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

Lindy Hop Class Curriculum: Then and Now

A frequently debated topic among instructors for their local weekly beginner series is the best way to go about it. You’ve probably heard some of these phrases mentioned,

Six count moves? Eight count moves Without triple steps? Four or six week series? Heavy technique or make it fun?

Instead of hashing out that old discussion I thought an interesting comparison would be to take a curriculum from an existing scene and compare it to one that existed in the early 2000’s.  I have chosen Boston as my city to sample and taken the curriculum from GottaSwing in 2001 an organization which taught lessons in the past and put next to New School Swing‘s curriculum which offers lessons these days.

GottaSwing Curriculum (2001)

Description:  An unusually thorough and entertaining Beginners course. You’ll learn over 20 moves, turns, spins and dips in just 6 weeks, plus expert technique tips. Throughout, we’ll strongly emphasize good (momentum-based) leading and following technique, because that’s the key to becoming a superb dance partner. After our Swing I course, you’ll know more Swing moves — AND you’ll have better dance technique — than after any other Swing I course on the East Coast.

  • Prerequisite: Ability to count to 6.
  • No partner or experience needed.
  • We often have several Swing I classes running concurrently. If so, you are welcome to attend any or all of them for no extra charge (e.g., to make up a missed class, or for extra practice time).
  • 6 weeks – 1.5 hours each week – 9 hours total. (Occasionally shorter or longer, depending on calendar constraints.)

Swing I – Summary List. The following is just a compact summary of variations taught in class, with ‘logical’ groupings. It is NOT the order in which we teach things! Instead, we teach in an order that makes for the fastest and easiest learning.

  • Good (momentum-based) Leading & Following Technique
  • Basic step – Single, Double, Triple
    • Closed Position
    • Open Position
  • “Simple” change of places (low hands)
  • Arch Turn
  • Lady’s Inside Turns (aka ‘Loop’ Turns) (left side; right side)
  • Sweetheart (2-hand version of Lady’s Inside Turn) (left side; right side) — also known as Cuddle or Wrap or Basket
  • Lady’s Outside Turns (left side; right side)
  • Parallels (2-hand version of Lady’s Outside Turn) (left side; right side)
  • Man’s Outside Turns (left side; right side)
    • High-hand version
    • Break through the hands — 2 versions
    • Fred Astaire-inspired version
  • Man’s Inside Turns (left side; right side)
  • Man’s Sweetheart (just for fun)
  • Various Alternating-Person and Mix-and-match Turns Series
    • Almost every conceivable combination
  • She-Go/He-Go (5 different versions)
  • Double Arm Slide (aka Dishrag or Drape) (3 different exits)
  • Simple Dip [if we have time]
  • As far as we know, no other 6-week (or even 10-week) Swing I class comes even remotely close to teaching you this much!

New School Swing Curriculum (2014)

New School Swing curriculum offers two different 4-week series that classes go for an hour each in 6-count move and 8-count moves and both are required to move up to the next level of classes. Included with beginner classes is something known as Lindy Dojo where instructors stick around to help beginner dancers. The cost for this is included with the beginner series.

Description 8 – Count:

Whether you are brand-new to swing dancing or would like to refine your Lindy Hop technique, this is the class for you. In these four sessions, we’ll focus on basic 8-count Lindy Hop moves for the brand-new dancers, but we’ll concentrate on good technique and connection so there is always something for more experienced swing dancers, too. This class is one step in our two-step beginner track. You must know all the material in the 6-Count and 8-Count Lindy Hop Basics and Fundamentals Classes before moving to advanced beginner classes. Either beginner class may be taken first. No partner required.

Description 6 – Count:

Whether you are brand-new to swing dancing or would like to refine your Lindy Hop technique, this is the class for you. In these four sessions, we’ll focus on basic 6-count Lindy Hop moves for the brand-new dancers, but we’ll concentrate on good technique and connection so there is always something for more experienced swing dancers, too. This class is one step in our two-step beginner track. You must know all the material in the 6-Count and 8-Count Lindy Hop Basics and Fundamentals Classes before moving to advanced beginner classes. Either beginner class may be taken first. No partner required.

