In the last 4 installments, we’ve talked about some big, flashy routines, where we develop our extension, our vocabulary, and our stage usage.

There are other sides to dancing that we should be working on as well… namely control, accuracy, perpetuity of movement (the ability to move slowly through something) and being able to show the sophisticated side of the swing era. One easy story-line for a short show is “Swing Through the Decades”… a 1920’s Charleston routine, a 30’s Lindy number and something 40’s/WWII era related. Depending on how “commercial” your group is, you can take this right up through the 50s (easy costumes), 60s (It’s Madison Time), etc… Dean’s is a perfect routine to do a “cut music” type routine… Pair some slow and easy music for Dean’s, then move into a high energy 1940s routine where you can show off Hal Takier’s swing outs, Dean Collin’s swing outs, and character moves like saucy kicks, quick stops, switches, Balboa and so forth.

When doing a routine like this, I find that we can learn a lot about the team… who learns by counts, who learns visually, who likes to see the routine written on paper. This can be very useful information as a team leader.

I suggest using this as an interactive exercise on your team. Show the choreography, and then ask your team members to watch other performers online doing the routine, and bring back some styling ideas to the next practice. As I’ve said before, it’s nice for a team to feel like a collaboration… And, as your team develops, it’ll be more and more so a collaboration.

Try different things, and use mirrors to see how they work on each person’s body. To me — there is no such thing as “too much Jazz movement”… A team of people that can move as individuals is a team of people that will move together as couples.

For this routine, we are not just learning a perform-able piece… we are training ourselves as a team to digest a lot of choreography, and to be accurate.

Try rotating the dancers from front to back to make sure everyone has learned the routine, and is not just following along.  Try doing the routine in the opposite direction of mirrors to see if the quality of movement will stay without each person being able to see themselves.

Run the routine, alternating who sits out and watches, and have that person give constructive (polite) critique on what they observe.

You’ll know that you’ve actually practiced a routine enough when people are able to interact, improvise and look up for the entire routine.   Apply these lessons to all other routines.

With something as complex and long as this piece, make sure that you make a habit of running this routine at dances… preferably not during the regular Shim Sham… there’s nothing quite as frustrating for people just learning the regular shim sham as a group of people in the front of the room doing Dean’s..

I enjoy looking at all the versions of this routine together as a team and trying different variations on the breaks.  Again I emphasize that each member of the team must take responsibility for their dancing. When you impart this philosophy on to your team, the rate of improvement will be much better.  A good team is not one person saying “this is how it goes”, it’s many people contributing good ideas to the whole.

I’ll leave you with some videos to assist in learning.  If you need more of a breakdown, there is a decent review of the steps at

Some videos to assist in learning and styling:

First off the man (men) himself (themselves), Dean and Bart

Peter and Lisa doing an excellent performance

Casey Schneider Class Review

Dan and Lainey Walk Through

Next Up – Trankey Do!