The Skippy Blair System?


I own a studio in Atlanta and we teach West Coast Swing group lessons 4 days a week and every day in privates. We have Jordan Frisbee and Tatiana Mollman in for workshops every year and they adhere to the Skippy Blair system. Personally I love Robert Royston's more scientific method of dance. I try to incorporate Skippy's rolling count into Royston's lead follow techinques. By the way, if you want to see Jordan and Tatiana dancing at my studio, visit and search for "jordan dance atl". There is also a vid of my wife and I dancing at a local club. It's hard to argue with their 3 world championships, or Robert royston's 6. West Coast Swing is an interpretational art form. You make it your own. If you really want to improve your understanding of the dance, purchase Robert's videos. His advanced 1 and 2 are excellent teaching tools. West Coast is the only dance I know of that has so many different styles and they all look great. Whatever you do, don't let anyone stop you from having fun.:p My main advice is to learn competition level dance so you will always be up to date. If your instructor has been in competition, he or she will have much better advice than someone that hasn't.
I developed this Swing dancing method in 1999 and posted on Dance Forum
I call it The Magic Pill because it gets beginners on the dance floor within a twenty minute lesson. A more organized version is in the Dance Forum archives under 'BLACK SHEEP'
Lindy Lovers,
My contribution to the World of Swing is finally here! Go Teach all
Brief Music Lesson
Basic Lindy Steps are danced to six Quarter Beats or Notes;
(The "& 2, & 4 counts take an eighth note each (4 eighths = two Quarter
(the 1, 3, 5, 6 counts take one Quarter beat each: total = four Quarter
"Slow, Quick, Quick Slow, Quick, Quick, Slow, Slow
LADY, ON THE 1 &2 ALWAYS travels or turns only on these 3 steps;
LADY ON THE 3 &4 ALWAYS takes 3 steps in-place;
LADY ON THE 5- 6 ALWAYS Rocks Back takes 2 steps.
MAN ON THE 1&2 - 3&4 takes 6 steps in-place, rotating ith the direction
of his leads;
MAN ON THE 5--6 ALWAYS Rocks in the direction of his leads;
MAN ON THE 1&2 ALWAYS gives his leads.

1) Start by having students counting, “1 &2 3 &4 5 - 6"
2) Begin lesson in Push Position
On the ‘One & Two’ both take 3 small side steps starting to Man's
On the ‘Three & Four’ both take 3 small side steps to the Man’s
REPEAT these side steps as you both count, "1 &2, 3 &4” continuously;
slowly increase speed until student is in sync with musical Down Beats;
3) Rock Steps: Have student REPEAT Back Rock Steps without side steps,
(2 steps) counting , "5-6, 5-6" until weight changes are well
and pick up tempo slowly until student is in sync with Quarter beats of
(students have a tendency to rush Rock Steps and fall back on their
correct them)
4) Have student join side steps with Rock Steps, using count: “1 &2,
3 &4, 5-6”
increasing speed until they are in sync with music; (keep student
counting in
sync with steps)
Allow students at least a full minute to have them enjoy the euphoria
of dancing
on rhythm.
5) Still in Push Position, on the 1 &2, the Lady turns and travels as
man raises his
lead hand
on 1 &2 above and to the right of the Lady’s head to indicate a 360
right tuurn
for the Lady;
OR on 1 &2 above and between both bodies to indicate a 360 left turn
for the Lady.
REPEAT turns with one complete Basic Step in between turns. (keep up
6) Place couple in Closed VEE Body Position and have them do same

Black Sheep
The Lindy Hop is America\'s Cultural
Contribution to the World.

