Swing Discussion Boards > Not too happy with my local dancing scene

Discussion in 'Swing Discussion Boards' started by juwest333, Sep 6, 2012.

  1. juwest333

    juwest333 Active Member

    Please forgive me if I sound like some kind of dancing snob. I really don't mean to be, but let me explain.

    My local dancing venue caters to new dancers and beginners who are just there to have fun and that's fine. People need to make their money, but what about people who want to move beyond the beginner/intermediate levels? I have been dancing in the Lindy Hop Swing scene for about six months now and have attended a little over 50 dancing events, 4 exchanges and have entered two Jack & Jill competitions. I take classes every week, but I feel like it's being wasted because at the local venue, the majority (80% or so) don't even know how to do a swingout or even a basic charleston and it's seriously bothering me when all I can do is smile and only do the moves that my partner was taught in the one-hour free lesson that they give before each dance.

    And as far as the classes go (the 8-week seesions that are taught by the same instructors who also run the dance events), no one seems to take the classes seriously. They don't go to dancing events to practice what they learned. They don't attend all of the classes for the session and the instructors constantly have to go back to review what was missed. Some drop out of the classes altogether or attend sporadically which causes even more delays.

    I know I have only been dancing for six months, but how can someone possibly improve in an environment like this? Whenever I go to a lindy exchange, I feel extremely out-classed by the skill level that's present there. I just recently spent $300 dollars on a DVD set from these two world-class instructors so that I could train and practice alone.

    Has anyone else experienced this? Other than moving to a new dancing venue, what would you do in this situation?
  2. bookish

    bookish Active Member

    I don't know the VA/DC area, but friends have told me that there's plenty of Lindy Hop around and that people drive around to different places because it's the East Coast and things are relatively close together. (I'm in the Midwest.)

    Weekend workshop events typically have higher-level instructors and more dedicated students at all levels than local classes (whereas exchanges are about social dancing all weekend long and no classes). Workshop weekends are where people usually seem to go to move past improver/beg.int. level. Have you looked for those in your area? Are you thinking about going to Lindy Focus? (A full day's drive from D.C., HUGE event with tons of classes with top instructors on multiple tracks, wish I could go.)

    Besides workshop weekends, it's valuable to be able to experiment with your own body movement and to deconstruct videos of other people dancing (not necessarily instructional videos, performances too). Lindy is a relatively DIY dance.

    Also, particularly if you lead, you may find some of the local dancers are easier to dance with than you think they are, once you gain a bit more ability yourself.

    Are you working on becoming part of the social group of more dedicated dancers in your scene? Do you even know all of the good dancers in your scene yet? Chances are good they hang out together.

    Hope you can find something that works for you. Also, don't let improving become too stressful... been there... kind of still there.
  3. Sagitta

    Sagitta Well-Known Member

    I would think that in your area there would be great dance events in a driveable distance. I know some people in my dance scene who prefer to be selective in their dancing and usually go to weekend exchanges etc. I know that most people in my scene are not hardcore dancers and though the level is higher, for some it is not sufficient. It is about finding a balance that works for you.
  4. juwest333

    juwest333 Active Member

    Thanks for responding!

    Actually, two of the exchanges that I went to were also workshop weekends, and one of them was primarily for competitions (ILHC) which was absolutely phenomenal. I've only recently started to become noticed by more of the dedicated dancers in my area (we started running into each other at some of the exchanges and events here). There is this one venue in Baltimore and another right here in DC, but unfortunately I've only been able to attend those places once or twice because I work the night shift during the evenings. Those places are much smaller and seem to have more dedicated dancers than at my current venue. I may just have to find a new daytime job (yes, I love dancing THAT much!).

    And I have already registered and paid for Lindy Focus for this year! It'll be my first. Can't wait!

    But yeah, at times I really do feel like I could be much better than I am right now if I actually had a regular group of people to practice and dance with.

    For now, I'll just keep practicing with solo drills, watching instructional videos and performances, etc.
  5. Sagitta

    Sagitta Well-Known Member

    Well, if you are meeting dedicated dancers from your area while away at events perhaps you guys can host small social gatherings and add some dancing with each other while you all are there?
  6. juwest333

    juwest333 Active Member

    I don't know them well enough (yet) to ask them to start hosting small gatherings (and I feel bad asking them to do it just for my sake alone), but I will keep that in mind. I like that idea. I found out about a dance venue that is open every Sunday for 3 hours for the sole purpose of practicing. It's a good hour and a half drive for me, but if there is a dedicated group of people that go there every week, that may be just what I need.

    How did you guys improve/get to the level where you are at today?
  7. opendoor

    opendoor Well-Known Member

    Think it also is a question how to wake up the ambition of this sluggish crowd. And I believe exemplary role models may play an important role. So also flash mobs may leave an sustainable impression.

  8. bookish

    bookish Active Member

    Well, OK, if you work evenings, that'll put the brakes on a lot of dance plans! That might actually be the biggest limitation here as there should be plenty to do in D.C. and Baltimore for Lindy. I can't counsel you to quit your job though ;) Still, 6 months is not much time in social dancing. A year isn't that much time. You'll meet more people.

    P.S. Collecting and listening to swing music is also something you can do any time, and I think it helps improve dancing as well.
  9. Dancelf

    Dancelf Member

    A couple different answers, ignore the ones that don't make sense.

    1) Look into whether or not your local instructors offer private instruction. It will be more expensive than a group class, but good private instruction will get you through "the wall" if you are frustrated that you aren't making progress. It also serves as a marker that you are more serious than the folks drifting in and out, if you put your money on the line.

