In this installment of my team series, I’d like to talk about 10 small things I’ve used in the past that can make your team shine.

1) Four Corners
When doing run throughs, it’s easy for the brain to become dependent on orientation. Do four run-throughs of your routine, but turn the orientation 90 degrees each time. This will make certain that the spatial relationships between the members of the team are maintained, even without the mirror, or other landmarks around the room.

2) Two-at-a-time
Have two couples run the routine, without other members of the team. The other members watch, and take notes. This forces everyone to really know the routine.

3) Watch it in the mirror (reversed)
This little trick is nice not just for team routines, but any dancing. Watch the movements of the team, or a dancer in a mirror, rather than look at them directly. Your brain will see anomalies and quirks in the movement that you don’t usually see. As an alternate, lie on your back on the floor and watch the dancing upside-down.

4) Do a ropes course
Or, really any traditional team building activity. In order for a team to really succeed, everyone needs to feel like part of the team. Doing a ropes course, or anything that allows all the people on the team to work together to solve problems and build trust is a positive thing.

5) Bring in an outside coach
Not just for the Lindy Hop, but for anything really. I’ve had a number of coaches come to visit various teams I’ve run, everything from Improv theatre to solo jazz to Hip hop. It keeps everyone on their toes, and you can find a way to bring those new skills into your team routines.

6) Have a “clips” night
If everyone on your team hasn’t seen all the major clips like Hellzapoppin’ and Day at the Races, you should get together and watch them together. It’s a great bonding night, and it ensures that the most important influences of the dance are fresh in everyone’s mind.

7) Do difficult things with your team
Pick some things you’ve done with other teachers that were exceptionally difficult and do them with your team. For instance scatting rhythms, improvising solo jazz in a jam circle, jamming with partners, dancing fast, or practicing looking up while dancing. Sometimes something being uncomfortable is a sign that it needs work, until it becomes comfortable.

8) Don’t debut routines in front of dancers
If you can, do a couple of test runs of your routines in front of corporate audiences, or even places like retirement homes. It’ll help you sort out the things that happen when everything is “full-out”, plus give you a realistic view of what things look like in costume, and without 2 or three hours of practice before-hand.

9) Tape all of your run-throughs
One thing that is very encouraging for a team is to see the progress that’s made from month to month. Taping run-throughs can bring this to light. Additionally, some of the great tools out there like “Coaches Eye” or even simple YouTube annotations can let you upload a video, review it, and add your own commentary. This way everyone can review the videos before the next week and self-correct.

10) Rotate through the responsibility of bringing snacks to practice
If you are truly working hard (athletically), your body will need to replenish calories at some point during a long practice. Work+fuel=more work. Work-fuel=difficult, sluggish practice. Like most things in team, the responsibility should rotate. It can be simple, like some fruit, or more complex. Eating well, exercising, and practicing dancing are all things that are much easier to do when you have friends who are encouraging you to do things that are positive and constructive.

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