Back in mid-2010 I began developing a system of teaching group lessons I felt would help Instructors everywhere make lessons and workshops more fun and efficient. Although our first “shift’ was fun to do, the transitions needed to be smoother and step/pattern options less restrictive. After careful study, experimentation and ‘fine tuning, I now believe this concept will be beneficial to and fun for Instructors/Students and WCS dance communities everywhere.
In essence it’s kind of a hybrid Flash mob, line dance (as couples) and/or mixer. But “Swing Shift” is designed first and foremost as a teaching tool for group classes on any level. Whether the concept is used strictly as a teaching tool or as a mixer or as a way to teach groups a routine for possible exhibitions or as a “flash mob” is up to each individual Instructor.
By contrast though, while the Flash Mob routine was a lot of fun to do, most of the patterns weren’t socially lead-able. The steps and patterns for Swing Shift, since the idea is in fact to be teaching things that are lead-able and acceptable as extended play, should all be usable in any WC with any partner to any song.
Generally speaking, the idea is to put either a 32 or 64 beat instruction program together for a series of steps or patterns. A one hour workshop would be best to stay with just 32 beats (depending on the level of dancers being taught) to avoid ‘cramming’ too much material into too short a time.
Obviously this method isn’t necessary if simply showing a standard pattern they could use anywhere. However, by ‘phrasing’ the moves the student will still benefit by learning how the pattern fits within the song construction and help them be more aware of musicality benefits.
As for the music with the ‘Swing Shift’, we know with Line Dancers their teachers put together a specific line dance for a certain song. Swing Shift offers the same option. Perhaps in time (again like line dances) and with the help of the internet the Shift routines taught in LA for example would be picked up by others everywhere and you could attend events in any area who have WCS dancers, ALL knowing many of the same routines! Then the options of “Event mixers” or simply having dance couples be able to join individually could become commonplace and nothing but positive for the future growth of WCS. Even small groups, in any area where the local dancers may hang out, could learn a Shift mixer and simply start with 3 or 4 couples to ANY song they decide may work well, welcoming any others who wish to join the circle and again attracting other dancers to get involved.
What about Musicality? This is perhaps the best benefit to the student learning steps by the Swing Shift method. Musicality classes are taught by many Instructors in many ways across the country. Many are very helpful and teach students the ‘construction’ of music essential to understanding how, where and why we use ‘play’ to hit breaks, accentuate a note (or series of) or voice inflection, dramatize a line, end a measure or phrase and how they can be spontaneously implemented at any time.
This is exactly what we try to accomplish with the Shift method. In essence we choreograph the moves being taught to a particular piece of music so that the students actually get to feel and hear the reason they do them at any given moment. Yes, it requires more diligence to detail by the Instructor (which can only improve their own teaching techniques) but the payoff to both teacher and students will be beneficial to both.
So instead of just teaching a workshop that may cover some cool move, pattern, styling, syncopation or play randomly and left to the students to figure out where they might work, this method lets them actually “feel” it because the Instructor did the choreography. How beneficial is that!?
As many more variations of the Shift and/or mixer are designed by Instructors everywhere over time, it could also become more intricate, interesting and fun as the ‘leader’ of an areas group could make ‘calls’ to integrate a new 32 or 64 beat Shift patterns. Very similar to the concept behind Salsa Casino, the variety of introduced ‘phrases’ would keep it interesting and exciting. Imagine the possibilities! And also imagine this happening in clubs all over the country where all the other club patrons see it happening and wanting to get involved. I think WCS classes, and therefore dances and events everywhere would experience a surge in popularity among the general public that is long overdue yet has eluded WCS for much too long!