    2) Find a practice partner -- you don't need something so complicated as a small gathering as much as you need one or two hours of work with somebody else who also wants to get better. Important Note: wanting to get better is more important than already good. Given that your evenings are booked, you're probably looking for student partners, rather than adults.

    3) Budget time and money for a private lesson each time you travel.

    4) If you are seriously considering changing jobs so that it fits your dance schedule, maybe dance should be your job. Start working out how to get from here to there; that might mean studio training, or signing on with someone as a teaching assistant. Or just volunteering a lot.
  10. Steve Pastor

    Steve Pastor Moderator Staff Member

    I have a similar, but different situation with my dancing. But enough about me!

    By continuing to work on your basic skills.
    I've been getting lots of mileage out of doing basic stuff in both West Coast Swing and Argentine Tango. Part of that is what I consider an important aspect of dancing - musicality (that ill defined but easy to spot beast.)

    I don't know much about how they teach Lindy now a days, but based on some of my other dances, you should be free to vary your foot work while your body/arms do what needs to be done. And...the music, the music and the music.
    And, a wise person I know always says that the only one you can truly change is yourself.

    Yup. I feel your pain.
  11. Steve Pastor

    Steve Pastor Moderator Staff Member

    Like you, practice, practice, take lessons and take lessons, and study "theory," and dance socially. Only in my case we are talking a fair number of years.

    And here's a different perspectiveon lessons and dancing socially.
    I took Argentine Tango lessons for 6 months before even going to an AT "practice session" which is called a practica.
  12. LindyKeya

    LindyKeya Member

    The problem is not your scene. There are tons of amazing dancers, and dances, in the DC area. The problem is your schedule and/or willingness to drive to those dances.
    Have you checked out dc.gottaswing.com ?

    I'll second the notion that if you really want to improve you'll need a regular practice partner. The best way to find one will be attending beginner series classes. Of course this will be easier if you're male/a lead.
  13. juwest333

    juwest333 Active Member

    Ironically, the dances listed on that site are the scenes that I was referring to in my initial post. I am a male lead. I actually took a beginners course through that site. We started out with about 10 people. 6 of them dropped out. Of the 4 remaining (myself included), I've only seen one of them (a female lead) at a dance event one time during the entire 8 week session. Only one other male lead continued with me to the intermediate sessions that they offer. Perhaps it was just a case of bad luck on my part?

    I don't really want to comment on the dancers in general at those venues as I am still new and don't feel that it's my place, but my initial post reflects what I've experienced there. Although there is one place on Monday nights that I would love to attend if my schedule would allow it. Do you attend those dances? What has been your experience?

    I've made a profile on the dance partner website and am actively searching for one. Some good news is that I've very recently found a place to go practice with other dedicated dancers every Sunday for 3+ hours, so I'm hoping I may find someone there (and obviously improve my dancing along with it).
  14. Sagitta

    Sagitta Well-Known Member

    Great to see that you are taking the initiative and making progress.:)
  15. LindyKeya

    LindyKeya Member

    I don't live in DC, but my husband did for awhile. Those dances DO have amazing dancers. Don't take this the wrong way, but either you don't know what makes an advanced dancer, or you're just dancing with the wrong people. With 600 people in the room they don't necessarily stick out. And they're not going to seek you out. We're talking people who've been dancing 10-15 years.
    I've only been to the Spanish Ballroom, but my husband also liked dances at Chevy Chase and a number of other places (I just told him about this thread and he's horrified). My experience there was lots of good dancers. More than you'll find in Phoenix, or Salt Lake, or Denver - by a long shot. (Better music than those places too.) Similar to Seattle. Are there more than San Fran or NY? I'd wager similar. There was a thread awhile ago on Yehoodi - see yehoodi.com/comment/85223/the-next-big-dance-scene/ (FYI, I wouldn't recommend disparaging DC on Yehoodi. You will be roundly mocked.)
    I don't know what partner dance site you've put a profile up to find a partner, but if it's the one I know of, you won't find a Lindy partner there.
    Half dropping out of a beginner class isn't terribly out of the ordinary.
  16. juwest333

    juwest333 Active Member

    The Spanish Ballroom will maybe have 100 to 150 dancers there, tops, on a good night. This is probably due to the summer heat and the fact that the place has no a/c. The dancers at the Chevy Chase ballroom ARE amazing but way too advanced ( and at times intimidating) for me, but I guess I should go back there. There is one more place I just heard about from a fellow dancer called the Jam Cellar. I will have to check it out.

    The other place that I enjoy is the Mobtown Ballroom in Baltimore but that's not really local for me. I do agree with you about the music though. I love the live bands they have here! The Tom Cunningham Orchestra and Gordon Webster among others are amazing!
  17. Sagitta

    Sagitta Well-Known Member


    You started out saying that there are no qualified dancers and now, there are those who are too qualified, too advanced?!?

    If people are advanced they got there somehow and, just like you, they started as a beginner, and got better by dancing with not only dancers below or at their level, but also those at a higher skill level than themselves. Given that you want to get better, I think you have the solution right there: the Chevy Chase Ballroom. Just saying...
  18. juwest333

    juwest333 Active Member

    It's funny you mentioned that, because just yesterday during practice (at the new location I mentioned I was going to previously), they recommended the same thing. That I needed to start dancing with advanced followers more often so that I know what the dance moves are actually supposed to "feel" like. The practice itself was awesome. Quite a few of the dancers there had actually placed in some of the major competitions in the region. They would actually watch us dance with and without a partner and would give us specific pointers and what areas we we needed to work on. And best of all, it's all free! I feel really lucky to have found such a place!

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