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The Follow-Through

Ever wonder why your basic swingouts and lindy circles feel flat? Ever question why you’re not quite making it to your partner? Do you ever find yourself under-rotating your basics as the tempos get higher? Well, you might lack follow-through. This means different things depending on your role, so let’s tackle some solutions!

1. Both partners need to push from their weighted foot into their triple step in a lateral direction. You can generate a better lateral push by starting to lean your body forward, getting your chest and head slightly in front of your toes.

2. Leaders – you just generated some stretchy counterbalance on the first step of your rockstep, maybe even the second. As you release this tension toward you, make sure that as your body is traveling toward your left hand, that you allow your left hand to continue traveling toward your torso. If it stops or slows down that pace you initiated, your follower’s momentum might slow down or halt.

3. Followers – you just generated some stretchy counterbalance during the beginning of the pattern, your step/step. As this tension gets released as you travel toward the leader, allow the left side of your torso to travel toward the connection your leader is offering in your path. With the way we teach, this would be the leader’s hand for a swingout or leader’s elbow for a lindy circle. As soon as you slow down or start pulling your right hand to your torso, the momentum will be greatly lessened.

Basic idea – whatever you started in motion, keep in motion until acted upon by an outside force which could be your partner or your frame.

The Dance Counter

During our Pro-Social Bystander Workshop March 3, I was reminded of the Kansas City Dance Counter. I think this memory was sparked while we were discussing consent and the time I experienced difficulty with one person.

This person wouldn’t take my verbal “no” and would act offended when I danced with others. Caveat: I practiced what I learned as ballroom asking etiquette – if someone says “no” or you say “no,” you sit out for that dance, so I thought I was being rather polite concerning proper etiquette. Finally, at a dance party, she told me exactly how many times I had danced with her at that event and other recent events. That is when I decided to set a firm boundary that I would not dance with this person due to the behavior outlined.

Sometimes you have to take care of yourself.

Who Is Responsible For My Social Dancing Safety?

From Reese:

Since I started dancing again, going on 4 years now, there has been a monumental shift in the dynamics of the international swing dance scene in regards to safety, mostly due to brave persons coming forward with their stories of sexual assault and even severe abuse. The majority of scene and event leaders were supportive, decided to get educated, and adopted policies. A “safe spaces” movement was born.

This post is mostly about the responsibility of organizers vs. the responsibility of attendees. For background, I have spoken with a lawyer in length about this topic. To boil it way down, the event staff only has to make an effort to create a safe space by having and posting rules and attempting to back them up when asked. This does not mean it is their job to police all the guests and make sure they are behaving. The person(s) that notices any rule-breakers actually has the burden to report it directly and immediately to staff.

So, when you attend a dance event, you yourself are responsible to try to keep yourself (and others, by observation) out of potentially dangerous situations. The event organizers would have to be grossly negligent to be liable for anything that happens to you, meaning they knew that a situation was dangerous, i.e. exposed floor nails that others have previously complained about or a person banned from another venue is present and they knew about that, and you have proof that they knew.

There is also a lot of debate about what you are consenting to when you say “yes” to dancing with someone. It is your responsibility to warn someone if something that is intrinsic to the dance is off the table for you. If you have a laundry list of dos and don’ts that you rattle off before a dance you will probably have a very small pool of willing partners, but at least they will know the boundaries in advance.

Now… what can you do to keep yourself out of harm’s way?

Make sure the venue feels safe to you. Do they have rules posted, have attendees sign a waiver, or both? Do you know who runs the event or venue in case you need to report someone for breaking a rule (or law) and are they present? Do you trust they will enforce their rules? Is the venue structurally sound (smooth/dry floors without potential to trip, slip, or fall)? Room to dance where you won’t be run into people or furnishings? Air conditioning? Water to drink?

Make sure you are physically and mentally prepared. Observe the activity. Are you fit enough to do the style? Does it require you know how to spin or jump or spin while jumping? Have good core strength? How’s your balance? Can you breathe properly to do an aerobic type activity for 3-4 minutes? Are you wearing the appropriate clothing and shoes? Did you take any prescription medications you need? Are you sober and/or at least thinking clearly? Did you take any lessons? Did you warm-up and stretch out appropriately? Do you know what frame and connection are and how to match? Do you have and maintain your own weight or know how to try to keep others from throwing you off balance? Do you know how to bail or recover from a botched move?

Be proactive and vigilant. One option is to vet your potential social dance partners. Observe a few dances and see if there are dancers you would prefer to avoid for safety reasons. Likewise, note some dancers that look like a good match for you and ask them to dance. Consider saying “no” to strangers (Note: I consider a stranger someone I’ve never seen before, not students or regulars I have seen around and just haven’t vetted yet). You do not have to dance with everyone that asks you. You do not have to even give them a reason for saying “no.” If you do say yes, and things go awry, you can bail out of a dance at any time. Use your words, body language, and/or walk away.

The days of not being allowed to turn anyone down are over. We’ve learned from our mistakes. It’s not being snobby. It is being safe. It is unrealistic to go up to someone you don’t know and ask if you can put your hands on them for several minutes and expect them to agree to it. If someone wants to become a swing dancer and have enthusiastic partners, they need to take lessons, learn proper technique and etiquette, practice, and just generally put in the work like the rest of us already did.

