A few year's worth of opinions of swing dancing

By Benson Wong with help from friends.
Last revised October 24, 2000.

Eric Mittler of the Northern California Lindy Society had pointed out that having your own webpage like DanceNet means that you can publish articles on topics that don't have to get scrutinized by an editor or sanctioned by an organization as being politically correct. I was the publisher of the BSDS newsletter and I had a tough editor so it's easier to write nowadays; on the other hand, now everyone can see how badly I write. :-P

I've been on the Boston swing dance scene since 1991, having started taking lessons because my girlfriend was into swing dancing. As a result of the time spent on the dance floor with a variety of dance partners, I've developed a few ideas that I think it would appropriate to share with others.

Yes, I know, it looks like I'm picking on the guys. Traditionally, it's the guys who have the active burden of making the dance go well, and, as someone with a Y-chromosome, I've been taught that "it's always the guy's fault", so I'm focusing on where I can clear up some issues between the leaders and the followers. At the same time, I also get to hear what the followers think of the guys who lead them. Considering the number of favorable responses that I get from women/followers regarding the issues I bring up in this article, I think that the men/leaders should pay attention to the suggestions that I offer below.

Showing Off Your Cool Moves

Fashion Statements

Some of the "fashion statements are superficial; yes, I realize that. As a guy, I rely on the solid advice of women friends to tell me what looks good on me. On the other hand, I have some advice that have more practical reasons.

It seems that swing dancing is suppose to be fun and we should worry more about how our dance partner treats us on the dance floor. I did get one letter about this. Yes, that's much more important and is covered above and below. However, how we dress for a night on the town is still important because we want to leave a good impression on our new dance partners so that they'll accept another invitation to dance. Dressing neat shows confidence and self-esteem and that you are considerate of your dance partners. Someone who is confident about themselves is less likely to spend the time fretting about whether or not they're doing the right move and spend more time enjoying the dance. It's possible to dress to sweat and still look neat. Imagine this: if you were someone looking to ask one of several strangers to dance and you didn't know anything about them (including their ability to dance), what would you use as the criteria as to whom you would ask?

Attitude (politeness counts!)


The Big Picture...

How important is it to be the best dancer? On the professional circuit, very important. On the social scene? Not at all! The goal is "be the one with whom everyone else wants to dance". Your task, as a dancer, is to make the dancing enjoyable for your partner. If your partner has a great time dancing with you, that energy will carry over to your own dancing and you'll both have a good time. Let me tell you a secret: the dance experience that stands out most in my mind was with someone who had never taken a swing lesson before!

Eric Mittler adds that all it takes is one person to:

Then all the other dancers are in trouble. Once followers find a leader with a smooth supportive lead, the other leaders who toss their partners around and are non-solicited teachers will find themselves sitting out and more importantly left out of non-dance activities. Ya know, Eric, I think we should have kept this last one our little secret. :-P

Many thanks to the following who contributed to this:


What have I started? Eric announced this article in his weekly mailing of Jump Site and the replies have been rolling in from around the country. Naomi from Santa Cruz, CA, threw in her two cents about guys who don't use deodorant or brush their teeth. Rita in Lowell, MA thinks this article should be required reading for all new dancers. Tony asked about reprinting the article for his students. Some people are even calling me with their responses about this article.

From my point of view, the following questions need to be asked of yourself at the end of a dance:

If you answered yes to all of the above, you've "done good".

This article does not attempt to solve the situations that pop up in social arenas that can cause emotional distress when dealing with other people on the dance floor. For solutions to those problems, you will have to consult The Dancing Graces (who, for your information, is certainly *not* me). She is much more eloquent and polite (and prettier) than me.

Agree? Disagree? That's okay. Write to me and let me know what you think. If you want to see what other people said, check out their feedback, comments, and criticisms.

Copyright © Benson Wong, 1997-2004. All rights reserved by the author. This article are intended for the reading pleasure of the DanceNet On The Web readers. Duplication or use in any other medium, including but not limited to print publication, another web site, or downloading to a storage medium on CD, floppy disk, hard drive, zip drive, or tape, without the written permission of the author is prohibited.

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