Author, Tailyn Kaster
I’d like to speak to the newbie. Those of you who have just discovered swing dancing and realized how amazingly fun it is. The people that have just realized that swing festivals are a thing, and are thinking about maybe going to their first big event. Why am I speaking to these people, you ask? Just one year ago, I was that person.
I had just started taking my first dance class ever, East Coast Swing for Beginners, and was realizing that it was a complete blast! Why hadn’t I been doing this for years? How had I put it off for so long? My life has been so incomplete!!! (Ok, that last one may have been overly dramatic.) The point being, I was really excited about swing dancing and wanted to keep learning. However, that didn’t keep me from hesitating when I first heard about the Heartland Swing Festival. It sounded like an amazing weekend full of dancing, competitions, dancing, classes, and more dancing…….for people who already knew how to dance. I didn’t feel like I was going to be good enough or know enough to dance with all of these amazing people who take a whole weekend out of their lives just to travel to Des Moines, IA and learn more about swing dancing. That’s dedication!
Fortunately, someone pointed out the Beginner’s Crash Course. Four hours of classes, competitions, and dancing and you didn’t have to know ANYTHING. That was a key selling point for me, because let’s face it, nobody likes showing up to a group activity and being the one person who hasn’t got a clue. I could show up for classes and nobody would expect me to know a thing about dancing. Yes, please!
So here are just a few things that first-timers might like to know before jumping in.
1. Wear comfortable clothes and shoes. It may seem obvious but it is important to give this some serious consideration. During classes, you will most likely get sweaty, other people will be touching you, and you’ll be on your feet the whole time. Dancers will wear everything from sweats, workout clothes, jeans, t-shirts,and dresses. Also keep in mind the comfort of your dancing partners. If you’re wearing something with big buttons or zippers that fly around when you spin, please reconsider. Those things can hurt when they whack you……well, anywhere. Similar considerations need to be made for the evening dances, though you most likely won’t see anyone in sweats there. Have some fun and dress up! Or if that’s not your thing you’ll still see some people in more casual clothes. Either way you won’t be a sore thumb.
2. You won’t be perfect in one day and that’s okay. You’ll be learning the basics in the classes you’ll be taking. No one really has expectations of you there except to try your best and have a good attitude. In my opinion, that’s what you should expect from yourself as well. You’ll have
way more fun that way.
3. Gawking at awesome dancers in the competitions and social dancing is also okay. At least that’s what I have decided because I do it. Every. Time. Every once in a while I catch myself staring and think….am I being creepy? Nope! At this festival you will see some amazing dancers and each time you watch them you are entertained and can learn something new. So in my opinion, you should go ahead and gawk.
4. Being a beginner at this festival can be intimidating. All the awesome outfits, the great dancing, the competitions, and the sheer number of dancers on the floor. As a newbie looking around at all that awesomeness you could want to never set foot on the dance floor again for fear of making a fool of yourself. Don’t let that feeling overcome you. You’ll get there….or somewhere adjacent to there. Festivals have dancers of all different skill levels and everyone knows that. Dancing is one of those lifelong learning activities. You’re never really done learning because it is ever changing.
Hopefully, these few things have been encouraging to those of you out there that just weren’t convinced this was for you. Since experiencing Heartland last year I have continued to take various classes and have become more involved in my local swing community. It has been amazingly fun and I have gotten to meet some great people that I never would have met otherwise. So if you’re still on the fence, get off that thing and come to Heartland Swing Festival! You won’t regret it.