Thibault Ramierz and Bryn Anderson — Boogie By The Bay 2016

Do you enjoy dancing with someone and wish, “Dang! I wish I drew them in a Jack and Jill!” Well, while you can’t select your own partners in a Jack and Jill competition, you can choose a partner in a Strictly Swing competition! This article will break down what exactly a Strictly Swing is, how to prepare and how to compete in them. Assisting me with this article is All-Star West Coast Swing competitor Bryn Anderson.

What is A Strictly Swing?

Strictly Swing is similar to a Jack in Jill in the sense that it has the WSDC tiers. The difference is YOU the dancer get to choose your partner. From prelims to finals you dance with the same person in all three heats. Unlike a Jack and Jill, you are judged as a pair from the beginning. You don’t earn any WSDC points for placement in Strictlies, but that does not mean you don’t gain any experience from performing and competing in them. The more you compete, the better chance you have of making an impression on the judges.
How to Choose A Partner:

While searching for strictly partners, it’s important to remember that enjoyment of the dance is your main goal. You want to choose someone not only based on the fact that they’re a great dancer, but because they bring something you appreciate and admire when you dance with them.

“When I am looking for a partner, I always ask myself three things: Will I enjoy dancing with them?  Will they have fun doing a strictly as well?  Do I think the experience will help me grow as a dancer?  I usually ask myself these when I’m brainstorming.  However, there is no set (formula),” says Bryn.

There are several ways to choose a partner:

Dance Buddies! – This could be a friend from a local studio, or it could be someone you see a lot at events. Strictlies are a great opportunity to ease yourself into the competition setting. “A Strictly competition is a GREAT opportunity to get experience.  It’s very much like a lower-stress Jack and Jill, which comes in handy if you are starting to ease into competing.  It is also one of the best ways to become familiar with the judges.  When they see you in Strictly, it’s easier for them to pick you out in a big Jack and Jill heat.  Impressions matter, both qualitatively and quantitatively.”

Posting on a request Facebook: Facebook can be a great hub for people who want to experience new things, yet don’t have the resources – like Strictlies! Events will have a separate page dedicated to room shares, rides, and Strictlies. Posting a request can seem like a Craigslist ad in the sense that it’s hit or miss. However, if you’re looking to experience the Strictly division and don’t necessarily have a partner on hand, it can be a convenient method to finding one.  

Social dancing/comps: The great thing about West Coast Swing is that the inspiration behind a dance pairing can happen organically. You could be dancing during late night and have several awesome dances with a partner that could lead to a strictly. You could be competing in a Jack and Jill prelim and enjoy the dance so much you ask that person to dance a Strictly. This is a chance to get to know a fellow dancer better, and gain competition experience at the same time! Win, win!

Bryn advises, “However, there is no set method I go about on a regular basis.  You don’t even necessarily have to have a particular event in mind.  I have asked people if they wanted to do a Strictly far in advance, but I have also posted on an event’s page about looking for anyone who’s interested in doing a Strictly plenty of times.  I’ve signed up for Strictlies at the very last minute!”

Competing in Strictlies: You’ve chosen a partner! Now what?

Stand by your man (or woman): It’s important, even before you dance in the competition, to follow through with your intention of doing a Strictly. Unless you’re unable to make the event or for any other reason unable to perform in the division, notify your partner ahead of time! That way they can either find an alternative partner or let the floor moms and judges know that you’re a scratch.

“It’s important that you keep track of your Strictlies; standing by your commitments and doing right by your partner is something that, in my opinion, is more important than what happens in a minute and thirty seconds on the dance floor, “ Bryn says.

Registration: You can either register at the registration booth at the event or online. Typically one person out of the pairing will sign up both partners. There is a comp fee (typically around $20 or $21). Usually, someone will pay for it and the other person reimburses their half. One person might be feeling generous and cover the fee. It’s entirely up to your discretion.

Warm up time: Similar to Jack and Jills, you will want to arrive to the ballroom a little early to warm up before competing. This way you and your partner can adjust to the floor, and work out any last minute kinks before competing.

Oh my God! We match! (Wardrobe): To match or not to match, that is the question. Typically couples will coordinate their outfits, usually wearing the same color.

“I usually do to a small extent, since we don’t get to do much of any coordinating in Jack and Jills, and it can be fun to feel a little more put together,” says Bryn.  “I recommend it because it gives the couple a finished look. It can even become a source of merit if your outfits happen to line up so that your combined movement looks really cool. Nothing to stress about, though. When it comes down to it, it’s up to you.  Some people might not like the hassle, and some people might prefer to put all the focus on the dancing, not what you are wearing.

“As far as general opinion goes, it seems that people tend to pay more attention to matching what their partners are wearing in larger competitions, especially in the earlier divisions.  In this cases, it could help you stick out.”

How many heats?: It really depends on the size of the competition. If there is a large number of couples, it’ll be broken up into the 3 standard heats: prelims, semis, and finals. However, if it’s on the smaller scale you could go from prelims straight to finals. Always listen to the emcee for instructions.

Important to note: Much like you wouldn’t try a new trick out in a Jack and Jill, you don’t want to harm your Strictly partner by trying a more complex pattern you’re not familiar with. Showcase your creativity and technical skill, but don’t risk injuring yourself or your partner for show.

Results: Like most competitions, the results will either be posted on rosters outside the ballroom after scoring or the emcee will announce semi-finalists and finalists. That’s why it’s important to stay nearby the ballroom because you don’t want to miss out if you’ve moved forward!

Did you know?

You can dance up a division! “Strictlies are an opportunity for dancers to ‘dance up’ or compete one level higher than their current division,” Bryn says.  “This is useful for dancers whose abilities have come to surpass their current competition level, but who have not yet accumulated the necessary points to move up in jack and jills.  This is not suggested for people who are still solidifying the skills emphasized in their current division: it’s only useful if you are really ready!”

Pro-Am Strictly Swing is an available division! Not all events offer this division, but it’s a chance for you to showcase your skills with either your coach or a professional who’s familiar with your dancing. Some pros require you to take a few private lessons with them before entering a Pro-Am Strictly. However, if a pro has danced with you at several events and is familiar with your style, they might be open to competing with you! It’s the pro’s prerogative. Message the pro in advance before the event to see if they have available slots for Pro-Ams (some might be booked up with current students) or ask them when they have a free moment after a workshop or private lesson.

Bryn’s Last-Minute Thoughts: “I love getting to dance with dancers I admire, and it’s a great chance to hone your dancing skills given a certain style which your partner may have.  Competing is fun…doing it with your friends is more fun…making friends with people over dance is both.  Also, if competing is nerve-racking, as it can frequently be, dancing with someone you are comfortable with is wonderfully relaxing.  When I’m dancing with the people I love late-night social dancing with on the competition floor, there is a good chance I will be more “myself.”  And with that, there is a good chance I will get to fully share with people the love I have for dancing.”

Well, I hope that this information was a helpful guide to the Strictly Swing division! Special thanks to Bryn Anderson for the awesome advice! Join me next time on the Welcome Wagon series for more tips, tricks and Westie hacks! For Wandering Westie blog, I’m Stephanie Pham. Keep dancing!

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