S01E03 What to teach in the first class

Lindy Hop. First Class

Remember, your goal in this class is to do everything, so people would come for the next one. There’s no need to tell the history of Lindy Hop, there’s no need to teach a swing out or a Shim Sham. Your students are smart enough to understand 1 hour is just the beginning of a long journey. It’s up to you, how long the journey will last.

Warm up

First of all, don’t talk too much in the beginning. You don’t have to tell people you all are going to do a warm-up, then some basic steps, then dance in a couple, rotate partners, listen to music and hit that break in C Jam Blues. Start people moving as soon as possible. They came to learn how to dance, not listen about dancing or your teaching.

Warm up at least for one song. Make people move. Make them enjoy the music. It doesn’t matter if your students can make the move you’re showing or not. Don’t explain the move. Show it, do it, then next one. Repeat.

What’s the basic you’re going to teach this class? Does it have triple steps, groove walks or kicks? Next song, focus on your basic step.

As we start our beginner groups with triple steps, we do a full song just doing triple steps in a circle. Moving forward and backwards with triples, going for a jump in a triple step, doing it flat, doing it bouncy, moving hips a lot, going down, bending your knees, doing it big, small, jumpy, groovy. Students will find their way of making a triple step happen. That’s all that matters now.

Add a bounce bounce, so everyone does bounce bounce triple step (1, 2, 3 & 4) forward and backwards. This brings the 8-count basic closer. You just need to add rocks step.

Intro

Your students are already sweating (at least not cold). Now it’s time to tell your name, welcome everybody (the ones who are late have already joined the class too), maybe ask a question what do they know about the Lindy Hop. Don’t spend too much time here. People came for dancing, not talking.

Basic of this class

What do you do next? What’s the easiest thing you can do next? Maybe adding a rock step to your triples. We need that, right? I prefer starting teaching with an 8 count, though I don’t tell students anything besides “This is what we are going to do”. Rock step triple step (moving forward) rock step (forward) triple step (moving backwards). Starting left foot for leaders and right foot for followers.

95% of people can do that in a few minutes. If someone is struggling or does something that will not help in future classes, go to them and help them in person.

One or two songs dancing solo to a ~120 bpm tempo. Do you feel it’s too fast for them? Make it slower. Some people struggle when it’s too slow. The last beginners group I started, 134 bpm was perfect.

Leading and following? What is that? No need to mention this yet. There’s only one variation, everything is working out, no need for technique or terms.

Couple up

Now it’s time for dancing in a couple. As your students already know how to do it solo, doing it with a partner shouldn’t be a problem. Do it a few times without music, rotate, then with music, rotate, music again. I’m not a big fan of rotating every 20 seconds. I love making students dance half or even full song, and then rotate (more on that in future episodes).

First variation

What’s one thing you could add? Leader bringing follower in front and bringing follower back to the starting point. Why this? There’s no change in footwork, leader is just adding leading (bringing follower in front). For followers the footwork is them same as before, he/she is just turning while moving.

Show it, let your students try it a few times. Fix what needs to be fixed, rotate partners and start over.

Now here comes the question from a leader or follower.

So how he/she should understand we are doing this or that?

Explain. Leader initiates, follower reacts. Let them dance. Rotate, and again.

Musicality

Final stage of the class. C Jam Blues. Your students already know the basic 8 count. Add a brake – rock step brake (1, 2 ,3) and freeze or bounce until the 8 count is over. Leading/following a brake is easy, doing 8-count basic is easy, they got 1 extra variation, let them enjoy it.

C Jam Blues is a perfect song to introduce dancing to music ASAP. (I slow down the song to a comfortable tempo)

Perfect class

So in a single 1 hour class people learned a basic that every decent lindy hopper knows how to do (or could do), one variation (lead and follow) and even how to dance to music. Maybe some improvisation with hips while they do no steps on a brake.

Now, show you students how you dance to the same song. This will make your students excited about the future of their Lindy Hop career.

Try this out. Tell me how it worked. Did it work? What would you change?

And please leave a comment if something does or doesn’t make sense to you.

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Responses (2)

  1. Mark Kihara
    2015-09-25 at 23:58 · Reply

    Martynas,

    Interesting read. I think you and I have many of the same teaching philosophies. I completely agree to keep the talking to a minimum, show people that it’s fun, do the triples, etc.

    I will add that in the warm up I emphasize bouncing with the weight only on one foot. That is, rather than explaining that you always transfer the weight, just bounce on one foot (1st phrase = 4 counts on each foot, 2nd phrase = 2 counts on each foot, 3rd phrase = stepping on every beat).

    How long are your class series? I know you said this is the structure for your first class but I’m not sure if I read how many weeks your students are signed up for.

    • Martynas Stonys
      2015-09-26 at 23:00 · Reply

      Mark, long time no see. Thank you for your tip. I might add this in my future classes and see how it makes everyone dance better.

      About our classes. We do not have a course or a series. When people register, they register for classes and they should keep coming until they die. At least that’s my plan 😉

      Our system is that one register for classes and pay for a month (8 classes in total with two 1h classes per week). They don’t have to register again or to tell if they want to keep coming. It goes by default. And we ask them to tell us if they are going to quit. They have to register every August before we start our classes again after the summer break.

      If our students had to register every 1 month for a new one, we would lose students. We would give them a choice to skip. Skipping classes breaks the habit of every Monday/Wednesday or Tuesday/Thursday going to classes.

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