The Dancer

As my drum teacher, Clyde Lucas hugely influenced my style, mindset and technique as a swing dancer. He was very fluid in his movements, very controlled in his playing, and very creative overall. He has indirectly helped me realize it’s not about the artificial flashiness that comes from aerials or floor spins, because that only comes after working to become incredibly good at dancing. If you’ve seen me dance before, I tend to dance a lot like he played. I don’t always dance with a lot of movement, but I can dance well, staying controlled and creative at the same time (I say this not to toot my own horn, but because I’ve heard this so many times from other people that I feel confident in taking it as truth). I actually think that a dancer that can do that is already way ahead of the many dancers who know how to do a lot of moves and aerials, but don’t know how to use them.

So, just like drumming, I’ve realized that being able to dance a really slow song well brings one to the next level of dancer. Movements have to be way more precise in a slow song, because speed isn’t there to cover things up. Yes, dancing fast takes skill too, but it’s harder mentally to skillfully dance slow. It requires the patience to have control over your dancing.

Control is huge in terms of dancing well. You can know all the moves in the world, but if you don’t have the basic stuff nailed, it’s worthless. It really is. The moves are cool, but when the music gets fast or slow, you’ll get all out of whack and mess up your partner in the process. Better to nail the basics first.

Then there’s the idea of minimal dancing. Again, like drumming, this is mostly a style issue, but for a beginning dancer, it’s not a bad thing to strive for. I’m speaking mostly for the leads at this point. Especially at the beginning level, it’s a good idea to not move more than you have to as a lead, to help avoid miscommunication with the follow. I know a lot of leads who move way too much, which can confuse the follow as to what she’s supposed to do. Every movement in dancing is important, and can signal a lot to one’s partner. So, if the lead keeps movement to a minimum, every signal is amplified to the follow, making it easier for both sides. Plus, stylistically, if you have dynamics in terms of movement, there’s so much more you can do with the music! But again, it all comes down to the idea of QUALITY of movement, not necessarily amount of movement.

I owe these observations mainly to studying drumming under Clyde. It just struck me as pretty darn cool that a lot of things that are really important in drumming carried over pretty directly into dancing as well.
Currently listening to: Eh, I don’t feel like it. My brain’s kinda fried as it is right now, and I don’t have any immediate songs in my head. Okay I lied. Pink Panther. Go listen to that.


About Derek

Well hello there. I'm a thoughtful chap who loves God and swing dancing. I tend to live in the moment with the future in mind, and I try make everything as worth it as possible. And if I can do something that makes me look silly, making my friends laugh, I'll probably do it. View all posts by Derek

5 responses to “The Dancer

  • Jay

    Now I really want to dance, but I have no one to dance with right now. Thanks, Derek. Thanks a lot. ;)

  • Apache

    Your quote about getting the basics right is gold. Three years of dancing and I am still am trying to drill them in on a daily basis.

    However, I disagree with the point that fast dancing is less difficult, even in terms of a mental state. I think they are just both separate skill sets, with some overlap.

    • thederekmast

      I had to think about that some, and you’re right. What I mean to say is that many beginners don’t WANT to learn how to dance slowly, because they think dancing fast is more fun. Being able to dance slow is equally as important as being able to dance fast, but learning how to dance slowly isn’t a goal of most beginners, which is why I focused on that more. Does that seem right?

  • Apache

    Yep, that seems right.

    However, I would dare argue most of Pennsylvania puts an emphasis on dancing slow versus fast after the initial newbie stage. Its no secret with the exception of few venues like Philly’s Jazz Attack you can expect groovy music or blues after 11 PM-ish.

  • crownpropeller

    Hi, Derek, you asked me on my blog if I had more clips with Clyde Lucas. Yes, I Found more. Go to


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