A guide to exchanging dance, hospitality, and phone numbers with the creepy guy in the blues room.
First, if youíve never been to a Lindy exchange and you donít know if youíre in one now, there are several unmistakable signs:
- You somehow donít have a problem sleeping in a closet with 18 people and one bathroom.
- You havenít driven anywhere without there being eight people and thirty seven shoes in your two-door.
- You go to bed at 6 a.m. and wake up at 3 in the afternoon every day with your hostís pet sleeping on your face.
- Your weekendís hygiene has consisted of two freezing three-minute showers and brushing your teeth in the kitchen sink.
- Somehow, without knowing it, you danced with someone at late night close enough to have you legally married in several states.
Now that you have established that you might be at a Lindy exchange, or even if you have been to a few, there are probably some things you should know about etiquette. After all, grandmaís manners never came face-to-face with a weekend-long party dedicated to sleeping on strangerís floors, picking up random women, and throwing them.
First off, the most important dance skill at an exchange is floor craft. This means that musicality, cool moves, and exciting Charleston kicks take a back seat to making sure you donít send your partner into the bandís drum kit. Watch out for each other and apologize when you kick someone. If you donít, be prepared for an afterlife where you spend an eternity in the Aris-Allenator, a device that repeatedly drives the heels of an Aris Allen dance shoe into the soft part of your ankles.Secondly, you donít have to do everything. There are dances all the time, it wonít kill you to miss a few. The ones you should probably make, however, are the night dances, when events usually bring out their best live music. Many people also have some of the best dances of the weekend at 3 in the morning, so try out a late night or two. And if they do have a band, respect Ďem. Dress up. Youíll be hotter than everyone else, but youíll also be hotter than everyone else. (ZING! Write that down.)
Thirdly, respect the host. There's Karma at play, here. Your host has taken you in, and might have even bought you food and left you bath towels. If you donít treat them with respect, accommodate the groupís schedule, ask them to dance a few times, and generally play the role of the gracious guest, then be careful the next time you host someone for your cityís exchange. It just might come right back around. If youíre riding in someone elseís car, chip in for gas.
Fourthly, time is relative. You're Lindy Hoppers, so you probably already know this. Basically, if you arrive at the Sunday afternoon dance when it begins at 2 p.m., you will probably be dancing with three other people until 3 p.m., when a hundred people will suddenly show up, several of them in their pajamas. However, this does not give you free license to go as slowly as you want. Stick to the house shower schedule, spend as little time getting ready to leave as possible, and bring a personal alarm clock so you can wake up when you need to.
Fifthly, set your boundaries in the blues room. Most experienced dancers know that in the world of blues dancing, thereís the ďLetís interpret our emotions through the art of danceĒ blues dancers and then thereís the ďLet me see if I can make out with you through the art of danceĒ blues dancers. So, er, just be aware of that.
Sixthly, Red Bull sounds like a good idea at 4 a.m. But then again, many things sound like good ideas at 4 a.m., including putting on a helmet and doing heel slides down the stairs.
Finally, some odds and ends. Donít take too long dancing in the Jam, others want to play too. Deodorant = good, one change of shirts=bad. Oh, and donít ever ask a lady to dance by only holding out your hand. Unless it has written on it ďIím sorry, Iím mute. Would you like to dance, you goddess, you?Ē She, of course, will then think ďHmmm, big hands.Ē
Otherwise, enjoy yourself. Talk with friends, make new ones, donít be afraid to ask anyone to dance, and donít fee like you have to dance to every song. Even if you take a break every other song, you can still dance hundreds of dances in a weekend.
Robert White is both a professional dancer and writer. He and his partner Kate Hedin have taught Balboa and Lindy across the country and he is an American Classic Balboa Jack and Jill Champion, Eastern Balboa Champion, Intergalactic Balboa Champion, and is an instructor for Washington DCís The Jam Cellar. He has been a journalist and humor writer for the Atlanta Journal and Constitution and now writes freelance for the Baltimore Sun. Visit www.bobbykate.com.