Author: Eric B. Jacobson

Writer, storyteller, and pop culture enthusiast

Words, words, words: “frame”

Words matter. The language we use to teach and talk about West Coast Swing influences the way we understand it and the way we dance it. This series will look at some of the terms we use in our community, with the aim of clarifying them for greater understanding and learning.

Before I learned West Coast Swing, I was dancing other partner dances – Lindy Hop and the competitive ballroom dances (both Standard and Latin). There were lots of times when my teachers would give me feedback and instruction about my frame. They told me to mind my frame, keep my frame, don’t break my frame, tighten up my frame, and other such things. And I would struggle to meet their demands, not knowing exactly what I was supposed to be doing but having enough of an idea to at least try.  (more…)

Come Together: The role of leadership

This is part of Come Together, a series about defining, building, growing, and sustaining our dance communities.

In our last entry in this series, we looked at what defines a successful community. As I have worked to build my own community in San Francisco, I’ve looked at a lot of other communities and spoken with a lot of community leaders. At one point, a leader of another community told me I would need someone else to work with me because I wasn’t charismatic enough to build a community. She was wrong in that I was able to build a community without some sort of “personality” by my side, but it’s also true that the community here is not like hers. So I became more interested in leadership – what it means to be a leader, what we do as leaders, and our role in creating community.  (more…)

A hierarchy of needs (part 2)

In last week’s post, I outlined a hierarchy of needs for West Coast Swing. The idea of the hierarchy is that competency at higher tiers is dependent on first developing competencies in the lower tiers.

The hierarchy provides a framework for understanding the sequence of skills required to achieve a musical partnered dance. It also provides us with a useful way to look at expectations and evaluations of competitive dancing.  (more…)

A hierarchy of needs (part 1)

I often talk to students about setting priorities. It can be hard to know what to focus on, especially when there’s so much to work on, and so many things we want to accomplish.

The thing is that certain elements need to be in place to achieve other elements. For instance, if you really want to be musical with your partner, you need solid partnership skills. And in order to have solid partnership skills, you need to have an understanding and control of your own individual movement. So the more musical you want to be, the more you need to understand partnership and your own movement.  (more…)

What your partner really wants

In a previous post, I wrote about the importance of balancing your partner’s experience with your own in partner dancing. Because we’re partner dancers, it’s not enough to just think about ourselves. It’s important to be mindful of how our partner feels as much as we think about our own enjoyment. (At least, if you want people to enjoy dancing with you and ask you to dance…)

While sometimes people focus more on their own enjoyment, I find that a lot of the time things can go the other way: people can be overly concerned with what their partners want. They really want to please or even impress their partners, and they worry about boring them, displeasing them, or disappointing them.  (more…)