Teaching Tool: Failure to Provide Insight
The number one request (besides aerials) that most swing dance instructors get from newer to intermediate dancers are flashy moves, flashy moves, and… flashy moves.
I’ll admit for awhile as a swing dance instructor I would teach nothing besides reinforcing technique in aboslute basic moves. While that had the advantage of drilling in solid fundamentals, it had the disadvantage of boring most of my class to death.
For the classes I taught that weren’t the first time dancer crash courses, I changed my methods of how I taught. I would choose moves that while they looked impressive/flashy, would be demanding of a certain technique point I wanted to drill in. Particularly on the point that they would fail spetacularly if people did something such as trying to run around their partner or if a lead tried to muscle a follow around.
This quote from Bug’s Question of the Day by Byron Alley hits the nail right on the head about how I feel about this topic as well,
But even then, it’s important not to imagine that people need to master their basics before attempting more advanced moves. Often it’s the opposite: people need to attempt, and quite possibly fail at, dancing at a higher level in order to appreciate the value of fundamentals. Show them moves that simply FAIL if the technique is not there. Failure is a necessary part of learning, especially a vernacular dance like Lindy Hop. It gives dancers a better understanding of the frontiers of the dance.
(Caveat: there’s a difference between encouraging failure and getting people hurt.)
I will admit though this method of teaching isn’t all rainbows and sunshine. I have recieved criticism in the past that teaching in this way creates an intimidating and discourging envionrment for students. Personally I beg to differ and think that doing this establishes a sense of humility in dancers and fosters a respect for technique because the students gain an context to understand why it is important.