Advanced Swing Dance Aerials


Tony and Jaime
Executing the Lasso

Many would say that if you’re going to spend time in a studio, you should focus on dancing. Many would also say if you spend time in a studio practicing aerials, you should focus on the proven crowd pleasers like the Lindy Flip or the Pancake. I agree with both statements but that does not negate the fact there are some aerialists who practice, work and teach at levels considerably more advanced than that.  And among those, there are some who have gone way farther — almost to a place that cannot be described.

Because so few have been exposed to training at that top level, and because much traffic and email comes through this site asking about advanced content, it seems like that’s the perfect sort of topic to talk about in a blog record.

So let’s start talking!

First, respect history. Then respect how far we have come.

It’s important to mention that most traditional dancers refer to all aerials as  air steps – a term coined by Franky and used all the way up until swing lost popularity the the first time. Air steps translates into dancing through the air, or extending dance off the ground. Eventually Frankie Manning (the first aerialist) also used the world aerials (1:48) to describe his contribution to the dance, but I doubt modern traditionalists will ever do the same.

The term air step is an important term, perhaps more so to me than to others. I think we must show respect to that term and the dancers that lived through it much the same way we show respect to the terms Jitterbug and Lindy Hop. Imagine the levels of insanity (or calculated risk depending on how you look at) of dancers during the golden era. They didn’t have spotter training courses. They didn’t have video tapes or a bunch of coaches to turn to. Health care for sports injuries didn’t exist. Yet, our dancing forefathers had a vision, let if fly, and hoped for the best anyway. And when all was said and done, they left us with what is perhaps the most significant advancement in crowd pleasing  movements ever created for dance. In modern times, all that we can ever do is contribute relatively insignificant fractions compared to what they left us.

Still though, in the past 20 years those fractions have added up to something massive. No doubt much of what has been added involves some chunk of traditional, perhaps a prep, use of a proven technique or shape, and of course some pieces are nothing but variations of traditionals. Nonetheless, there is a lot of new stuff out there. I believe we’ve advanced aerials so far from the golden era that we’ve long since been operating in a world where “air steps” are a tiny spot of a concentric circle inside another that is that is massive.

Because this pool of content is so large now, I prefer to break apart pieces and segments of pieces by base motion or aerial family of origin.Using back flips as an example, Spinning, Walk-In, Blind, Standing, and Knickerbocker are back flip variations, while platforming and axis lifting are some specific back flip techniques. Other groupings include throws (Shoulder throw, Over The Back, Judo Throw), shoulder rotation aerials (Kflip, Kip, Blind Kip, Backwards Kip, Chicago, Twiss, Lindy Flip, Barrel Frankie), pancakes (Backpack, Flying, Traditional, Pancake to Waterfall), lifts, slides, waterfalls, drops, tosses, etc.  Perhaps classification deserves a separate blog article, but not today.

Of course not everything fits nicely into a single category. Some pieces, like the Fly for example, start with technique from one category and end with technique from another. Some pieces like the Flying Lotus combine a traditional lift off with something totally modern at the end. And of course many pieces like the Lasso that are just flat unique.  Regardless of classification, thinking and speaking this way during instruction or practice does enable people to better communicate step by step details.   

As an instructor, I find it considerably more effective to teach by grouping instead of by aerial. For example, when I teach back flips I prefer to teach six back flips in a 90 minute block, as opposed to the standard one aerial per 30 minute.  The logic is simple. Once  a student knows the principles behind all back flips, they are better equipped to practice the one they are most interested in. 

Air Steps or Aerials? As far as I’m concerned, the most important thing to focus on during advanced  practice is communication. If you want to break down techniques in the dewy decimal system and that works for you, then go for it. But never forget how we got to where we are today. 

Defining “advanced” aerials (or tricks, or lifts, etc.)

It seems like a straightforward question, and I think it has two straightforward answers.

I believe pieces of content can be considered (more) advanced when:

  1. pieces are complex enough in movement or technique such that a skilled dancer with moderate experience in aerials (or tricks, or lifts, etc.) will master the piece slower than they can master similar pieces. In this first definition, it is useful to use two lines of comparison. The first is comparing the piece to something either from the same family, or something much more commonly taught at a similar skill level. The second is comparing the length of time time it would take an experienced aerialist to learn and master the same piece of content. For both comparisons, regardless of any other factor, the longer it takes the more advanced it is.
  2. the assumption of risk for a piece is greater than the assumption of other pieces. In this second definition, classifying something as advanced draws upon all elements of advanced practice, like a  group’s experience working together, group member experience in their respective role (lead spotter, secondary spotter, coach, flier, base) trust among the group for each member within their individual role, strengths and weaknesses of each individual, partnering experience, apparel  confidence, difficulty of the content, existing injuries, etc. 

Most only consider (1) to define something as advanced. In my opinion, the longer you study aerials (1) eventually goes away because (2) swallows it and it entirely.

What level of swing dance aerialist do you really want to be?

I think there are three basic levels of people who do aerials, and a fourth semi-swing group who operates altogether differently than these three levels.

The first level, maybe 90+% of all swing dancers, is those that have learned a several and possibly perfected a few of them. They go out on the social floor or in a jam, nail it, and then bask in the glory of knowing they’ve pleased the crowd with death defying feats of swing dancing. They’re happy, the crowd’s happy, everybody parties, and we all love them for getting out there and kicking ass. They may the hottest dancers the show, but they are clearly not pro aerialists nor do they aspire to be, and that’s perfectly fine. I say to them, thanks for doing what you DO do, which is pleasing the crowd and drawing people further into the dance.

The second level is the group that focuses somewhat on advancement, but perhaps without assuming the as much risk.  There are many out there that are like this for many reasons. For example, I know one professional theater dancer lady who dances on Broadway. She works some stuff and looks great, but she draws the line at anything that has potential for causing massive injury and will prevent her from working. Of course she would draw that line right?

I believe to an extent, a lot of the traditional aerials have shifted to this category because they have become much less dangerous over time — and this should make a lot of sense. There is a lot of technique and experience around traditionals. We’ve all developed a good eye for them. We’ve all seen them done badly and know what to watch out for. Teachers have long since perfected teaching strategies for them safely. I’m not saying traditionals are easy , but I will say many of them have become easier to attain safely because they are so widespread, making them possible to teach at either at the first or second level.