Stay tuned for a separate post on verbal and nonverbal ways to say yes or no to a dance.

Some Safety Exit Goals

Did you know that as part of our Swing 1 and other curriculum, we include etiquette exit goals? This is why we

– encourage you to ask each other to dance as you’re rotating during class and then thank your partner once you’re rotating away.

– talk about apologizing if you accidentally hit someone while dancing regardless whose fault it is.

– discussed looking before leading or following the skim out and other such patterns.

– teach how to make dips comfortable and safe whether you’re leading or following and how to look for signs if your follower isn’t comfortable with what you’re about to lead.

What are your school’s safety exit goals?

Blue Bench Testimonial

From Chelsea:

Swingin’ Denver aims to share the joy of Swing Dancing with as many people as possible, and creating safer spaces at our events is a vital component of that. We found The Blue Bench’s bystander training to be an incredible tool for changing the culture of our organization. Despite the fraught nature of sexual harassment and assault, these skilled trainers create a safe and empowering environment for attendees’ learning. By familiarizing us with the reality of sexual predation, teaching us how to recognize potential  opportunities for predators, and how to intervene without causing conflict, The Blue Bench enables each of us to be a force for change without stepping into an uncomfortable role.

Bystander training takes those who may feel completely powerless in an assault situation and shows them that they in fact hold more than enough power to keep a potential victim protected. We can’t recommend it highly enough, and are repeating the training for an even wider audience later this year.

Anyone Can Be An Aggressor

First of all, this is one of the most thorough articles I have ever read regarding dance etiquette. I think it’s great, but I ran into one problem. It’s a problem I normally have when reading similar articles – I assume the aggressor is male and/or performing the leader role. From experience, I can share that isn’t always the case.

Let’s take Number Five : How to Read Body Language and Nonverbal Cues.
– I have had followers press their head uncomfortably against mine to the point that I had to start leading open embrace and position moves in blues.
– I have had to find other points of contact while leading swingouts because an outfit was drenched in sweat or there was enough bare skin that I felt my touch might be uncomfortable. If I couldn’t find better contact points, I led patterns that didn’t require touching the follower’s back.
– I have had followers uncomfortably stroke my arm, shoulder and upper back. I did my best not to provide additional opportunities.
– Sometimes when followers would connect too heavily, I would extremely lighten the connection or lead with much less momentum.

Please be aware that these cues the author writes about can be expressed by anyone.

Pro Tip: Don’t Presume

From a Facebook post: “Pro tip for new dancers: Please do not walk up to random women and say ‘Since you were just standing there, I figured you might as well teach me!'”

This unfortunately happened at Wednesday Night Hop the other evening. What bothers me most is the way this person presented their desire. His approach removed consent and is not condoned by our organization.

We have staff that will facilitate end goals such as learning a new move (teachers during the lessons), acquiring a drink (bar staff), dancing to a song (requesting via the DJ), or knowing where our class series are held (front door staff). However, we still expect our attendees to be polite, to not presume, and to ask questions that allow a “yes,” “no” or further information.

It illustrates why we must continue integrating consent into our 6-week sessions and drop-in classes at WNH along with the importance of hosting our first scene-wide Pro-Social Behavior Workshop March 3. It’s also why we’ll have this awesome dance etiquette illustration at our events.

On Clapping

Our Wednesday Night Hop crowd got paid an awesome compliment February 7 at our relaunch party. An attendee remarked that our crowd really claps for the band. They found that rare compared to other venues, so good job, everyone!

If you’re curious what band members want from an audience, check out this link and head to point Number Six.

Taking Spaces for Granted

Last December proved to be the last Wednesday Night Hop at The Arvada Tavern. A dancer we hadn’t seen attend our dances in many months professed they were sad we were closing down since it’s so close to their place.

A monthly swing night at Dry Dock Brewing’s South Dock proved unsustainable after a huge kickoff night was followed by a 50% attendance drop the following two months. We discovered that special events spaced out were much more successful.

Several years ago when I was teaching in Europe, I saw the extraordinary news on Facebook – Marilyn was giving Denver’s largest swing night (Tuesday) to the blues dancers. Thursday nights, the secondary night, hadn’t been doing well, so the hope was that consolidation would make more business sense.

These examples all show that we can’t take our venues for granted. We can’t even take the apparent indefatigability of venue showrunners for granted. Colorado Swing Dance Club has been asking for new board members for a few weeks. Will someone new step in, perhaps someone that loves that Friday night dance option and wants to see it continue?

If you like something for whatever reason close to your heart, support it. Support can come in a variety of ways – sharing ways the venue can attract more people, giving encouragement to the new DJ that had to step in, inviting your friends to the dance or class even though you can’t attend, et cetera.

Being Noticed

An anecdote from our Speakeasy Soiree: As one of the main hosts for the evening, I walk around the room greeting people, welcoming them, troubleshooting any problems. To one couple, I welcomed them, thanked them for coming, asked them how they found out about our event, and we made some small talk.

I came back around again and they pulled me aside. They wanted to know if I did what I did for marketing purposes or why? I told them that I genuinely wanted to know how they were doing and if they were enjoying themselves. In response, they said they appreciated being singled out because it’s rare to have that happen at a big event. I can’t do that with everyone, but those moments count.

open source lindy hop