Lindy Hoppers of the world, let’s real talk New Year resolutions.
Don’t get me wrong – I love Lindy Hoppers. My kind of people, my community. I love being part of the international swing dance family. Lindy Hoppers are, in general, the best and nicest people in the world. But sometimes we can be a bit too focused on the swing outs, and miss the bigger picture.
Here are a few things I wish would be amongst all Lindy Hoppers’ New Year resolutions for 2016, including myself:
1. To look after my body as a dancer
To stretch and strengthen my body. To hold myself to a dancer’s standard of physical ability. To stay hydrated. To eat nourishing real foods to fuel my body. To get enough sleep for real healing. To take pain and injuries seriously. To rest injuries properly and let them heal. To invest in my body and value myself highly enough to pay for what I need (massage, physiotherapy, osteopathy, chiropractic, gym membership, personal trainer, yoga or pilates classes, nutritionist, the healthy food my body needs, custom orthotics, or good quality dance shoes that fit me properly and look after my feet). In 2016 I will listen to my body.
2. To be social and behave like a human being
To ask more questions than just “Do you want to dance?” To ask the name of everyone I have a dance with. To have real conversations and meet real people. Leaders get to know other leaders, followers get to know other followers. To ask as often as I am asked. To buy a few drinks at the bar and support the venues. To not join the dance floor if it’s already over-crowded, but wait for the next song. To have good personal hygiene, even if that means taking clean-up breaks throughout the evening. To not expect anyone to dance with me if I am sweaty, wet or smelly. To learn how to say no to a dance – politely, truthfully and with compassion. To not take it personally if someone says no when I ask.
3. To practice. To actually, genuinely practice.
I will stop expecting to get better without practicing. I will practice my dance thoughtfully and deliberately. I acknowledge that taking classes is important, but it’s not practice. Social dancing is important, but it’s not practice. Weekend workshops and events are great, but still not practice. None of that counts. Practice is deliberately making the time to train my dancing in a systematic way. Projects, drills, repetition, filming, self-analysis and getting feedback from others – this is the good stuff. Focus is important – I will keep practice sessions as short as my focus span, even if that’s only 10 minutes. I will invest my time and thought and energy into real practice with focus and intent. And I will get better.
4. To listen and learn to listen.
To listen to jazz music just for me. To learn about the history of jazz so I understand the world that created this music and my dance. To read a book, watch a documentary, educate myself. To notice when there is a real band playing at a dance, not just a recording. To show my appreciation by applauding the band after each song, not just ignoring them as I hunt for the next partner. If there’s a killer solo, to notice and show my appreciation, even if I’m dancing at the time. To sometimes take a break from dancing and just enjoy the band. To vote with my feet – if I don’t like a song, DJ or band, I just won’t dance. But if I love it, I will dance non-stop until my feet bleed, then go shake the DJ’s hand or buy the band’s CD. If I love the sound of a musician in the band, I will learn their name and find out what other bands they play with. To not Shazam at dances – I will go ask the DJ instead, show my appreciation and have a real conversation. To not begrudge paying a cover charge to see a live band. They collectively represent thousands of hours of practice and training, passion and dedication, all to play for me. They are worth it, the experience of live music is worth it. I will value live music and support musicians and DJs trying to make a living playing the music I love to dance to.
5. To respect the artists in our community & their intellectual property
I won’t teach other teacher’s material. I won’t copy choreography. I won’t use photographs without asking permission from both the photographer and the dancers in the image. I won’t crop out photographers’ watermarks. I will only use images or videos of dancers to promote my school or event if I have their permission. I will include a photographer’s credit next to photos I use where possible. I will list all the artists on my event’s website, not just the teachers. I will value DJs and musicians, as much as I value the teachers. If I run a workshop or event, I will pay my artists what they are worth. If I can’t afford to pay them properly, I will accept that my event plans are too big for my budget and downsize until I can afford to pay everyone properly. I won’t undervalue performers. Performances are valuable – I will pay for them! I will treat my artists professionally and with respect. As an artist, I will hold myself to high standards of professionalism. I will not undervalue myself, or Lindy Hop. As a professional Lindy Hopper, I won’t undercut my peers by discounting my rates.
Lindy Hop is a legitimate dance, with a rich history and a strong international community of devoted fans and participants. This dance is highly technical and diverse, and takes years (even decades) of training and dedication to master. Lessons in Lindy Hop should not cost less than other dance styles. Teachers of Lindy Hop should not earn less than other dance teachers. Lindy Hop is a spectacular, accessible and crowd-pleasing dance that deserves to be on stage, film and television as much as any other dance style. Swing dance shows and performances have value, and should not cost less than other dance shows. This coming year, I won’t undervalue Lindy Hop.