The third level is pretty much a state of mind around that involves assumption of risk. I like to think of it like skydiving. If you’re crazy enough to get in a plane and jump out, you damn sure know before you jump what the odds are that your’e going to live or die.  Those that operate within this third level are committed like most will never be able to understand. We train as hard for our craft as many pro athletes do in their own respective sports. We lock ourselves in studios for hours with close friends who will keep us alive. We review video tape dozens of times before we go into a session. We practice things both the right and wrong ways, meaning that we purposely slam ourselves around to gain better understanding. We are experts at communication of details. Generally speaking, we seek to fully understand and master a piece of content internally like a linguist studies the intricacies of dialects for a base language. And yes, we tend to require a little Motrin and sometimes a little more hospital care than others who practice aerials.

The fourth type of aerialist are those that practice rock and roll aerials . You’ve seen them on TV before, triple flips in the air, Cirque du Soleil type acrobatics, world class gymnastic coaches, etc. I consider them outliers to swing dancing altogether for two simple reasons, A) the objectives for doing what they do and B) how they train. Watch this video of Frankie. He describes a vision, then coming up with a safety plan best he could, then practice, then letting it fly as an “air step” within his dance.  To me and at least in terms of swing dancing, “advanced’ has never been about sequentially learning first a single flip, then a double flip, then a triple, and then putting it in a swing routine just because you can. Advanced is about visualization and development of dancing through the air.

I should mention that some swing dancers have gone way out on the rock and roll aerials limb before and their contributions have been nothing short of legendary. It is crystal clear to me that as a community we will be adopting more and more training aerials training technique from rock and roll to better please the crowd. And perhaps as we do that we will also form a new definition of “traditionalist” that refuses to use techniques. Only time will tell.

Feel free to reach out to feel free to reach out to aerials pioneer Nathalie Gomes or aerials master Byron Alley with further questions on rock and roll aerials in swing dancing.

Advanced aerials classes / workshops?

The word advanced when used to describe an aerials session should trigger an immediate response to a student  — somebody thinks it’s either hard or dangerous — so — what’s the safety plan?  * In truth those that operate in level three would say the same for all aerials or tricks classes and workshops!

The premise of this blog is that when you are at level three (advanced) as I have defined above, you have likely surpassed the world of unattainable content and ventured into a world where success is a function of risk mitigation and a tightly working team.  You won’t find anything like that a camp or in a class, and even if you did you couldn’t pay your way into it.  Truly advanced  sessions are invite only and based entirely on trust. Still, I will contradict this thought by saying that even at a camp, it is most definitely possible to teach advanced content to level one and two aerialists.  *see below where I discuss the Lasso to understand how this occurs.

If you’re a student, you probably need to think before you put your shoes on for something billed as advanced. The first thing you should look for is how the safety operation is structured relative to the danger of the content being shown. Think like insurance broker. Put it all together in your head with the worst possible scenario and then ask yourself the all important question. Are risks being successfully mitigated?   Never forget the fact that just because people can draw a full crowd for an aerials class, that doesn’t necessarily imply a  breadth of experience mitigating unforeseen risk.

Advanced classes? In short, understand the safety plan first. Then decipher if it’s advanced because of risk assumption or movement. If it’s advanced because of risk, find another teacher.

Students spotting students in classes?

If it is advanced or dangerous content, I hope the hair on the back of a studen’t neck stands straight up if they are asked to spot. If that is asked of students, the class will be somewhere within the following two extremes. Either : A) It’s really not dangerous content / it isn’t really advanced / etc. Or…  B) the teachers are incompetent and someone in that class may very well end up in the hospital on that day.

Safety is everything!  Is it acceptable risk mitigation to have students spotting students for that particular piece of content?  Maybe it is, maybe it isn’t. In some cases I endorse student spotting — as long using untrained spotters provides acceptable risk mitigation. (think using a student as pillow, not asking somebody to make a critical catch.) Most of the time though, asking an a level one or two student to spot exposes the aerialists to excessive and intolerable risk. And as for the appointed spotter, there is simply no wavier or quantity of alcohol that will help that person sleep at night if something goes wrong.

One thing is for certain, you don’t magically become a capable spotter just because you are asked to spot at a workshop. Spotting is like a trade. One starts out as a trainee, then an apprentice, and if they are trusted, they may be asked to assume a secondary spotter role. If enough trust is gained, maybe they’ll be asked to be a primary spotter. Over time they may be asked to do something bigger or more dire. There is no safety certification. It’s not about money or looks. It’s not about popularity.  It’s about reputation and trust over time.  And with dangerous content, I think it’s pretty important to know all you can about the person responsible for protecting another’s spine.

Regardless of level, there is only true thing with respect to spotting. You must trust those you work with enough to maintain safety for the given circumstances. If you don’t have that level confidence, something isn’t right.

On injury

It happens. I think those of us that operate within level three are used to it. Among other elite aerialists, I’ve seen all sorts of stuff like tennis elbow, tendentious, shin splints, etc. You should be saying. “Wait… Those are training injuries, the kind that other athletes in other sports get right?”


To do what we do we have to train hard. And like other athletes we sometimes overtrain.  You’re not likely to see is a level three aerials person cracking their skull open or snapping their a tibia though.  It’s simple, if my partner is nose diving straight to the ground at the speed of gravity, my spotter will have enough skill to minimize the impact of the fall. Either that, or I simply wont’ put my follower into that situation. Bruises from strong grabs, maybe. Broken finger, possible. Snapped neck, knocked out teeth, or concussions? Never going to happen, at least not more than once. The quickest way to get blacklisted in the aerials community is to not come through when it matters most.

The way I see injuries with respect to advanced aerials:

  • Training injuries — be smarter with how you do what you do. It happens. You’re a dummy. Get some ice.  Let’s grab some dinner.
  • Broken bones, major mistakes, cracked heads, whatever — you either aren’t trained enough to do what you are doing, or if you get injured in training you aren’t focused enough on team building.

Hey Tony, why’d you use a picture of you and Jaime doing the Lasso for this blog?

Most should recognize the The Lasso  (:37) as having been created by Mikaela Hellsten and Oskar Markusson from Sweeden. Perhaps I am missing a chance to take credit for our own accomplishments in the aerials world, but our experience with this particular aerial is perfect story for  this blog entry.

Last year, Jaime and I were prepping content for one of our all-aerials-and-tricks weekends and we wanted to teach that particular piece in one of the advanced classes. Like usual, we went off into the studio (with a trusted spotter) to try to understand and execute this marvelous piece. It is a fantastic, intricate, powerful, quick. It took us quite a while to get it working, but eventually we got it.

As we approached our weekend and switched from content development mode to safety team training mode, we needed to devise a safety plan for the Lasso. Like all our other pieces we intend to teach, we brought the Lasso to our safety team to assist in developing that plan. After dozens of attempts of mitigating the obviously dangerous and highly probable face plant, not a single one of us felt comfortable spotting for the level one and two crowd we were slated to teach. Though we were shooting from the hip with a guess, our crystal ball was saying hospitals, not Motrin.

