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I’d Like To Change My Answer…(or: Inspiring Neo-Swingers to Lindy Hop)

October 19, 2010


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?

20 Comments leave one →
  1. Lindyspice permalink
    October 19, 2010 1:42 pm

    For the ‘As a PR person’ category: if your regular Lindy venue has postcards/business cards, keep a small stash in your bag. If you happen to break out your moves at a local nightclub or restaurant, you’ll have something on hand to give to random strangers who ask “where’d you learn to dance like that?”

  2. Matt permalink
    October 19, 2010 2:08 pm

    I was absolutely one of those East-coasters who was really happy with what I did, and I’m trying to remember what it was that made me see the light…

    For me, part of it was realizing how much *fun* the dynamics of lindy are. But that has to be felt to be understood.

    Another part was learning how versatile the moves were, and how much variety you can get out of 2 or 3 basic lindy moves by mixing up the styling.

    As for “having some choreography”, I’m not so sure. When I saw really good lindy dancers, I assumed for a long time that they just always danced with a partner long enough to have routines down, because I didn’t realize how much is possible with intrinsic lead-and-follow lindy. I thought the lindy dancers were snobbish and cliquish because those were the people they knew and were able to dance their choreography with.

    • jackthevampire permalink*
      October 20, 2010 4:46 am

      Hey, thanks for your insights. When I was thinking of choreography, I was thinking more of a performance piece to perform that shows off Lindy Hop.

      • jackthevampire permalink*
        January 13, 2011 5:35 pm

        You’re totally right though, about cliques and snobbish stuff. That’s probably the biggest problem we face. Other than going out of your way to be friendly, I don’t know what an answer is to that.
        The problem with going out of your way to be friendly is, well, it’s hard to make the effort when you feel someone is making false assumptions about you–and when a random 6-count swing dancer thinks you’re snobbish just because you enjoy Lindy Hop more, well…it’s hard not to think they’re not trying to get to know you better. Someone has to break, I think…I don’t know…any thoughts on how you overcame this in your scene? You seem to have come to a realization at some point?

  3. October 20, 2010 2:52 am

    And how to get them (anyone, even lindy hoppers!) lured into balboa? Any ponderings about that?

    But we always take some nice postcards with us. :-)

    • October 25, 2010 2:42 pm

      @superheidi – I think that you basically do the same sort of things that Bobby has described; it’s certainly what I’ve been trying to do in my local scene. Basically, I’ve been trying to really improve my Balboa dancing (along with my Lindy), dance Balboa at social dances when possible, started and have been promoting a monthly practice session and started organizing local Balboa workshops.

      But I’ll reiterate what Bobby said: let your passion be its own PR.

  4. Joyous permalink
    October 20, 2010 7:30 pm

    I made the jump from 6-count to lindy bc it was obvious that that was what all the good dancers in my scene did, and if I wanted to dance with them, that’s what I’d have to do. :) It was made really clear to me that 6-count was for beginners, but the *real* dancers did lindy! Not sure if that’s a great attitude to proliferate, but it worked on me.

  5. Gael Faulkner permalink
    October 22, 2010 7:12 am

    I absolutely, positively, (there’s a WCswing song in thre somewhere) love your newsletter. Keep ’em coming! A loyal WCS/Lindy Hopper.

  6. October 25, 2010 2:01 am

    I think the most obvious answer is to become friends with the people you want to inspire.

    I wanted to learn lindy hop because I saw (what I assumed were) cooler people dancing it. I wanted to be like them, and more importantly, I wanted to be friends with them.

    If someone’s happy and comfortable in their East Coast-ing social group, they are less likely to step outside of it. It’s uncomfortable. It’s also unnecessary for someone who’s already getting their social needs met.

  7. Snookie permalink
    October 29, 2010 1:26 am

    Hot girls in short skirts. Isn’t that the answer for selling anything?

    On a practical level, start by primarily focusing on teaching the leads. They have the harder job, and usually pick it up slower than the follows. But if the leads learn the new dance/style/steps, the follows should, well…follow. And then you’ve got them hooked. But without decent leads, the project is hosed.

    This is similar to discussions that friends and I have about trying to get newer* dancers interested in classic LA style Lindy. It’s a tough sell, trying to get people (who are already happy with what they do) to revisit the whole concept of their dance, change how they think about their basics, and work really hard (again) to get to a point where they’re happy with their dancing. Whoever figures it out first should bottle and sell it!

    *Newer here means circa 2003 or later? I realize that’s actually quite a long time to have been dancing. I merely use the term/date as a reference turning point for when beginners in LA stopped being interested in learning LA style Lindy, and instead were inspired to learn other styles.

