by Jamin Jackson Apr 2, 2012

Most newer Lindy Hop communities would love to have at least 70 to 100 continually attending their weekly dance. We do. As I travel many people share with me why their scene is so uniquely immune to growth and success. “My scene is so hard to grow.” “We don’t have college students.” “We are a small town.” “We don’t have any lindy hoppers.” So on and so on. Why do some scenes tend to grow faster than others? I don’t know all the answers, but I know what is working here in Tulsa Oklahoma, and I’m willing to share these concepts with you for the betterment of your community. Hopefully this article will give you a new perspective that will help you take the initiative in your scenes growth. Enjoy!

New blood is the life blood!
New dancers who arrive at a dance carry so much potential, and are in fact the guaranteed future of the dance. They are excited, nervous, and at their highest level of anxiety because their knowledge about the dance tends to be low. They are super sensitive to feeling isolated and self conscious. They tend to come with other people, and usually will decide on if they will return if they feel as if they are a part and are having fun within the first 30 minutes of a dance. If they return, if they are like most people who see a good movie or go to a great restaurant, they will tell people who in turn will either come with them again or by themselves. We in Tulsa share a hypersensitivity to these needs that can easily be overlooked, and also have a common thread within our culture to be others centered at our dances.

One and Three Rule
One simple way that we are able to help our new people, is to dance with the “one and three” principle in mind. The one and three rule pertains to dancers who have the most dancing skills and how they can potentially make or break a dance. For every good dance they have, they must in turn find 3 people who have a lower skill level than them and dance. It’s that simple. It’s not easy, and can be tedious at times, but it is a better investment when one looks at the longevity of the dance by investing active dances with new people. I have a silent goal for myself to dance with as many beginners with in the first hour of the dance as possible, because they don’t know who I am and will in general just have fun.

Afterward, I’ll go find a dancer who has equal skill as myself and we’ll jam at our normal level. This will blow away a new dancer, simply because you danced with them on their level and in turn will be inspired by your level of dance and your willingness to dance with them first. The newbies will feel very comfortable asking you to dance if you work the dance floor in this manner. To your surprise you will in turn have new dancers returning simply because you are nice, skilled, and you reached out to them in spite of their dance level. The next principle adds even more fuel to the fire.

Because you are a good dancer, you have an even greater influence on newbies more than you might understand. Negative words have so much power over people. Positive ones last even longer if they are genuine. After every dance, we encourage our more mature dancers to make a compliment about the people with whom they dance. Being genuine is the idea. People can tell if you’re not sincere so try and focus on them when you dance. Encourage them, smile, and find one positive thing you can tell them to help boost their confidence in themselves. A compliment can be as simple as “Thank you for sharing the floor with me,” or “Thank you for celebrating with us at our dance.” This principle is a must if you want people to return with other dancers happy to dance. If you do this correctly, the newbies will “want” to mature and will seek your advice on how to do just that.

Be a connector
One great thing about being the liaison between new dancers and fun, is that they connect their good experiences to people. In many cases, dancers will return based on if that special person who made them feel part of the group will be in attendance. Most of the time I will get connected with the person on facebook or whatever social media outlet and make a deliberate post to them after the dance thanking them again for attending. Most of us do this already, but in many cases we are thanking the wrong people and should be thanking those who will be our rock stars and Lindy Hop teachers in the future. You never know who they will be.

Another thing we do is to introduce beginners we dance with to other dancers above their skill level. This will get them connected to people like you and will increase their chances of having another “positive” experience. This will also help your better dancers keep the right perspective and eliminate clicks. People will only do what you do. They would rather watch a leader than hear them all day.

In Conclusion:
Many of you may think these principles are a stretch, because they may be outside of what you’re used to doing by nature. Keep in mind everything starts small. You must develop habits that serve you instead of habits that don’t. If you want to always have dancers to dance with in your local community these ideas are a must. You will know it’s working not by how many attend but how many return in addition to other dancers in your scene doing these things without you suggesting them. That is when your community starts winning. Everything duplicates, good and bad. You just want the good to outweigh the bad. Investing in the philosophy of your scene just as much as the dance itself will create a foundation worthy of building scenes that will last.

Start first by recognizing that everything that you like and dislike about your scene can be changed, and that all begins with you. If a situation can be changed what’s the use of being upset, if it cannot be changed what is the use of being upset. Either way you must adjust how you see the current problem as a opportunity, and let that philosophy change the attitude behind how you do the things I mentioned above.

When you’ve embraced that reality, then you will have new habits that serve you instead of those that don’t. These are many of the things we have done to adjust our priorities in “growing” our local weekly dances. This doesn’t imply ignoring everyone else, but we suggest adjusting your perspective to recognize those new people who can take your weekly dance attendance to the next level. You never know who you’re going to meet if you develop the habit of being others centered. I continually reach out and work with people I do not know as I visit scenes all over the world and on occasion meet rock stars in disguise. For instance, Sonia Ortega from Barcelona!

If you want to know what we’ve done to “mature” those beginner dancers who’ve come and want to get to the next level, stay tuned for the article “How to mature beginner dancers.” Share this article with those you feel who can benefit. Have a stress free week!

~Jamin Jackson

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