Beautiful, absolutely. Did we practice it? Of course. Could we have taught it and told the students the risk before we started? Sure. Did we teach it? HELL NO! Instead we replaced it with something that was way more difficult and dangerous, but the danger could be mitigated through a good safety plan. For the replacement, we had to invent two additional versions of the aerial, both designed for the level one and two audience, both designed to progressively build technique and confidence, and all three required unique safety plans. To me, that’s what “advanced swing dance aerials” really is, carefully relating audience, purpose, risk and making sure that they all fit together.

Anyway, gotta love the Lasso. One of these days I’m going to ask Mikaela and Oskar if they ever taught it to a class just to see what they say.

Conclusions and closing statements

And as a very emphatic closing statement, I will humbly say I am by no way trying to imply anything about being better than anybody else by posting this article.  For the case of this blog article, I fall into the role of specialist or expert on the practice and development of advanced aerials and tricks.  Most think it’s not cool, most say it’s a distraction from the dance. Whatever, it’s one of the things I bring to the global community and that’s why I decided to blog about it.

Along the same line of thinking, everybody has something to offer our dance community. Dead on beginners, photographers, specialists, historians, DJ’s, scene leaders,  up-and-comers, rock stars, professionals, storytellers, promoters, and studio students all contribute evenly to create our community. Please support all from our community that work diligently at their craft, no matter what role they choose to focus on.

Regarding all the mentions to safety, I don’t know if other pro aerials teachers would agree with me or not. I will say though that shifting my focus to safety, risk mitigation and team building has worked well for me and those around me. One specific time comes to mind where I was asked to spot an intermediate piece in an advanced session. Of course as a safety I didn’t care if it what level the piece was, all I saw was a lot of risk and that caused me to be right up there and overly active with my spot. Halfway through, the aerial went very wrong and the follow quickly started a powerful and full speed nose dive straight toward the hardwood from less than three feet up. She has two daughters, a husband, a life, and yes she went home to all of it without a scratch. 

Beyond that, I don’t have anything major to close with. With respect to me I think I’m nuts for doing what I do — but I do what I do because there’s something way deep inside me that says I have to do it. It’s always been that way. To those who want to advance, I say focus on the team you work with before you start focusing on the content. Life and limb are more important than debuting a hot new trick at the local jam circle, and once you really start to push yourself, you’ll almost immediately start assuming risks you are not capable of dealing with yet.

Aerial shout outs

As far a execution goes, there are many who can stop the show with a single piece, like Juan and Sharon in the Barrel Frankie (3:11). Still, within this blog I wanted to call out some massive contributions that you can’t see by watching a video.

Kevin and Jo — The Flying Lotus, 2007 (:55) — The Flying Lotus is a fantastic and wildly successful addition to traditionally inspired aerials. Respect to Kevin for following through on such an unusual vision. I’ve heard the story, I know it wasn’t easy. And triple points for Jo for having the skill to stabilize the follower’s flight and landing the development phase!  I personally think this is the closest-to-being-a-traditional-air-step piece created since the revival.

Jaime (with me) — Cracker Barrel, 2012 (3:28) — Though Jaime and I have done a lot in the aerials field, I have to give it up for to Jaime for her work incorporating professional level modern dance jump techniques into swing dance aerials. The non-horizontal barrel jump entry to this piece is a great intermediate aerial for widespread teaching, but the horizontal version opens doors for stage and show choreographers using non swing dancers. She’s made several similar contributions over the past few years.

Mikaela and Oskar — The Lasso, 2011 (:37) — This is pure new school and totally bad ass.  I see the Lasso the same way I see the advancement of skateboarding. In the 80’s, skaters were all about big things, going down big hills, making big slides, catching big air, etc. By the 2000’s, skateboarding transformed to super intricate and powerful smaller motions a couple inches off the ground. To me, the Lasso follows the same progression into the world of small, closer, powerful, quick, and twice as intricate.

Richard Kurtzer — NYC Spotter, 2010-2013 — In addition to being a proven spotter around NYC, he was also head spotter for two Northeast aerials weekends. For each weekend, he prepped a team of 8 safeties. And during the weekend those safeties were responsible for about 60 students all weekend long.  Though he’s an amazing aerialist and safety in his own right, risk mitigation at that scale is something that all should respect.

[Be sure to subscribe to changes in this post, I may adjust this list over time]

A shameless plug

Jaime and I love teaching aerials, tricks, etc. at all levels. And we specialize in putting on full weekend tricks and aerials camps. As you can imagine, we’ve invested a lot of time in developing safety practices to make such events both feasible and fun. Feel free to reach to us if you’re interested in bringing us out to put one of these epic events on for your community.


Early 2000s in Chicago

I decided to write a quick blog note for two reasons. 1) because I have recently connected with two old friends that were Chicago follows Evin Galang (now in Atlanta) and Julee Mertz (still in Chicago), and 2) because I’ve been teaching and coaching a lot of aerials this year and a good friend asked me to show them “the twiss.”

As aerialist coach and teacher, I would like to call attention to this video below and the one aerial right in the beginning. We call it the Twiss (named after Andrew, the guy dancing, Evin is the girl.) I’ve taught it a few times, and done it with multiple partners over the years. It just amazes me that back during that time they were able to come up with something so difficult and so dangerous without all the safety techniques that we have now.  And I love the aerial itself, always have. It totally sneaks on the audience — total surprise. Nice f@%#$ job!.. Of course the routine is amazing too — watch the whole thing!!


I think we should also recognize the importance of Chicago social dancing to the global lindy community, especially between the years of 99 and 2004 when regions were so independent.

I travelled a lot back then,  like 40+ weeks a year, to most every major US city. And I spent a whole lot of time in Chicago. I’d say that I travelled and danced so much that I literally watched the post-gap dance develop right in the middle of the local clubs, before all the tier 1 dancers started joining forces and before the development of the monster weekends. Those weekends did exist, there just weren’t that many, and they weren’t as relevant.

Chicago was definitely one of my favorite places to visit. It was like Christmas every time I walked into a club and saw Julee Mertz, Margot McGraw Toppen or  Evin Galang in there. If at all back then, they probably knew me as “that tourist guy” and I was definitely an outsider. But I damn sure knew them, and at the time I don’t think they have a clue how awesome they were compared to the rest of the country.

What made Chicago so fascinating to me though (besides the relative skill) was the style they were all doing. To “the tourist” dancer like me, there was a straight up Chicago Style — as unique in the world of Lindy Hop as Dean Collins style is. There were three people that seemed to have it nailed, Riley, Andrew, an this other dude that I have no clue about other than I remember him being about 170 pounds, maybe russian or polish, with dark hair, and not in the slightest bit interested in doing anything but being on the dance floor all night long.