Joe Lanza - Copyright 2003 - Do not duplicate

07-31-2003, 01:06 PM #2
Black Sheep

Join Date: Apr 2003
Posts: 337
Magic Pill Part II, Questions & Answers
Lindy Lovers,
1) Why not begin Lindy at the beginning of a two bar phrase (8 quarter
Ans: Since Lindy Basic step is 6 Quarter beats, you are out of phrasing
at the end of one Basic Pattern, and starting on the Down Beat is more
practical and easier to hear and feel.
2) What if you want to substitute a 'Kick Ball Change' for a Rock Step?
Ans: Just add an '&' count between the 5 & 6, a cipher for each move,
timed Q + 2 eighths or Slow, Quick, Quick, same timing as a '1&2'.
3) How do you count a Whip or Turn Rhythm?
Ans: '1&2, 5-6, 1&2 5-6; Just skip the 3&4 counts.
4) What about dancing in a Slot or other techniques?
Ans: techniques and styling pointers are incorporated after this
beginning phase is solidified.
5) What about the Eight count Lindy?
Ans: No such animal; Eight count steps can be incorporated in the
Lindy, but they are either shim sham type steps, Charleston steps or
the Big Apple steps like the Suzy Q, Shorty George, or the Boogie Woogie
all which are individual moves that are used as breaks in the Lindy but
are not part of the integrity of the Rhythmic Savoy Lindy structure.
These 8 count moves are easy to stick into the Lindy and in the 1950's
in Hollywood we always used these eight count moves part of exhibition
dances as Precision routines dancing side by side or facing each other.
Eight count moves are fun and easier to incorporate into the Savoy
Lindy, but they are not Savoy Lindy; THEY ARE BIG APPLE STEPS.

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Steve Pastor

Staff member
Maybe you guys can help me make up my mind about spending nearly $200 to take a few lessons from Skippy.
Here's the background.
It was about 8 years ago that I started taking West Coast lessons. After several years, and several series of lessons went by, I stayed with it for another year or two of pick up lessons at local CW places. Then I got tired of trying to learn patterns, and haven't taken lessons for several years now.
Then I learned Argentine Tango, and started to think differently about how I lead WCS.
Within the last year I became interested in where WCS came from, and what the music was when it was first danced, and how that chnged as time went by (at least through the 50s).
Skippy was nice enough to reply to my requests for information, and commented on what I had found, too.
She will be in Portland in a couple of weeks, but in order to take classes in her "intensive", you have to buy the weekend package. Together, this would mean that I will have to shell out about 200 bucks.

The posts of her teaching a "dogma" seem to be at odds with information on her web site, at least as I interpret posts here, and what I read on her site.

I'd kind of like to meet the woman (if only to be in a class) since she's been associated with this dance partically since it started. But the price is quite high.

I know that only I can decide, but does anyone have any thoughts on my dilemma?
I know that only I can decide, but does anyone have any thoughts on my dilemma?
How much interest do you have in teaching? How much interest do you have in thinking differently about the way you dance swing? How much is that worth to you?

Best case scenario is that you drink the kool-ade, and you learn about the best way to teach swing, find new ways to think about your dancing that you do agree with, and get answers to your historical questions that you can't get anywhere else.

Worst case scenario is that you end up with a different way of thinking about your dancing that you don't quite agree with, some background on a teaching program that isn't the way you would do it, and answers to your historical questions that you can't get anywhere else.

This is not, to my mind, a bad consolation prize for the price. She'll be enormously well prepared, have answers and justifications for anything you care to challenge her on, the methods that she'll present are very well integrated and have a history of delivering the kinds of results that she is aiming for.

That said, you are welcome to draw conclusions from the fact that I have taken her intensive precisely once.


Active Member
Think about all the time you have invested in the swing and music history. If you gave yourself a buck for each hour spent researching, I'm sure you have the class paid for several times over. You might as well learn from the source.

Plus, there is a whole separate area of research that I have not read in your writings. As big as the very roots of a dance are, each of the major incremental steps is equally important. For example, some couple was the first to break sideways out of the slot and probably won big doing it? Now, that concept has been blended in to the dance and even newbies like me lead them. Skippy probably remembers who broke the mold.

I also think everyone tends to pickup some bad habits along the way and dances change over time. I know I have refocus on my basics often to try and catch those habits from forming. Why do you think that bad habits stick so much faster than good ones? Anyway, she can probably really help you make your swing sharp.


