So you’re an awesome dancer…what now?

Need a new challenge?  Afraid that you’ve learned everything there is to know?  Don’t worry, you haven’t.  That’s the great thing about lindy hop—there is always more to learn.  Even the most world renowned lindy experts constantly look for new ways to improve their dancing.  Here are some tips on how to take your dancing to the next level:

  • Go to camps, exchanges and other events. Doing lots of social dancing is the only way to become a better dancer.  Lindy events give you the opportunity to dance with lots of other dancers who are at your level and expose you to a variety of styles and techniques that you may not get in your home scene. (If you can’t afford the workshops just go to the parties)
  • Focus on technique.  Being a great dancer isn’t just about knowing all the cool moves, it’s about having good technique as well—being a clear leader or a responsive follower—these are the things that allow you to move with your partner as one entity.  If you haven’t thought much about technique in the past now is the time.  Focus on technique points when they come up in classes and really think about how those ideas relate to your dancing.  Improving in this way takes time because it usually involves changing bad habits (we all have them). This should keep you busy until the end of time.  Seriously.  You should never stop trying to improve your technique.
  • Take a private lesson. It will rock you world!  Once you’ve got the basics down this is one of the best ways to improve your technique.  Find out what’s holding you back and what specific things you can work on to become a better dancer.
  • Watch advanced dancers. You can pick up a lot of ideas by watching clips of really awesome dancers online or just watching them social dance at events.
  • Find a partner to practice with—not to the exclusion of dancing with others but in addition to it.  Find challenging things to work on together, play around with musicality, try out crazy ideas and push each other.
  • Perform. This is a great way to fast-track your dancing if there’s that opportunity where you dance. You’ll learn new moves as part of a choreography, which means you’ll get to dance more advanced steps that you may struggle to achieve just social dancing. Often (if choreography is to a fast tune) it will allow you to dance faster than you might normally socially. Rehearsals also give you intensive training time, repeating dance movement which is all great for improving your dancing. You’re also more likely to be filmed rehearsing & performing which helps you to…
  • Watch yourself. If there’s any video footage of you dancing, analyse it. If you don’t have any then film some yourself. Look at how you move. Anything you like/dislike? What’s distinctive about you dancing? Do you do anything peculiar you didn’t realise you did? These are all great questions to ask about your dancing. Then see if you have the ability to change anything you saw. Get some new footage to see how much you managed to improve.
  • Learn more balboa, Charleston, blues, shag, solo jazz etc… so that you have a wider range of things to throw into your dancing
  • Try the other part. Think the beginner lesson is too easy—if you’re a follow take it as a lead, if you’re a lead take it as a follow.  Learning how things work on the other side will make you a better dancer all around.
  • Never complain about beginners. If you find it difficult to dance with dancers who aren’t at your level this isn’t because they aren’t good enough for you, it’s because you aren’t good enough to dance with them yet.  The more your dancing improves the easier it gets to dance with anyone.  And remember any one of them could turn into an awesome dancer and they will remember how you treated them–think of it as an investment.
  • Don’t try to move on too quickly.  It takes a while just to get your head around what you need to do to become a good dancer.  Dancers in their first year or two often try to put themselves at a higher level than they belong and miss out on great learning opportunities because of it.  We’ve all done it but only realized it later on.
  • Learn to take feedback, really…well. This is one of the most valuable tools you can develop for your on-going dance training. Ask for feedback from your peers (or a more advanced dancer). Feedback is a gift, and it can take a lot of getting over yourself to appreciate it as such. Ask them to be critical about what they’d improve about you to make dancing with you even better (we all want others to enjoy dancing with us, so don’t be afraid to ask what would get you there). Especially if you hear something you don’t like, try not to defend why that is, but instead take it on-board to investigate and work-on yourself. It’s the stuff we don’t want to hear which is the most valuable for us to challenge in our own dancing (and potentially a barrier to your improvement that you hadn’t realised). There is a time and a place for this, so not the best idea to go asking this on the social dancefloor.
  • Keep things in perspective. If you come from a small dance scene (hint: if you are reading this you probably do) be wary of “big fish in a small pond” syndrome.  It may not take much work to become one of the best dancers in your local scene but don’t let that stop you from improving.  A trip to a larger city or an international lindy event can put things in perspective.  You’ve still got a long way to go before you run out of mountains to climb—keep at it.

by Tina Bunck & Jo Casey

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