Now that we’re all older, I wish I would have taped more of that particular style. Eventually I am fairly certain it’ll end up in the history books.


Thanks Chicago.


Tony Fraser

[Added Later : Thank you FB friends for telling me that third lead’s name is Peter BetBasoo ]




New Haven Crash II — Jan 26/27 2013

Come join us for our second running if New Haven Crash, January 26/27 2013.

Crash is a full weekend dedicated to tricks, aerials, lifts, drops and other performance grade swing dancing.

Last year we had almost 60 people! This year we are beefing up the safety team, but we will ce capping registrations at 80.

Safety Team Members:
Tony Fraser. Instructor
Jaime Shannon. Instructor
Richard Kurtzer. Head Spotter
Shannon Chirone Coach
Megan Shaw. Spotter
Jameel Coleman Spotter
Tracey Katof Spotter
Jesse Stanley. Spotter
Eddie Brito. Spotter
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Sept 27-Oct 1 : NYC Shag Summit


Overview :

At the end of September, Shaggers from around the globe converge on NYC for a massive shag festival and party. Instruction will be second to none by one of the most fierce Shag VIP lineups ever brought together, but the extended event will allow plenty of time to hop on the subways and see the Statue of Liberty, visit Franky’s tombstone, etc.


Weekend Highlight One!! The Regional Shag Challenge:

Come showcase the best shag from your region on an international stage.


  1. Couple routines are welcome, but please try to put together a group piece.
  2. No judging, only shag glory on an international stage and YouTube likes. If we can stream the events live, we will.
  3. This is NYC!!!! Make sure you can do tight formations as a group. There is a lot less room at all our venues than there is in your practice studio.


Weekend Highlight Two!!  The Shag VIP Invitational

Definitely not to be missed.

Event Objectives : 

  • Set up an environment where intermediate to professional level shaggers can advance their craft by learning and sharing with the best shag VIP’s from around the globe.
  • Throw a high-profile Shag VIP Invitational demo —  bad ass shaggers from all over the globe — all in one place at one time — and tearing it up NYC jam style!
  • Throughout the weekend, conduct the Shag regional choreography challenge that allows many the opportunity to perform for their global shag peers.
  • To make the NYC experience part of the event.


Shag VIP’s & Instructors:

Tony Fraser : NYC, Jaime Shannon : NYC, Rebecca Katz Harwood, Duluth MN, Megan Shaw : NYC , Erin Byrne : Boston MA, Owen Hortop : Montreal, Netta Smekal : Los Angeles CA, and stay tuned for more!



Core Event : Friday Night (event in progress) to  Tuesday Night (Swing 46).

Extended Event : Thursday to Thursday — BBQ on Friday, day trips on Wednesday and Thursday after the summit. Fly in Thursday day, fly out Thursday evening.


Venues :

All over midtown Manhattan. We will do our best to keep the costs down by leveraging existing night events.  The workshop part of the summit will be held at one of three dance studios, all easily accessible by subway or taxi, and all within walking distance for each other.



This isn’t some small town, this is Manhattan. Things are very different here. We will have a housing coordinator who may be able to find you a couch to crash on but don’t plan on it.  You’re going to have to get a hotel, a B&B, or stay at a hostel (very common, very cheap.!) The best bet is to reserve something on a place like air b and b and share the cost with other dancers from your community.

Remember, in NYC you really don’t need a big fancy hotel room that serves coffee and brings you a paper. You can walk out the front door and find 30 different ways to nourish yourself within a 5 minute walk — and all the streets are on a grid so you won’t get lost.

Search for properties between Times Square and Union Square.

Links :



Most all the content for the weekend will be intermediate plus. Stay tuned as content tracks develop and more instructors sign up to teach.

Instruction types/topics: History and videos, assignment workshops, panel interviews, lecture dems, performance/competitive coaching by the VIP’s, and movement classes.





New Haven Crash / 28-29 April 2012

A full weekend dedicated to the instruction of tricks, aerials, drops, lifts, throws, etc. And because it’s Tony and Jaime, the warmup will be shag!

Instructors : Tony Fraser and Jaime Shannon
Head Spotter : Richard Kurtzer
Safety Team : {Andrew Flemming + TBD}
More info:
Exchange style housing available
online registration and sponsor website

10:00 – 11:30  — Shag 101
Learn the basics of double shag including double rhythm, outside turns, fundamental footwork, basic connections, etc at the same time.

11:40 – 12:15 — Intro to being an aerialist
Being an acrobatic in dance is not an easy thing to do. In this class we will focus on the long term development of safe practice habits, innovation, leveraging strengths, and overcoming weaknesses in practice sessions. We will also discuss how to transfer a ready-to-go piece from the practice floor to the performance floor.

12:30 – 1:15 — Dips and Drops
You’ve seen it many times, a new couple goes for a dip.. And then …  splat.. The follow ends up on the ground. In this session we talk about why that happens and execute practice exercises that show the limits of each individual partnership. After we cover the basics, we’ll switch around holds and entries and practice some much more dynamic and complex entries and variations.

1:15   – 2:00  { Lunch }

2:00   – 3:30 — Back Flips
Several traditional swing dance aerials involve assisted back flips. Though the scale of difficulty ranges from dirt simple to insanely dangerous, fundamentally they’re all the same. Learn the basics of all of them at once, and then practice several common entries to them all.

3:45  –  5:15 — Lifts, Tosses, and Throws
Either explosive or adagio in style, and either in the rafters or chest high in height, there’s almost no easier and quicker way to get definition into dance or choreography.  In this workshop, we’ll discuss and practice a broad spectrum of concepts.

{Saturday night Dance featuring Sly Blue of NYC }


10:00 – 11:00 — Shag 102
Continue the study of shag (and warm up for another long day of aerials) by learning more about pulse, connection, frame, and extend vocabulary into different types of turns.

11:15   – 12:45 — Traditional Aerials
There are many common swing dance aerials that any new aerialist needs to know right from the start. Most of this content will be straight out of Frankie Manning’s playbook.

12:45  – 1:30  { Lunch }

1:30  –  3:30  — Tricks
From kick tricks to partnered spins, tricks are equally as effective at turning heads and just as much fun to practice than even the biggest of show stopping aerials. In this class we will learn a bunch of great tricks, and along the way we will discuss common technique across multiple trick families to empower students to innovate.

3:45  –  5:15 — More Aerials
This class will be a mix of both modern and difficult aerials. In the long running tradition of the instructors, this class will be the one where at least one aerial covered will have never been taught in any other class before.

