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

Running a College Workshop: 2nd Edition

This past weekend I was one of the organizers for a Lindy and Blues workshop we titled Hot and Cool featuring Mike Roberts and Laura Glaess, held at Penn State (The Pennsylvania State University). It was in our usual workshop format and consisted of a weclome dance on Friday, four hours of mixed blues and Lindy Hop instruction with a dance on Saturday, and four hours of mixed blues and Lindy Hop instruction on Sunday.

Logistically it was one of the smoothest workshops we ever had and we got very positive feedback from our locals as well as our out of town visitors. In addition the instructors seemed to have a good time and enjoyed their free cookies/ice cream/frozen yougart/candy the weekend as well.

Classes

Laura and Mike put time and effort into their classes and brought a lot of energy when they taught (Though that could have been a byproduct of the cookies/ice cream provided to them). I’ve taken enough classes over the last three years to generally get the feeling of when instructors really prepare for a class versus just going through the ropes. This is partially because I briefly got to talk to Mike & Laura themselves about it, but I inferred they do try to make sure students get the most out of their classes.

This picture really captures how they are in real life.

Laura and Mike took an interesting approach of  teaching a weekend of Lindy and Blues. They decided to not separate them into two different days (one day lindy, next day blues or vice versa), like most instructors in the past have done.  They instead taught the two topics alternating one after the other.

However they did this in a unique way that each sequence of two Lindy and Blues class had the same class name and used the same concepts, but they were applied differently to fit within the aesthetic of Blues dancing and Lindy Hop.

I think this method worked wonderfully for our club because it allowed them to spend two classes reinforcing a certain idea/concept and helped students more clearly define what “makes” a choice in dance Lindy Hop versus Blues.

My two favorite classes though were probably the two Lindy Hop classes on Sunday. In one they taught part of their routine from Lindyfest 2011 at the 1:19 mark in the youtube video below.

In the other they taught some fun charleston variations. In one variation they showed a creative way to one of my favorite moves of all time, hacksaws.

Things That Went Well

  • As usual we booked the rooms for extra time and it saved us on Sunday when class started late/lunch ran late.
  • We assigned each day for someone to drive instructors around, which worked really effectively instead of arbitrarily assigning it last minute. Especially so the instructors didn’t get stuck at the dances until the very end and could go back to the hotel to rest up/prepare for next day’s classes.
  • Oddly both the local vintage clothing shop Rag and Bone and the hat shop The Mad Hatter were having sales that weekend. I believe around five of us that weekend from the workshop including Mike and myself got new hats. Possibly coordinating something with both of those shops for future workshops could be a good promotional idea.
  • I’ve never logistically had a workshop that always ran so smooth. Usually there is always some kind of issue that pops up, but there were no major hiccups. It seemed everybody just had tons of fun and us as organizers were not that stressed at all.
  • Mike Roberts offering to DJ. It was the first time we had an instructor offer to DJ for us, so we gave him a slot and he played a lot of good stuff  that featured songs I was unfamiliar with, including one of my favorite new songs “Inappropriate Wartime Song” a.k.a. Blitzkrieg Baby by Una Mae Carlisle.

Things That Could Be Improved

  • Unfortunately it was out of our hands due to space being scarce this semester but the smaller room with slick floors on Friday made dancing harder and Saturday made some of the class material a bit more difficult then it usually would have been.
  • Sunday the class lead to follow ratio got pretty bad. We are really unsure how to handle this because we are usually a smaller workshop and don’t really enforce class sizes.
  • Again people showing up late/missing the 1st Sunday workshop. Philly 15 minute policy that if people are late to classes they are not admitted to the workshop until the next class in order not to make the class more difficult for those who did show up on time is getting more tempting.
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3 responses

  1. For our Rocktober workshop weekend in Columbus a few years ago we added a ‘doors open with coffee and muffins’ 30 minutes ahead of classes starting, and a 15 minute warmup starting 15 minutes before class (run by local instructors) to trick/encourage people to come earlier. This has been pretty successful in getting the day started on time! (use someone widely regarded to be ‘nice to look at’ to lead the warmup and you will all the more improve attendance!)

    Costco has giant EXCELLENT and cheap muffins that can be cut in quarters so people can try a few flavors.

    March 24, 2011 at 3:41 pm

  2. Stephanie

    Sorry for showing up late on Sunday. 😦

    That was intentional on my part, but I was pretty much prepared to wait for the next class if necessary. It just happened that the lead-follow ratio was pretty terrible for leads, so I jumped in.

    April 2, 2011 at 8:26 pm

    • Its okay, I understand people have other obligations. Its just for some reason the first two Sunday classes are always like pulling teeth for attendance (Even if we don’t have late night parties/dances).

      April 5, 2011 at 1:52 am

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