The Etiquette of Stealing
I was watching the nifty SWLindyFest 2011 DVD given out at ILHC, and the jam on the DVD shows what in my opinion is a pretty good example of good stealing etiquette (note: this YouTube clip is NOT the camera the DVD uses). Though stealing etiquette isn’t that big of a deal, I figured, what the hell.
Especially if it’s a Birthday Jam, the main priority should be the birthday girl. (or boy.) I’ve seen more than a few jams where guys were so busy trying to steal a follower in cool ways from one another that the follower’s birthday dance comprised of thirty seven partners all trying to pull her away from other leaders. And you know what? That is NOT a fun birthday. There, I said it. And I’m glad I did.
Now, there are hand-offs, and then there are thefts. A hand-off is simply allowing for another leader to take your follower by leaving lots of open opportunities to do so, or simply just sending the follower to another leader. A theft is when you take a follower from a leader without them realizing it’s happened until its too late. Unfortunately, in this Youtube video, you can’t see Max’s theft at 9:15 very well, but it was pretty slick, and, more importantly for this article, Nikki (the follower) didn’t look interrupted at all during the theft. This leads us to our first rule:
1. If you’re going to steal a follower, try to do it without jarring her dance. A great pickpocket is one who steals your pocket without you feeling it.
The rest of the jam are hand-offs and pass-offs (some literally), but most importantly for this article, the dancers give the jamming couple time to actually dance a little. This leads us to our second rule of etiquette:
2. Allow a leader and follower to have a phrase or two of music before stealing them away. Unless that leader has gone before, in which case I could understand it being open-season. (I will allow Max’s theft at 9:15 only on the bases that Andrew didn’t even get to start dancing with her before Max stole her away from him. A theft right off the bat is better than one two eights in, in my opinion.) Like I mentioned, some birthday dances devolve into guys trying to keep their partners from being stolen just so they can dance for more than two 8s. And living in that kind of fear is no way to live.
Obviously, there can be some fun in a few quick thefts. Or, if you and another leader and the follower are all in cahoots, then she might enjoy having entire dances where leaders pass her off back and forth as quickly as possible. (Now that I think about it, Andrew and Max could have been in cahoots.) However, I think the main point is that followers are not toys. They are human dancers who want to express themselves to the music. Especially on their birthday.