Awakening Collegiate Shag II

It’s been quite a while since I published the Awaking Collegiate Shag article in May 2010. I had no idea it would be the single most read article on any of my websites but it definitely has been, at least as far as dance related content is. As I travel around the globe teaching shag, many have talked to me about these points.

I think it’s probably a good time to revisit each of these points. And please stay tuned as my next entry will be about a few new points I would like to get out there for discussion.

The original points of Awakening Collegiate Shag :

1. Practice shag like there’s no tomorrow.

I still believe in practice – and I practice a lot. To me, practice is everything, and the practice is what I love most. Practice leads to both mental and physical understanding of the dance, my partner, my partnership and myself. It also continually reinforces both the laws of physics and my own physical limitations.

Still the original intent of this point has changed.  I used to practice for the perfect connection with my partner in all cases, all positions, all pulse and rhythm variations, basically anything I could possibly imagine that would lead me to a better partner for my follower. – Unmistakable lead / close your eyes and feel it kind of practice. I still believe strongly in this, but I practice a little of everything.

For example, right about the time I wrote this article, I purposely phased a huge chunk ‘dancing in open visual lead’ kind of things just because it didn’t require a strong lead/follow connection with a partner. To me it felt more like pair choreography while holding hands. After traveling around to different global regions and really listening to the students, yes, they definitely wanted to connect more deeply with their partners, but they also liked some of the fancy footwork that made shag famous. And eventually, I put back on my fancy footwork shoes again too.

Now, I pretty much practice everything. A bit more traditional looking stuff, mixed with the constant aim of being totally connected with my partner. A bit more practice in some of the obscurity of the style, still keeping working within the confines of wanting to still be the strongest leader I could be. A bit more double, but still remaining more focused on the rhythms of the music instead of the traditional shag patterns.

2. Push the limits and create your own shag style.

No change in this belief, but I think I should further explain it now that so many people have asked me about it.

It’s really simple to me. When you really seek to master your own style, what you are really doing is creating your own tool set to deal with your own surroundings. And the more you practice your style, the more capable you will be of doing great things.

Anybody remember watching the legendary dance between Los Angeles’s Peter Loggins and New York City’s Janice Wilson?  At the time of  that dance, both were sitting on top of their regional styles at the time.  And then for a few minutes, they came together with impromptu looks and concepts that inspired us all.

Shag is never going to be as all-dominant as Lindy Hop with 15 global camp per weekend that allow us to share exchange information and push the style.  Instead of setting a low standard of mediocrity of a half-baked global style, my vote is to support people who are pushing the styles within their own regions. I say support them even if they’re on the other side of the world shagging to bagpipes with an Irish step dancing version of the triple basic. If they’re rocking it, they’re rocking it.

Support the locals, we will have no choice but to believe in them when we see what they can do. And let’s not forget that they’re probably way out on a limb with shag in their community anyway.

3. Overtly veto the intro class mentality.

I suppose I’ve gone back and forth a few hundred times since I wrote Awakening 1. At the time, I was totally fed up the fact that so many people were interacting with our dance like it was some historical mantelpiece. I still see enough of that to support saying I still believe in the concept of overtly vetoing intro classes.

What has changed is the application of how I deal with this belief as both a shagger and a shag teacher.  My driving way of handeling this belief now days is to stress the importance of teaching beginners and advanced dances at the same time.

Think about it. If you take a senior student into a room where beginners are being trained, they’ll probably not only learn a little about their own needs, but also how to help somebody make a stronger connection since that’s what most beginners need to understand the most. And if that one senior student gains a couple of tricks that will help them work more closely with a partner, then all the better for them when they start building their own style.

My new suggestion is teach one person at a time. We don’t have 50 people to teach, so just focus on the person in front of you that is willing to learn. And for that person, do whatever we can to make them better at all sides of the dance, even those that aren’t normally part of a dance class like teaching, the industry of instruction, dealing with people, whatever they need to be better for our community.

4. Put the best you can do in front of as many new eyes as you can.

No change in this belief. Get eyes on your best performances, and keep practicing. I will say that I think it’s important to show both your best shag and very attainable shag when you are out in public.

There are few people around the globe that really have been there and know what truly advanced partner work looks like, and even that is difficult considering the vast difference in regional styles. Showing that stuff at lightning speeds is going to go right over the top of everybody’s heads, if not make shag look somewhat unattainable.

Think about your audience very carefully when you perform. If you are trying to show the potential of the dance, go nuts with your best. If you’re trying to draw students into the shag community, make it as attainable as you can however you can.

All that said, you’ll probably end up wanting to save really the advanced stuff for your nights out with your partner, your students, your practice sessions, your shag buddies, and your performances.

5. Practice and teach single shag.

I suppose this has changed too. I do still agree with the original point. I believe new shaggers need to learn a whole lot more shag in general, and specifically the pros and cons of multiple rhythms and styles. And as teachers, I think we do need to be teaching the shag that is most easy for a student to become familiar with. And yes, I think our several NYC big band jazz clubs influence both our music and our dance toward being better with single. But that’s definitely not true everywhere.

At one extreme end of the spectrum, you have this big beautiful big band jazz environment in New York City, totally driven by students and studios, and clubs that Frankie used to frequent. If you’ve ever listened to HRO, one of Frankie’s favorite bands, and tried to shag to it, my guess is it’ll feel only natural to dance mutli-rhythmically in your shag just like you do with your Lindy Hop, or at least that’s what it does to me. The music makes me want to change everything, my pulse, my rhythm, innovate something, it just makes me want to get creative. And for that, yes I think base single just fits better.

On the other extreme end of the spectrum, you have Senagalia Italy, 200k people music festival. It’s a shag-ready kind of a ‘cultural festival’ that resembles Viva (Bette Page hair styles, tattoos everywhere, blue jeans and cuffed shirts with cigarettes rolled into them.) Aside to only a handful of global Lindy Hoppers who attend, nearly all dancers there dance in six counts either in boogie or jive, and I really do think the entire 200k people do dance. Why do they do that? To me it fits the music perfectly.

Music like what goes on in Senagalia just doesn’t inspire me to find those same NYC multi-rhthmic grooves I get when jamming to Geroge Gee at Swing 46 – which is another favorite venue for Dawn, Frankie, etc. In New York, multi-rhythmic shag fits the music, the lifestyle, and the expectations of advanced musicality in a sea of skilled musical lindy hoppers. In Senagalia, it’s about the footwork, the consistency of a rhythm, etc.

For other types of music, like say jazz era stuff or gypsy, the lines are a lot more gray for me personally.

