Swungover in Beijing: STB 2018

To me as a budding Lindy Hopper, who accidentally stumbled into the universe of swing dance a little over half a year ago, this event felt like a sweet dream yet so tangible, a fantasy yet so realistic. It was just magical, and I will explain why in the end.

Since 2013, Swingtime Ball (STB) has been the most influential swing dance event in Mainland China. It encompasses workshops, parties, cabaret night and contests, etc.

Before this, I also went to:

However this time it was different for me. I spent nine days in Beijing, and immersed myself in various programs:

  • Teachers’ Track (TT) Workshop for four days
  • Intermediate-Advanced Level Workshop for two days
  • New Comers’ Showcase Contest (as a contestant)
  • Social Dance Parties (about 5 nights)
  • Swing Dance Revival Lecture

I learned so much from TT workshop more than I expected with Lennart, Sing, Peter & Naomi, although I didn’t have any ambition yet to be a Lindy Hop instructor soon. Though I was mainly there to help fulfill the workshop’s registration requirement for leader-follower ratio, those areas indeed helped me a lot in deepening my understanding and expanding my vision over the dance:

  • History
  • Culture
  • Musicality
  • Key Figures
  • Courses Design
  • Class Management
  • Community Building
  • Teaching Methodology
  • Marketing and Operation
  • etc.

New Comers’ Showcase Contest was an opportunity to lift myself out of comfort zone. It was also an opportunity to experience a leap from one level of pressure to another. I didn’t plan to win over anyone else, and I just aspired to:

  • conquer my own fear & nervousness of dancing in front of (professional) audience, which is something I dared not even imagine.
  • further familiarize and comprehend all the basic moves and patterns I learned and practiced in the past few months.
  • try choreography for the first time – to organically link the moves and patterns with the clues (or glues) of music.

In terms of pressure dancers get, Lindy Hop can probably be classified into at least the following four levels:

  • physical exercise: It happens mainly during the time when a dancer is practicing by himself/herself, or when a dancer still doesn’t understand social dance is a dialogue between at least two, which happens not so unusual.:)
  • social dance: This is definitely the heart and soul of swing dance. You communicate with your dancing partner via body movement and connection through a piece of swing jazz music.
  • showcase: [couple dance] The “social activity” and “natural communication” parts are missing. It is mostly rehearsed to impress audience like performing a stunt. [solo dance] This can still be an impromptu interpretation of music and mood, or same as the well-rehearsed couple dance showcase.
  • contest: Just impressing the audience and the judges is far from enough. Kicking asses of other contestants are essential if you want to win out.:)

I’m really glad that I went through all the four levels of pressure, although I am a crawling baby and still have an extremely long way to go to be a good social dancer, which is also what I hope to concentrate on in the future.

I met and talked to a number of seasoned swing dancers during the STB who started about eight or even ten years ago, and they never showcased or competed. It is totally fine. This dance wasn’t made purposefully for showcase or competition. The only one we need to compare to is an older version of ourselves.

Now, why this trip to Beijing felt magical?

  • “Eat. Sleep. Swing. Repeat.” – To me, this was just a funny slogan on T-shirt, but in these nine days, it became REAL! With a record-breaking length!
  • “Lindy Hop: a 3-minute love story among a leader, a follower and a piece of swing jazz music.” – I could only understand this literally when I came across it months ago. But during the social dance parties in this trip, there had been at least three dances, in which I felt sooooo connected with my followers: it felt that we know each other for centuries; she understands my everything; we can talk about anything; we appreciate everything each other does; we tolerate all including the little dark corner in the heart of each other… because of THE CONNECTION! It must be THE CONNECTION! Now I don’t even remember the looks and the dresses of the followers and also who they actually are, but I still remember precisely the feelings of THE CONNECTION!

When a leader and a follower are connected from the hands to the hearts, it doesn’t matter what you do, or who you are or where you live and there are no boundaries or barriers with the same piece of swing jazz music. I guess that’s what makes Lindy Hop a so fascinating way of non-verbal communication.

Okay, one more pragmatical reason that also contributes to the magical-ness of this trip: Swing dancers are still a minority of the population now, so we still have chances to learn face to face from the world top instructors and dance live with the world’s best music bands, with affordable prices.:)

Last but not least, thanks to Cecilia for encouraging me to join the trip. It’s been so worthwhile. Thank you, truly & deeply.

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