Hey Lindy Hoppers!
Are you new to teaching or looking to improve your Lindy Hop teaching game?
Today we wanted to talk a little bit about teaching curriculums for Lindy Hop and how you can organize your local dance classes.
First, we just want to say that there isn’t really a right or wrong way to do this, but there are definitely things to keep in mind when you’re organizing how you want to teach your students.
Here are some things to consider:
Where is your Lindy Hop school at right now?
The size of your dance school or studio plays an important role in how you organize your own curriculum. How many students can your dance school really sustain right now? If you’re a new school, you’ll be dealing with smaller groups of students, and you won’t be able to offer a lot of different dance levels. This can have an impact on how you organize your curriculum since a small school or dance scene will probably only be able to offer 1-3 dance levels.
If you already have an established dance studio with a lot of students and you’re revisiting your curriculum, you’re going to have a lot of different options about the way you spread your curriculum out over several classes and levels. A really solid dance school might be able to offer 5-6 levels as well as specialty classes like solo jazz and performance groups, but that doesn’t happen overnight.
Recognizing what state your dance school is in right now will help you to define your teaching goals.
What are your goals as a teacher?
Have you stopped to think about your teaching goals? They might not be as obvious as you first think. Sure, the overriding goal is to teach people to do Lindy Hop, but a new or tiny scene might need to adjust their goals simply to get more people dancing quickly to create a critical mass rather than focusing on some of the nuances that might be more successful in an established dance scene.
How do your goals for teaching complete newbies differ from teaching the Intermediates? When someone is just starting to take their first dance steps, they aren’t necessarily hooked or committed to the dance yet, so creating material presented to the general public should be different than for people who are already hooked on how amazing our community is. The way that you approach those lessons should be different as your goals will be different. For example:
Introduce them to the joy of Lindy Hop and get them hooked!
Get them moving in rhythm, comfortable counting themselves in, and dancing to complete songs using 6- and 8-count vocabulary.
Once they’re hooked, give them the techniques and skills that’ll turn them into the best possible dancers and elevate your entire dance scene.
When you’re starting Lindy Hop in your city from scratch, it can be harder to get momentum as Beginner dancers won’t have experienced dancers to look up to. Your goal should probably be to get as many people dancing quickly so that you can actually build a scene, and that goal will impact the way that you teach and structure your curriculum.
Remember, at the Savoy Ballroom, people weren’t taking dance classes in studios. They were going out social dancing for the fun of it and making it up as they went along. If you have a really new dance scene, simply getting people excited to dance is going to be a lot more important than some of the detailed techniques students will be looking for in a community that’s already established with enough role models.
How long will your sessions be?
The length of your session will definitely impact how you approach the curriculum. Some very successful dance schools operate by month, with a new session starting at the beginning of every month so that it’s easy for new students to get started ASAP once they’ve heard about it and become interested. This can be really effective from a marketing point of view and allows you to bring in a lot more new students more often. On the other hand, that only leaves you with 4 weeks for most sessions.
Other schools have longer sessions of 8 to 12 weeks to take students through a lot more curriculum as part of their program. The drawbacks are that, for brand new people, it’s a big commitment to commit to so many weeks (commitment-phobia is very real y’all), students naturally drop out during the session, so your numbers dwindle, and it might be a long time before a new student can join your next session. By that point, they might have lost interest. However, longer sessions create a deeper learning environment where students can make significant progress because of their time commitment to dancing. It also creates a better sense of how long it takes to “graduate” to the next level; with a 4-week course, students might interpret that after that time, they’re ready for the next level.
If you do decide that shorter sessions (6-weeks or less) are better for your school, you might want to offer multiple topics for each level. For example, you might have Level 1A, 1B, 1C, and 1D, where each of them is a unique course of material. Once a student has completed most/all of the Level 1 classes, then they’re ready for Level 2 classes. This creates an understanding that there are more than 6 weeks of information to learn before considering oneself an intermediate dancer, allows people to jump in at different units, and ……. Level 1 Classes are available to someone after they’ve completed an introductory course or had previous dance training (so that complete newbies have a safe place to start where they feel they are surrounded by people just like them).