In New York, there’s also another huge factor that most other major cities don’t have, the influx of studio students into the scene. Our scene has maybe 100 strong dancers who are bordering tier one skill level over the next year, 500+ regular dancers, maybe 10,000 students who have taken a class in the past few months, and probably 75,000 who have taken a swing workshop or weekly in the past year.  That’s a whole lot of talent in the pipeline and most of it is strongly associated with studio type instruction.

It’s really simple, to hook into that pipeline, you have to get the students to leverage what they are familiar with and you have to do it within the pipeline they have chosen before they ever heard of shag. And you have to operate with the music they are hearing in the classes and at the clubs, the progression of classes they are getting outside of shag, and beside greatness in style they see from the NYC dancers. I can’t remember a single student I’ve asked from this pipeline ever answering anything other than gratitude that they worked so heavily with multi-rhythm shag.

The reason I made this point in Awakening 1 was not only to suggest a style of shag for beginners, but also to imply that the NYC dance instruction system is probably one of the most effective around the globe. And if shag is becoming so successful here so quickly, other cities and instructors may be able to leverage some of the skill of this machine w/o training in studio management from the successful studios here. It’s not the rhythm of shag that is successful, it is all the NYC studios. We’re just plucking the best talent from that system in the way they need to be plucked.

6. Goofy does not attract new students.

I still fully agree with this. Maybe it’s a NYC thing — You just don’t see that around here. Or maybe it is just my personality — I am so far from being personally goofy I can’t really relate to that part of our style’s history.

7. Remember to balance having fun with a strong attitude of anti-mediocrity.

Still agree with this too. Study shag, and study your own capabilities. Advance your practice and don’t settle for mediocrity.

The Manhattan : A piece of traditional collegiate shag chogreography

One of the issues I personally think shag has is the fact that it has no easy-to-learn, high-impact traditional dance to showcase the style and please the crowd. Well, as a dedicated shag and lindy dancer who’s worked on a number of team pieces in my life, and with the support of several NYC shaggers, I took on the project of coming up with one. I think we need a California routine like piece, except this isn’t California, and this ain’t Lindy either, so enter “The Manhattan.”


The Manhattan Shag Routine project was designed around the following objectives.

1.  EASY TO LEARN : It must be easy to learn with the structure of the dance taught in no more 2 hours to an intermediate level shagger. As many who do shag already know, micro connections, pulse variations or rhythm shifts can take months or longer to master. The Manhattan needs to be a piece of choreography for sequencing and outreach, not a tool to advance each individual shagger’s individual technical capability.

2. LEVERAGE WHAT EVERYBODY KNOWS:  The Manhattan should sequence a good chunk of what shaggers already know together in a way that makes sense. There should be challenging pieces, but the dance should not be discouraging.  I think it goes without saying that many take shag and learn a bunch of moves, but never learn or practice sequencing them together.

2. CHOREO TO FAVOR CHOREOGRAPHERS:  The Manhattan must be ‘personalizable’  for choreographers. One of my favorite things about the California routine is any choreographer can take it, put it to music, and modify it fairly easily to match the crowd, the dancers, and the music.

3. RESPECT MANHATTAN ROOTS:  Though it’s not always used, the California routine has a standard song, Flyin’ Home.  As the tribute to Manhattan, the “flyin’ home” song that we chose is Down South Camp Meetin’ by George Gee. George has been a staple of the NYC Shag Scene for quite a while. We tested the choreo with a few different songs including some rockabilly and a couple of other AABB songs, but like Flyin Home, there a few tiny places where the choreo will be more emphasized and crowd pleasing to the music. Still, just like the California routine to different music, it’s really easy to modify the variation timing to make the Manhattan work with just about anything.

4. CROWD PLEASING STRUCTURE:  The structure of the choreography needs to be crowd pleasing. In my opinion the greatest thing about the California routine is right at the beginning when everybody starts in closed and blasts into open at fast speeds. Or likewise in the Big Apple, everybody does flying charleston in a circle really covering ground. It’s all crowd pleasing, that’s why we often use these pieces of choreography for impromptu performances. We tried several different movements and placements to create the same feeling in the Manhattan.

5. TRADITIONAL BASE SHAG MOVEMENTS AND PATTERNS:  The basic choreography should be traditional.  Yes, there are visionary shaggers out there who can carry a show just fine, and I would hope they would partner up with strong dancers do to the Manhattan anyway.

6. FREE / TAKE IT: Just like the California routine has become, the Manhattan was designed entirely around the concept giving it away for the benefit of performance. Anybody who watches this should free to take all the movements and patterns, teach it, perform it, whatever works best for the scene. Our goal was only to create something that we and others can use to perform and share shag in an attempt to gain new blood,  increase visibility and be inclusive to those who want to be involved with shag.

7. BEGINNERS AND ADVANCED CAN DANCE TOGETHER : Performances give more experienced dancers a surge of energy, and with a fairly fast routine like this, they’re probably going to want to get down and funky.  The structure of the choreo was designed in almost all areas to allow more advanced dancers to really branch out with style. It can be done entirely without variation, or it can contain some of the variations we have. (Like the heel-toe / bicycle kick can simply be an open basic, the hangman can simply be a jig kick or even a 90 degree basic in closed.) Totally new dancers can just do basics and get on the floor. Advanced dancers can vary and inspire. And of course, there’s a jam section, and that’s where individual couples can really shine with their own style, or demonstrate their regional style.

8. ASSUME A CHOREOGRAPHER WILL WANT TO CREATE  A UNIQUE ENDING: To really seal the show, just like any other group piece, a choreographer will probably make the group come together at the end if nothing else, but for an ending pose. As this was created, we always assumed endings would be just as diverse choreographly creative as we’ve seen with the California.

9. LOTS OF ‘ONE OF THESE’ MORE ADVANCED MOVEMENTS: This piece was designed to have as many ‘one of these things’ as it can. There’s a timing change, a level change, a flourish for the crowd, a highly compressed free spin, a single count pulse removal, a QQ lead out, etc. Sure, there could have been a lot more ‘one of these’ types of things in there, but each of these individual elements is complex enough and time is a constraint.

Special Thanks

The Original Manhattan Dancers

Special thanks to  Jaime Shannon, Taylor Brandon, and Megan  from the 212 Shag Masters for constant discussion and concept review.

Special thanks to NYC Shaggers Eryck Kratville, Andrew Fleming, Elizabeth Barabas, and Allyson Kabak for running so many different permutations until we came up with this piece of footage.

Special thanks to George Gee for allowing us to use his song.


Choreography for The Manhattan

2X spinning double shag basics (clockwise) — movement towards downstage. Leader should start facing stage right, both basics should end with leader facing stage right.

2X  counts of flee hop timing — starting in closed facing stage right and ending in closed facing stage left.

