Category Archives: Good Citizen

On The Outside Looking In

Here are stories of three people I noticed at dances and spoke with recently.

The first was a gentleman that arrived late to our Stanley Marketplace lesson. I could see him looking at us and so I greeted him from inside the circle. He asked if this was the Meetup and I said sure. He didn’t have a partner immediately, so my co-teacher partnered with him. Later we chatted a bit, I showed him a Charleston step, and he even did some social dancing.

The second occurred while I was packing up to leave the Stanley Swing Night. A woman was watching intently near the band’s merch suitcase. Once I had all my gear, I walked along the edge headed to my car. She was on the opposite side facing the band now. I hesitated and decided “why not, let’s strike up a conversation,” and asked if this was her first time to the Stanley Marketplace. It was and we chatted a bit. Hopefully, she’ll return to the next one or to one of our classes.

The third happened last night at the Mercury Cafe. While I was dancing, I noticed a man standing in the front of the water. He was looking intently at the dance floor. I noticed his Mobtown Ballroom shirt, figured he was from Baltimore (confirmed), and didn’t know anyone. With a lead-in like Baltimore and Mobtown, I figured I’d have an easier time starting a conversation and was right.

I offered to introduce him to any followers or leaders. He shared that he was a bit shy and that he’d like for me to point out some leaders to danc with since he prefers to follow. He mentioned that Denver appeared much different than Baltimore’s scene where anything goes. Hopefully, he had a fun evening.

What do you do when you notice a stranger with a clear desire to try swing dancing or find out more? For me, it’s easy to feel empowered when I’m running the dance or have a leadership position. It gives me more of a reason to say “welcome” or “have you been here before?” Other times, like the Merc example, I feel more confident when I have a starter conversation planned. Other times, if I can guess someones leader/follower preferences and I don’t fit the bill, I’ll suggest to a friend they ask that person to dance because they appear new.

We each have our ways. Regardless, I’d like to encourage more people to go out of their comfort zone to welcome strangers.

Graceful Exit

Recently I received some advice on a business situation. That advice was to provide a graceful and amicable way out in this particular business dealing. Unfortunately for me, I had to apply that knowledge even more recently when an organizer found themselves in an impossible position to continue working with me though they wanted to. Life goes on because I want them to succeed.

Well, how can this apply to social dancing? When I ask someone to dance, I minimize my expectations of what the person being asked might say. They might say “no,” they might say “yes,” they might say either with a qualification. Regardless, I’ll respect their answer and move on. This allows them a graceful acceptance or exit. By modeling this, hopefully you’d experience the same when responding to someone’s inquiry about dancing a song.

Timing is Everything

One of my favorite songs growing up had the lyrics “Time is ticking away, tick tick ticking away.” It repeats in my head sometimes when I’m rushing to meetings, texting people I might be late due to traffic, or waiting for people to arrive. Needless to say, time is very important, important enough to include “Arrive early to class” into our Code of Conduct.

We greatly appreciate the people that show up early and are ready to learn. Our Swing 1 class at The Arvada Tavern is crushing expectations right now. Jesse and I also try to reward our timely Swing 3 students by diving immediately into material at 7pm when class starts. We prefer to reward those people rather than making them wait.

What would you think if we started classes late or ran them late? If you’re like most people, you probably have a schedule to keep  and you have expectations set forth by our calendar and advertisements – class starts at X time, classes are 75 minutes long, the dance starts at 9pm. I once showed up at a dance that was supposed to start at 8pm. It started at 8:25pm.

We want you in class for the entire time. We get that life can sometimes sneak up on you (or metro Denver traffic). In the end, we want you in class even if you’re late because we want you to learn the great material we have planned. But… please do your absolute best to arrive ready to start on time.

The 6 Song Rule


With a knee injury, you get a lot of socializing practice and you learn new things. Last week, I learned how one dancer helps others feel welcome. We’ll call it the 6 Song Rule.

Apparently, she pays attention to people that may have been sitting out a long time without being asked to dance. If she noticed that this person had been sitting out 6 songs, she’ll ask them to dance. That way they’ll feel more welcome into our dance community that can be intimidating at times. I think we all could learn something here.

Giving The Band Appreciation

I recently read an article where someone was encouraging swing dancers to thank the band before thanking their partner. This was on my mind last night especially when we hosted the Paul Asaro Quartet at The Arvada Tavern. I thought it about so much I accidentally faked Jesse into thinking I was giving her a high five when really I was preparing some awesome clapping.

Anyway, I liked what they said about thanking the band first by clapping or exulting them with a “yeah!”

Jonathan Stout and his Campus Five at DCLX
Jonathan Stout and his Campus Five at DCLX

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Jam Circles – Getting the Lay of the Land

birthday-jam-circleIn a Tom Clancy book I read, a spy chief was training two new special operatives. They were doing field work in various cities and he was giving them various tips on blending in since each city is unique. Study what locals wear, notice if they cross the street before the walk signal comes on, et cetera. Similar advice on studying the lay of the land could be given when participating in birthday/out-of-towner jam circles.
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Spiderman Philosophy

uncle-benI recently had a more experienced student get visibly frustrated with a newer student that wasn’t doing what they wanted, namely connecting as well as they would have liked. The solution I suggested? Taking responsibility for creating the connection that you want.

Knowledge = Power. With great power comes great responsibility. QED – With great(er) knowledge comes great(er) responsibility. See what I did there?

If you’re a beginner+ or higher student rejoining our beginner classes, use your knowledge for good. You were once a beginner, so please be kind. If you’re frustrated, try to use your words and be collaborative rather than damaging. If you don’t want to use your words, then try to figure out on your own how to get what you want on your own. Pushing, pulling, or yanking on your partner can also be hurtful and confusing. If you’re having trouble thinking what you should be doing, ask the teacher. Just please be responsible.



Saying No And More

A friend of mine had a very rough dance recently. They described the after-effect as whiplash and wanted to know how to avoid dancing with this person (Whiplash we’ll name them) ever again. I watched this dance take place and understand.

First, social dancing feels built on this expectation of “yes.” I will ask that person to dance and they will say “yes.” We’re not taught how to handle rejection in dance class because we’re given immediate access to all partners in the rotation. Yes is a given expectation.

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Helping You And Others Learn

As we get ready to kick off new May sessions, we wanted to bring up some important points about helping our new students learn and the best ways to give feedback!

– Firstly, it’s important to not jump ahead even when you already know the material. If we’re walking through the basics of a turn or new footwork, we want to make sure the new students are going at the same pace and not missing anything. Plus, you might pick up some new tidbits of information along the way! Continue reading