My philosophy on teaching is based in several simple principles. Here’s a few tips and ideas that I have help me along the way.
Music Beats Counts, Any Day
The lindy hop community has advanced so much when it comes to learning. We can analyze moves down to the count, and prescribe exactly what happens on each step. But when we dance, we dance to the living, breathing, imperfect and perfect, human thing that is jazz. We don’t dance to a metronome beat, so we shouldn’t practice that way. I keep my classes immersed in variety of swing music. Whether its a driving beat, or a laid back pulse, I give my students a wide range of music to explore moves, shapes and new ideas.
Try and Try Again
While everyone learns differently, lindy hop is a skill learned on the field not in the class room. Often times, students make judgements about whether they can or can’t do a move before they try it enough. When I’m in my own dance studio, I’ll try a difficult move 6 or 7 times with concerted concentration. Sometimes more like 10, 11 or 30. The same goes for my students. In classes, sometimes we need to work out a partnered or solo movement slow, fast, to music, to counts, with a partner, with a mirror, with a tutu, backwards and upside down before it feels okay in the body.
Movement and Connection go Hand in Hand
Frequently, led moves are too often taught from a connection perspective alone. Leaders can be disproportionately focused on moving their followers rather than moving themselves. I think of these as “crane operator moves”, where the lead pushes and pulls levers to make the follow do fantastic things. But leaders should do fantastic things too! In my classes, I help leaders to find how to move their own bodies, as well as their followers. When we approach new moves with a movement centered approach, then the connection aspect often comes more easily.
Moving Forward Feels Like Going Back
Self awareness is a tricky little bastard. When I make a breakthrough in my dancing, I am often aware of mistakes or oversights in how I move or connect with my lead. And that leads to the feeling that I’m “going backwards”. That’s really when we’re moving ahead! Raising your awareness will make you see mistakes in your dancing — but then you can fix them. Sure, ignorance can be bliss, but self-awareness leads to creative new ways of self-expression.
Learn from Within
Sure, sometimes we have to dive into workshop material. We learn new counts, and challenging steps and crazy rhythms. We sweat, and work and power through discomfort to learn the next new thing. But other times of the year, you want to just dance. Just get out there and move around! Experiment without self-judgement. Try things on the dance floor that defy reason. Be silly! Be wild! Shake your fists at the gods and laugh! I used to think of this as “taking a break” from learning, but really, we’re learning from ourselves.
These are a few thoughts of my own that inform how I teach. Care to know more? Drop me a line! I’m always down to chat about the learning process and best practices for teaching lindy hop.