Many dancers find themselves in the position of teaching Lindy Hop as well as dancing it. Sometimes this
reflects a desire to spread their enthusiasm and skills; sometimes this is a position of
necessity—despite the resurgence of Lindy Hop, there are still many places where regular classes are
not available and so any teaching is better than nothing.
This section covers some tips for dancers who are new to the business of teaching, which involves its own
distinct skills that need to be learnt and practised.
In their eagerness to get on with teaching, many beginning dance teachers forget some of the basic logistics
involved in running a dance class. Even if the information presented by the teacher is exactly the same,
a badly-organized class will get much less of that information across to the students.
- Make sure that all of the class participants can see and hear the instruction. This is straightforward in a
small class, but as the class size gets larger it's easy to forget that the instruction style for a class
of twenty doesn't work for a class of a hundred. Find a venue with a raised stage for extra visibility,
and consider using a microphone.
- Make sure there is enough room in the dance hall for all of the participants in the class. If the
class is fortunate enough to get full, try to find larger venues nearby.
- Plan in advance for how to cope with a large imbalance in numbers between leaders and followers. A
small to medium imbalance can be dealt with by frequent partner rotations, making sure that several
rotations occur during the teaching of each move—a common problem is that the teacher forgets to
change the partners while teaching a particularly tricky sequence, which means that those without
partners will not understand the sequence. If there is a huge imbalance, the content of the class may
need to be changed, for example to cover a choreographed sequence rather than a social dance move.
- Start the class on time. If the students get the idea that the class often starts late, then they will
start to show up late themselves. This in turn means that the teacher will start even later (as they wait
in case a few more people arrive), and so the start time gets later and later—reducing the time
available for teaching.
- It can help to start a class by teaching some kind of jazz steps routine, either individually
choreographed or from one of the standard choreographed sequences. This helps warm up the dancers, but
also provides a helpful buffer against students who arrive late—the parts that they have missed
only affect their own dancing, rather than also affecting their dancer partner's experience too.
- If a class has to be cancelled, give people as much warning and notice as possible. Students and
potential students who have travelled some distance only to find a cancelled class are unlikely to return.
Running a web page (and making sure it is always up to date) can help with this.
In the UK, the Ceroc® organization has been a hugely successful operation, teaching Modern Jive
around the country. A large part of this success is due to the attractions of the dance itself—Modern
Jive is extremely easy to learn, which gets beginners up and dancing socially in a very short time. However,
Ceroc is more successful even than other operations teaching Modern Jive, and this popularity is driven by
their focus on getting the logistics of a dance class right: raised stages, working microphones, additional
demonstrators, taxi dancers, regular class rotation etc.
Different people learn things most efficiently in different ways. A common division of learning styles is
- Visual learners: those who best learn by seeing things in action.
- Auditory learners: those who best learn by hearing a description of things.
- Kinaesthetic learners: those who best learn by physically doing things.
The last of these is obviously key to a physical discipline like dance, but the others are important too.
A common mistake is for a new teacher to focus on the particular style of learning that they prefer, rather
than balancing the different styles. In its most extreme form, this can cause problems:
- Visual: The teacher shows the same move a large number of times, with little verbal explanation of what
they are doing and why. The teacher also doesn't allow the class to try the move on their own much.
- Auditory: The teacher spends a lot of time explaining different details of the move, without
demonstrating what they are talking about, and without allowing the class to try it. After the class has
tried a move once, the teacher explains for several minutes what they need to do differently.
- Kinaesthetic: The teacher gets the class to repeat each move a large number of times, without providing
any extra information (explanations, corrections or demonstrations) between repetitions.
A useful technique is to set up a camcorder to record a class, and then review the contents of the class.
Categorize the time in the class according to whether it involves showing, talking or doing (this can be
done with the tape on fast-forward) and see what the balance of each is. With a tape of a class in
hand, it's also worth reviewing it to check the logistics of the class: how often do the partner rotations
occur, and how often are people left out without a partner.
As a final observation, be aware that people learn motor skills better when they are exposed to a variety of
different movements for shorter periods of time. In other words, if a class teaches four moves, it's better
to teach all of the moves once and then go back to the beginning again.