BEGINNER’S GUIDE TO THE SWING GALAXY, OR EVERYTHING YOU WANTED TO KNOW ABOUT SWING AND WERE AFRAID TO ASK
WHAT ARE THE SWING (DANCE) STYLES?
Lindy Hop – the most widespread dance style in our country and in the world, which is danced to swing music.
If you are interested in the history of Lindy Hop, or if you are more interested in swing music, we recommend you to read other articles on our blog. Or ask Uncle Google.
Other styles are Authentic Jazz, Balboa, Shag, Blues.
In our Zig-Zag, the second most popular style is Balboa, which is currently experiencing a boom. But even Shag is becoming more and more popular.
If you are new to dance, we recommend taking at least one season (year) of Lindy Hop lessons and then adding more technique.
WHY LEARN MORE DANCE STYLES?
- Pair dances (Lindy Hop, Balboa, Shag…) can be beautifully combined within one dance and often within one song/dance.
- You will have the opportunity to dance with more people at different kinds of festivals or dance halls.
- You will never stop dancing because you will always have something new to learn 🙂
WHAT TO EXPECT ON THE PRAGUE SWING SCENE
- We are a friendly and open community of people with the same interests. We enjoy swing dancing!
- We are a very diverse community. Both in age, professionally, but also humanly. But we respect each other and welcome anyone who shares the same principles.
- It’s an unwritten rule in our country that people across the age spectrum are to be tickled.
- Most of us don’t have one regular dance partner. The lessons are rotated (dance partners change) and the dance classes are also danced by everyone with everyone. So you can start swinging even if you don’t have a dance partner.
- You would probably expect men to be “leaders” (i.e., those who lead) and women to be “followers” (i.e., those who follow). The opposite is quite common, so don’t let it catch you by surprise.
- Beware, swing dancing is very addictive! 🙂
WHAT TO EXPECT AT THE SWING COURSE
- We teach lessons according to a methodology designed by our team and tested by many years of practice.
- Our methodology is designed for each level for a full school year (some even for two years) to ensure optimal learning progression and to make sure that you get the amount of material you need for the next level in a given year.
- Our methodology for beginners is designed so that you can enjoy dancing in real life (on the dance floor) as soon as possible.
- Each level/school year consists of several topics, which are always taught in smaller blocks (3-6 weeks). For example. in Lindy Hop it’s 6-count, 8-count, Flying Charleston,…
- The levels in Lindy Hop are BEG (beginner), B/I (beg/int), INT (intermediate), I/A (int/adv) and ADV (advanced).
It is not a rule that you have to advance to the next level with each year. On the other hand, we recommend repeating some levels (more info in the level graphics). Levels cannot be skipped. It is also not necessary to go all the way to the ADV. You’ll enjoy dancing much sooner and everyone has their dance limits elsewhere and therefore will feel comfortable at a different level than someone else after a few years.
- The basis of Lindy Hop (and other swing dances) is improvisation. So we don’t teach fixed routines, but rather focus on individual steps, step variations and figures and the ability to put them together in different ways. We emphasize lead & follow, i.e. the ability to lead and follow individual elements. Over time, we loosen the dance and give more “freedom” to both dancers in the couple.
- We rotate in and out of classes. Those who don’t rotate stagnate after a few weeks. This has been proven over the years, so rotation in lessons is really mandatory.
- The lecturer gives feedback to the students during the lessons. He should never give feedback student to student. Exceptions may be made if the student himself/herself requests it or if it is an assignment from the instructor.
- The time during the lesson when you practice the material independently and the music is playing is also a time to ask the instructors individual questions.
- You can ask “publicly” throughout the lesson. The lecturer always gives room for questions. So don’t be afraid to ask. We love questions!
- We try to keep a more or less balanced ratio of leaders and followers in the lessons (of course, it depends on who comes to the lesson on a given day and who doesn’t. We can’t control that).
