Guide for New Dancers

Found all the info you need?

Great!  Now let's start dancing!

Register Now!

First of all, welcome to the world of swing dancing!  We think that you will find it to be an enjoyable experience, and that you will find this to be a wonderful community and an exciting new hobby.

Many new dancers come to us with questions.  This guide is designed to answer the most common ones, so that you can show up on your first day of class excited and ready to dance!

Didn't find what you're looking for here?  Be sure to check our FAQ for more general questions that you may have.  If that doesn't answer your question, then send us an email at info@bostonlindyhop.com and we'll be happy to answer it for you.


What is Lindy Hop?

Lindy Hop is the original Swing Dance, developed in Harlem in the 1920s and 1930s.  There are numerous other swing dances out there, but virtually all of them evolved out of the patterns and rhythms of the Lindy Hop.  The dance still has a large and active following throughout the world today!

Our friends at Yehoodi made a nice video history of the dance.

What classes should I take to start?

We offer two classes for beginners, which can be taken in any order:

  • Lindy 1: A six-week series covering all the basic patterns and techniques of the Lindy Hop
  • Charleston 1: A one or two-week introduction to the Charleston, one of Lindy Hop's closest cousins (and a fabulous dance in its own right!)

New Lindy 1 series begin every month, with the night and time on a rotating basis, so you can find the schedule that works best for you.  Charleston 1 is offered almost every month as well. No experience is necessary for either class. However, many students take our Lindy 1 class series more than once before moving on to our Level 2 classes.

On occasional weekends, we also offer "Swing 101," a beginner crash course to help get you out on the floor as quickly as possible. We recommend taking a Level 1 series class after taking Swing 101.  Many students who have previously taken Lindy 1 also find Swing 101 to be a great refresher course!

Where can I go from there?

So many places! Learn more here! (click for full size)

The Boston Lindy Hop Curriculum in Infographic Form

I don't have a partner: Who will I dance with?

Lindy Hop is a fundamentally social dance.  On a typical evening at a dance, most people will dance with many partners.  It is a valuable skill to be able to dance with many different partners, and learning in this way can also help you to learn faster and to break bad dancing habits.  So, all of our classes rotate partners unless otherwise specified.

I have a dance partner and would like to learn with them: Do I have to rotate through the class?

As noted in the previous question, all of our classes rotate partners unless otherwise specified.  If, for any reason, you do not wish to rotate partners, you and your partner are welcome not to rotate.  The instructors may ask you to step out of the main circle in order to avoid confusion.

However, we do in general strongly encourage new dancers to enter the rotation of the class. Our years of experience teaching dance classes and participating in dance classes ourselves have demonstrated that, overwhelmingly, people who rotate in class progress faster than those who do not.  There are three key reasons why this is true:

  1. If a couple falls significantly behind the pace of the rest of a class, it becomes harder to keep them up to speed without slowing the progress of the rest of the class.
  2. People learn at different speeds and frequently one person in a couple will pick up material faster than the other. This usually results in one half of the couple helping (read: teaching) the other with material that they, themselves, are still trying to learn. This can inhibit learning for both partners, and it creates unnecessary stress.
  3. Couples who only dance with one another are prone to reinforce each other's bad habits.  They also limit their progress by dancing in a way that accommodates the other partner's specific shortcomings.  This can happen in subtle ways even without either of you realizing that it is happening, and it can greatly affect your progress in the future.

Rotating allows people to find others in the class who are at their learning speed, and it encourages all dancers to remain focused on their own improvement without being too much impacted by the overall progress or specific issues of a single partner.  Both members of a couple can then progress at a level that is comfortable for them, yet still get to dance with each other when they meet in the rotation. So please consider rotating. Of course, if you still prefer not to rotate, that's totally fine. Ultimately, we want you to be comfortable in class, and the best way to achieve that is up to you.

What is a follower? What is a leader? Which one should I choose?

