I’m a pack animal by nature. I like being part of a team and genuinely prefer it to doing things by myself. So when Kerry started the Jazz Squares, the Crescent City Swing performance team, I was really excited to join. Surprisingly, it was more fun and rewarding than I could have imagined. And if you were interested in joining a team (or THE team), let me pull back the veil a little and tell you what it’s like.
When you’re on a dance team, you practice dancing. A lot. There are generally two types of routines we might perform; a choreographed solo jazz routine with little or no partnering, and a partner routine which is also choreographed but can often be lead and followed like a social dance.
When we practice a solo jazz routine, we’re moving independently or through different formations together. Although these routines revolve around solo movement, sometimes the teamwork required to pull off the formations and aesthetic we’re looking for is even greater than what’s required to lead and follow a partner routine. I didn’t think I would appreciate these routines as much as I do – I was excited to dance with partners in the team setting, but I was surprised how much fun and creativity can come out of the team when we work together and dance together even when we’re not even touching.
The partnering routines are also a ton of fun. I often find new and interesting ways to spice up my Lindy Hop by adapting the choreographed elements of a performance into a movement that can be lead or followed with ease. The nuts and bolts of my leading and following have been refined by working on complex partnering ideas with consistent partners over and over again. Hands down some of the fastest growth you will see as a dancer will come through focused effort in a team setting.
Did I mention earlier how much we practice? The Jazz Squares meet for a minimum of two hours every weekend, and often practice together several hours of the week during Office Hours to get everything humming along nicely. Add in the time spent on your own working on choreography or improving your own dancing and you start to see the amount of time and dedication it takes to be on a team.
Working on dancing and practicing together is a badge of honor for the team and we take our commitment to each other seriously. That’s a big part of what being on a team is about. It’s an agreement to work hard together to help everyone’s work pay off. It’s true that I work hard for my own personal satisfaction, but I also work hard to honor my fellow teammates and the hard work they've put in.
Don't get me wrong, it’s not all work all the time. Practices are fun! And building camaraderie with your teammates is also fun! In the time we’ve been together, we’ve been able to support each other, hang out, and have a good time outside of practice.
And the performances we’ve gotten to do have been a blast. When you’re asked to perform, you’ll often get to go to places you normally wouldn’t go, like fancy cocktail parties and VIP-guests-only sort of engagements. More than one performance has involved some free cocktails and free food thrown my way. Dancing is its own reward, but eating good food for free is a pretty sweet win, too.
You don’t need to be a superstar to be on a great team. It will take some hard work, dedication, and team work from you to get the most out of it. If you think you have what it takes, The Jazz Squares will be starting session two of their performance team in September with practice times on Sundays. If you’re nervous about starting with the team or don’t know whether it would be a good fit for you or not, give Kerry a holler and see what she thinks. If you need a little more experience before you join, that’s OK too – there will be an opportunity for you in the future.
In the meantime, look for the Jazz Squares performing and dancing around town. If you catch us performing, come over and say hi or grab a dance with us! We love dancing and we want to share it with you. It’s what Jazz Squares do.