Swing Dancing/East Coast Swing/Intro

How to use this book


Take Lessons!


To be blunt: you can not learn how to dance from a book. Even a book with illustrations will not make you into a skilled dancer. Practice and getting to know the movement of your body is one thing. But if you really want to dance well, you would be wise to take lessons. The benefits to taking lessons are numerous. The key benefit is that a book is guaranteed to miss things. Many dance moves have nuances to positioning and style that a book cannot accurately describe. A dance teacher will often have knowledge and experience, the kind that cannot fully be conferred through a book or pictures.

The many benefits, summarized:

  • You get to see moves in action.
  • You can ask questions of the dance teacher on how to perform certain moves if you are unsure.
  • Most of the time, dance lessons are small enough that a dance teacher is able to pay attention to you personally and help you out on what you're having trouble with, or something you're missing.
  • Other dancers are able to catch mistakes that you would normally have trouble noticing yourself.
  • Dance instructors are often connected to, or know of, dance locales and the dance scene in your town.
  • Dancing is fun! Dancing with others doubles the fun!
  • You get a feel for dancing, and what dancing is actually like.

The difference between reading words on a page and actually getting out there and learning from a professional how to dance is huge. You will thank yourself later. Lessons are rarely so expensive as to be unaffordable (Average for public lessons is more or less $5-6 per person per hour, but prices will surely vary per studio).

Although private, one-on-one lessons may be tempting, if you are just starting dance, you would be wise to ignore them in favor of public lessons. Some dancers believe that they will become a better dancer if begin with private lessons, because they will get more individual attention. This does not necessarily prove true. Although a private lesson will get you more individual attention, it may discourage you from dancing for the following dancers:

  1. Private lessons take more out of your pocket weekly. This does not encourage perseverence.
  2. Private lessons are, more often than public lessons, better for dancers with months and months of experience looking to hone their skills. Private lessons can be very intensive. If you're just starting dance, private lessons may burn you out if you don't have an extremely upbeat, positive, or determined attitude.
  3. With a private lesson, it is very easy to quit out of laziness. There will be times when you're just exhausted and don't feel like dancing. In a public lesson, you will meet and make friends, or at least good acquaintances. Like having jogging buddies, when you have colleagues expecting you, the pressure to show up and fulfill your promises to yourself is higher. This will keep you diligent.
  4. In a public lesson, you'll have a lot more fun and variety when you're dancing with more than one person, it's nice to have someone else who's not an expert around.

That's not to say private lessons are useless. They can be fantastic for increasing your performance and ability in dance. But if you are taking your first ever dance lessons, public lessons can provide you with fun, connections, and encouragement to continue dancing.

A note about move names


Traditionally in ballroom dance, and in east coast swing, the leader is male, and the follower female. We will use this precedent when discussing lead and follower moves simply for the sake of clarity. This is not bigotry, males and females are fully capable of filling either role, it's simply a way to ease explanation of dance moves. In this book, we will assume the leader is a "he" and the follower a "she," because it is easier to write and understand "The leader positions his arm to his left and spins the follower around to her right" than to say "The leader positions the leader's arm to the leader's left 1'o and spins the follower around to the follower's right."

Also, dance moves, although the names vary, have common names. Dance has dated back hundreds of years, and traditionally, dance moves are named after what the lead does. This tradition has not been broken in east coast swing. When you hear the name of a move, it probably refers to what the lead does during the move. The exception is when you hear "follower's" in the name. Move names starting with "Follower's" are, predictably, hints as to how the follower moves.