to be really musical and playful–Lindy Hop’s obvious strength when put next to strictly East-coast 6-count swingers. All in all, try to show how much fun it is to Lindy Hop–that can go a long way, and everyone wins. You spread the Lindy Love by living it yourself.
But, if you have the resources, time, and energy there are a lot of other things you can do to inspire the spread of Lindy Hop. I’ll put some here, and hopefully even the Swungover commentators will offer some more suggestions.
I’d like to begin by making three rough categories of places you can inspire other people:
As a Social Dancer
See above. Other than inspiring yourself and having a great time, you can dance with lots of people, even east coast swingers, and really Lindify your 6-count, as a way to show there can be an easy correlation.
Also, try to stay positive. Six-count East coast swing dancers really enjoy their dance. They enjoy their moves, they enjoy their music, and they may have met more than a few Lindy hoppers who obviously look down upon them, which is one reason some are resistant to learning Lindy Hop. Keep that in mind.
You can bring your laptop to dances and show people clips of Lindy Hopping, knowing that at some point a few people looking at a computer might draw a crowd. You can invite good Lindy dancers from other areas to your scene, and get them to do demos or dances, paying them with dinner, or perhaps even just by telling them you’d love to have their inspiration on the local dance floor. If they teach, you could ask them to teach a beginner lesson at a local dance.
As a Teacher
Hold Lindy Hop Classes or free drop in lessons for beginners. Make sure you teach all six-count moves with the rock step starting on 1, so Lindy Hop will be an easier jump for students wanting to move up.
Strive to make those classes fun, enjoyable, positive, and try really really hard to teach the material well–Lindy Hop can be frustrating for people to get.
If you don’t teach, at least be prepared to teach everyone and everybody a swingout. Or Side-by-Side Charleston. This will take time out of your dancing, but anytime someone mentions Lindy Hop and asks you where to learn it, you can not only tell them, but you can offer to go over a few basics with them if they want. It’s like a kenesthetic business card. I recommend starting with side-by-side Charleston, in case they don’t know that. It’s easier to teach quickly, and everyone loves it.
As a PR person
Lindy-bomp restaurants, start jams, start an organization, leave cards at events. Put together a group that can do a basic big apple/jams/california routine in just few hours.
Make a choreography and perform it, a lot. Having a choreography prepared, preferredly with a few flashy moves, and performing it a few times in your scene is a great way to not only get people interested in Lindy Hop, but once you have one, you can actually find many different times and places to bust it out. And, I’ve never seen a dance promoter turn down the opportunity for a scene’s best Lindy Hop couples to perform.
Otherwise, just show them any video of Frankie Manning.
Er, so that’s a few things. Faithful readers! Anything else you can recommend?