“Life Lessons from Swing Club” by Hayley Whiting

From the time I joined UD Swing Club at the beginning of the year until now, I’ve learned the basics of Lindy Hop, have made many friends, and have had tons of fun! And while Swing Club is great for meeting new people and learning how to dance, I have also realized that many aspects of swing can also be applied to life in general. Here are a few life lessons you can learn from swing dancing!

React to changes in direction.

As a follow, I have learned to think of swing dancing not as a collection of moves, but as reacting to momentum and changes in direction from the lead. (For those unfamiliar with swing dancing, during an unchoreographed dance, a lead chooses what to do during a dance, and the follow responds to the lead’s cues, “following” what the lead is doing.) If a lead turns me to the right and lets go, I follow the direction of the turn until the lead catches me again, or if I feel momentum pushing me slightly backwards, then I do a rock step. In swing dancing, the follow never knows what to expect, but responds to the lead’s momentum and direction to create a cohesive dance. Similarly, in life, sometimes things don’t go as planned, but, as Epicetus said, “It’s not what happens to you but how you react to it that matters.” For example, maybe you discover your major is not for you and that you would be interested in a different field of study, so you react to that change in direction by switching majors and pursuing your passion. Or maybe you apply for a job or other position but are turned down, so you respond by seeking out a different opportunity. No matter the circumstances, life involves resilience and adjusting to changes, whichever direction life may lead you.

Do your own thing.

Swing has also shown me the value of being myself and sharing my input with others. When a lead and a follow are dancing, the lead does not have to dictate every single thing that happens during the dance. Instead, the follow can improvise by adding his/her own zest with different moves or variations, therefore making the dance even more fun and interesting. And with swing dancing, there are no rules – a lead or follow can create new moves, adding a unique spin to the dance. Similarly, in life, every person has value to share with the world, and each person should share their talents and perspectives with others instead of strictly following conventions. Make up your own moves in life by dressing the way that makes you feel happy, pursuing the hobbies that you enjoy, following your dreams, and expressing your unique ideas to others. Embrace and express who you are!

It’s okay to make mistakes.

While swing dancing, mistakes happen all of the time, made both by the lead and the follow – but that’s perfectly okay! If a lead doesn’t indicate a certain motion clearly or a follow isn’t in sync with the lead, it only takes a couple of beats for both dancers to get back on track. Sometimes, mistakes even lead to accidental but fun variations of moves! And, of course, to become a better dancer, it is necessary to make mistakes and learn from them. Just like with swing, in life, it’s okay to make mistakes because you can bounce back and learn from them. Maybe you learn to check the weather each morning after being caught in the rain one too many times without an umbrella while walking to class. Or maybe you learn to start doing assignments earlier after struggling with procrastination. No matter what, mistakes happen, but it is always possible to move past them and learn from them.

 Seek help.

With swing dancing, there is an endless amount to learn. Luckily, UD Swing presents plenty of opportunities to practice, with a weekly social dance and lesson, a weekly workshop, out-of-town social dances, and private lessons anytime. Taking advantage of some of these opportunities has helped me improve my dancing, especially because I have had the chance to ask questions about how I can improve individually and can specifically ask to work on something I’ve been having trouble with. In life, sometimes it is necessary to ask for help by, for example, asking a professor to review material with you or by asking your RA for advice. No matter the situation, asking questions and reaching out for help is an essential part of learning and growing as a person.

From flexibility to individuality to accepting mistakes to asking for help, aspects of swing transcend beyond the dancing itself. UD Swing Club has shown me that experiences can have a deeper significance and connection to other areas of life than how it may seem on the surface!

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2 Comments

  1. sgeorger@udel.edu

    March 22, 2018 at 3:03 pm

    Hayley, you’ve got to check out this documentary on Netflix: http://aliveandkickingfilm.com/ It was awesome!

    • Hi Sarah, thank you for the recommendation! It looks great – I’ll watch it over spring break! 🙂

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