Part I: Connection, communication, and life

Click here for Part II of this article.

I love making comparisons. I like to see how things relate to each other. There are a lot of things to be learned if we only apply them to our lives. For example, kumquats, treacle, and the super bowl. How do all of these apply to our lives to benefit us? They don’t! ha! Okay so those were bad examples (I bet if you really wanted to, you could come up with something). ANYWAY… through swing dancing I have learned a lot about life. Allow me to explain.

In Swing Dancing, or any partner dance for that matter, there are a few aspects that are key to the dance. Without these you will not dance well. I’m not sure about the specifics of other dances, so I’m going to use mostly swing dancing in this article. Lindy Hop to be more specific.

Key aspects to dancing: Communication! Communication! Communication! Also known as connection. Or non-verbal communication.

Key aspects to relationships: Communication! Communication! Communication! Can also be known as connection. Both verbal and non-verbal.

Do you see the connection here? ha! I’m so funny.

Ok, yes… this is all very obvious so far. A connection is necessary. A non-verbal one for dancing. When you’re learning it helps to have explanations for different leads and follows, but once you learn you’re expected to know how to lead or follow without the spoken words. Of course, there are some complicated aerials and moves that require both parties to know before hand what’s going to happen. This is usually communicated verbally although I wouldn’t put it past anyone to spit on each other to communicate complex things. Um… I’m totally kidding about that last part.

Even though you understand this concept, you may not have thought about it deeply enough yet. When many people think of dancing and the connection required they think about hands and maybe arms. While hands do a lot, it’s not near enough. It needs to be your whole body – your hands, arms, legs, torso, head, shoulders, knees, and toes, eyes, ears, mouth, and nose. Okay so I’m getting carried away a bit. I don’t recall ever leading a move by wiggling my ears. That doesn’t mean I haven’t tried though. ;) Anyway, the point is that it’s not just your hands or arms.

I’ve only been at this whole swing dancing thing since February of this year. So I’m sure I’m missing a lot and I know I need a lot of improvement in all of these areas. So I decided to ask some people with more experience than I have. I got this amazing response: “all i know is this: I got in trouble for not dancing with my blind date at [the mall]. blast this hobby! *rolling eyes*” So much for that.

Connection between you and your partner includes, but is not limited to:

  • How you hold hands (it's different in swing than in ballroom or latin dances)
  • Arm/hand positioning: in ballroom dance the guy's left and girl's right hand are up in the air pretty high. For swing dancing they should be fairly relaxed and low when in a closed position. The guy's right hand and girl's left hand even go in different places on the girls back and guys shoulder/arm area. The reason for this is the connection for the different movements the dances have. Swing dancing in a waltz position is just not going to work well.
  • Arms should stay bent at the elbow.
  • Arm tension: not loosey goosey, but not too tense either.
  • Shoulders square with your partner's shoulders.
  • Pay attention to your partner! (YES, this is a part of communicating, believe it or not)
  • I know there's more, but that's not terribly important right now. What's important is that you realize it's your whole body that affects the dance -- and that you need to respond to what your partner's body is doing as well. From the way the guy moves his fingers to the way the girl moves her hips.
  • Pay attention to your partner! (did I already mention this one?)

It’s when all of this comes together that it works. If you’re holding hands right, your arms are in the right positions, you keep your shoulders square, but your arms are way too tense it’s not going to be right. If everything is right except your shoulders it’s not gonna feel or look right. If you’ve got it all down, but you keep kicking your partner maybe you should learn the footwook now that you’ve got the connection down. :) When it all comes together, when you get it just right, is when you are really able to feel the music. You can feel the dance. Your lead or follow becomes an afterthought. It just works and the feeling is amazing. Life is the same way. When you have that connection with someone, whether that person be a friend, girlfriend, boyfriend, husband or wife the feeling is great. You understand each other. Best friends aren’t just best friends because they have a lot in common. While that has a part in it, it’s also because they understand each other. They are able to communicate with each other. And it’s not always verbal. Do you feel comfortable around certain people because of the way the act? Not what they say, but the way they communicate non-verbally.

A few weeks ago it was pointed out to me that I was pulling my hand the wrong direction at a certain point in the dance. The girls know what they’re supposed to do at that point in the dance and never got it wrong from what I was doing (well, the ones that knew what they were doing anyway), but that doesn’t mean it was as good as it could have been. The woman who pointed it out to me followed it like I was leading it and it was horrible! It’s been hard to correct my bad habit, but since then I have noticed a difference in the way the dance feels. The whole thing flows better. It’s very subtle, but the girls do follow it differently! I had no idea. Constructive criticism can be a good thing (“Try it like this and see if you can tell what the difference is.” is a lot different than “You idiot!”). If we don’t help each other learn, we’ll keep doing the wrong thing.

I’d like to go on, but it’s past 3 AM now (I’m rather tired. I hope all of this has made sense!) So this is going to be in two parts. I don’t know when Part II will be posted. Hopefully within a week. In closing to Part I, I’d just like to say: Communication! Communication! Communication! Pay attention to the signals you are giving. Pay attention to signals from others. Everything counts. Break your bad habits now before they get worse. Don’t worry only about yourself. When the connection is there and it’s right it feels great. Why would you want anything else?

I have some ideas for Part II, but they’re all rather incomplete at the moment. Any feedback would be greatly appreciated. Thanks for reading.

Click here for Part II of this article.

Swing Dance, Lindy Hop, Dance