So you want to learn to Swing Dance?
Before you read this, realize that although I am a very good swing dancer,
I am not an expert. I'm sure there are things in this document with which
many people would disagree. That being said, I'm about to attempt to teach
a friend how to swing. And, since I'm going to write this out, I may as
well let the world read it.
Some web sites for the Boston Area:
- DanceNet On The Web: Swing Dancing in Boston
- Total Swing Online
Some studios at which
I've taken lessons:
- Lindy Babyin
- MIT Ballroom Dance Team:Welcome
- MIT Ballroom Dance Club
- Harvard Medical Area Ballroom Dance Club
- Harvard Ballroom Dance Team
- The Dance Complex
The Big Picture
When you first try and learn to dance, you'll think, "Footwork is
everything." After you've been dancing for a while, you'll think
"footwork is almost nothing." Here's the progression I went through:
Learn Footwork: This is the stage where you go from knowing nothing
to staring at your feet while you do the footwork, to eventually not
staring at your feet.
Learn 3 basic moves: Learning a few basic moves and doing them
reasonably well is sufficient to dance and enjoy it.
Learn Position and hold it: Ballroom swing is almost upright. Lindy
Hop position is bent at the waist. Getting comfortable with your
position and keep it constant during a dance takes a while.
Learn to stay at constant height: Swing can looks like there is a
huge amount of motion involved even though there is often very little
vertical motion. Having lots of vertical motion in your dance makes
you look radiculous. It is also very difficult to dance with someone
who jumps up and down.(Note: one foot should always be on the ground
at any one time.)
Learn Connection: Swing is a partnered dance. Your connection
to your partner is how you tell your partner what you are going to
do. The keys are learning how not to cause your partner pain and how
to make unambiguous leads.
Learn a few moves: Once you've got the basics down, you learn 3 or 4
basic moves to use with the basic moves.
Learn Styling. There is more to swing that just the basic footwork
and lead/follow. You have a full body to move. You'll start to learn
how to move it and make it look good.
Learn frame: When you start to learn to swing dance, you'll hear how
motion always comes from your "center". You arms are actually
extensions of your torso, they very rarely move seperately. It looks
much better, and it feels much better to move your arm as extensions
to your body, rather than moving your arms seperately from your body.
Learn music: Hearing "breaks" and tempo-changes in the music before
they happen can take a lot of experince. When the music takes a
break, your dancing should change to recognize it.
Learn Connection: Just when I thought I knew all about connection, I
learned a lot more
Learn improvisational footwork: In the beginning, footwork was
everything. But really, footwork is nothing. Just about anything that
looks cool, feels good, and doesn't bother your partner is OK.
Learn smoothness: I used to lead in a jerky motion. But, really moves
should blend together, without obvious breaks and starts between the
Learn to bounce: Lindy Hop especially involves bouncing, pushing your
feet into the ground, not jumping upwards. Thus, your body
ends up following the rhythm. However, you're shoulders still shouldn't
move very much vertically...
Learn lots of moves: After you get all of the above down well, you
can lead almost anything. But, the more year learn, the more you
learn you don't know.