This post was written by Lindy Shopper.
My friend Rebecca Brightly, formerly of Durham, now of Seattle, has written a book – The Beginner Dancer’s Survival Guide – incorporating essays from her popular Dance World Takeover blog and some new material to finish her thoughts on helping new dancers navigate their fears, community norms, and just about anything an experienced dancer may have forgotten or takes for granted. If I can, I like to dig into what I am writing about, and Rebecca was kind enough to send me an advance copy of her new book so I could read for myself.
A scan of the table of contents shows a broad range of topics, from what to do at your first lesson to a bit of Lindy Hop history for those who may not know the name Frankie Manning.
I found myself reading this and taking a trip down memory lane – all those times in the early years when I threw myself into a dip and I saw the fear in my lead’s bulging eyes as he braced himself for potential ground impact (Rebecca says: NEVER throw yourself into a dip). There are also some topics Rebecca discusses that I wished the more advanced dancers would also take up, like respecting the venue by cleaning up your mess (cups, kleenex, *AHEM*). There are other things that may never change that Rebecca covers in her book, like getting everyone to clap after every song the band plays in a night. Still, these things should be said; with the Survival Guide, perhaps Rebecca can guide a new generation of dancers through the maze of social norms so that they come out polished and relatively unscathed.
I appreciate the format of the book, the questions, the lists, and the recaps. When you are digesting a new topic it’s good to go over the main points what have been discussed. The only other book I have read in a similar format is a book on domestic violence (for work) and I still remember the main points outlined at the end of each chapter, which is so helpful when meeting with a potential client who may be in a DV situation. Thus, this format is particularly helpful when you need to think on your feet, be it at work or at a dance, to remind yourself of all the helpful material you just read. I imagine a mini-cartoon Rebecca sitting on my shoulder at a dance, reminding me to throw my cup away at the end of the night. Thanks, Rebecca!
Some of the absolutes listed in the book are the product of a seasoned dancer who knows the norms and opinions of the upper-level dancers. Does this mean that you should take everything said in the Survival Guide at face value? Perhaps not, but I believe Rebecca uses strong language to get her point across concerning her preferences. For example, to never do the pretzel – the pretzel is a pain in the butt, should probably not be a move that newer dancers should aspire to execute, but who knows when the pretzel renaissance may occur? I shudder to think, but stranger things have happened. Keep an open mind, embrace Rebecca’s sense of humor, and perhaps you may never have to learn what the pretzel is or how to maneuver it.
Rebecca also digs in the to the psychological aspects of newness to dancing, which I think is so important. If you don’t have a mentor, let Rebecca be your personal cheerleader – you can do it!
I won’t reveal anything else about the Survival Guide because you should check it out on your own. While this book is targeted at newer dancers, I think some not-so-new dancers could benefit from reading it as well. Or perhaps you know someone new in your community who is just getting started, but may have some trepidation about this whole dancing thing? This book could be a great gift, one that could make a difference.
You can purchase your own copy of Rebecca’s book on at Dance World Takeover for $6.95. If this is something you plan on sharing, Rebecca is offering a “Giver’s Edition” for $19.95, which allows you to share it with up to 10 people.