Well-Known Member
I can give you the names of 2 ladies who were teaching in the same system ( both were national D>D for A/ M, and I worked with both at different times ) one , before she was in the ballroom side of things-- Bebe Black . Barbara Paul was LA based and a great exponent of the style, Ruth Silvey, another . ( my DD at A/M ) Pretty sure they all knew each other .

If they are still living in the area, they could give more perspective .Bebe has long since passed, I believe )

Steve Pastor

Staff member
Yesterday I was several graphs into a "report" when I opened something else, and it didn't open in a new window, and it was gone.
I took one 2 hr class with Skippy on Thursday, which wsa my plan. She is a remarkable woman. I would have taken another session with her, but, unfortunately some of the women in the class were, let's say, less than gracious and it reminded me of why I stopped taking lessons in the first place.
Skippy is veritable gold mine of information about dance. I loved the fact that there is no doubt in her mind that music and dance are intimately related.
She was horrified to hear that many teachers don't talk about dancing to the music.
I talked to her two days ahead of time, and we agreed that to be able to improvise, you first have to have a solid grasp of the basics.
She told us that her classes evolve to a large extent depending on who is in the class, what she thinks will improve their "performace", and what questions are asked.

When the rubber hit the road, she gave is info on basics like posture, where our weight should be, how to initiate a step, etc. What I found interesting was that her advice on this was very similar to what I had learned in some of my other dances.
I don't remember her saying that this wasy was "right". But she did say things like if you do this, then this will happen, or that won't happen.

She uses a &a1&a2 terminology to discuss the time in between the beats, as you are doing a step. It is a useful way to think about the series of motions you go through in doing something "simple" such a taking a step.

She has an entire system of nomenclature (curvy arrows, dots, etc. we looked at the printed materials that were handed out), but, she did not dwell on this.

For me it was like a bright sunny day after many many dark dreary days. (I never wrote that the dancers where I dance are especially musical or even dance in time to the music. And I have repeated conversations with people about that. And they just don't get it.)

This session was a combination of us sitting and listening, and us being up doing an exercise that involved dancing (duh).

I will tell you that if a teacher had GSDTA (Golden State Dance Teachers Association and something that Skippy heads) training, I would be more likely to send someone to that teacher. (I won't say that I'm too old to learn new tricks, but I'm not interested in competing, and I rarely have a partner long enough to truly feel that I have to move things up to a level I've never been to. I already have pages and pages of notes on things I rarely do that I can go back to.)

The organizers didn't even blink when I told them that I didn't have a "weekend pass" (they asked, I didn't just tell them). They just let me sign up for the lesson with the comment that I would probably want to take more lessons.

So, I was thoroughly pleased with the two hours that I had with Skippy.

Steve Pastor

Staff member
Now regarding the followers who ruined the vibe for me.
Really, I quit taking lessons in general because there were some women, and it always seemed to be the same few, who always had something bad to say.
We always hear from the women that they don't like the guys teaching, etc. I wouldn't be surprised if guys could say the same thing about the women. It's just that as guys we aren't likely to complain to the teacher, etc. Guys are supposed to just suck it up.
Well, not always, because I let the organizers know why I wasn't staying this time.
I've just been around too long to put up with that kind of BS.


New Member
Practice makes perfect, maybe....

Now regarding the followers who ruined the vibe for me.
Really, I quit taking lessons in general because there were some women, and it always seemed to be the same few, who always had something bad to say.
We always hear from the women that they don't like the guys teaching, etc. I wouldn't be surprised if guys could say the same thing about the women. It's just that as guys we aren't likely to complain to the teacher, etc. Guys are supposed to just suck it up.
Well, not always, because I let the organizers know why I wasn't staying this time.
I've just been around too long to put up with that kind of BS.
Last Saturday I attended a WCS seminar/dance that is a popular monthly event at a local studio. It starts with two consecutive hours of group lesson and a dance follows. Every time I go I remember that 1) two hours of group lesson is too much for most of us, (a lot of people leave shortly after the lesson and only a few stay to dance, and they not for long. I think because people just get worn out.) and 2) I hate group lessons unless they are at a level and style that I am already very competent at where I can enjoy meeting people and focus on being gracious without actually having to learn any patterns or technique. It is not an easy task to simultaneously devote all of your attention to both instructions given and to the partner who has just rotated to the spot in front of you.