  8. October 29, 2010 11:51 am

    I went from East Coast to Lindy unintentionally. I was completely happy with East Coast back in the day and had no desire to learn lindy. Then a female friend of mine decided she wanted to learn lindy and asked if I’d take private lessons with her because she wanted to have a partner to learn with. I did it as a favor, not because I wanted to learn it. A few weeks down the road, without trying or thinking of it, I’d be doing east coast and then suddenly realize I’d switched to a lindy swing out “by accident”! After that, there was no going back. I’d caught the bug.

    I agree with most of the strategies described above. As far as the east coast die-hards in our area, I’m not sure I would *want* to convert them to lindy. They look down on lindy hoppers here! In fact, I and others have been kicked off the dance floor for doing lindy to a “fox trot”. They have their dances and we have ours and that way, everyone manages to avoid conflict.

    Rob

  9. Melissa permalink
    November 20, 2010 4:04 am

    In the westie world, we have been flashmobbing lately, as you may have heard. To me, the fun part of this is not so much dancing the choreography as looking for those people on the edge of the crowd with the saucer-eyes. You know, the ones who have that look on their face that you recognize, because you wore it too. “OhmygawdwhatwasTHAT? I need to LEARN that!” At the last one I went to, in Chicago, a girl’s boyfriend was trying to tug her away from the area we had danced in, when I overheard her say “But I have to find out what that WAS!” These are the people who have been looking for us, we just have to make it easier for them to find us! So go Lindy-bomb, flashmob, dance to restore sanity! Just be visible and friendly and informational, and the dancing will do the rest. :-)

    • jackthevampire permalink*
      November 20, 2010 4:08 pm

      That is a great point for getting new people to dance. The American cafe in DC was in a mall. Because it was, teenagers like Nina Gilkenson would walk by and see it, and want to learn more. DC had one of the biggest scenes in it’s day, and a portion of that could probably be linked back to American Cafe’s presence in a popular mall. (Or so I’ve been told)

      • Jerry permalink
        December 21, 2010 9:59 am

        Minor historical clarification, but it was called America Restaurant. And it was located in Tysons Corner which is the biggest mall in the region which also helped enormously.

      • jackthevampire permalink*
        January 13, 2011 5:30 pm

        What Jerry said. Thanks, Jerry!

  10. MOOSE permalink
    January 11, 2011 11:41 pm

    John Moose Grossi
    When I grumble about this kind of article. I am not at all in frequently treated to a chorus of Dr. evil like, “What.. I don’t get it”. So I will tease out a couple of points. To help the windy lovers among us understand why others can tend… to look askance at you… 1. The introduction to the article begins by putting down another style of dance… ” What do you do to inspire the 6-count/aerial/pretzel dancers to want to learn the sublime and complex world of Lindy Hop?”.. Elevating Lindy hop to the status of “sublime” At best I can say it is an unnecessary value judgment. Lindy hop is an interesting style of dance useful for dancing to certain kinds of music… 2. 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. “As if other styles of dance are not musical? Lindy hops obvious strength?Delegating six count swing to weakness. I cry foul, value judgment. Spread the Lindie love, by living it your self. Is that like Mormons going door-to-door or something?… 3. ” 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”. My point exactly. And I’ll leave it at that… 4. ” 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”. Okay this is just ridiculous. You’re seriously going to bring your laptop and show movies of people dancing at a dance event. How about you just dance? Besides that I referred you back to the reference of being like a Mormon. Showing up on welcome at someone’s door trying to tell them the good news. I almost can’t imagine a worse turn off… 5. ” 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”. Sound advice. Well put. But then you have to use the term “to move up”. Once again as tiresome as it sounding I have to cry foul. Unnecessary value judgment… 6. ” 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”. I think it’s very cool, to get a group of people together and go out someplace, and just start dancing. I think it’s cool because it’s fun. Not because I feel like I need to be an apostle, of the good word, of Lindy hop…. 7. ” And, I’ve never seen a dance promoter turn down the opportunity for a scene’s best Lindy Hop couples to perform”. I have. Besides that who decides who’s the scenes “Best” Lindy hop couple. What ever happened to the virtue of humility. This also puts me in mind of an old saying. He you seeks to be the best will never achieve it. A true warrior does not measure himself against others. He measures himself against the virtue of his own practice. So let me some up. I go out and dance frequently. I am regularly complemented on my dancing. I’m asked if I teach lessons or can I show this person something. My response is invariably “thank you for saying so. But I’m just making shit up as I go along”. I believe that the man who wrote this article was a fool. His first answer as is many times the case was correct. Go out and dance have a good time. If people are interested in what you’re doing, and you teach give them a card. Or tell them where to go to learn. People who are interested will come to you. Lindy hop is a fine style of dance. Developed to dance to a certain sort of jazz music. But there is a broad range of music out there, learning multiple styles gives you more opportunities to dance. My six Count East Coast swing, combined with a little Blues. Has I forwarded me with a great deal of flexibility. And enjoyment dancing to music. “That is truly sublime”.

