Sunday, February 3, 2019

Crossover 2.0 -- A swing performance session that is more than just a performance

An experiment within experiments

Early September, 2018

That amazing Europe trip was over. I had to go back to the reality. Fortunately, I found a job at this time, but it also means that I needed to learn new things about this job.

I knew about the Crossover 1.0, the one that I would like to join but I was mostly in Europe during that session. Now the Crossover 2.0 began, and I would really like to see how a final product of a performance was made in the end. The organizers, Y and J, emphasized that this is not a class but an experiment. The format may be interesting, so I would really like to join. After all, swing dance performance is unfamiliar to me before this class.

Seeing that T and L also had a performance class, and I got some peer pressure in joining this class, I thought why not just do an experiment -- do both, use Tom and Lou's class as a control (since that class is just traditional routine teaching), and compare on both sides. So I did. Watching both sides as if there is a competition is fun.

Time commitment

In the very beginning of Crossover 2.0, I was already asked for the schedule of the next 4 months, the acknowledgement that I should not be absent more than one weekly session in a month, and the commitment into this session. It was fair. I felt that having a whole group to perform a routine takes about this amount of time, based on my experience in the US.

On the T and L side, the performance class was only 5 week long. I wondered if the whole routine could be learned in 5 weeks. In the 4th week, it seemed to me that only 70% of the routine was taught. It turned out that there were a lot of practice sessions after this class, and Thursday class becomes Tuesday practices. I wondered if anyone could no longer come for the performance because the practice day was moved.

From this, I learned that for the beginner/ intermediate dancers, a 2-3 minute long dance routine takes at least 4 months to learn, refine, and master.

From parts to whole

In Crossover 2.0, learning is not just traditional feeding -- instructors teach a routine, and students follow. It is more aligned with the value of jazz and swing -- the improvisation, or the creativity. It was promised that the final performance routine was created by everyone in the Crossover 2.0 group. In this way, the organizers were more like mentors than instructors.

Yet, how do participants, with just beginner or intermediate swing background, create the whole performance?

In the first few sessions, the organizers talked about different solo jazz steps and learned about them. The learning was not only about how to execute the steps, but also the characteristics of these steps -- do the steps move us sideways, in place, or rotating? What are their counting? The key point here was to understand the basic building blocks of a swing dance routine.

Then, there were sessions on piecing several solo jazz moves together to form a phrase in a song. Participants could experiment which combinations worked and which did not, and whether they fit into the music.

As it progressed, the phrases were being joined into the whole performance. There were times to study the position of each participant in the performance. There were times to look at the transitions between phrases. Doing these also mean refining the steps to fit the flow of the whole performance.

Overall, the Crossover experiment took a step-by-step and bottom-up approach in making the whole dance routine. Since participants experimented the steps, they all had contributed to the whole routine.

Role playing

In Crossover 2.0, participants were not always students. Each person had a chance to learn a solo jazz move, and tried to teach to other people. As an additional challenge, there was one occasion where no speaking was allowed for teaching, which was probably one of my favorite parts of the Crossover 2.0.

Somehow, I felt that this fits with jazz and swing again -- to improvise is to create, and we cannot always follow someone's steps in doing things in order to create. We were already used to spoon-feeding at school when we were young, and we are old enough to learn how to use what we learned to pass down to new people. Thus, besides the traditional passive learning mode of the steps and routines, the Crossover 2.0 also tried to give the idea that everyone could be an active leader in a swing scene at some point. You feel that you are just a beginner in dancing? Well, there are always first-timers that you know more than them. Thus, we all should learn how to teach.

Another role play moment was to be the stage coordinator. You sat at the center of the stage, facing the group of people that you know, who would present part of the performance to you. Could you give one feedback on what did well, and one feedback on what could be improved? It is rare for the participants to see the performance as a whole because we are so focused on doing our own steps right.

This is quite rare to see in a dance class -- about teaching how we can teach the others.

Team building

In Crossover 2.0, the participants were in a wide range of dance levels. Some were beginners. For this group, as long as the participants could commit to come every week, anyone could join at the beginning of the session.

Perhaps there were more small group exercises; perhaps the dance routine resulted in interacting with different participants at different parts; perhaps people know more to each other before joining; perhaps we committed to the schedule of the sessions; it seems to me that the participants in this group are closer to each other. After the performance, someone said they felt empty on not having this Crossover 2.0 anymore.

While there are friendship on the other side also, it seems to me that the relationships are more to the individual pairs, rather than as a whole group.


The Crossover 2.0 just gave one performance to the public and no more, while the other already gave three and might have one more. I was also not sure which dance routine looked better. Yet, I am sure that Crossover 2.0 is more fun to be in. The main point is the processes that lead to the final product, and not the final product itself. If there is a Crossover 3.0, I am in. I would also recommend other beginners to join.

Crossover 3.0, we will be back.

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