Expressions you can commonly hear in the swing dance world are, “I’m trying to become an advanced dancer.” or “Oh I am a beginner go easy on me.”
The weird thing about this is I have had followers who claim they are beginners to a dance clearly outshine people who say they are intermediate or “know” a dance.
What it comes down to often is subjectivity. I know small community colleges that consider knowing a swingout as a sign of an advanced dancer. Put that in juxposition with the Orange County/Los Angeles swing dance scene, where if you claim the title advanced dancer you better be able to bust a move in the middle of a competition or jam circle.
What Is Intermediate?
As a fun little exercise I am going to take the descriptions of the requirements for an intermediate level track at different events in the Lindy Hop community to see if there is any parallels among them. To have an even mix I have selected nationally recognized events, smaller college workshops, and regular venues from across the United States.
SparX (College Swing Dance Workshop in Ohio): Intermediate: You’ve already conquered swingouts, lindy circles, texas tommy, tuck turns, other basic 8 count material, as well as common 6 count turns and side passes. And I mean you’ve conquered them– you execute them while throwing in variations so that people say “Woah, that was just a tuck turn??” (but in a good way). You also can easily mix the 6 and 8 count moves and have begun creating steps of your own. You understand musicality and now want to learn those subtle techniques that will take your dancing to the next level.
Lindy Focus (Ashville, North Carolina): “This track is for dancers who are already quite comfortable social dancing Lindy Hop on a regular basis. You have a strong understanding of the core repertoire including swingouts, lindy circle, texas tommy, tuck turns, other basic 8 count, as well as common 6 count turns and passes. You easily mix the two. You are strong with your technique, can move easily at a wide variety of tempos (dancing a little faster all the time), you’ve worked on frame, balance, and posture”
Camp Jitterbug (Seattle, Washington): You have a few Lindy Hop classes and/or workshops under your belt. The basics are comfortable, but you realize that continuing to fine-tune them will only make you better. While you can execute basics during classes, social dancing is a challenge still and you want to learn how to become more comfortable on the social floor. Higher tempos are a bit challenging still since you are still trying to think of the move the comes next if you are a lead or how to keep your frame so you can follow. Requirement for this track is to know the basics of Lindy Hop.
Tuesday Night Swing at the Verdi Club (San Francisco, California): For the Intermediate Level Lindy Hop Class, you must already be confident with 8-count basics, including the Lindy Hop Swingout and related turns, and basic Charleston steps. We will expect that you are committed to practicing your Lindy Hop regularly outside of class. New steps and concepts are introduced each month in the Intermediate Lindy Hop class. The Intermediate Lindy Hop class is meant to be taken continuously over several months or years
Flyin’ Footwork Productions (Orlando, Florida): You must be familiar with the 8-count Lindy Hop basic and the Lindy Circle to take this class. If you have taken our Lindy Hop Series, then you are ready for this class
Heartland Swing Festival (Collegiate level competition/workshop weekend in Des Moines, Iowa): Dancer should have at least a few months experience and be comfortable with the basics at medium tempos (up to 185bpm). Tuck turns, sugar pushes, basic charleston, footwork variations, and swingouts should all be familiar to you while you learn to integrate 6 and 8 count patterns. The trust relationship between partner’s connection is dawning on you.
So from this small sampling of six events from all over the United States here some things to notice:
- Five events explicitly list that you are comfortable with or have “conquered” the swingout.
- Three of the events list that you know how to do a Lindy Circle.
- Two of the events list that you should know how to do; a Texas Tommy, tuck turns, other basic 8 count, as well as common 6 count turns and passes
- Two of the events list that you know basic Charleston.
- Three of the events mention you should have a decent amount of class/social dance experience under your belt.
- Two of the events mention being able to handle medium level tempos.
The interesting thing for me is when putting this together I assumed the more nationally recognized events (Lindy Focus & Camp Jitterbug) would have stiffer requirements then the more regional lessons/college events. Surprisingly there was a lot of overlap though.
Camp Jitterbug as well does not get into specifics such as moves. Instead they choose to base their requirements on more situational requirements such as how a dancer feels about certain situations such as social dance, classes, and different tempos.
Also interesting to note that ILHC and Lonestar Championships do not have descriptions for requirements for the levels in their tracks.
Personally my (generic and non specific) view of an intermediate level Lindy Hopper is someone who can comfortably and confidently dance Lindy Hop on the social dance floor. However they lack the quality of movement and ability to handle extremes in tempos that separates them from being an advanced dancer. But they aren’t struggling to make it through a dance like perhaps a beginner may.
Some people think levels are meaningless and just exist to serve peoples egos. However to play the devils advocate one of my biggest pet peeves about last year’s Camp Hollywood was people in the intermediate Collegiate Shag class who were unable to dance a double shag basic (6 count footwork: with two slows followed by two quicks) in open.
If you have any thoughts on the subject, I’d love to hear it.