The New Year’s Resolution is a classic tradition. We’ve all had them, and we’ve all broken them. We’ve pledged to lose weight, write that novel we’ve been thinking about (that ambitious Science Fiction/Fantasy epic you’ve been planning for a while. George R.R. who again?), or finally take that dream vacation you've always wanted.
That same spirit of hope and renewal can be applied to our dance. I invite you to jump on the bandwagon with me and get a little practical and a little philosophical about how we can change and grow our dance in the new year.
Dance More Often
I’ll start with the low hanging fruit here. There have been so many times that I’ve been sharing a great dance with someone and they give me a big smile afterward and say “I need to go dancing more!” or “That was so much fun, why don’t I do this all the time!”
A little humble bragging aside, it’s true – going out to dance is actually fun. I’ll admit, sometimes it can be a chore to work up the gumption to get out of the house and dance. But it’s a rare night that I make it out to one of our great venues and regret my decision. In 2017, I challenge you to get more social dancing in. If you’re worried you’ll show up alone, coordinate with some of the friends you made in class, or post on the Swing Dancers of NOLA Facebook group to see where your buddies are going to be. You won’t regret it.
Dance More Expressively
Now here comes the philosophical part. Maybe you’re a new dancer, or maybe you’re an old hand. But you’re out dancing and it feels a little stale, a little rehearsed, a little canned. In 2017, I challenge you to let go of the reins a little bit and see what you’d do - if you didn’t know what to do.
Imagine every song you’re hearing is your favorite song in the world. Every step you’re taking is your favorite step, and every beat and connection with your partner is your favorite moment. Be even more excited than Taco Day. Be that excited.
Alternatively, don't be excited. Be goofy and hammy. Serious and concentrated. Dynamic and athletic. Interpret the song and dance the way you’d like to. You and your partner are telling the story, make it the one you love telling!
Dancing is a form of expression. If you’re bashful about your expression, you’re depriving yourself of some great moments. In 2017, I challenge you to let it all hang out.
Dance With More Partners
I’ve covered this in the past, but it bears repeating. Dancing with many partners is one of the truly fun parts of lindy hop. I’ve learned and grown so much personally by challenging myself to dance with all kinds of people. Dancing with new people is a way to learn and grow, but it’s also a way to make a new friend and feel a real connection to your community.
Being a dancer means being a part of a community. In fact, as I’m writing this I’m in a hotel filled with about a 1,000 other lindy hoppers from 100 different communities, each with a life and culture of its own. When you dance with someone new, you extend them an invitation to your community. In New Orleans, we’re particularly lucky to have many people visit from many places. In 2017 I encourage you to welcome visiting dancers and new dancers alike to our wonderful and unique New Orleans lindy hop community.
Learn A New Skill
Learning a new skill could be a broad focus on dancing in general. Learn the Charleston. Learn to swing out. Learn the Shim Sham. But I’m going to dare you to dig a little deeper than that. Don’t just learn a skill and check it off your “to-do” list. Learn a skill and knock it out of the park.
I want you to learn a skill so well, you get the reputation for being the person who is so dang good at that skill. I believe that acquiring any talent is noteworthy and worth celebrating. You could play the nose flute, and if you’re good at it, you will impress me. Learn a mundane skill and hone it so sharply that you could do it in your sleep, backward and forward. Now suddenly that mundane skill isn't so mundane. It's rich, deep, and rewarding and it's totally and completely you.
You don’t have to love the skill so much you marry it. After all, sometimes practice feels a little bit like taking your medicine. But I encourage you to find one simple thing and make it as awesome as you possibly can this year.
Have More Fun
This is easy for me to say. We teach people how to have fun for a living. Dancing can be pure, distilled fun if you let it. But you’ve got to let it. So how do you unlock the true potential for fun in the dance? It’s simple – forget about your teachers, forget about your peers, forget about the tourists gawking at you, and forget about that weird day you had before you started dancing. And just like those cheesy Facebook images your mom shares with you would advise – dance like nobody is watching.
The fun we have dancing is completely dependent on our ability to forget all the distractions of the world. Sometimes that includes forgetting a little bit about what you learned in class and “just winging it”. In 2017, I challenge you to have a little more fun with it.
On To 2017
Do you remember just a year ago, thinking hard about how you want to shape and define your 2016? Maybe things went your way in 2016, and maybe they didn't. But 2017 is in your hands right now, waiting to be molded into the shape you'd like to see it in. But it takes a little work and a lot of dedication.
I challenge you to make 2017 as fun, rewarding, and excellent as you can. When it comes to getting you feeling that way about your dance in the New Year, we’ll be here for you.
Happy 2017 from the Crescent City Swing team! See you on the dance floor.