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Dance FAQs

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~* The Real Savoy *~

Joined: 06 Jul 2005
Posts: 2987
Location: Coronado

PostPosted: Sat Sep 17, 2005 7:51 am GMT    Post subject: Dance FAQs Reply with quote

The Dance

What is Lindy Hop?

Lindy Hop is the grand-daddy of swing dances. Started in the 1920's in the Savoy Ballroom in Harlem, Lindy Hop was originally danced to the big bands like Count Basie, Benny Goodman and Cab Calloway. Legend has it that it was named after Charles Lindbergh who "hopped" the Atlantic ocean in 1927. Early innovators included a group called Whitey's Lindy Hoppers. Frankie Manning, one of the few surviving members, still dances and teaches today. Another big name in the development of Lindy Hop is Dean Collins who innovated a variation in Los Angeles called Hollywood (or Smooth) style. Hollywood Style has less bounce and more compression than Savoy Style. Lindy Hop is based on an 8-count basic "swing out." Other basic moves are the Lindy Circle, Side Pass, Tuck-Turn, Texas-Tommy and many, many more, some with names, some without. The strength of Lindy Hop is that it gives the dancer the opportunity to play with the nuances of the music.

There are many forms of swing dancing, most descended from Lindy Hop. They are called by many names, some of which mean different things in different places, Jive, Jitterbug, East Coast Swing, West Coast Swing, Country-Western Swing, etc. See Useful Links below.

I see many different styles of swing dancing on the dance floor. What's up?

Swingorama is primarily Lindy Hoppers, but you will see several varieties of swing dancing being danced and taught. You will commonly see varieties of East Coast Swing, Balboa, and occasionally Shag and West Coast Swing. Charleston is very popular and can be mixed in with Lindy or East Coast Swing.

What is a jam circle?

Jams usually happen spontaneously. A circle forms around a pair of dancers who are doing some really hot stuff. More people come to watch and cheer and soon it's a full-fledged jam circle. After a bit, another couple takes the first couple's place and struts their stuff, and then another couple, and on and on, all in an atmosphere of friendly competition. The crowd claps, hoots and hollers their encouragement and it goes on until it ends. Jams don't happen all that often, but when they do, they are lots of fun.

What is a birthday dance?

This is a different type of jam, which is called by the DJ or dance organizer. The birthday girl(s) and boy(s) are asked to get in the center of the floor with a partner and start dancing. The crowd gathers around in a circle and claps encouragement. Every so often, someone else goes in to dance with the birthday girl or boy, then another and another. Sometimes the dance organizer will call a special jam for some other reason, for someone who is moving away, just married, or something like that.

Do you have to be really good to get in the circle?

Dancers of all skill levels are encouraged to go in and dance with the birthday girl or boy. It isn't about how good you are, it is about helping celebrate the birthday. If you don't know how to "steal" the celebrant, then just boogie on into the circle and the current partner should graciously give the birthday boy or girl to you. Watch, you'll see how it's done!

Can I have a birthday dance?

Absolutely! If your birthday is within yelling distance of tonight, go tell the DJ/organizer that it's your birthday and you'd like a birthday dance. Or if you're shy, get a friend to do it for you. Pick a partner to start you off at the beginning of the dance, and have fun. (Tip: Completely ignore the crowd and focus on your partner, you'll dance better and it will help to alleviate your nerves.)

What is a "Jack and Jill" Competition?

A "Jack and Jill" competition is where the competitors enter as individuals, not as couples. Partners are assigned randomly, and you will generally dance with several different partners. The idea is to see how well you dance in an impromptu dance, with various partners. J&J competitions are generally lower-key and little less formal than other competitions and often geared towards the more casual competitor. A "Jack and Jill" is a good place to start competing.

What's a Snowball?

The DJ or dance organizer will call a snowball. First one couple gets out on the floor alone and dances for a bit. Then the DJ calls "Snowball!" and the couple splits up and gets new partners from the sidelines. Now there are four on the floor. They dance. The DJ calls "Snowball!" and everyone splits up and gets new partners from the sidelines. And so on, until everyone in the room is dancing. Another variation (less common in San Diego) is the "Steal" dance where dancers are encouraged to steal other people's partners, either at a call from the DJ or whenever they like.

What is the Shim Sham? The Big Apple? Jitterbug Stroll?

These and others like them are line-type dances, done individually, with a choreographed set of moves and a specific song. The DJ/Organizer will call "Shim Sham time!" and everyone who wants to do it will come out. Frequently you'll see workshops and classes being promoted to teach you these dances. So just keep your eyes open for the next one, or ask one of our illustrious instructors, and you too can "be a Shim Shammer."

