FAQ for beginners
The most common word people use to describe Lindy Hop is “fun”! And we agree: What makes this dance so unique is that it takes the best of two worlds: a great connection to your partner balanced with an amazing freedom of self-expression.
But to stop at “fun” doesn’t do the dance justice. Lindy Hop was created in the 1920s in Harlem, a Black neighbourhood in New York City. It was born of hard times, of people creating something new, pushing past their stresses and troubles, defying racism and other hardships with joyous expression. We’ve prepared more content for both History as well as well as Anti-Racism in today’s Lindy Hop community..
Contrary to many traditional partnered dances we know in Europe, Lindy Hop is centred around improvisation and freedom of expression. This means that both partners influence and create the dance together spontaneously, like a conversation between friends. It also means that there isn’t just one right way to do things, instead you have your own interpretation and can display your personality. It’s also a “social dance”, which means that we strive to learn how to dance with any other Lindy hopper wherever they might be from; in our classes that means that from day one you get to experience the joy of learning with a whole group instead of a fixed partner.
Our answer is: no! Well, sort of 😉
Lindy hop is part of a family of swing dances such as Charleston, Shag, Balboa, Blues and others.
Because this dance culture is not strictly defined by rules, as you continue dancing you’ll hear these words used in different ways. For now, you can think of Swing as a big umbrella that covers a lot of dances, and Lindy Hop and partnered Charleston are what we’re doing. Many dancers use the term Lindy Hop for both Lindy Hop and Charleston as well as Solo Jazz, since most lindy hoppers dance all of these interchangeably within the dance.
Today in the broader dance world, when people refer to jazz dance, they are usually referring to a dance style that appears on Broadway and other performance contexts, a discipline that’s connected to contemporary and ballet dance – and, incidentally, is usually danced to non-jazz music.
When we lindy hoppers talk about jazz dance though, we usually mean solo dancing to jazz music. Sometimes this is in the context of partnered dance – breaking away from our partner to express ourselves independently before coming back together again. Sometimes it’s a full dance on its own, alone or in a social environment with one or many partners (but without touching).
Solo Jazz, like Lindy Hop, has a set of so-called basics, moves and movements that are so classic and common that they appear in many contexts and that most experienced dancers know them. Often you’ll hear these most classic steps referred to as “vernacular jazz”. Vernacular means “originating from the people”; these steps were not created in dance schools or on stages by professional artists, they are movements that come directly from the everyday experiences and expressions of the people.
Also, like Lindy Hop, the dance is all about self-expression, so a big part of Solo Jazz is to create your own way of doing things and putting your personality into what you do.
The quick answer is: most likely yes!
Here’s why: Lindy Hop is not a standardised dance with rigid rules of conduct. You can dance it slow or fast; choose relaxed and easy going steps, or flashy and even athletic movements. You can dance it in either role independent of the traditional stereotypical gendered roles. You can express joy, passion or excitement to just mention a few possibilities. These are just a few reasons why we can find people from all walks of life enjoying Lindy Hop.
So if you are looking for an activity that gets you moving and is fun at the same time, if you are looking for a world away from the everyday grind, if you are searching for a place where you can start something that will fill you with energy, then yes, Lindy Hop is for you. Learn more about this here.
We hope so!
Our aim and vision for the SwingStep community is that anyone – from any background, age group and physical ability, of any race, gender or sexual identity – should feel welcome and at home at our classes and events.
To a great extent, we believe we have created a very welcoming environment for anyone interested in the culture of swing dancing. This is not to say that inappropriate gestures and uncomfortable experiences never happen in our community. However, we are committed to fight for you and support you with what you need to make our classes, events and community a place where you can be yourself and have fun without having to keep your guard up.
Common worries people have when approaching us for the first time are:
- I don’t speak the language well
- I’m too old
- Are there other Black people?
- Will the community be friendly to foreigners?
- I feel a bit too overweight for dancing
- I prefer to dance in the non-traditional role; will people support this or will it be awkward?
No matter what your concern, we hope that we can make Lindy Hop a welcoming place for you. If you ever experience any issues, please don’t hesitate to contact us – talk to your teachers or send us an email. Also, please have a look at our Safer Spaces and Code of Conduct page to see more details on expected behaviour and how we handle difficult situations.
When dancing with a partner, we talk about leaders and followers. Classically, the person dancing in the role of leader initiates movements and directions and the follower interprets and actively dances them. However, there is no hierarchy to the roles and throughout the dance both partners continuously make decisions on how and where to go. This means we have two definitions of leading and following:
- the basic position you take and which movements you tend to do: the leader usually starts the dance standing on the left side of the follower and starts moving with the left foot, while the follower is on the leader’s right and starts with the right foot.
- the partner who initiates a movement is “leading” it and the person reacting is “following”. These actions happen independent from the basic role.
- We can take this thought further and think of Lindy hop as a team creation: whether the team is you and the music, you and your partner and the music, or an entire group of dancers creating movement to the music. Partners and teams co-create the dance.
In Lindy Hop, we don’t see the dance roles as gendered. While it’s true that a majority of men mostly lead and most women mostly follow, our scene welcomes anybody to dance either role. It is also common for Lindy hop dancers to learn both roles as their dancing ability advances, and at a social dance to change roles every dance or even within one dance. So it doesn’t matter how you identify, you can dance either one or both roles.
In order for the leader-follower balance to work in class, we ask that you register in one role and dance that role throughout the full course. If you’re interested in trying out the other role and have questions, feel free to talk to your teachers or send us an email.
