Becoming A Better Social Dancer: 7 Reasons You Should Take Your Dancing from the Social to the Class

My first experience swing dancing did not take place in a dance class. You see, I had tagged along with some college friends to the local ballroom. One of my friends very patiently taught me the basic steps to some ballroom dances, including 6-count swing AS we social danced. I didn’t start taking regular dance lessons until after I moved for graduate school, where I joined the university’s swing dance club. I had no idea how much taking weekly lessons would transform my social dancing.

So maybe you’re like me and you got your dancing start on the social dance floor. Maybe you’ve attended your favorite dance venue’s drop-in lessons. So why should you consider attending a dance lesson series if you already know how to dance? Well let me count the ways you and your dancing will benefit from taking weekly lessons.

  1. Meet new people I don’t know about you, but once I have my clique of friends it’s sometimes hard for me to venture out of my comfort zone to meet and dance with new people. That’s one of the things I most love about attending dance lessons. It offers a super chill, low effort way to meet new people. During the lesson, you will rotate partners regularly. After 2-3 weeks of dancing with the same people you will start to get to know them on a personal level. Maybe someone will even suggest grabbing Froyo after the lesson!
  2. Force yourself out of your dancing comfort zone If you predominantly social dance, you probably have a set of moves that you use as your defaults. While you might be inspired by other dancers on the social floor and “steal” their moves, lessons are a great place to gather new moves. Maybe the instructors are teaching a movement you never imagined doing on the social dance floor. Maybe you even hate it at first as you struggle to learn it. But after making the effort to learn it, it could very well become one of your favorite moves to help you emphasize that dramatic bit in the music.
  3. Get prepared for traveling to out-of-town (or in-town) workshops I absolutely love traveling to out of town workshops. It helps me connect with people in the broader swing dancing community. Traveling to workshops is a great way to meet dancers from all over the country, and even all over the world! Attending your local scene’s lessons will well prepare you for the format of lessons taught at these events. You will also have the chance to develop some of the skills necessary to make it to a higher lesson level at auditions for larger events.
  4. Learn how to protect yourself from injuries Waaaaaay back when I first started social dancing, I thought that dancing super fast and feeling like I was a yo-yo during spins was the best thing ever. It was a little painful, but no pain no gain, right? If I bumped into other dancers, it was no big deal. Then I learned about proper partnership connection, how to protect my shoulder when dancing, and how to watch out for other dancers. And you know what? It was still a ton of fun dancing and I no longer experienced pain in my shoulders! At lessons, your instructors will give you good tips about how to avoid injuring yourself and others while dancing.
  5. Have a safe place to critically reflect on your own dancing It’s not always comfortable critically looking at your dancing and deciding what needs to be changed/tweaked. I appreciate swing dance lessons because even if an instructor does not directly correct something I am doing, I’m in a space encourages me to think about how I can improve my dancing. If my partner and I aren’t on the same page while learning a move, I take that as my cue to reflect on my own dancing. The instructors may also give tips about posture or connection. Taking the instructors’ advice typically leads to a much more comfortable dance.
  6. Get Introduced to styles that aren’t taught at the drop-in lesson Drop-in lessons are a great place to get started with social dancing, but they don’t have enough time to cover everything. Most scenes I have visited stick with either 6-count swing, very basic Lindy, or perhaps a little Charleston during their drop-in lessons. Solo jazz is rarely covered. There’s also Balboa, collegiate shag, Saint Louis Shag, pre-jazz age dances like the Peabody, and many many others! If you see these dances offered as part of a weekly dance series, take advantage of it. My dancing improved so much once I started learning other swing-era dances and had to think about what made them similar or different from my lindy hop.
  7. Learn how to dance with your second dance partner: the music Believe it or not there is a difference between dancing to music and dancing with music. Dancing to music, means you are simply dancing your steps at the same tempo as the music. Dancing with the music means you are paying attention to the instruments, rhythm, melody, etc. and letting at least part of that beautiful complexity influence how you are dancing. My favorite classes are musicality classes. I’m not only learning to play with how I respond to my partner, I also get to play with how my movements interact with the music. Put it all together and there’s nothing more magical than realizing you and your partner are both interpreting the music together and creating literal art with your dancing.

So have I convinced you to start attending weekly swing dancing lessons? I hope so! If you want more information about what to expect at swing dance lessons or just want to geek out with me some more about swing dancing, check out my blog, Roaming Lindy Hopper. See you on the dance floor!