As each dance scene is unique, make sure you weigh the pros and cons carefully when you’re deciding how to structure your sessions so you can best support your dancers and the (possible) growth of your community.
Chick or Egg: 6 or 8
It wouldn’t be Lindy Hop if there weren’t some debate over what to start with first, 6-counts or 8-counts! So what’s our juicy spin on this?
There is no right or wrong answer on this one. It’s a matter of personal preference, but we want you to know how to weigh your choices before you get started.
First, you should know that Frankie Manning went straight to 8-counts. There are a lot of good reasons to start with 8s, in particular, they are structured to go with the music, which gives your students an immediate connection and understanding of the music. When you teach 6-counts first, it can feel pretty disconnected from the music since only one move out of every four will actually start on 1 of the music.
Also, the quintessential Lindy Hop move is an 8-count swing out. So that’s another good reason to start with 8s.
However, a lot of people prefer to start with 6-counts because they feel they can get students dancing more quickly. A lot of people do find that having two fewer steps makes it easier to get started, and a lot of 6-count moves are easier than 8-count moves since there isn’t as much redirection within most 6-count moves. (These are generalizations, but you get the idea.)
One caveat; if you do choose to teach 6-counts first, it should still be Lindy Hop! There’s no reason to teach East Coast Swing (6-count swing without triple steps) to Beginners first as some kind of stepping stone to Lindy Hop. East Coast Swing is not Lindy Hop, the mechanics are different, so if you do choose to introduce 6-counts first, make sure that it’s still actually Lindy Hop that you’re teaching.
Our Approach to Curriculum
Alright, with those considerations out of the way, we’re ready to talk turkey.
In our iLindy videos, we start with Level 1 and the classic moves. These are the moves that define the dance and that every Lindy Hopper should know. Since our library is digital and people can move at their own pace, we don’t really have to prioritize 6 over 8. The students can choose what they want to approach first. We have that freedom because it’s online!
We offer an Introduction to 6-Count Swing and an Introduction to 8-Count Lindy Hop. We call one “Swing” and one “Lindy Hop” simply to make it more accessible to people who haven’t necessarily heard the name “Lindy Hop” before. But I guess if we really had to choose, we would recommend 6-counts to get students started but not waiting too long before introducing 8-counts too.
6-count Swing is a great starting place. This material is designed to get students dancing quickly with a series of basic steps, rhythm, connection, and moves.
These are the core eight count movements of Lindy Hop. At this stage, it’s not about getting all of the technique to be perfect; it’s about memorizing figures, which is an important step in the learning process of any dance form.
- The Swing Out
- Swing Out from closed position
- Swing Out with an Inside Turn
- Swing Out with an Outside Turn
- Lindy Circle
After these core movements, we move on to a few more moves, which include a few of Frankie’s favorites.
Every Lindy hopper needs to know these basic partnered Charleston figures, so that’s what we move on to after the 6-count and 8-count material. In many ways, partnered Charleston is at the root of Lindy hop. Most complex partnered Charleston figures stem from these core moves.
- Side by Side Charleston
- Pendulum Kicks
- Kick Ups
- Tandem Charleston
- Tandem Push Out
- Tandem Entrance
- Tandem Exit
And this is just a jumping off point for all of our curriculum. We offer 5 levels of curriculum as well as Core Technique, Challenges, Choreographies, and Solo Jazz. The best part about our library of over 900 videos at iLindy is that you can use our material to help structure your own teaching curriculum. If you’re ever stuck and looking for something new to challenge your students (and yourself), we think you’ll find it to be an excellent resource.
We want to hear from you. How does the size of your dance scene affect the way you structure your curriculum? Do you teach 6s or 8s first, and why? Have you ever completely changed your mind about the way you approach teaching? We’d be really interested to hear your story!