Dancing eight nights in a row! It’s definitely a Lindy Hopper’s dream come true (or at least this Lindy Hopper’s dream). The last night I danced at least 2/3 of the dances between 8:30-2:30am with only 4 hours of sleep from the night before. I was definitely going on adrenaline alone at that point. Adrenaline from meeting wonderful new people, adrenaline from being in such a beautiful place, adrenaline from the sheer number of dances I had had, and adrenaline from feeling that I was improving greatly in my musicality and repertoire just by dancing and dancing and dancing.
The first three nights, I was definitely a wall-flower. I was greatly intimidated by the awesomeness of the dancing I saw from both leads and follows. I don’t think I asked for a single dance those first three nights (unless the third night is when the Ella Fitzgerald version of Mack the Knife played, then I definitely asked for that dance!)
I had a ton of fun with people I danced with those nights but I never felt like I had enough dancing. I don’t have a super in-your-face life-of-the-party personality. I can be quite invisible when I feel like it. I was too worried about not being “good enough” and letting down my lead. However, by the fourth night I had started chatting more with my fellow dancers and decided enough was enough and began asking leads to dance as soon as I saw them free. I felt my confidence grow. I became more willing to be silly during the dance and play with the music instead of just dancing to it. However, I still wasn’t truly dancing with my lead. I would follow what he led and I would pay attention to what his feet were doing so I could maybe respond with my own variation. Then I got some duh-advice (advice so obvious I probably knew it and just never followed it) that revolutionized the way I danced that last night. I was told to look up at my lead or at least past his shoulder. I had a tendency to look down when I dance. It wasn’t that I was staring at my own feet to make sure they do what I want, but more a shyness thing. This lead told me to simply look up, relax and have more fun with the dance because I had the steps down (in my opinion critique should always come with a compliment even a small one).
At the next dance, which happened to be the last I put this advice into practice and boy was I shocked at the immediate results! I made sure to look up at my lead, made eye contact more often, and found out exactly what it means for a dance to be a conversation between you, your partner, and the music. I was also able to see how much fun he was having- if that isn’t a confidence booster, I don’t know what else would be! I continued striving to look up at my lead for all the other dances that night and noticed specific things improving in my dancing due to that little act.
1) My posture got a lot better since I was no longer always tilting my head forward
2) I could follow better because I was reacting to what my lead was leading, not anticipating what he was doing based on how his feet were moving
3) I had so much more fun! It wasn’t that I wasn’t having fun before, but this raised it to the next level!
Now, there are times when it is okay to look down during a dance, for example if you really want to dig into your swivels and draw everyone’s eyes to them as well. However, like any stylization when dancing, looking down should always be intentional and not your default.
Also, you shouldn’t always be staring intently into someone’s eyes because…well… that might be a little creepy. Or a lot creepy…. Keep your head up, make eye contact when appropriate, and have fun dancing. Chances are you won’t have to spend that much time face-to-face before you do a spin, pass-by, or end up in closed position.
I spent the next couple of days in a state of euphoria from all of the dancing. I was completely exhausted yet I still just wanted to dance and dance and dance. I was so exhausted that I actually fell asleep against my mom’s arm while we watched TV. That never happens to me! After a few days the euphoria still refused to wear off and my brain turned to mush which I’m sure made my non-swing friends think I was more than a little crazy.
Fortunately the mushiness in my brain didn’t last too long and I think I’m starting to level out as far as mood and energy levels go. Having a mini swing performance on Saturday probably helped prevent full-blown dance withdrawal from setting in.
My conclusion from all this? Lindy Hop is a drug and should either be taken in moderation or with full expectations of needing several days to recover. Also– making eye-contact while dancing is awesome, especially if your partner likes to smile a lot! Also also– you’ll never know how good your own bed feels until you’ve slept on a foam-mattress/ camping mattress for 8 nights in a row. Pretty much you should check out all of LindyHopProblem’s GIFs regarding dancing and sleep: http://lindyhopproblems.tumblr.com/search/sleep
*Disclaimer- I may have used a lot of gendered language in this post. Typically leads are men and follows are women but this is not always the case! I have danced with plenty of wonder female leads and several of the males leads I enjoy dancing with also know how to follow.
**Disclaimer #2- I’ve realized sometimes I use the oxford comma and sometimes don’t. I’ll try to be consistent in its use from now on.