In partner dances, there are two roles, leader and follower.  Typically, the leader "defines the shape" of the dance, determining the basic moves that take place and choosing the timing of the dance.  The follower "fills out and interprets the shape" of the dance, interpreting those moves as they are led and providing additional context and style.  Both leaders and followers have a critical role to play in the dance.  In fact, a good dance among experienced dancers can be a sophisticated and nuanced conversation, with ideas passing back and forth between both dancers within the basic structure of lead and follow.

Historically, men danced the lead role and women danced the follow role.  Nowadays, many dancers learn the non-traditional role as well. At Boston Lindy Hop, we encourage you to take classes as whichever role you prefer.  However, if you are new to swing dancing, we ask that you pick one role for your first class series and stick with it to avoid confusion as you learn the basics.

Is Boston Lindy Hop LGBTQ-friendly?

Absolutely!  We welcome all students, and ensuring that our classes are a comfortable environment for all students is extremely important to us.  For more details on our policies, please see our Code of Conduct.

What should I wear?

Clothes:

You want to be comfortable and able to move in your clothes, and you'll want to dress in layers because you may get warm.  Jeans and t-shirts are a great option, and there is no need to dress fancily.

Footwear:

Experienced dancers can be very particular about their footwear.  However, as a beginner dancer, you should be able to start dancing with shoes that you already own.  Your shoes should be comfortable and have a small amount of traction, but not too much.  A well worn-in pair of sneakers will often work very nicely.

We do not recommend wearing shoes with overly-high heels, stiff boots, flip-flops, or other open-toed shoes that are not secure on your feet.  Shoes that are overly-sticky can also be hard on your ankles and knees.  However, feel free to bring more than one pair of shoes to try out on our floor.

If you've been dancing for a bit and you would like to invest in a pair of dance shoes, we've got plenty of suggestions over at our FAQ.

Finally, please know that the dance following our Monday night classes has special shoe requirements.  If you are attending our Monday classes, you are welcome to wear whatever shoes you want, but if you stay for the dance (which we hope you do), you must abide by their requirements to avoid damaging the floor. Check out the Monday Night Practice FAQ for more info on what shoes you can wear to the Monday Night Practice.

How Should I Practice Dancing on My Own?

Without a doubt, the best way to practice dancing is to go out and dance.  The dancers who improve the fastest are the ones who go out dancing regularly.  Luckily, there are many opportunities for dancing in the greater Boston area.  If you need suggestions for where to go dancing, check out our FAQ.

If you want to practice at home, but do not have a partner, there are still things that you can do.  Practice your basic footwork and any footwork variations that you know.  If you have learned solo jazz movements from us, these are great to practice on your own, and the benefits of practicing them will bleed over into your partnered dancing, too!

Finally, listen to swing music!  Lindy Hop is a dance that evolved in tandem with the music of its era.  By listening to high-quality swing music, you will get more comfortable with the rhythms and nuances of the music that carry over into the way that we dance.  Visit our Music page; we have plenty of suggestions at a variety of tempos.

How Should I Behave In Your Classes and Events?  What Should I Do If I Observe Others Behaving Inappropriately?

The swing dance community is fun, welcoming, and friendly.  We are fortunate to be part of a social activity that attracts people of all ages and backgrounds, and we hope that you will soon find that dancing is a great way to meet many wonderful people.  However, our events are open to the public, and as with any social situation among adults, we cannot police every person's actions on our own, nor can we promise that every person will behave appropriately at all times.  We are committed to maintaining a safe and comfortable environment at all our events, and this works best when we have your help and cooperation.

Boston Lindy Hop has a Code of Conduct that applies to all attendees at our classes and events.  Individuals who violate the Code of Conduct may be asked to leave, or barred from future classes and events.  If you ever have a question or concern, or if you witness a violation of the Code of Conduct, contact any one of our instructors or staff members. They will be happy to answer and/or help you, and they will take appropriate action against anyone who violates our policies.

Additionally, whether you are in a class or at a dance, please remember that you are never required to participate in any activity that makes you uncomfortable. It is perfectly OK to say no to a person who asks you to dance, to refuse to dance with a person in class, etc., and you are not required to give a reason for your choice.