Swing Scene

reflections, rants, & raves about swing dancing, dancers, & dances


Posted by spectaprod on October 5, 2006

This weekend I will be teaching with Rebecca Strickland down in Tampa at Swing Dance USA. One of the classes we’ve been asked to teach is a “styling” class.

I have mixed emotions about “styling” classes. I understand the desire to look good, but I always cringe when the desire for appearance seems outweigh the desire for content and execution. Whenever I’m asked about style I nearly always have two initial thoughts. The first comes out of my Lindy Hop history, a long winded debate raged during my most “impressionable” years between the Hollywood camp (as represented by Eric and Sylvia) and the Savoy camp (being in the Savoy camp I can’t think of a lone symbol).

The second thought I have is a recollection of beginning and East Coast dancers asking questions such as “you have such great style, can you show me how to look cool?” The irony of that question is I’m not one to be accused of having great style, at least not when I look at my own dancing.

The American Heritage Dictionary defines style as “The way in which something is said, done, expressed, or performed” (granted this in 1 among many, but I selected it because it is the first entry).

I remember either Bill Borgida or Julee Mertz said once that good style is good technique, and that good technique will essentially create a good style. Thinking back over the differences between Hollywood, Savoy, Vintage, Groovy, Smooth, Performance, etc, the statement by Bill and/or Julee really jives with the definition. What defines those various “style”, what makes them the variety they are is the variation in fundamental techniques used. I also think style goes beyond the technique one uses to include the moves/movements you choose.

Style, as I understand it and under my examination is merely the visual representation of what one is actually doing. The differences in style exist because dancers dance differently. No two bodies can perform the same function identically, and no two
individuals hear and move to music the same, each dancer’s style is
going to be unique to themselves.

And that’s what makes me laugh and cringe and sigh with sympathy and compassion when students want a styling class, especially instead of a technique class. There seems to be this impression that with a simple class one can learn to look cool regardless of technique and move/ment choices. Style is defined by technique and movement choice and technique inevitably and invariably defines ones style.

So for the class Rebecca and I have decided to teach a gamut of various techniques for swingouts and turns. And maybe this is how I’ll get more people to take a technique classes more often… I’ll label style classes.

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