This Saturday one woman actually had a meltdown right in front of me and stormed out of the place. At one time I might have felt really rotten and spent way too long wondering what I did to inspire such behavior, but now I just wonder “Why did she have to pitch a fit in front of me; why not pick on one of these other guys?” If you spend close to two hours in a group lesson trying really hard to learn a dance that you imagine is going to bring joy and companionship and all manner of wonderful things into your life and you are just not getting it... well, that can be a really frustrating experience. And that frustration can and does lead to some pretty bad behavior. Sometimes it does so even on my part, so I can understand the emotion even if I think that the behavior is kinda nutty.

I remember very clearly the first time I attended an Argentine Tango seminar. I was an absolute beginner and I practiced with some very accomplished dancers who were very patient with me. I felt quite privileged that they would practice with me and dance with me even though I was a beginner. (in close embrace, mo less.) Now that I am somewhat more accomplished, (not very) I try to be as patient with beginners myself. But it never fails to floor me when a woman who is taking the very first dance lesson of her life starts berating me because she is upset that she can't do what the instructor demonstrated and obviously it is somehow my fault. (Often it turns out that she can do it if she is just patient enough to let someone lead it, rather than trying to pull a guy through a pattern of steps while walking backwards. I don't consider ochos to be a tremendously demanding feat of athleticism, but imagine trying to step and pivot while simultaneously shoving your leader back and forth at the same time. It really must be much more difficult than it looks.:rolleyes:)

I have realized just lately that being a good leader at a social dance means acting graciously and being patient with people even when they are having a bad hair day. For those of us who come to the dance world with pretty good manners to start, lesson one should probably be “it's none of your business what other people think of you.” Lesson two is that it is your job to learn to lead (or follow) and it is entirely someone else's worry to follow (lead.) If they don't want to play nicely then you simply ask the next.

Pretty much every time I go to a dance lesson there are one or more women who express real gratitude to me for being patient with them and for helping them in some small way to dance better. And yet it seems to always be the ones who are rude and nasty that occupy my mind at the end of the evening. I am working very hard to try to focus my attention on the former and to simply forget the latter. Because I really can't do much to help them. But this Dancing business really requires a lot of practice.


P.S. I post quite a bit on a bulletin board for IH trucks and I have learned to cut and paste from some other editor. Not only do I not lose some long rant I typed out, but the spelling gets checked.
After sixteen weeks of teacher's training courses at two different Dance schools, I still did not know the joy of dancing even though I had learned 30 steps in each of six ballroom dances. My background was an acrobatic gymnast, and I knew the secret to perfecting any physical configuration was in the TECHNIQUES. I began to learn how to dance by learning to walk smoothly and dance with a book balanced on my head. I also took some ballet lessons from a Russian former ballerina and learned the various techniques for turns and leaps and controlling the body alignment gracefully. The last method I used to hone my techniques, was to dance in front of a full sized mirror to correct my my body form and rhythmic moves to music. It was countless hours of dancing alone in front of the mirror that helped to hone my techniques. The 180 steps I had learned in my teacher's training classes became tools, configurations for my dancing but it was the hard enjoyable work of perfecting my TECHNIQUES that made me a dancer, not the steps. Try to learn tennis without techniques or or singing or swimming or golf and you will never begin the reach your potential in any field. On the dance floor without good techniques you are merely running around to music; techniques are just as easy to learn as some trick steps and can improve your dancing where trick steps often distracks from the aesthetics of a smooth continuous rhythmic ride on a magic carpet with techniques which includes transitional moves, you end up floating in a dream world in the zone of euphoria. Techniques are the tools that allow you to dance creatively expressing your emotions freely, and whether you have a good partner or a bad partner, your techniques will always make your dancing look classic. Dancing without good techniques is what makes West Coast Swing a bore. It's the techniques in East Coast Swing that make ECS a joy to dance.
Joe Lanza aka Black Sheep.

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