With Me Or Against Me

Large group, mostly men, surrounds couples jit...It’s been quite a while since I last posted, but a conversation I had recently with a fellow Shag dancer from Denmark inspired me to delve deeper into a phrase I had been given in a conversation a few years ago, and also share my thoughts.  Now I have only ever entered two dance competitions, so I shouldn’t in anyway be considered an expert in competition camaraderie, but from the little experience I have had, I can vouch for its existence, and here’s a little glimmer into why it is important.

My Danish friend and I, had both ended up entering the Munich Shag Battle, with our respective partners, and we were chatting about our nerves prior to the competition. It was then that I recalled a conversation I’d had with another Shag dancer at the Hot Rhythm Holiday weekender in Texas. I’d been asked why Sharon and I hadn’t entered the Shag competition there. I’d probably given some excuse about going up against the awesome competition or something similar when the rebut was, “you’re not competing against other dancers; you’re competing with other dancers”. It was a subtle, but very powerful turn of phrase that penetrated deep into my psyche.

Now coming from the UK where competitive swing dancing is almost non-existent, I’m not sure if that phrase is common knowledge elsewhere, but it struck a chord with me. I think it also did the same for my Danish friend, which caused me to think about it a little deeper.

Competing “against” other dancers implies a selfish wish for them to fail, for us to be better than them, and as such we close our minds to what they can offer us or our community. When we compete “against”, we cease to cooperate for the common good and just seek to defeat our foe.

Competing “with” other dancers implies a partnership, where each and every one can learn from each other.  Dancers compete “with” by sharing their patterns and techniques on the dance floor and testing capability. If accepted by other dancers those patterns and techniques can be adapted and improved upon. This in turn benefits the entire community further. Competitors who compete “with” do not seek the failure of others; they support and encourage participation, best performance, and success for all.

This cooperative competition is what makes the swing dance community so strong. It’s how the dances developed back in the day, and it’s how we will all continue to improve to be the best we can, no matter what level we’re dancing at; competitive or not.


About Dai

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2 Responses to With Me Or Against Me

  1. swiveltam says:

    What a wonderful sentiment. I love it and it will find a place in my blog some day soon. This is a beautiful concept. I love to compete and my husband not so much, so I never got to compete like I wanted to. I love the aspect of competition pushing you to be better through competition. Not better than your competitor, but better than yourself. So happy to have found your blog 🙂

  2. Owen Hortop says:

    Awesome, Dai. I was at a Contemporary dance competition last night. They’d put it out as a ‘battle’ format, and I wasn’t sure what to expect. What I saw inspired me, quite apart from the dancing.

    After the prelims, there were face-offs between teams of two. Each dancer would take 45 seconds on the dance floor, to whatever music the DJ decided to toss out there. The dancing was inspiring, and there was a mix of Contemporary, Hip Hop, Waacking, Popping, and some other stuff I didn’t recognize.

    What was common to most of the dancers there was the attitude while they weren’t dancing. Your partner could support you, or jump in with you during your solo, to add ideas and support. What I wasn’t expecting was how enthusiastic the OTHER team was. They’d start moving in sync with the dancer in the spotlight, bouncing energy back or building up an exchange without encroaching on the space. I’ve seen more urban dance style battles where part of the dance was meant to intimidate. Here It was the opposite, the dance was inclusive and playful. When the spotlighted dancer did something especially impressive, the roar from the crowd would often start with the other team. No one left the floor after a battle without a group hug.

    It reminded me of something that Andrew Thigpen said to me when I unwisely entered in a solo Charleston competition that turned out to have been filled mostly with instructors from the host camp. I was talking about feeling totally outclassed afterwards,and he said ‘No way man, you came up there and hung out with us, that’s cool.’ That’s how I try to look at competitions: I’m not there to ‘beat’ anyone, I’m there to hang out and dance with other people who love this, and share our ideas.

    Thanks again for sharing!

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