Can I do those cool aerials? Lifts? Drops??

In a word, no. It is generally unacceptable to do aerials (where one partner completely leaves the floor and flips/flies around) on a social dance floor. It is very dangerous to the couple doing the aerials with unpredictable dancers around them and it is very dangerous to the unsuspecting dancers nearby. Some lifts and drops can similarly be dangerous. And never attempt one of these moves with a partner unless you have practiced the move with them and you've asked permission to do the move. Never spring it on an unprepared partner. That is incredibly dangerous to you and to your partner. These moves can be done in a jam circle, in a completely open corner of the dance floor, or in competitions. Not on the social dance floor.

Can I put baby powder or dance wax on the floor?

No. Not unless you have cleared it with the floor owner and/or the dance organizer. Better yet, tell the dance organizer about the floor condition and let them decide what to do about it. Indiscriminate use of these substances on the floor can create a safety hazard and a mess to clean up. Similarly, don't put stuff on your shoes, it will transfer to the floor and cause problems.

Can I bring my children? Can I come dance if I'm under age?

Maybe. Some dances are all-ages, some are adult-only. If in doubt, call the dance organizer and ask. If you bring small children, keep a very sharp eye on them. Dancers may not notice little ones who have wandered onto the dance floor and the little ones can get hurt.

Clothing & Shoes

What should I wear? Do I need 40's vintage clothing?

Dress primarily for comfort. It can get pretty hot in a dance, so pick clothing you'll be comfortable in. Dress in layers if you're not sure. If you tend to sweat a lot, you should bring an extra shirt or two to change into during the dance. Everyone gets a bit sweaty, but no one likes to dance with a sopping-wet partner. Dances are often pretty casual. People wear anything from jeans and t-shirts to the occasional full-on vintage get-up. And lots of styles in-between. We tend to dress up a bit for a band or for a fancier event. The event organizer will tell you if it is a "dress to impress" type event.

And what exactly does "dress to impress" mean?

Well, that depends. Generally it means don't wear sweats, shorts, jeans, t-shirts, etc. Go more for slacks, a nice shirt, maybe a skirt for the gals. Sometimes you'll see "no athletic shoes" but many of us have dance sneakers and chromed athletic shoes. Your dance shoes are always allowed.

What should I not wear?

Anything that is not comfortable, or can cause injury. Nearly floor-length skirts, or very long pants are a bad idea, they'll get stepped on and you can trip over them. Loose, flowing blouses can get tangled up in your partner's hand. Don't wear jewelry with sharp edges (particularly rings), or things that can get caught and damaged, fly out and hit someone, or come off and get lost. A lot of leads don't like bracelets, they can get caught in their hands. Long pendants can fly around and hit your partner.

If you have long hair, arrange it so it doesn't fly up and whack your partner. Pony-tails or pig-tails tied high can be a problem. If they are tied low, they don't fly up so much.

Certain fabrics show sweat more than others. Silk and rayon seem to be particularly bad. Light colors can sometimes turn dark when they get wet. If you're not sure, dribble a few drops of water on your shirt and see what it looks like wet. You may think silk would be a nice cool fabric, but in fact it can get as hot and sticky as polyester. 100% cotton is the coolest choice.

What kind of shoes should I wear?

You should wear shoes that you're comfortable in, that will stay on your feet and will allow you to pivot smoothly. Hard leather soles work well, as do chromed shoes (shoes with suede glued to the bottom of the shoes). Some people like dance sneakers like Capezio Dance Sneakers (other manufacturers have similar shoes, try Bleyer and Sansha) They generally have a rubber split sole with a turning spot under the ball of your foot. They're not cheap, but a lot of people like them. Other manufacturers are Bloch, Aris Allen, etc. Most women don't wear very high heels. Some women's dance shoes have a little heel. If you want heels, go for a dance shoe, or at least something with a small (1 - 1.5 inch) wide heel (no stilettos). Some folks think good quality bowling shoes work well as dance shoes. Eventually you may want two or more pairs for different surfaces, "fast" (slippery), "slow" (sticky), etc.

Where do I get shoes?

There are several places in town to look for shoes. The Capezio store (in some malls) has a small selection, including the Dance Sneaker. Also try Carmen's Dance Shoes which is located on El Cajon Blvd, next to the Starlight Dance Studio. Dance camps are good places to look for shoes (Camp Hollywood, for instance). Or get a pair of good comfortable shoes chromed. You can buy over the internet, but be real careful about their return policy if the shoe doesn't fit or doesn't feel right. See Useful Links below.