If the numbers aren’t quite accurate and it comes out to you in the rotation time without a partner, you don’t have to stand still. Try the steps, or the figure separately. Try dancing with an imaginary partner, or try solo steps from the warm-up.
- Instructors may or may not dance with students in class. We often try to make up the leader/follower counts in a given lesson and dance/practice with the students.
However, this is not a rule and it always depends on the tutor and the situation whether or not he/she will join the training. Sometimes we need to see how students are doing and what needs to be focused on.
- At the end of the lesson we usually let the students record the so-called. “recap” lesson. A quick demonstration of what was discussed in the lesson. You can share this video with your fellow students if you miss a lesson. These videos are ONLY for students of the course. so don’t share these videos anywhere publicly. Thank you
HOW TO MAKE UP MISSED LESSONS
- Making up missed lessons is possible within the semester (lessons do NOT carry over to the next semester!) and within your level (or lower). You can also try other techniques that do not have a given level (Jazz, Acrobatics, Fencing,…).
- Refunds may be refused if the disparity between the number of leaders and followers is too great. We recommend that you ideally arrange to have an alternative lesson with another student who dances in the opposite role to you (use the Fb group for beginners and arrange with someone from another beginners group).
- If you are registered for a lesson as a couple and one of you cannot attend a particular lesson, it does not mean that the other of the couple cannot attend. On the contrary! If at least one of you goes to the lesson and makes a recap video of the lesson, you can watch the video at home and practice at least some of the material. At the same time, if one of the couple has a few missed lessons and the other one, for example, has a few missed lessons. No, you can choose to take the alternate lessons of one of the couple together. Thus, for example. two missed follower lessons can be replaced by going together as a couple to one lesson.
- For more info about refunds, please contact the lecturers.
WHEN YOU FEEL LIKE YOU “CAN’T DO IT”
- If you feel like things don’t go the way you want them to at first, hang in there! Anyone who has endured any initial feelings of uncertainty or stepping out of their comfort zone, those who haven’t given up have always learned eventually. Seriously! We’ve never had anyone in our lessons who didn’t learn it eventually. If he lasted.
- The sooner you start going to dance classes, or if you also add training for the so-called. “practices”, progress will be faster.
- If you want to go even faster, arrange with someone to practice/rehearse the material from the lessons, watch a video from last time before the lesson/dance, listen to music, make a playlist of your favorite songs/videos…
- Private lessons are another option. These can be arranged directly with one of the lecturers (price, availability etc). Private lessons have the advantage of individual attention and are recommended for fine-tuning technique. Private lessons cannot be a substitute for regular lessons, they are always paid as extra lessons directly to the teacher.
WHAT TO EXPECT AT A SWING DANCE PARTY
- Don’t be afraid and go as soon as possible! Lessons are a great thing, but without bringing all those steps and tricks to the dance floor, it would just make the whole thing meaningless. Swing dancing is all about having fun. Lessons are a valuable fountain of knowledge. But the dance hall is the real life, where you can test your knowledge “for real”.
- If you are a beginner and not feeling up to dancing yet, it helps if you talk to your fellow students and go together (use the Fb group for beginners that we start every year for new students). It kind of gives you a sense of security.
- It’s not about performance. Swing is a very informal and very little competitive discipline. Although swing dance competitions exist (see below), that is not the primary purpose of why we dance. We just want to have fun. So don’t worry about being judged at the dance hall. Everyone dances as they know how.
- You don’t have to dance your shoes right away at the first dance classes. You can just sit and watch others dance for part of the evening.
- Of course, if you sit, you may be asked to dance. Feel free to say you’re a beginner and only know the basics. Most people won’t care and will want to dance with you anyway. Everyone was once a beginner.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for a dance yourself. If you don’t know many people in the community yet, it’s better to ask someone to dance than to wait for someone to come to you.
- Both men and women can ask for a dance.
- Dance rejection is not very common, but it can happen. If someone has danced many songs in a row, or to fast tempos, they may need a break. Or pee. Or maybe he just wants to watch others dance for a while. Respect the rejection, but don’t take it personally.