2X spinning double shag basics (counter clockwise)

2X cross kicks (double shag versions) Leader faces downstage.

2x quad rhythm (8 counts) worth of half moon variations. Leader faces downstage.

2X double shag basics modified to be similar to a shag walk around, except ending in open with chests to the audience.

2x Log Rolls in open position

2x Heel / Toe variations on SS, with bycicle kick on the QQ.

1X tranition — Heel/toe but qq is a forward slide. (this is a common QQ variation best practiced in normal timing. )

2X jig kicks — second jig kick is a forward to back hangman.

1X slightly rotating outside free turn into jockey

2X wave kicks

(Collegiate Kicks Sequence — 3X 6 counts)

— Kick/Double Kick (six counts)

–Double Kick / Double Kick (eight counts)

–Down / Up (hold remove pulse on down, remove pulse on up)

2X outside turns (the ZM turn looks better but is considerably more difficult)

1X Down Up. Note — our group all thinks it is easier to put the pulse back in on the up — thus you will see a double hop in the vieo.

(QQ lead out sequence)

— 1X basic in closed position spinning counter clockwise.

— S/S following same direction as previous basic. Leader note, these two slows should end with the leader looking upstage right for a straight QQ lead out.

–QQS lead out down stage left. Follower reaches limit of extension on end of S

–SQQ leader brings follower straight back in on second slow and QQ. Leader lets follower pass under left hand and catches follower energy and turns it into a clockwise spin.

1X basic in a clockwise direction.

1X Long double basic (SSQQQQ)  rhythm double outside turn. Be sure to finish the SS facing downstage right and lead the double turn in place to make it easier for the follower to execute the turn.

Final Sequence :

First 8  (guys) : Kick ball change, plant. (like four count scissor kick) Plant on four. Slap your right foot into your left bringing your left foot up for a high kick and move downstage left. Land the left foot on seven.

Second 8 (girls) : Kick Ball Change plant (pivot though to prep for the turn.) Change weight to right foot and spin clockwise. Land by on seven.

Third 8 (both) : Guys and girls do the same kick ball change plant as their sections, except they end hand to hand. Girls do the same turn on 4-7. guys do a similar clockwise turn ending on seven with weight on whatever foot is necessary to star the prep for the Fouth 8.

Fourth 8 ( shoulder pop or kinckerbocker entry back flip.)

And now Jam!


Relating Fast Collegiate Shag To Competivie Running

It’s kind of difficult for most people to understand how physically demanding fast music dancing is, much less understand how even more demanding fast shag is. And yes as a fast music dancer I do believe fast shag requires a considerable amount of effort, to me more than any other style. I think I can explain it though if I just introduce it from a runner’s perspective. To set the stage for the parallel though, I have to talk about my experience as a runner.

I used to run, and I mean a lot. Possibly more than the reader of this blog entry will ever meet. I started as a kid and then pretty much ran competitively from somewhere middle school until I got out of the military. I was, am and always will be fast for mid and long distance running. By the time I was in the military and on the 3/325 RECON team, there wasn’t a time on the 2 mile track when I didn’t qualify to try out for the professional running team of the United States Army.

So what’s it like to be a runner like that? I say once you reach the almost pro levels, well you’ve already gone through all the physical stuff so it becomes completely mental. Competitive mid and long range runners go as fast as their bodies can take them while managing consistant pace, long term sustanability of that pace, and being careful to not over push the body into some form of overexertion. It’s like driving a race car. You can’t take it to 9,000RPM or the engine will blow up, but if you run it at 8,000RPM, it can go until either the road ends or you run out of gas.

Interestingly enough, my red line was always that point where I’m just about to puke. Seems like I was there every time I ran, and towards the end of my running career I puked at just about every finish line I crossed. Usually if I kept my stride for the whole race, puking at the end meant I most likely just back to back identical mile speeds. I puked in the middle of many races too though and that sucks, but that’s a different story, one that proves I never transitioned to into being a professional runner.

Though I always ran, I’ve always hated running for obvious reasons most runners understand. Since day one I was built to run fast and never really had the luxury of being able to take a slow jog. That just never really computed to me. Even in the beginning it started as a mind game. Racing at the red line. Training at the red line.  Visualizing being at that red line. Finding ways to push the red line. Cross training with similar red lines. Wanting to win, which means pushing the red line even though I was operating at max potential. A huge chunk of my life was a constant state of either being in, just coming out of, or knowing that I was about to re-enter ungodly physical pain that I used to put myself through. I have no idea if runners actually like doing what they do, to me it was some sort of torture. In my circles, everybody used to do exactly the same thing though so I never really knew alternatives.

I managed this pain mostly by listening to music, at least in training. My headphones were the only thing that kept me from going insane or from slowing down. And, music has a constant BPM, and running to a BPM helps smooth out a runner’s pace. One of my favorite songs for outdoor type runs was an old school 80’s rap song called “The Show” by Doug-E-Fresh. I must have used it a hundred plus times. I was pretty consistent with this song. I usually could do about a 5:30’ish mile if I ran footstrikes on the beat. It’s still one of my favorite running songs.

That basically sets the stage for the similarities between competitive running and fast shag. Running has a pace. Shag has a pulse. In shag we all know the pulse is related to beats per minute (BPM.) And in running, advanced runners can almost run a pace like shaggers pulse through the song. It’s not identical though, for instance in shag, you can’t draft, you don’t have to adjust speeds for hills, etc. It’s pretty damn close to the same thing the way I’ve experienced them.

“The Show” is about 200BPM which has all sorts of significance to me both as a shagger and a runner. As a runner, I used to like to ‘block out the pain’ by running in areas with obstacles, like trails or on street sides. I’d use hits in the music to sort of accent my runs, like jumping on the little walkways, jumping 360’s off whatever I could, running on my toes, etc. Basically having a little fun instead of thinking about the cramps, the pain, etc. Five and a half minute miles is also about the pace where I’d call it just about my easy pace. It may be fast to some, but it was my personal comfort pace that allowed me to not quite hit the red line. It’s about the same in shag for me. At 200BPM I can get a good style going, some gliding lilt, easy weight change leads with my partner, it’s basically an easy speed for me to shag to. I may get a good sweat, but nothing is off limits yet because of speed.

Still, I know for a fact I can both run and shag faster than that. The current world record for the mile (in the two mile track) is about 4 minutes and my record was 4 minutes and 35 seconds. Now if all the chemistry style math I have scribbled next to me is correct, to shag at world record running speeds, I would estimate I would have had to keep the same stride (distance between foot strikes, mine was just a tad less than 3 feet) to a 265BPM song for 8 minutes. Think all physical aspects the same of my running to Doug E Fresh, except running to Hand Clappin’ by Red Prysock — for eight straight minutes.

