Saying “Yes, in my Backyard”

I first started swing dancing regularly at a Kansas City ballroom studio. Back then, it had the only all-ages swing dance venue. Eventually, I got immersed and even started teaching at this studio. That is when I discovered how fortress-like ballroom studios could be.
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Setbacks = New Opportunities

Setbacks merely pave the way for new opportunities. Those were my thoughts this morning when I experienced a negative event the day I leave for my honeymoon. Normally, I might panic, but I immediately starting thinking of all my friends and contacts. I’ve been investing into the local swing dance community and beyond for two years now and have a wealth of contacts to draw upon.

Therefore, this setback is merely cause for new opportunities. The emails have been fired off and I’m ready to see what happens. Already, people are helping me. It’s wonderful to experience.

Follow Through

Someone was recently talking about a swing dance teacher that has poor follow-through. They tell a student they’ll be at a dance and dance with them and then don’t show up. Or there’s the organizer that says they’ll follow-up this conversation in a week and don’t.

Follow-through matters. One great example is an aerial like this one:

basket-follow-thruIf my arms don’t go past vertical, she’ll have less momentum and likely to fall. If my hips don’t snap open as they do,  she’ll have less momentum and is likely to fall. If her hips don’t continue moving up and over, she’ll lose momentum and is likely to fall.

If you stop following through with your student and fellow scene leader, they may lose their momentum and fall off the scene. Every inch you give matters.

See The Initiators

As I observe the Denver swing scene, I see more initiators, more do-ers. I see dancers starting practice groups. I see team members choreographing new routines for gigs. I see bands creating their own dance nights. I see bands reaching out to dancers and asking how we can work together better. I see collaboration. I see people inviting their out to dance nights. Keep it up.

“And all of that is okay, because the person we need, the one we cherish, the one we would miss, is the first person, the initiator, the one who cares.”

Seth Godin

A Rising Tide

A rising tide raises all boats. It’s a phrase someone said on Saturday and it’s a phrase that keeps popping up. Wikipedia likens it to the idea that general improvements in the economy will benefit all participants in that economy.

Currently, there’s a rising tide within the Denver swing scene. Just last week, a student was bragging they danced 11 nights straight – a mix of classes and dances. There are new possibilities afoot. We have new swing bands, new venues supporting live swing music, more class venues, more teachers. Denver is growing and will continue to grow.

It’s exciting.

How Do You Audition Teachers?

A reddit user just asked a great question – “how do you audition teachers?” Teacher development is very important to me, so I’d like to share how I choose my teachers for Swingin’ Denver.

I’m fortunate to have many great teachers apart of Swingin’ Denver. We have Todd & Reese running class at The Savoy Events Center. Ash & Jami are teaching classes at dance2b and Ash is also at School of Mines. Wiley is the principle instructor for the Art Bar Swing Social on Third Thursdays. BreAnna often teaches with me at The Arvada Tavern and is currently heading up our Highlands classes. For workshops and the like, you’ll see more Delilah and Jesse.

With so many venues going, I first look for leadership – people that can step up , take charge, and be independent. I’m here if people need me, but I realized months ago, that I can’t oversee every little detail. It’s overwhelming. That’s why I’m glad I have people that can run social media for their venues, construct Facebook event pages under Swingin’ Denver, promote themselves and take lead when talking to venue organizers while keeping me apprised.

Then I look for people I’d consider professional. This word carries itself from their preparation, the way they dress, the way they interact with students, how they give to the students. This is because culture starts at the top.

I also look for people that invest in their dancing. Do they travel, do they take workshops, compete, learn from local teachers? Then I try to know if they are working on their own to improve their dancing. As teachers, we should be doing what we ask our students to do.

Also, I look for teachers receptive to feedback. This is one where you don’t always know this until you start training them or they start teaching for you. The training never stops and I like teachers that can feedback each other and can take critique.

In addition, I look for people with good oratorical skills. Do they speak clearly or mumble? Do they speak with authority or temerity? Do they talk too little or too much?

I’m reminded by something that Jenn Salvadori said in an interview with Caitlin George of Toronto Lindy Hop: “Also, not everyone should teach. There’s such a push to be a teacher now and that’s only lending to over-saturating the market and the dumbing down of so many important elements of this dance and nobody wants that.”

Teaching comes with great power and great responsibility. It should be a curated position treated with respect, mild trepidation, and hard work. And when you’re the only one to lead this endeavour in your scene, mad props go out to you.

The First Band & Dancer Practice

band-practice1

Our first band and dancer practice was a success! We did this last Thursday with La Pompe Jazz and some of our team members and teachers.

I don’t remember how this idea originated, but I think it came from David Lawrence, La Pompe’s bandleader. We’ve been developing a rapport over the last few months, attending their various gigs at Brik on York, Crown Social, Denver Flea and 16th Street Mall. They play great music, love us dancers, and they were always playing in the coolest spots.

This idea and we did gradually took shape thanks to several influences. I can’t keep a lid on cool things potentially happening, so a team member that found out early suggested we do a faux competition. La Pompe wanted to get better playing for dancers. And I wanted to do something new and continue developing relationships with local bands. We all move the scene along.

The night started off with some social dancing and finished with a fun Jack & Jill competition. What happened in the middle? We learned musicians counted in measures or 4 beats and dancers in phrases and 8 beats. We learned about blues structure and blues doesn’t necessarily mean slow music. We learned about what dancers might want for jam spotlights. We talked about how we can interact with each other. We also talked about how to start a dance – build softly and then increase the energy.

Can’t wait to do it again!

How Does It Feel?

Last night’s lindy hop class was small yet mighty. One thing that stuck with me was the student that asked “How does that feel?” It was nice to hear this and watch the communication unfold.

As I’m thinking about this now, I’m wondering what it takes to make this happen? I could encourage open communication more often and perhaps give communication examples. I could let them stay with their partner longer so greater trust is built, they’re getting familiar with the footwork and the pattern, so they actually have time to ask other questions related to “how” rather than “do.”

Sounds like a good time to read Sam Carroll’s blog about how she does this in Sydney.

Dress Well & Represent

This past Monday, I took The Ladies & Gentlemen to perform for Boulder Swing Dance’s dance at Kakes. We first met at Curry ‘n Kebob for dinner (food tip: do the dinner special) and I was struck by how well everyone dressed. I really appreciate how well my group dresses for outings and gigs.

Clothes say a lot about the person. Vestis Virum Reddit (“Clothes make the man”) is one of only two Latin phrases I remember, but it reflects one of my Swingin’ Denver goals – to inspire a well-dressed culture.

This starts at the top and filters down. And the top starts with those wanting to be judged as a professional. This could be the teacher, the door person, the performer, etc. How do you want to represent?