Where do I get my shoes chromed?

Dance chrome is basically suede glued to the bottom of your shoe. Any good shoe repair shop can chrome your shoes for $20-30 (currently). The best shoes to chrome are those with a reasonably smooth sole (rather than the deep tread on some athletic shoes). Some shoes that chrome well are Converse sneakers, Keds, Vans, and others. Look around at what people are dancing in. Don't be shy, ask them what they're wearing and where they got them. Decide if you want to chrome just the front half (arch to toes) or full sole. Most follows go for full sole. Many leads like half-sole because they can use their unchromed heels as brakes.

Can I chrome my own?

A lot of people do this. You will need suede, good glue, a sharp knife and a steady hand. GottaDance.org has a nice page on the process.

Can I wear my dance shoes around town?

No, you really shouldn't. If you paid a lot for good dance shoes, you want to protect that investment. Plus, you could get gunk on your shoes and drag that onto a nice dance floor, which is guaranteed to annoy everyone from the floor owner to your dance friends. Chromed shoes, especially, should be worn only on dance floors. If you get water on them it will make them "sticky" for a while, until they dry out. You can do that on purpose if the floor is "fast" (slick). But in general, keep your chromed shoes dry and clean. Use a steel-bristled brush occasionally to clean off the suede and bring up the nap (you can get these brushes at shoe repair stores). Or you can go outside to concrete that is dry, clean, and a little rough. Stand there and shuffle your feet back and forth. Pivot some. This is easier and has the same effect as a good brushing. Don't forget to wipe your shoes before going back into the dance floor to avoid bringing in dirt, rocks or other bad stuff.

What kinds of shoes should I not wear?

Sandals, mules, clogs, slip-ons and other shoes not well connected to your feet won't work well. Open-toed shoes are ok, but there is some danger to your toes if you get kicked. Very high, thin heels are treacherous. Heavy shoes, rubber soled shoes, hiking boots, work boots/shoes, and steel-toed shoes are all bad choices.


I don't smell that bad. Do I?

If you have to ask, you already know the answer...

You might think that this all goes without saying, but we're going to say it anyway. Please bathe and brush your teeth before coming to dance. Use anti-perspirant / deodorant. And please, please go easy on the cologne and perfume. Or better yet, skip it completely. Some people are sensitive and even those that aren't can get overwhelmed by the fumes. Hand lotion isn't a great idea either because it can make your hands slippery.

Onions, Garlic and Thai food!

Many of us love onions, garlic and other highly fragrant food. If you have to, you have to. But if you must indulge before dancing, please bring along breath mints, gum, or something similar to dampen the affect.

I'm not that sweaty, am I?

If you sweat a lot, bring extra shirts to change into. Some folks bring a towel to mop up with. Being hit in the face by flying drops of sweat does not make the dance a fun experience!


How do I ask someone to dance?

"Would you like to dance?" is the most common. The older, more formal "May I have this dance?" works well too. Creativity is great, but can have consequences. An old friend of mine from college once went up to a woman, blew in her ear and said, "I just wanted you to have something in your head when I asked you to dance." The consequences were not pretty...

Unless you are best-buddies with someone, please don't just grab someone and drag them out to the floor. Ask first. Everyone is a bit shy, some of us are a lot shy, even the really good dancers. Ask them to dance! The local dancers are a friendly bunch and you shouldn't hesitate to ask people of all levels. Dancing with people more advanced than you helps you improve. Dancing with people less advanced than you makes you focus on your basics, focus on your partner, gives you practice in adjusting your style to what they can handle, and helps them improve.

Do I always have to accept a dance?

No, you do not have to accept a dance. A simple "No, thank you." will do it. You don't owe anyone an explanation. If this is someone you never want to dance with (perhaps they are dangerous, or groping, or smelly, or you just can't stand them) then "No, thank you." issued each and every time they ask, will eventually get through.

However, if it is someone you want to dance with but just not now, an explanation is nice. "Not now. Can we do a later one? I'm resting / getting water / this song is too fast for me / I've already promised this dance to someone else..." But you should certainly follow through and ask them to dance later.

What if I get turned down?

Take it graciously. Smile and retreat. Don't demand explanations. Try again later. But if you get several turn-downs in a row from someone, with no offer for a later dance, take the hint. For whatever reason, this person doesn't want to dance with you. It happens to everyone. Move on and dance with others.

What do I do if I'm being hurt?