- The unwritten rule in our country is to dance with one person for 2 whole songs. It can be more and it always depends on the agreement of the dancers. Beware, at large international festivals (like our PSSF – Prague Spring Swing Festival) this standard may be different! For example, dancers from the USA often change dance partners after just one song! It doesn’t mean they don’t want to dance with you anymore. They just have a different “norm”.
- Always remember to say thank you after the dance. And don’t forget that dancing is also an opportunity to get acquainted, or at least introduce yourself by name if you don’t know each other yet.
- Admission to the dance halls – at the smaller dance halls a voluntary entrance fee is collected “to the hat” (more info in the article HERE). Larger dance halls or dance halls with a band charge a fixed amount. The money goes to the band, DJ, production, equipment, rent.
- Big festivals – see below.
- We are not the only ones who organize dance parties in Prague. We will be glad if you visit the dance halls of other schools and studios. Info about events in Prague – see below.
WHAT’S NEXT FROM THE SWING EVENT
- Large international festivals – usually a weekend event where foreign teachers come to teach lessons and students/dancers from other countries (often from all over the world – another great opportunity to meet!). Evening dance parties are always with live music and in beautiful stylish spaces (Autoklub, Lucerna,…). The overall level is higher, but don’t be discouraged. The atmosphere is as friendly as at smaller events and everyone is welcome regardless of level.
You can usually sign up for the festival on a Full pass (lessons + dance classes) or a Party pass (dance classes only).
And herewith we invite you to the Prague Spring Swing Festival in April (Lindy Hop), or to Bal-Love in August (Balboa). From 2024 also for the new SlowBal-Love (SlowBal), which will take place in October.
- “ZZ Specials” – One / two-day workshops on various topics prepared for you by our ZZ lecturers.
- “Practice” – a time and place for your personal training. Most of the time the practices are held in our Swing Room. There is a nominal voluntary contribution for the rent and for the tutors, who are always present and can advise you if necessary.
- “Coffee & Crap” – discussions on various topics prepared for you by our lecturers. About music, about dance, about everything that you might be interested in and what you can’t fit into regular lessons. You can also have a “coffee” with this “chatter” and we usually end it all with a little dance party.
WHERE TO FIND INFORMATION ABOUT SWING EVENTS
- Information about our dance studios, festivals, etc. can be found here on the website in the EVENTS section, on our Fb page “Zig-Zag Dance Studio” and on the festival website www.pragueswingfestivals.com
- We also recommend joining the Beginners Fb group (we start a group every year for new students – you got the info in your confirmation email) or the “Zig-Zag Swingers” group (a group for all students, started by the students themselves in previous years – thanks Vojta!).
- Information about all Prague swing events can be found on the Fb groups “Prague Lindy Hoppers” and in the Google calendar “Swing In Prague“
- Our lecturers will also inform you about current/upcoming events.
- As an occasional newsletter you will also receive info emails from us, or ZZ news (video with news). Sometimes we fall into spam, so ideally add email@example.com to your “trusted” contacts if your email account allows it.
- There is a lot going on in the Czech Republic besides Prague. If you travel to Brno, Ostrava, Olomouc, or Pilsen be sure to visit their local community.
WHERE TO FIND MUSIC
- Here on the blog you will find a lot of useful information about swing music. Just read on the tram on the way to work and maybe even listen to something.
- You can also find a lot of swing playlists on Spotify.
Swing dancing is not primarily competitive, but there are competitions of course.
- Jack&Jill, aka Mix&Match, aka Luck Of The Draw… Lots of names, one format. The competitor applies alone (without a partner). Prelims (first round) always has 3 songs of different speeds. Before each song, you take a turn, so you dance with someone different every time. If there are more competitors, the prelims can take place in several “heats”, i.e. rounds. In Prelims, leaders and followers are judged separately.
