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

Dance Education Through Social Feedback Experiment

This past Feburary I had a crazy idea.

Many swing dancers go through this period of desperately wanting to improve, in result many suggestions get thrown their way. One of the more painful suggestions is to videotape and review ones own dancing. At least for myself, even in competitions I have won, watching video of myself is one of the most grating things to do because I am the ultimate “negative nancy” and only see my flaws.

Regardless of the mental anguish watching my own dancing on film caused, I considered it a necessary evil to improving my own dancing abilities. In result, I started filming myself dancing;  afterwards I would review those notes and use it as a tool to decide what in my dancing I needed to practice my focus time on. However I realized some serious drawbacks; I was limited to my own experience of judging visually the quality of a dance and I was limited in my ability to provide suggestions to correct/improve upon problems discovered.

Based on those perceived problems my next idea was to add more people to the process. What resulted was using crowdsourcing to obtain constructive feedback for my dancing. An assortment of opinions from varied members of the swing dance community was more likely to yield effective material to work on then just myself. Just like many other questions I have had related for the swing dance community, I took it to the swing dance messageboard/website Yehoodi in a topic labeled, “Dance Education Through Social Feedback Experiment

Yehoodi is a community of folks from around the world that are passionate about lindy hop, swing dancing and swing jazz.

The Experiment

Framework for the experiment was simple. I would post a video of myself social dancing with a partner; after the video was posted I would open the floor for commentary/suggestions to be posted about that week’s dancing. After the allotted time had passed, I would post goals based on what people had posted and then after a period of time post another video of myself social dancing to show the progress I had made. After that the cycle would begin anew.

Unfortunately due to some circumstances I only got to run the experiment for four weeks. However, I think I had amazing results in the small amount of time it ran for. After the experiment I felt much more confident in my dancing and managed to make finals and be in the top five of the intermediate J&J at Boston Tea Party.

While I did gain a lot from this experiment, there were some difficulties.

  • The first was being able to determine which suggestions/constructive criticism had a solid basis. The beauty and difficulty of dealing with Yehoodi is anyone can post on there. This means the individuals offering me this advice could be anyone from an international instructor to joe-schmo who only dances East Coast Swing to rockabilly music. My method of dealing with was keeping an open mind and using what I knew about each poster to determine how trustworthy of a source they were.
  • Second was simply recording myself at a social dance on a near weekly basis. Having another person available to dance with at a certain day every week, remembering the camera, getting someone to give up social dance time to film, and said camera having batteries that were not dead. Having that all add up perfectly was surprisingly difficult at times.
  • Lastly was getting comfortable with the idea of posting my dancing on an internet forum for people to judge. I consider myself to be quite like a honey badger and I have had videos of myself in competitions posted on youtube in the past. However, the idea of only myself on video that people I knew and strangers were going to pick apart still took a bit to warm up to.

Observations

If a reader of this article was wondering if an experiment like this would be beneficial to them, I think it would produce great returns given that they have a thick skin and they have been dancing a decent amount of time.  If a person doesn’t take criticism well or is very sensitive about their dancing a private lesson or feedback from trusted friends would probably be a more appropriate avenue to take. Newer dancers are likely to lack the context to determine if advice is well founded or completely off the wall.

The one way this experiment could be  improved is by limiting the individuals who give feedback to dancers who are respected “experts” in the field. Which in my opinion is currently being done by Dax & Sarah’s Swing 90x program. From what I have read on the blog posts required for the program and from talking to someone who is in it, they are getting at minimum quadruple results of my little experiment.

Acknowledgements

I’d like to thank:

  • Yehoodi posters; Capt Morgan, Glen, NoNameJive, Toon Town Dave, Brooksie, Hounddog, Zenin, alexcloutier, Random, bryn for providing feedback on the Yehoodi thread.
  • The Yehoodi Talk Show for mentioning the topic and giving some great advice.
  • The follow who wishes to be unnamed that let me dance with her on film.
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4 responses

  1. ThisFineShrub

    It’s a little brave what you did. Put yourself out there because improvement was so important to you that you were willing to take a few shiners in criticism. I seek the improvement but lack the balls to wade through the nitpickery to come away with the real gems I’m sure you got in the process. Real kudos to you.

    June 18, 2012 at 5:34 pm

    • I appreciate the compliment! Also you don’t have to go to the extreme of posting your dancing for the entire online lindy hop community to see. This can be easily replicated with just a few personal trusted friends instead.

      June 18, 2012 at 6:05 pm

  2. Pingback: Three Years Gone | It's The Way That You Do It

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