We’ve been holding almost-weekly events at the Fort Wayne Westies since mid-October. By the end of the year we’ll have had 8 Westie PLAYgrounds (6 weeks of which have been back-to-back). And maybe more if we have more pop-up WPGs
It’s exciting to see individuals make progression, have breakthroughs, and to see everyone helping eachother in their own way.
A new observation really started to surface as a result of both participating in and hosting these events.
It’s something I’ve known, but it’s different to actually experience it:
The IMMERSION of learning/practicing West Coast Swing and the GAP between opportunities.
Immersion in Dance
I’ve been a fan of immersive experiences ever since I started dance. I had my first “major” immersive experience by going Indy Dance X in 2016. Up to that point, my dance “progression” meant at minimum one or two group classes a week to as much as a few hours of social dancing at a local event.
But a weekend event? Three DAYS NON-STOP of learning, or dancing. (And a little sleep in there, but not much, ha.)
It was go-go-go from start to finish for me. It was captivating and engaging in ways I hadn’t experienced at any point in my dance before – to the point that I not only didn’t sleep much, but didn’t eat much either. (But that’s a story for another day.)
Being IMMERSED in something like that, for hours (or days!) of digging into dance, learning dance, practicing dance, talking about dance, dancing dance … it’s hard not to have breakthroughs in your dancing when your entire mind and body is thinking DANCE DANCE DANCE.
That’s why I’m so fond of IMMERSION in everything, especially in dance, and it’s why I’m so excited about the Westie PLAYgrounds. It’s a chance for me to dig in and surround myself with West Coast Swing, dance, and people that love it too. Although there IS casual social dancing, most of the evening is VERY intentional and oriented towards digging in to understand the dance, understand ourselves, where we need to improve, and so on.
As an organizer, it’s also an opportunity for me to be immersed deep into my DIScomfort zone. Speaking, communicating, organizing is not my NATURAL instinct, but by being immersed in it more and more, it starts to become more organic.
The Gap in Dance
The gap is a second component of progression. Where I see immersion as a long stretch of time, or a really intentionally deep focused period of time, of learning/practicing/dancing … the GAP is the time between moments of learning/practicing/dancing.
They both go hand in hand.
The longer the gap between sessions, the easier it is for things to be physiologically “forgotten” within the body. When you go weeks without working on “that thing” you learned in a group class or in a private lesson, how in the world do you hope to remember it later?
(Psst, taking notes helps.)
(Psssst, going back and reading your notes also helps. … Note to self.)
When the GAP between sessions shortens from over a month to every week (or even shorter yet), your body has a chance to actually retain what it learned from the previous learning (whether it was in a private lesson, a group class, or as a result of practice or social dancing).
I’m a big fan of repetition, but if repetition is happening only once a month … it’s not going to get baked into muscle memory very well.
But now do that once or twice a week? That “muscle memory” is going to get built so much faster.
Immersion AND the Gap – Together
This is why I’m so fond of the Westie PLAYgrounds.
When I first started dance, I was dancing multiple times throughout the week.
When it came to learning West Coast Swing, that opportunity wasn’t as common in the area – at least, compared to other cities that had multiple lessons AND dances throughout the week. And that is a major reason behind the Fort Wayne Westies.
After I had my first true, immersive WCS experience at Indy Dance X (IDX), I was hooked … but the opportunity to actually practice WCS wasn’t very prevalent. I had started taking group classes at the Anchor Room, as well as private lessons, but outside of that … WCS events were either long stretches of time between, or upwards of 2 hours away to attend.
But with the Westie PLAYgrounds? Now we can work on, learn, get feedback, practice — and dance almost EVERY WEEK.
That’s the goal.
So far they have not only been frequent (we’ll see what happens in December and in the first quarter of 2019. Shenanigans are on the way. ;) ), but they have been very immersive. Originally a 2.5 hour event, sometimes they go 3-5 hours long. Practice, discussing, brainstorming, giving/getting feedback, dancing … IMMERSIVE IN WCS.
I feel so excited about what’s going to come out of the WPG style event. People are making visible progress in a short amount of time — I wish I had this kind of experience/opportunity when I was first starting out.
… So get out here and join us. ;) We’re super chill. And friendly. And going to make you a better dancer.
Come get yourself immersed in an awesome community!
Make the gap smaller between opportunities of learning/practicing/dancing and get yourself deeply immersed in what you are learning. Whether that’s WCS, ballroom, or anything else you’re exploring!