Usually 6-8 leaders and the same number of followers are selected for the Finals. There is no more rotation in the Finals (if there is rotation, it is only once before the start of the Finals). In the finals, the whole dance couple is usually judged.
This format may have rules slightly modified for the competition (e.g. finals as duels etc.)
- Strictly – the next most common competition format where couples dance together. However, they dance to music they don’t know in advance and the dance should be largely improvised.
- Showcase – dance couples dance choreographed routines to pre-selected music.
HOW TO DRESS
- For the lesson – anything comfortable (keep a spare T-shirt and antiperspirant handy if you sweat more). Indoor shoes, clean. It doesn’t have to be directly danceable. We recommend a more slip resistant sole.
- To the dance hall – just like the lessons. But you may feel like “going out” more. You don’t have to dress vintage, but dress decently. We do NOT recommend jackets for gentlemen, you would sweat too much. Unless you have a real vintage piece you’d like to air out and show the world.
For the ladies – consider whether you’d be more comfortable in an outfit with exposed shoulders/back etc, or whether you’d feel more comfortable dancing and touching each other in something more covered up.
- For a festival – a festival is already a reason to get hooked! You can’t find many “real vintage” pieces here, so we dress nice and comfortable for the festival. Ideally in materials that are not immediately felt after the first dance. If you sweat more, take a change of clothes. After all, you’ll be dancing all night and it could come in handy.
- We also wear what we like, even if it doesn’t look like the 1930s. For inspiration you can look at photos from festivals and see for yourself what is currently being danced in.
- If your pockets are deeper, or if you simply want to be sustainable in your swing wardrobe, check out the Swing Room’s “Swamp” from time to time. This is the swap stand where you sometimes find the real treasures.
- Non-dance shoes – you can start with indoor sneakers, canvas shoes, ballerinas,… Ideally with a more slip-resistant sole. If you want your shoes to be more slip resistant, you can have them lined with suede.
- Dance shoes – if you already want to invest in dance shoes, leather shoes with leather soles are ideal. Lindy Hop is danced rather WITHOUT a heel (women’s shoes) and with a closed toe.
At every major festival you will find one or two vendors selling swing dancing shoes. Keep up to date with festival news, or you can order online:
– Saint Savoy
– Swing It
– Bouns shoes
– P’mela Swingin shoes
In addition to what has already been written above, there are a few small things we would like you to observe:
- While it’s customary, it’s a good idea to make sure everyone is really ok with it.
- Ask for a dance politely. Thank me when you finish dancing.
- You can refuse to dance. You may or may not give a reason.
- We’re all sweating. Someone more, someone less. But it’s good to choose appropriate clothing – for women, consider bare backs, wide or billowing sleeves, thin fabrics that stick. For men, we recommend wearing a tank top underneath the shirt or T-shirt to absorb some of the sweat. It’s also a good idea to bring a change of clothes if you sweat more.
- Wear deodorant.
- Wash your hands often. Use the hand desinfection. No, that’s not a Covid rule, we used hand sanitizer in lessons and dance classes long before Covid.
- Consider a cigarette before the dance. Alternatively, use chewing gum.
- Only give advice/feedback if you are asked or if it is necessary (painful, dangerous, etc.)
- Dance carefully / in such a way as to avoid collisions.
- If a collision happens, apologize.
- Both are always responsible for the dance. Leader primarily. But if the follower sees a collision coming, he can always intervene/change direction etc.
- Don’t do acrobatic or dangerous figures. Only dance acrobatics with someone you have practiced them with well and only when there is room for it (jamming round when there is enough space).
- IF SOMETHING UNACCEPTABLE HAPPENED TO YOU IN THE COMMUNITY AND YOU WANT TO TRUST SOMEONE, NAME WHO YOU TRUST (at the event this can be the organizer or one of the lecturers who can talk to the organizer)
Didn’t find the answers to your questions? Write to us! We will be happy to complete the article or reply to you in a private message.
Are you interested in STEP rather than swing? Article on tap dancing in preparation 🙂