Swing dancing is mainly about socials. These are the moments where people gather and while enjoying a few drinks or a bit to eat they also dance together. Sometimes there is even a live band! In this blog we will explain what a social is and we give you 5 reasons why socials are the best way to improve your dance skills.
Socials, what is a name: it is a social moment where we dance, outside of regular classes. There are different types of socials. Anything from big parties with live music at designated venues, but also more small scale socials. Maybe a local jazz band is performing during the day and you simply decide to go there with a few people. Or maybe there is a free night at a bar or café where jazz music is played. Socials come in all shapes and sizes: from salons during the day to parties that allow you to dance the night away. The aim is to have fun and of course to dance!
But don’t we learn to dance during lessons? True, but during the lessons you use a strict schematic and the teacher tells you what to do. During a social, the improvisation that is so important to swing dances is key: nothing is fixed and you have to improvise every move. During lessons we mainly focus on practicing, sometimes just one move. But on the dancefloor we let go of any fixed orders and you have to ‘truly’ dance.
The second reason ties in with reason 1: at a social you will dance with many different people. This teaches you not only to execute the moves, but you will also learn that each dance partner has different needs to dance as each individual has their unique brand of communication and reactions. Therefore at the start of every dance you are sensing how the other person dances, what works and what doesn’t. And it is great for inspiration: people show up from far and away and often perform moves you haven’t seen before. Not only is it fun to watch, but it might inspire you to incorporate them into your own dance.
For both leads and follows socials are a must to improve their dance skills. for leads because it is important to anticipate so they can decided what to lead. There is no better way to practice this than to dance with as many different follows as possible. And follows? They can practice how to be a good follow. So letting go what you would like to do and listening to how the lead communicates. During a class you will know exactly what is coming but on the dancefloor a lead can do something different than what you had expected. So you really have to follow!
Want to know more about the differences between leading and following? Click here.
Above we mentioned that a great variety of people that dance at socials can be a source of inspiration for your own dance. But also when you are having a good time on the dancefloor you will often come to new ideas. Maybe a move didn’t go as planned, but you accidentally create a new move instead. Of course, when dancing swing you can do that. This is how many swing dance moves originated. In fact, in Slow Bal there are very few original dance move left, so new moves are created continuously.
But aren’t we always doing that? Yes and no. During the classes you are also dancing to music, but during a social, especially if there is a live band that improvises and doesn’t play a recorded track, you have to not only think about your next move, but also where the music is going. Sometimes you may want to slow down a move when the music does so too. Or maybe you want to dance bigger when the energy of the music starts to change. Dancing at socials is not only great for your dance moves but also for your musicality.
If you are a beginner, socials can feel like a bridge too far. All those people are so much better at this than me! But that is the best part: everyone used to be a beginner at some time. So no need to fret! You will see that many people in the swing scene will want to dance with you, even if you haven’t taken a single class. You don’t have to be afraid that you won’t be good enough a dancer. Swing dances are all about having a good time, not to dance a perfect dance. And yes, we step on each other’s toes. We laugh about it and continue.
Can you not wait until you can strap on your dance shoes and come to a social after reading this blog? Check out our workshop and events page. There you will find all dates when we have a social. Once a month we dance at jazzcafé Dizzy in Rotterdam. We also organize regular evenings at De Doelen Studio. These events are fee of charge, so please pop in and say hi!