I decided this morning that I’m leveling up at Herrang Dance Camp. Normally I see myself as a solid
intermediate-advanced dancer. Better than most, but far from what I
consider the advanced dancers in the New York scene. But here I think I’m dancing at more of an advanced level compared to the general population of dancers.
In other dance schools and camps, the difference between a beginner,
intermediate and advanced dancer is very much up to the attendee’s
personal interpretation. And people have the tendency to think they
are more advanced than they really are.
This is largely due to the dispersed and open nature of the dance.
There is no set dance vocabulary or canon that defines each level,
compared to say ballroom dancing or ballet. And from one place to
another, the levels of dance are so varied that an “advanced dancer” in
a small town might be barely intermediate in a larger city.
Add to this that dance camps often cost hundreds to attend. There is an inherent tension between the camp attendee as a student and as a customer. If a student is not performing at the level they should be at, ideally they should get bumped down to an easier course. However if the customer wants to learn more advanced steps, they should get what they paid for.
The problems arise then when too many people put themselves at levels they shouldn’t be at. Since Lindy Hop is a partner dance, you might get stuck in class dancing with a lot of people who aren’t at your level and suffer as a result.
I had heard that at Herrang that the organizers were more serious about the level structure. That to be an “advanced” dancer here, you had to prove yourself. And an intermediate-advanced class here was the equivalent of an advanced class at a lot of other camps.
That has not proven to be the case in the three days of classes here. I’ve found that the dancers in my intermediate-advanced class are at best intermediate. Many can not do a decent swingout or front-to-back charleston, which are foundational steps in the dance that should feel totally comfortable. A basic spin should be easy, and two spins should be do-able. Instead in class this morning, most people could barely manage one spin without nearly falling over.
As much as I’m typically bad at learning new steps, I’m slowly dying inside in these non-challenging classes. So I need to shift to a higher level, which is not as easy as it sounds.
To level up in Herrang, you have to get the permission of Frida, one of the camp organizers. This has to be agreed to by one of the camp instructors, which shouldn’t be hard since I know several instructors. We’ll see how it goes.