When Sundown Blues took over from Beyond Blues, teaching classes switch was very much not the norm. Several instructors, including Nicole, Rosalind, Reeva and Victor, had been teaching some classes switch at Beat the Blues and they were having success getting students interested in taking classes. Back in February 2014, when we took over scheduling classes, we decided to try standardizing all our classes on teaching switch.
Rather than talk about the minutiae of our implementation (some of which you can read about below or in our curriculum), I want to focus on my observations of the results on our scene.
First, what changes I've seen have been unequivocally positive. Students are incredibly happy taking switch classes to the point where they'll explicitly ask for it if an out-of-town instructor forgets.
- Classes are growing. Since we started, our classes have steadily grown to ~30 students per night in our drop-in beginner class. Upper level students have also gained newfound interest in improving their dance and we've recently started a practice session to help people go further.
- Students are getting better. As students continue to come to classes, they are improving as both leads and follows. We have a growing pool of intermediate students who can both lead and follow at an intermediate level, which is going to continue to pay dividends for the rest of the scene as they continue to dance with leads and follows alike.
- Sexy is no longer the default of the dance. Our dancers are now much more willing and able to explore the full range of emotions in blues. This has happened without doing anything to actively discourage dancing sexy.
- The creepiness often associated with blues and especially with Friday Night Blues in the past is absolutely gone. Students coming in through our beginner classes understand that this isn't a place for them to pick people up. This may be also in part due to the fact that we teach etiquette in every Level 1 class and in part because we created an enforce a code of conduct.
I'd also like to take a moment to thank the incredible Rosalind Diaz for originally pitching the idea to teach all our classes switch. I'll admit I was a little skeptical at first, but now I can't imagine teaching any other way.
If you're interested in implementing a switch curriculum in your own scene, here are a few great articles to get you started:
http://ambidancetrous.tumblr.com/post/76970584841/teaching-ambi-is-awesome-and-so-can-you – Introduction to teaching switch
http://ambidancetrous.tumblr.com/post/51270509683/ambi-how-to-running-rotation-in-the-classroom – Logistics on how to run a class switch. We use this almost verbatim in our classes.
http://ambidancetrous.tumblr.com/post/50915668433/meaningful-choice-why-telling-people-they-have – Reasons to teach a class fully switch, not just with the option of switching
http://ambidancetrous.tumblr.com/post/53337628440/the-revolution-will-be-polite – On asking dance partners whether they want to lead or follow.
http://dogpossum.org/2015/01/remind-yourself-that-you-are-a-jazz-dancer/ – A larger discussion of gender and power in the dance scene that also includes some great tips for instructors.