Safety is utmost! If your partner is doing something that hurts you, stop! Clearly and politely explain to him/her what is going wrong. "When you do the Texas-Tommy, you pull my arm too far up my back and it wrenches my shoulder." Use your judgment as to whether to keep dancing with that person. Don't keep dancing with someone who keeps hurting you. If he/she wants to learn and adjusts their behavior, you may want to give them another chance. But there are some people that you just will have to not dance with.

What do I do if I'm being groped?

If you think you are being fondled or groped, then you probably are. Trust your instincts, they are almost always correct. If this happens, you can and should say something to him/her and leave the dance. "I'm not comfortable with this, I don't want to finish the dance." Understand that accidents happen to everyone. People accidentally bump or grab something they didn't intend to. The person who does this should apologize immediately and profusely, and should ensure it doesn't happen again. Some dances are done in a tight closed position (Balboa, for instance). If you are not comfortable being this close to someone, say so clearly and ask for more space or for another type of dance that is more to your liking. "I'm not comfortable dancing this close, can we open it up?" or "Can we do Lindy instead?" For repeat offenders, we suggest saying something to the organizers of the dance, and to your dance teacher(s), they will get the information to the right people. And warn others of chronic gropers. If you don't, a lot of other people are going to get groped. You can quietly and discreetly tell people "Avoid that one in the green shirt, he gropes you and pretends it was just an honest mistake, but he does it all the time."

What about DUI (dancing under the influence)?

No one is going to fuss about you having a drink or two (unless you are under age), but drinking affects your judgment and your coordination. Your dancing will suffer as you drink more. Keep that in mind. And, of course, don't drive home if you've been drinking! Ask around, someone will be willing to give you a ride home or call you a cab.

How do I graciously end the dance?

At the end of the dance it is customary to thank your partner for the dance. Some folks like to escort their partner off the floor rather than run off to the next partner. But that's not terribly common. If there is a band, don't forget to applaud the band too.

Can I ask for a second dance?

In some places two dances are customary. Locally, one dance is common. But there is nothing wrong with asking for a second one. But then move on. Three or more dances in a row are not common. Let him or her go dance with someone else. Later on you can ask again. Just don't monopolize someone.

How do I dance with someone much more or less skilled than I am?

Don't dance beyond your partner's capabilities. If you are dancing with someone less skilled, try to make your partner look and feel like a great dancer. Keep your moves simple and clear. Don't throw in fancy styling that may confuse them. Don't criticize or offer instruction in a social dance, just smile and have fun. If your partner persistently asks for feedback or help, then move off to the sidelines, or a quiet corner and try to help them. If you don't feel like instructing, then tell them nicely that you aren't a teacher, and suggest a teacher or two you like.

If you are dancing with someone less skilled than you, it can be an opportunity for you to improve too. Leads should be very clean and clear when leading moves. Follows can practice being very attentive and sensitive to a lead that may not be very clear.

If you are dancing with someone more skilled than you, great, it will help you improve! And most good dancers are gracious and happy to dance with beginners. Focus on your partner, pay attention, relax, smile and have a good time, even when you flub something. Don't apologize all the time. (OK, maybe once if you must.) You will make mistakes. When you do, smile, laugh it off, and move on. Laughing at your blunders is the best way to tame them.

What are the 7 deadly sins?

(1) Doing anything unsafe - Attempting aerials on a social dance floor, trying a difficult or dangerous move on an unsuspecting partner, etc. is not only rude, but very dangerous. Be responsible for your dance partner and your dance space. The lead is responsible for controlling the dance space and keeping his or her follow safe. Leads, watch out for other dancers, and change your lead to avoid collisions. The follow should keep an eye on conditions as well and warn the lead of things he or she doesn't see. Especially in crowded situations, dance small, keep your kicks low and small and make sure no one is in the way. Leads, be particularly careful in doing dips so you don't bang your partner's head on something or someone.

(2) Abandoning your partner - It is never ok to run off and leave a partner abandoned. If you must leave a dance because you are hurt, or about to pass out, or something else pressing, say so to your partner, apologize and then make it up to them later by asking them to dance again. Bad reasons to abandon your partner are: You see someone you want to talk to; you see your favorite partner and want to dance with them instead; you see something going on that you want to join (like a group practicing a move); etc.

(3) Criticizing / teaching during a dance - A social dance is a social dance, not a lesson. Unless the person has asked persistently for help or feedback, hold your tongue. The only exception to this is if someone is doing something hurtful or objectionable (like groping), then you can and should tell them what you don't like and ask them to stop.

(4) Not apologizing for a blunder - Everyone makes them. You grab something you didn't intend to, you hit or kick someone dancing nearby, whatever. Apologize immediately and sincerely. Even if you think it wasn't your fault (it may not have been), apologize anyway. Sometimes this is just a sheepish nod of the head, a "Sorry!" flung over your shoulder, or some such, but you should apologize somehow.