FAQ about SwingStep classes
At SwingStep, we are passionate about teaching Lindy Hop, and we spend a lot of time developing concepts that provide you with the best learning experience possible. Our classes are designed to keep you in flow – that means we want to challenge you enough to keep the class interesting and fun, while giving you all the tools you need to succeed.
We are fully complying with all Covid-19 regulations and recommendations, which is why our live classes currently are a little different from their usual format. For more information, please check our pages for Berlin and Heidelberg. We’re doing our best to find new and creative solutions to keep up our high standards even under these special circumstances.
Once Covid-19 restrictions are lifted, the main difference you’ll notice will be that our dance is very social.
Because Lindy Hop is a dance that values dancing with many different people, our classes reflect that. During class, we rotate partners regularly, so you get the chance to practice the same movement with different people. A great benefit of it is that you really learn the technique behind the movement and can make it work on the social dance floor no matter who you dance with.
This also means that you don’t have to worry about how well you get along with a single person, since you won’t have to spend the entire class with just them. And it means you get to know all the people of the other dance role in the class fairly quickly without having to worry about finding something smart to say.
If you do sign up with a partner, the rotation also makes sure that both of you learn your best-quality dancing, so it makes your time on the social dance floor together more valuable. The rotation speed and group size will make sure that you will dance with your partner regularly throughout the class, just not all the time. If you are worried about the partner changes, please talk to our team and we will look for a good solution.
We want class to provide you with an opportunity to recharge your energy and not be a thing you get stressed about. Because the classes build up on each other, it’s ideal if you don’t miss any of them. But if you can’t make it at some point, we provide you with some options to catch up:
- After each class we record a short video recap that we will send to you afterwards. If you missed the class, you’ll know what was taught and you can even use it to practice on your own.
- You can practice the material during practice times at the studio or online as part of our online membership (check the calendar for the time).
After Covid-19 restrictions are lifted, you’ll be able to take the class on another day, if there’s a parallel course. The process for that will be simple: just drop by and inform the teachers on the spot. If you are taking a partnered class alone, it’s ideal if you can bring a partner who is at your level of experience or higher.
You can try swing dancing right now from your living room to see what this dance can do for you! Get started right away, kick it up by yourself or with a friend. Our online courses are pretty close to what you’ll experience in class, and you can try the first lesson for free.
The short answer is: don’t hesitate to talk to us as soon as you struggle or there is any confusion – we are happy to help you!
Here are some ideas how we can help you in specific situations:
- If you struggle with a specific move in class, ask for help or feedback immediately – typically your teachers have the tips that you need.
- If you want to repeat chunks of classes or even the entire class at home, you can sign up for our online membership in addition to our local courses. This gives you access to 90+ hours of online classes as well as online training sessions. Be aware that our online classes are not intended to have the same structure and context exactly as our in-studio classes; ask us if you need advice for where to look.
- If you are having a hard time catching up with the material, drop by during the practice time in the studio or online as part of the online membership (see calendar). Here, you can practice alone or with a partner. There will often be a teacher around; feel free to talk to them, they can for example show you short exercises that you can do at home on a regular basis.
- Often it is a good idea to train within a group and motivate each other. Why don’t you make a training group with some of your classmates and dance friends? (Tip: ask around on facebook! In Berlin, use the SwingStep students’ group “SwingStep Berlin – Group”. In Heidelberg use the community group “Heidelberg Swingt”.)
- If you would like to fast-track your skills, private classes are ideal: we can offer tailor-made classes with a lot of individual feedback. Click here for more info or talk to your teachers directly.
All our courses are designed so that we share with you fundamentally important concepts, even from the very first week of Swing 1. If you have experience from other Lindy Hop schools, it may not be necessary for you to take each of our courses from scratch, but we have noticed that people have a more enjoyable learning experience with us, and learn important new concepts, if their first course with us is slightly below what they expected based on their prior experience.
Please go through the course descriptions to see which course makes sense for you. If you’re not sure, just talk to us or email us at either [email protected] or [email protected], and we will work to find the right fit.
We always try to offer a follow up course for your group, so you don’t need to worry about changing your schedule every 6 weeks. It doesn’t always work, but normally you can trust that your next course will be on the same day, and at the same time and place. So all you need to do is register in time.
FAQ for other things
In our experience the level requirements in different schools, cities and at international workshops can vary quite a bit. If you want to get a recommendation on which level will make the most sense for you, feel free to ask us. We can discuss it via email, or perhaps we can arrange for a teacher to consult with you during a practice time.
While dancing is our biggest passion in life, our teaching is up to par: we have developed our unique pedagogic methods and have shared our insights with teachers from all over the world. We have created an approach that identifies and clarifies a lot of the intangibles of the teaching process, and yet still leaves a lot of freedom for the teacher as well as the students. This has inspired many teachers to work with us to hone their skills and grow as teachers.
We are in the process of distilling our knowledge into an online training program which we’ll host on our swingstep.tv platform. Meanwhile, we are happy to continue offering live training sessions (online or in-person):
- You can book Kris or Ali for private lessons.
- You can book us for a weekend pedagogy training for your team.
Contact us at [email protected] for bookings or if you have any questions.
Want to Dance More Often?
Social Dances & Practice Times
The purpose of classes isn’t just to take more classes, it’s to dance! Join our socials and practice times…
Find Your Lindy Hop Lesson at SwingStep
We want as many people as possible to meet and dance together. That’s why we decided to create a fund that grants financial support to people who might have difficulties paying for their classes. For more information, please click here to read all about our Pay-it-Forward Fund.