Lindy Hop Exchange Survival Guide

Photo by Julian Ehrlich

Top 5 Tips For Going to a Swing Dance Exchange

For those of you who don’t know me very well, and may be new to this blog, I have a lot of interests–writing, music, baking, vintage hair and makeup, crafts, and of course dancing! This blog may turn into a conglomeration of my interests, but I do want to start blogging more about the swing dance community.

I have been swing dancing for five years now, yet I had never gone to a Lindy Hop Exchange. Well my boyfriend Andy and I recently took a nice long vacation to Denver, Colorado this past summer and attended Lindy on the Rocks 2015. I’ve been meaning to do a review on my experience, but first I’d like to write a dance exchange survival guide for beginners, and even veterans who have been going for years. This weekend many of my friends will be going to The Ultimate Lindy Hop Showdown, so I thought it would be timely to do a post. Here are my top 5 tips on how to survive a weekend of non-stop dancing.

1.Pack Smart

For my first exchange, I brought day outfits and evening outfits. I figured I would be sweaty from lessons and even sweatier from the dances and that proved to be true. The key is bringing enough clothes to bring a different look to each dance but not so much that you have to check 5 bags at the airport. Try to bring pieces that you can incorporate into multiple outfits, and if you are staying in a place with a washer and dryer, that will make your life even easier. For the ladies who want to show off some vintage hairstyles, bring only the essentials and plan out some styles in advance that won’t make you sit in front of the mirror for hours. I watched a hair tutorial by my favorite Youtube retro star Cherry Dollface on how to use your Wet Set for 3 Days in 3 Ways. Unfortunately my wet set was an epic fail and my flight pretty much ruined my curls, but my snood came in handy as a back-up. So for exchanges, simple is better. There are ways to look amazing and not waste time perfecting your victory rolls. And of course, bring good shoes! With all the dancing you are going to do, you must bring comfortable dance shoes. I’d recommend keds or flats during the day and then sport some evening dance heels for the special swanky events.

2. Bring Water and Food With You EVERYWHERE

Going to a Lindy Hop Exchange is kind of like going to boot camp. You are constantly in training and performing for your instructors or in competitions. Depending on the event, they may not give you many breaks or any at all. When Andy and I went to Lindy on the Rocks, there weren’t any lunch breaks, and the “water breaks” were about 5 minutes long between classes. That’s barely enough time to go to the restroom. We ended up skipping a lesson because we were so hungry. It’s always a good idea to keep a protein bar and a water bottle at your side during the event. No one wants you to pass out on the dance floor from lack of nourishment and dehydration, and that would spoil all your fun anyway right? So put some snacks and water bottle in your bag…oh and some advil too. You may be hurting after day 1. I was.

3. Listen to Your Body

If you are like me, the excitement of being in a new city at an epic exchange can cause you to forget about everything else. “Woohoo! This is awesome!” And then you quickly forget to eat, drink, and not even notice that your feet have fallen off and now you are at the hospital on life support. OK, yes that’s the extreme, but listen to your body and take a break if you need it. The venue of Lindy on the Rocks was at a very high altitude, which can cause dizziness and faintness for those who are not acclimated. During a swing out lesson, I started to feel very dizzy and sick, but I kept going because I didn’t want to miss out. Eventually I got so sick I had to sit down–and that’s OK. Just tell your partner for the lesson, “hey sorry, I need to sit this one out.” And no one will see you poorly for it. Of course you want to get the most out of the experience and go to everything, but it’s OK if you can’t. Your health is more important than perfecting that swivel.

4. Dance With Everyone

Exchanges bring all kinds of dancers from around the world–that is why there is so much benefit to going. You get exposed to all kinds of styles and all kinds of dancers. Keep an open mind and dance with everyone. Don’t be a snob and refuse to dance with a beginner. You could end up being the jerk who gives that newbie a bad taste in their mouth when it comes to swing and then they never come back. Everyone is there to learn and to have a good time. One of my regrets from Denver is not dancing with more of my teachers. I was so star-struck and intimidated that I didn’t ask. Be bold and ask anyone and everyone–that way you won’t have any regrets and you’ll be a better dancer in the end.

5. Keep Your Ego in Check

Exchanges have a way of making you feel like you are a minnow in a shark tank, especially if you are coming from a small swing scene. There are so many incredible dancers that you may end up feeling like a complete amateur, when back in your hometown you are the bees knees. Going to a big dance event is humbling because you realize that everyone has room for improvement. If you are an experienced dancer, keep that ego in check and remember that there is always something new to learn. If you are fairly new to the swing community, don’t feel like you are a horrible dancer. Even the pros were where you are now. Stay confident in what you do know and be persistent in perfecting your craft. If you are there to learn, learn; if you are there to just dance, dance; if you’re end game is to win competitions give it all you’ve got. Whatever your reason is for going to an exchange, stay true to that purpose and goal, and don’t get disillusioned or distracted by all of the hype and the action. Be humble and maybe even compliment that cool guy or girl who performed or competed.

So there are my top 5 five tips for going to an exchange. I hope they helped. I have more swing blogs on the way. If you have comments or opininons on this subject please post them in the thread. If you would like to see more posts like this, give me feedback and any requests.

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