(5) Not thanking your partner - Just walking off after a dance and not thanking your partner is very rude. Always thank your partner.

(6) Not applauding the band - The band works hard to please us and give us fun music to dance to. Applaud them after the song. You can get so wrapped up in your partner that you can forget the band. Remember the band, and give 'em your appreciation.

(7) Ignoring your partner - When you dance with someone, pay attention to them! Smile and be friendly. It's no fun to feel like you are just a warm body at the end of your partner's arm. It is a social dance, be social!

(Cool OK, so maybe there are 8 deadly sins. Hogging space on the dance floor - Dancing "too big" for the space available is not only rude, but is unsafe. Don't take up more than your fair share of the dance space. Avoid hurling body parts out into space where other dancers are dancing, avoid the "giant rock-step of death," which can wreck havoc on the dancers behind you. And finally, don't take up dance space if you aren't dancing. If you want to chat or practice dance moves, move to an unused corner the dance floor. Save the central dance floor for social dancing.

Getting Out There

I'm taking classes, when should I come out to a dance?

As soon as possible! Please come out and dance! The local swing dancers are very friendly and supportive of beginners. You will learn and improve much faster if you get out and dance with many different dancers. And be sure to ask dancers better than you to dance. Most everyone will react positively if you say something like "Would you like to dance? I'm a beginner."

But I always see the same good dancers dancing with each other!

Well, it is natural to want to dance with your friends, people you've gotten to know in classes and at dances. But don't think you are being excluded. People are shy and hesitant to ask people they don't know to dance. Even the best dancers can be shy that way. The best way to get asked to dance is to ask others to dance, lots of them. Go ahead!

Can I come without a partner?

Certainly! Almost all classes are non-partnered (the class will say so very clearly if it is partner-required). All the social dances are come-one-come-all. People mix and dance with lots of different people.

What if my partner and I want to dance with only each other?

You can do that, of course, but you'll miss out on lots of fun! If you do want to stick together, you just need to graciously turn down people who ask. Something like, "No thank you, I only dance with my wife."

Do women always have to follow, and men always lead?

Generally women follow and men lead. If you are just beginning to learn, that's a good place to start. But there's no dance-police. If the other role is more appealing to you, or if you've become bored and want to learn the other role, go ahead. You may have to explain yourself when you ask someone to dance or if they ask you. "Would you like to dance? I'd like to lead." or "I'd love to dance with you. I follow, do you lead?"

I sometimes see men dancing with men, and women with women. What's up with that?

Nothing but a love of dance. Don't read anything into it. It has nothing to do with gender, sex or orientation. Some men follow, some women lead, a bunch of people do both. It's about the dance.

Am I too old/young to swing dance?

Not at all. We have regular dancers from pre-teen to octogenarians, and everyone in between. We have beginners of all ages, and experts young and old.

How do I learn to swing dance?

We have some outstanding local teachers! The Forum contains an Instructors section which mentions some of them. Talk to the good dancers you see out there and ask them where they learned. More likely than not, they will refer you to someone good.

We suggest you do some comparative shopping, take a class or two with various teachers until you find someone that suits you. We think it is important to take classes from a variety of teachers to develop a well-rounded background, and experience different views and styles. When you can, take classes and workshops with nationally recognized teachers. We get occasional out of town "big names" to come in for workshops, take advantage of the opportunity to learn from them.

Where can I go to dance?

There are several regular venues in town, some semi-regular ones, and the occasional special occasion. But the events change and move around fairly frequently. See the Swingorama Calendar, and the Forum for current information.

Who runs Swingorama? Who is this Admin guy?

Shawn Hanna is our revered and illustrious Admin and Web Master. A few years ago he envisioned Swingtime San Diego (SwingtimeSD.com) while laid up due to surgery. He started it in November of 1998. Due to trademark issues, he later changed the name to Swingorama, and the rest is history. Shawn was joined in this endeavor by Meeshi Sumayao. Meeshi is a regular contributor to Swingorama, a creative and innovative dancer, a popular teacher, and a tireless dance organizer. Recently other gracious and talented people have stepped up to help Shawn as well.

This FAQ was written by Katherine Albitz, with help and suggestions from a variety of people and web sites. However, any and all opinions offered here, errors, omissions, and such, are hers and hers alone. If you have suggestions for additions, please let her know. katherine.albitz@hp.com

Would you like to dance?

Yes, I would love to!

Useful Links

There are bunches and bunches of interesting web sites out there. Please follow the link below to see some of them..

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