Thoughts on swing dancing and Lindy Hop, one word at a time…

The “Newbie Problem”

Two blog pots, Why the Cool People Aren’t Talking to You Yet by Rebecca Brightly out in Seattle and Some Things Never Change by Rachel Green out in Albuquerque have made me contemplate recently about the “Newbie Problem“.

It’s been talked to death on Yehoodi, local discussion boards, and countless organizer meetings around the world – PokeAlex on Yehoodi

The “Newbie Problem” as shown in the quote above is something that is often brought up in the community. For those of you unfamiliar with the term, I’ll explain it below.

The “Newbie Problem

  1. A newbie shows up at a dance venue excited to dance and mingle with people.
  2. Said newbie sees all the good dancers or “cool people” are hanging out amongst themselves (often in one part of a room such as a corner or near the DJ booth) and feels excluded.
  3. Newbie reacts to their inferred situation by possibly; having self-deprecating thoughts on their own personality and/or dancing, negatively have feel and express opinions that assumed “cool people” are elitist, or a combination of both.

Organizer Struggle

As an organizer though, when you put on your organizer hat it changes. It is expected (if it is a smaller weekly venue dance and not a huge event) you to make an effort to be welcoming to newer people and to be present socially. The amusing thing is even though I attempt to make myself appear as friendly & welcoming as possible for my college club, according to a friend of mine many newbies see me as intimidating regardless of my efforts . Rachel writes about the frustration of dealing with this situation in her blog,

“We tried dancing with more people. We tried offering more beginning classes that would be accessible to those dancing at Heights. We even tried to not dance in front of the stage, but nothing seemed to completely clear the air.” –Rachel Green

So as a non-newbie dancer, if you are seen dancing with or in the areas of a venue the experienced dancers hang out, you already have to fight a predisposition that you are intentionally distant and have this negative disposition toward newer dancers.

Reality Sets In..

The main issue that exists is many newbies establish this false premise that, “Because I am new to this, people should have to go out of their way to make me feel comfortable and accepted.” Rebecca in her blog post has a very good quote that addresses this issue,

“Because of that attitude, I stopped myself from taking advantage of countless opportunities.” –Rebecca Brightly

In her post she also goes over four reasons why these people have not initiated conversation or social contact with a newbie.

  • They don’t have anything to say.
  • They were awkward/shy/unsociable before they became dancers, and they are STILL awkward/shy/unsociable.
  • You don’t have anything in common.
  • You haven’t been around long enough.

I’d like to throw out a few as well,

  • They have a previous injury that makes them have to be careful who they dance with: I have a friend back home in California who has back problems, in result she only dances with leads she knows and trusts.
  • They stay in the area around other “cool people” or advanced dancers, because it is where their friends are: In your every day life how often have you thought, “Hey all my friends are here, I am going to go over and talk to these complete stranglers.” Now I am a crazy extrovert, so that is entirely in the realm of possibility for me. However not everyone falls in that category.
  • They are an instructor who has just taught 1-3 classes and is taking it easy: If you haven’t taught a class before while fun, it can be tiring. Especially if it was a big class that you were having to project your voice. Often after this one just wants to relax, converse with friends, and possibly grab a dance.

However what it comes down to it. Something I have heard others say and that I say myself these days I think sums up the situation.

“When you pay your cover charge into a venue, all you are doing is paying to get into a room and for nothing else. “

 

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4 responses

  1. It’s true that as dancers who’ve been around for a while have talked about this issue countless times (I seriously cannot even count the times my friends and I have had this conversation), but I’m glad people still post about it because there are always new dancers who have this issue who are reading these new posts. The bottom line of is this: You are in control of your life, how you feel and what you do. Somehow people forget this when they do an activity like social dancing.

    Good post, and thanks for the quote!

    January 15, 2011 at 1:38 am

  2. E.l.f.

    I’ve also heard from some people about how small little attire details might intimidate newer dancers — a flower in the hair for women, a hat for men, or wearing a shirt from a swing camp (Camp Hollywood, Camp Jitterbug, etc).

    January 15, 2011 at 9:46 pm

    • Funny you mention that the shirt from a swing camp detail. A little trick I do personally, is as a bi-coastal dancer (I dance on the West and East coast depending upon what time of the year it is) I wear clothing from the events on the opposite side of the coast. I mainly do it so when visiting new scenes people will recognize me as an out of towner, than a random newbie.

      Never thought of the unexpected consequence of it intimidating people though.

      January 16, 2011 at 12:06 am

  3. The second addendum that you wrote resonates with me because I’ve been giving the swing subculture a lot of thought as to how it is socially – I’ve been trying to focus on hanging out and having fun rather than dancing for the sake of improving or anything else. Hanging out with your friends is a huge part of what swing dancing is for a lot of people. Especially those who are pretty good and aren’t so much at the point where they want to “work” on things almost every time they go out social dancing. Usually, it seems like that “level” or group of people are more keen to SOCIAL dance because they want to hang out with friends. It can be hard for someone (newbie or semi-newbie) to understand that just because they haven’t reached that point in their experience yet. So I especially appreciate the point you’ve made there.

    January 17, 2011 at 9:12 am

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