Category Archives: Competition Tips

Competition Tips: Know Your Partner’s Abilities

Have you watched Fog City Stomp’s Invitational Social (random partner draw) competition yet? Watch until near the very end and you’ll see Anthony & I working (it) together.

Above is an example of two guys knowing the other spoke westie. Two hand left side pass with a lunge break = a playful moment. In this case, it equated to a ginormous body roll.

Moments later, and people were asking what Anthony and I were talking, we threw a pancake aerial. According to my recollection, the conversation went like this:
A: Pancake?
K: What?
A: Pancake
K: (thinks about this blazer’s armholes before leading a tuck turn as the setup) Pancake

That’s a good example of Anthony making an excellent call based on what he knew of my skills.

Bottomline: It’s good to know your partner’s skillsets. Even if you don’t know them personally, that’s the benefit of the beginning all-skate, the start of a dance, or just asking what the other is best at.

I’m A Duck

I heard this during an interview on NPR. A woman described herself as a duck – calm on top, but furiously paddling to stay afloat.

That’s how I sometimes feel when competing. Nobody wants to see the mental gymnastics that are happening, but they’re cranking away! Breathe, scary teeth, scat that rhythm, look at the audience, what’s up with that one judge, plant your feet, you can do it, why is my partner now yelling. All this is going on and more.

What’s your competition inner-monologue like?

Competition Tips – Strategy vs Comp IRL

“This will be a no-holds barred, all air-steps allowed social dance competition open to all.”

What happens when your competition expectations, strategy and plan match the contest description but not the music provided? Do you scrap it, dance your plan, or adjust accordingly? It’s a tough call and I sympathize with competitors that find themselves in this situation.

Since I coach some of the Coloradans featured in this video, I had the opportunity to speak with them about their strategies and perhaps what to do in the future. They’re also not the only ones that perhaps planned for a more intense finals than what was provided as evidenced in the Hellzapoppin’ Strictly shown below. This statement isn’t meant to criticize any one dancer, but to use these videos as a discussion point for this post.

It’s also very true to say that I’ve been in their shoes. Here’s me relying on choreography, dancing over the music, and having little spontaneity inspired by the music. This is what I get for practicing sequences outside near Denver’s dancing statues.

The first thing I’ve learned is that it isn’t enough to rely on your flashy steps, big tricks and bigger aerials. Lindy hop is about dancing and you need to constantly work on your skills as a partner and solo dancer.

This leads into dancing into and out of your flashier steps well so they don’t look like isolated chunks. This is the airsteps versus aerials mentality. Airsteps have a rhythm, breath, a flow whereas aerials don’t to not flow as well. If people don’t necessarily “see” your swingout coming, perhaps you should treat your tricks the same.

You’ll also want to up your musicality and improvisational game with comps featuring chorus-long spotlights or slower tempos or less energetic songs that might shout for choreography or airsteps.

Also, be sure to thoroughly read the contest description. The description above includes – “all air-steps allowed social dance competition.” Unless your scene is vastly different than my scene, airsteps aren’t a regular part of your social dancing. My airsteps are either called (long-format competition), followed by a certain pattern (mini-routine), or part of a choreography (how I survive Camp Hollywood’s Pro Lindy division). For even better strategy-making, I’d research past competition videos to calibrate your expectations.


Even then, you might want to decide to just dance how you want and not give a care what the judges or anyone else thinks. You gotta do you, right?


Kenny – “I’ve watched your guys’ epic showcase and read all the amazing posts about CH this year, but….what in the world is #jolo? Is this CH exclusive jargon? Asking for a friend. 😀”

Jitterbugs Only Live Once was coined a few years back. I struggle to remember who came up with this phrase, but it was probably Nick Peterson or someone close to him. The phrase captures the essence of the Underground Jitterbug Championships which arose from the death of the Jitterbug Contest, a staple of the National Jitterbug Championships (the contest portion of Camp Hollywood).

Here’s what I think #jolo is all about.
– you throw down
– you’re fearless
– failure is an option when you’re dancing beyond your means
– you give everything you have
– you entertain
– you’re not there for the YouTube video, you’re there for the people
– this moment is what it’s all about

My first UJC

When They Change The Competition On You

andy-dwyer-fearsThis past Wednesday I was talking to a dancer who was nervous about competing at an upcoming competition. Understandably so – they changed the strictly competitions relatively recently by combining what were originally two competitions into one.  Unfortunately this sometimes happens when an event can’t fill their competition. Some others just let the divisions run straight to finals. Different events have their approaches.

He was now competing against more experienced dancers, some his teachers. That would make me nervous, too, especially if I hadn’t prepared or, at the very least, taken the time to mentally prepare myself.

As a competitor, you enter certain divisions because A) you want to compete against your peers, B) it’s mandatory (If you’ve won X, you enter Y or westie points system), C) you want a challenge by competing at a higher level, et cetera.  Your reasons are your own. We just discourage cherry picking.

Continue reading

Swing Riot Crossover Battle – Head Space

max-headroomDo you know how many times I screwed up in the Crossover Invitational Battle at Montreal Swing Riot? 4 out of 6 entrances. Count them:

1. Our introduction as the aerial couple. We botch our first aerial, the knicker. We recovered and nailed our Blue Outlaw. We were both angry. Afterward, we discussed it and we think Delilah’s right upper arm may have been at her side blocking my hand from a good hook on her. Regardless, I could have done better. I think it was a low throw also. Continue reading

Aerials – Social Dancing vs Competition Floor

In response to my Airstep Safety Check post, someone on Facebook responded with: “How about….don’t. Before most of you were born, I hauled my 22 yo cutie dance partner off to Boulder Hospital–with a concussion–because some idiot kicked her in the back of the head. Just don’t ….. it is the *height* of inconsideration. Dancers are supposed to be highly considerate of others on the dance floor… no?

Here’s my response with further extrapolation…… Continue reading

Airstep Safety Checks For Competitions

Jacob Spinney writes: “Hey Kenny! As someone who throws air steps in crowded all-skates, I’m wondering if you happen to have a kind of list of safety checks in that environment that you’ve developed over time?”

Lindy Flip at The Broadmoor
Lindy Flip at The Broadmoor

Hey Jacob,

That’s a really great question. I’ve mainly thrown air steps in crowded fields at Camp Hollywood and now Montreal Swing Riot. Just this past weekend, though, I bailed out of an aerial because I realized that I was too close to a soundboard. I mentally checked the proximity and decided to go for it. Then I had doubts since my back was turned to it and it was inanimate. That leads into my safety checks. Continue reading