Well there’s no way in hell I could get my short little legs that fast to cover a full 3 foot stride for every beat. Hell I’d be lucky if I could move my leg 12 inches at that speed, and I damn sure wouldn’t be able to jump off a curb, run around trees, whatever. It’d be a straight line — straight as a 2 mile arrow.

Still, I’ve definitely danced to that song and I dance to 250+ on a reasonably regular basis. It’s just a very different dance. To me, fast shag is about endurance, keeping your movements in check because there tangible limitations to how far you can move body parts at that speed, and of course you just have to try not to freakin’ die which is probably the biggest difficulty in shag at that speed. For me, it’s a lot like running in the sub 5 zone, you filter out whatever you can just to try to keep up.

As for leading fast shag, at 200BPM I am able to throw a lead in between the 1 and the 2 of an SR basic pretty easily. But at 270, I’m lucky if I can get it sometime between 8 and 3 of an an 8 count basic because my body is red lining and there’s just fractions of a second to hit a mark, shift my weight much less my followers, etc. At least to me, it definitely adjusts what is possible in the overall style.

When I dance fast, I focus more on dynamic lead sets as opposed to rhythmic or pulse driven leads. I also am hesitant to ‘lead’ things in closed with somebody I do not partner with. I may do a little more visual leading because it’d probably easier for a follow to pick up something with her eye at that speed than it is to attempt to feel something at top speed. And of course, because one of the goals is to find ways of communicating at that speed, there’s a completely different set of techniques that take over at about 250BPM that you should practice at slower speeds before you try to use them above 250.

The moral of this blog entry is dancing to fast music is a different animal altogether. I believe I have just effectively compared to world class competitive running to shagging at speeds over 250BPM. That said, you may want to cut yourself some slack when the music goes above 210 or so. You may want to start running if you want to dance faster. And of course, you may want to find a teacher who can teach technique specific to fast music speeds.

Thoughts on the styles topic on the UK Shag board.

Sorry for posting this on my own website, it was too long to add to the FB text area.


It’s cool to know these debates happen over in the UK too. We chat about it here all the time.  There are several things that come up when we debate it over here. Maybe I’ll throw in some opinions into your debate and see what you guys think of them.

One of the reasons shag is so difficult is because there are so few people interested in moving beyond the limits of the few self help DVD’s and maybe the 40 shag clips out there from the old days. This “base content” takes quite a while to master and nobody would argue with you if you said ‘base content is plenty enough to be bad ass.’  It IS bad ass — no question! Still, some do go further, and some go even further than that. Perhaps it’s insanity or obsession, but some of us really want to keep things moving as fast as our bodies and minds will let us.

If you combine all the “base content” moves in all the videos into one library, it’s probably a total of 40 things leveraging maybe 15 techniques and half a dozen style variations. This obviously is not enough to create a living and breathing style. Those that truly dig in have one of three choices once they naturally reach the point where they’ve gone through all that base content. They must either break into an innovation state, they must accept they they have gone as far as they want to go, or they must move on to something else.

Johnny created a style he calls shag-boa and if you’re into smoothing out your shag then he’s definitely got some style you could try.  If you’re a double shagger and you’re trying to be more technical, then Ryan has some poly techniques that can blow your mind. As for me, I spend countless hours each week at the studio attempting to hone connections with my partners.

The point is, everybody who really digs into this style for more than a few years is a significant asset to our scene.

On the other side of of the thought above, by the time somebody invests years worth of study into shag, I have no doubt they recreate something like the “Lady Be Good” clip right down to the posture and mistakes in about a week if they had to. I would guess many of us would consider that content fairly easy now days, which is why you probably won’t see it redone unless somebody asks.

Another opinion that comes up when we’re debating shag styles is the “youtube syndrome.” Advanced shag is SUPER hard I think. Still, I think many now days learn shag by breaking down what we see on youtube. I do sometimes too. We all do, but learning that way is learning at an intermediate level at best because we’re missing the details. Recently I posted something on my personal website called the ‘flip basic.’ As a move, it’s conceptually easy to understand. If executed as a pattern, I supposed it’s easy to do. But, practically I think it’s insanely difficult to master. There are dozens of micro-connections that have to fire in sequence to make work.  When all that training and connection flows together and muscle memory takes over, when the rhythms change, when everything is second nature.. That’s when it’s really bad ass.  I don’t think you can get that from youtube.

My Monday Night Collegiate Shag Class

Wanted to blog a little about my Monday night Collegiate Shag class.

I’ve heard via studio staff over the past year on multiple occasions that newcomers were saying my shag classes were far too ‘advanced’ to keep up.  This doesn’t surprise me. Over the past year’s worth of run on this DM shag class, the class has become progressively more advanced as the student base became stronger. Now days, it’s fierce in those Monday night classes. So fierce that one of the more senior students just won her first competition. It was her first time shagging outside of NYC, first comp, and an easy first place. And I honestly believe she’s not the only one who could have done that from the class.

That aside, I think most would agree that shag has a super steep learning curve. And of course, newcomers walking out of class quickly mixed with some hardcore dancers  wanting to move to the next level is every instructor’s dilemma.  I’ve chosen for the past year to place more of an effort in working on on the advanced side of shag. I did so mostly because there simply didn’t seem like there were enough newcomers flowing through to make teaching newcomers an option. And because I think that if nobody’s really rocking the shag, there will be no newcomers. [check out this related article if you are interested.]

Well, there seem to be more and more newcomers coming in now.  And up until recently I think this issue was really intimidating potential shaggers, especially in my class.

I thought a lot about the dilemma and came up with a different formula that seems to be working, at least for shag, and at least for right now. Rather than splitting the class into two classes, we’ve changed the structure of the class to be more all levels simply by changing the way content was delivered and then asking students to practice differently. And, members from the 212 shag masters troupe are there to pair off and give individual coaching if a newer student doesn’t quite feel comfortable trying content.  When paired off, maybe the pair works on a similar move/connection, or even just principles. The point is, it’s much better designed for  solid learning for newcomers and advanced dancers by leveraging the different skill levels in a different way.

The results have been pretty awesome thus far, at least I think so. Newer people are sticking around and picking everything up quickly because of direct and applicable coaching, and they get to try out all the good stuff the senior students too. And when the more advanced students pair they’re trying similar but more advanced versions of the same motion, connection, pattern, etc.

All that said, shag classes are starting up every month.
I’m hoping that we get some guys in, and of course, newcomers to shag encouraged to attend.

Also, thanks to the NYC shag community for making this class so successful.  I think you cats are all rocking the shag like NYC hasn’t seen since the 30’s.

Tony Fraser

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