6 – Count Curriculum:

  • Pulse
  • Open and Closed Frame (Position)
  • Weight Shifts and Triple Steps
  • 6 – Count Basic and Rotating Basic
  • Tuck Turn
  • 6 – Count Circle from Closed
  • 6 – Count Circle from Open
  • Send Out
  • Return to Closed
  • Right Side Pass

8 – Count Curriculum:

  • Pulse
  • Open and Closed Frame (Position)
  • Weight Shifts and Triple Steps
  • Side by Side 8 – Count Basic
  • Follow in Front
  • Leader in Front
  • 8 – Count Circle from Closed
  • 8 – Count Circle from Open
  • Swingout from Closed
  • Swingout from Open
  • Side by Side Charleston Basic

Comparison

Funky Move NamesReading the older curriculum a thing that stood out to me at first was the unusual names of some moves. After some thought I realized though it’s just because probably some of these names or even the moves themselves may have faded out of the common vernacular. I am thankful though that some of those moves have become unpopular such as “The Drape” from the curriculum I linked or “The Pretzel” from their Swing II curriculum.

Time CommitmentNew School Swing asks for 4 one hour classes, whereas GottaSwing asks for 6 hour and a half classes. A total of 4 hours expected for New School Swing and 9 hours expected for GottaSwing it is obvious they have slightly more than twice the time to cover material. However, there is an optional 45 extra minutes each week a beginner student can commit to on top of their courses at New School Swing due to Lindy Dojo, bringing the potential time spent by beginner students to 7 hours.

I would say the advantage GottaSwing had was due to the large time commitment teachers could cover a fairly comprehensive body of material. However the disadvantage from a marketing standpoint is that produces a larger barrier of entry. New School Swing’s approach shines in that area because there is an optional component for making more motivated students have a clear avenue to spend extra time to improve.

Emphasis: No partner or experience required is something they both mention from the beginning. The reason why this is important to note is because as an organizer trying to fill classes one of the fastest ways to doing that is removing as many barriers of entry as possible such as apprehensions such as “I don’t have a partner” or “I don’t have any dance experience”.

In terms of Gottaswing’s curriculum, it is kind of ambiguous because at the beginning there is an emphasis put on technique, yet the order in which the material is listed out and the disclaimer at the end they also seem to pride themselves on getting through a large number of moves. These two separate values are stated in different places which is a tad jarring. New School Swing also states it values teaching new moves and teaching good technique, however these are stated neatly in one sentence so a prospective or returning student is aware that these two things will happen in class.

Conclusion: Making a guess, I would assume GottaSwing’s curriculum catered toward dancers coming off the tail end of the 90’s neoswing craze who after watching Malcom X or the Gap Add thought of swing dancing as a series of flashy moves. Take a jam circle from US Open 1999 for example.

An interesting observation is they both share an element of some homogenization. GottaSwing in Boston seems to start individuals off with variations of the 6-count basic and goes into variations. Whereas, New School Swing utilizes the common method of teaching swingouts by starting students doing an 8 count pattern in side by side and continues to work towards the lindy circle, then finally the swingout. In the last two years many people including myself have made complaints about the homogenization of Lindy Hop, but it could be argued it’s an ongoing process that dated back to the late 90s.

Redaction

Previously I erroneously wrote here an assumption that GottaSwing in Washington DC had a relationship with the organization by the same name that previously existed in Boston. That information was a false assumption and has been edited out of the post. My apologizes to Tom Koerner in the comments section of the post and my readers.

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2 responses

  1. The Gottaswing you refer to in the blog post and accompanying 2001 curriculum is NOT related to Gottaswing, LLC which is based in Washington DC and has over 15 locations in Maryland, DC, Virginia and North Carolina. We are the largest lindy hop and jitterbug group in the US teaching over 4,000 dancers each year. We started in 1994 and have had the same basic 8 week series since our inception and it is NOT what i listed. Moreover, we do not have, nor have we ever had, a Boston affiliate.

    April 1, 2014 at 5:56 am

    • Hey Tom, thank you for the comment and my apologizes for the erroneous information in my post. I have edited the article to remove my false assumption and issued a redaction in this blog article.

      April 2, 2014 at 11:58 am

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