The Four Stages of Awareness in Learning How to Swing Dance

By | January 29, 2018

The difference between the Basic, the Intermediate and the Advanced levels of dancing proficiency are defined by more than just their core curriculums. In the aviation world, for example, it is the difference between driving an airplane and flying one! A basic pilot can fly straight and level, climb, descend, and turn. An intermediate pilot can combine these basic “stick and rudder” airwork fundamentals with good airspeed control and make acceptable take offs and landings; however, only an advanced pilot can take full advantage of his airplane’s capabilities by being able to fly it safely to the edge of its performance curve. Switching our focus now from the cockpit back to the dance floor, let’s put the Basic, Intermediate and Advanced levels of swing dancing into their proper perspective by looking at them within the context of the four stages of awareness in the process of learning to dance.

1) UNCONSCIOUS INCOMPETENCE: At this first stage of awareness, a dancer has never given the subject of swing dancing any conscious thought. He has never been formally introduced to it and, although he may be quite adept at other styles of dancing like freestyle or Country and Western, for example, until he takes his first Basic level swing dance class, he is really at a stage of unawareness because he is simply unconscious of his incompetence.

2) CONSCIOUS INCOMPETENCE: At this second stage of awareness, the new male dancer or “leader,” has been formally introduced to swing dancing at his club and he now fully appreciates its social and recreational potential. He has taken several Basic level classes but he realizes that his performance is marginal at best and that he needs to take many more swing dance classes and workshops to sharpen his skills. He is grateful for any helpful tips which might improve his dancing; for example, that he may determine his lead hand by looking to see which thumb and forefinger form the letter “L.” This is the awkward stage for the new swing dancer. His hand-leads are generally too strong and his body movements tend to be too stiff and mechanical to suit all but the least experienced of his female partners or “followers.” At this point in his training, he is more prone to be repeatedly answering the question: “how long have you been dancing” rather than “where do you dance.” All in all, the conscious incompetent clings to his patty-cake, the think-step pattern like a new western horseback rider clings to his saddle horn.

3) CONSCIOUS COMPETENCE: At this third stage of awareness, the male dancer has completed all of the Basic and Intermediate level classes offered by his club, and he is now an accomplished, well rehearsed dancer. He almost always executes his triple step footwork flawlessly in every direction to varying tempos of the music; he seldom misses that important “3 and 4” count of his footwork that often eludes less experienced dancers, and he has developed a gentle yet firm lead that guarantees him a willing partner for every dance. All in all, he has developed into a smooth dancer who confidently performs the different swing patterns that he has learned over the years. The conscious competent leader knows what he is doing!

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