    • jackthevampire permalink*
      January 13, 2011 5:19 pm

      Thank you for taking the time to reply to my article. I have a few points to mention regarding yours:

      1. I did NOT in any way put down a dance in my introduction. Just because I did not give 6-count swing an adjective like “sublime” does not mean I put it down. I simply did not comment on it one way or the other. Simple as that. I was talking of a specific group of people who dance 6-count swing, and enjoy moves like aerials and pretzels. I at one point was one of these, and I am not putting myself down for being one.

      Now, you think my word choice of “sublime” is an unnecessary value judgement. I choose my words very carefully (for the most part) and, yeah, I’d go with sublime. That’s MY value judgement on what I think of lindy Hop. I did not ever say, for instance, that east coast swing CAN’T be sublime.

      2. Now then, for your second point: The reason why musicality is stronger in Lindy Hop than 6-count swing is because Lindy Hop encompasses all of six count swing, and more. It’s a simple matter of grandeur—Lindy Hop is unconfined by 6-count patterns, but has all six count patterns. 6-Count swing by definition is rigid in it’s timing. This is because, historically, 6-count swing was subtracted from the greater whole of Lindy Hop. Does this mean a beginner Lindy Hopper is going to be more musical than and advanced 6-count swing dancer? Not necessarily. But in it’s basic structure Lindy Hop is a more musical structure, allowing flexibility of counts to be made to fit the music. I will be happy to fight you about this tooth and nail: Lindy Hop is more flexible to the music than 6-count swing, and therefore is capable of greater musicality.
      Regarding the Mormon joke/rhetorical device you used: Did I say people should go door to door, as in, push their Lindy hop religion on others? No, I didn’t—quite fundamentally different. I said they should just enjoy themselves dancing, and people will probably notice. There is a BIG difference.

      3. You seem to think it’s ridiculous bringing a lap top at a dance and showing clips of Lindy Hoppers. Well, this is one of the ways I was hooked, and have hooked people since. Again, you used that Mormon rhetorical device, and again, to take what I said out of context. Did I say you should “Show up unwelcome at someone’s door” and put the clips in front of their face? No. I said you should take your laptop to a dance and show some people some clips—people looking at the laptop might draw a crowd. It is not implied that you should force them on people. Quite the contrary, the “people watching might draw a crowd” implies a more passive role.

      5. You seem to think it was bad of me to say “To Move Up” to Lindy Hop. So, let me speak plainly: As world-class swing dance instructor of Lindy Hop, Balboa, Solo Charleston, Collegiate Shag AND a master of 6-count East-Coast Pretzel Swing, Lindy Hop is a more advanced dance than East Coast swing. It requires more advanced technique, it requires greater command of lead and follow, and, as I mentioned earlier, it contains THE WHOLE OF SIX-COUNT swing within it PLUS MUCH MORE. You’re right, I’m making a value judgement: Lindy Hop is harder. Therefore, in educational terms, you are “moving up” to learn Lindy Hop from strictly East Coast six-count swing. You are taking on something that is harder to learn.

      6. You state that you think going out dancing is cool “because it’s fun, not because of the need to be an apostle…” First thing—just because you have fun simply going out and enjoying music, while a great idea of fun, does not mean that is other people’s idea of fun. Maybe other people’s idea of fun is performing, or teaching Lindy Hop classes, or doing Lindy Hop in the first place. They are allowed to have fun by doing so, and are allowed to try to find more partners, provided it doesn’t infringe on your rights. If they perform a demo and make an announcement and have flyers on the table, they could very well be (1) having the time of their lives, because they are passionate about something and embracing that passion and (2) are not forcing you to do anything you don’t want to. So do not presume that the way you want to have fun dancing is the way everyone should. At no point in my article do I say anything NEAR to the fact that people should force East-coast dance lovers to change to Lindy Hop. You also later claim that I put down other dance and music styles, when I have not mentioned one other dance or music style style in this post outside of Lindy Hop and East Coast six-count swing.
      7. I really liked what you said in this part of the post: “True warrior dosen’t measure himself against others. He measures himself against the virtue of his own practice.” I agree with this completely. But then, after having assumed things about me outside of my writing, and taken what I said often totally out of context, you called me a fool. Good thing I don’t have to measure myself against you.

      • Melissa permalink
        January 14, 2011 12:27 am

        Bravo!

        Well said! (And you were much nicer about it than I wanted to be.)

        Dance on!

  11. Elizabeth Farrington permalink
    April 20, 2011 5:22 pm

    I always enjoy these musings, more than you can know…
    Who really thinks about this stuff? Why—YOU do! And I’m glad.
    Thanks for another clever read.

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