“The Novice J&J Strategy”
In 2010 I was fortunate enough to meet an amazing dancer named Kenneth Minchin. He introduced me to my first strategies as a competitive WSC Jack and Jill dancer. At the time, I don’t think we realized how much I would talk about the pages he had written. This interaction sparked something in me as a competitor. They were guidelines, and helpful “rules for the road.” Regardless, “The Novice strategy/speech” was born!
Major props and shout out to Kenneth Minchin and numerous other mentors who have helped me along the way. I’m going to refrain from directly quoting any instructors or dancers from here on, but Kenneth unknowingly started it.
If reading this sparks question, take them to an instructor/coach/mentor you TRUST!
This is meant to be a strategy guide for leaders competing in Novice WCS Jack and Jill competitions.
I’m going to start where Kenneth starts in the written version of his notes on this subject:
“If you can’t lead it 100% of the time with 100% of your partners, DON’T LEAD IT!”
It surprises me how often novice leaders have rebuttals or questions about this statement.
Usually it goes like this.
NL: “What if I draw so and so?”
Me: “Don’t try anything you can’t do 100% of the time with them. It’s fair to assume that you can do X with so and so. But can you do it all day everyday? Can you stop mid pattern and be in balance and stop on time with each other? Ok fine take the risk. But. Listen to the rest of my advice first and then if you find a spot to fit that into the dance, go ahead. But you better nail it. 100%. And it better be something that fits into the rest of the advice I’m about to give you.”
Get the picture? I hope so. Let’s get into the meat of this.
I break this down into Prelims, Semis, and Finals.
Musicality……………………. DOES NOT MATTER!
Yes, I know this is dancing. No, you will not always be dancing to your favorite songs. In fact you might dance to songs you just aren’t feeling or have never heard before. Get over it. Don’t ask me any other questions about the matter. This is prelims. Get through this round!
Spins, Dips, Tricks, 32 count patterns you made up on the fly. Just don’t! Please STOP!
NL: “But I need to stand out.”
ME: “Stand out? No you need to show the judges you can lead recognizable WCS content on time. Do that solid. This will get you noticed!”
Recognizable WCS content:
(I am not going to discuss swing content here. This is in regards to Novice level WCS comps!)
6ct Sugar push
6ct Left side pass
6ct Underarm turn or rightside pass
You will need to be executing these moves flawlessly. Show the judges you are proficient in dancing recognizable WCS.
That's it. Yes, I am dead serious.
The hard part is being flawless. Do your best to lead a mistake free dance. Don’t give them any reasons to mark you down.
Can you lead these patterns on time 100% of the time while smiling and having fun with your partner? Good keep reading. If not. Consult the instructor you respect the most. ;)
The judges will probably only watch 1 to 3 patterns that you do. Let's just make their job easier. Stand with good posture and good connection. Smile at your partner and mix these patterns together on time with both the music and your partner. The judge is looking to judge your good posture, good timing, smooth lead, and a smile. Boom you are likely going to semis. (nothing in life is a guarantee)
If this is boring to you. Well. Idk. Sorry you don’t like winning. JK! Below are some examples of how you get more variety out of the 6ct and 8ct patterns.
It is 100% ok to do a left side pass with an inside roll. It’s ok to do a whip with a double outside turn. Or a right side pass with an outside turn. These are all ok. These are all still basics. They are simply variations--done smoothly/on time/with care taken to lead the partner--and are all still basics. Just keep them to 6ct and 8ct patterns. Sticking to well-led 6ct and 8ct patterns of any variations makes you easier to follow and easier to judge!
Gosh, this just seems so vanilla! That’s because it is, and vanilla is delicious.
Made the first cut!
Let’s assume the judges can watch you for 3 to 5 patterns here.
Do the prelims strategy!
NL: but now I really need to stand out!
ME: Clean on time recognizable wcs is standing out in NOVICE!
It’s still ok to do a whip with an inside or double outside turn exit. Stick to 6ct and 8ct patterns. Feel free to add easy turns for you and your follow.
Stand up straight!
Look at your partner!
Dance on time!
Yes, again. It’s that simple.
Do everything as cleanly and flawlessly as possibly. The name of the game is make no mistakes and smile at your partner. When the judges do look at you, it makes you easier to judge! At this point though you should be mixing the patterns up with small changes like easy tucks/turns/roll! Do these cleanly and remember. If you can’t lead it 100% of the time with the partner you are dancing with, DON’T LEAD IT! It’s an unnecessary risk.
This is where this spiel/speech ends. Finals you are judged as a partnership. Finals it’s ok to try to show your musicality. The name of the game is show the judges that both you AND the follower are ready to be in intermediate. Note the bolded AND. This is key. Keep yourself easy to judge as a partnership and focus on showcasing your followers strengths. Finals is a different ballgame. See an instructor you respect!
Pants: Slacks (black, dark grey)
Shirt: Long sleeved dress shirt! Solid color preferred. (any color of a rainbow.) no black
Wear a belt, even if the pants don't require it.
Black socks. Socks that go past your ankle. Doesn’t have to be dress socks. Fun colored socks that match your outfit are also acceptable as long as they aren’t distracting.
Tuck your shirt in.
It gets hot when you warm up don’t sweat out the comp shirt. Put your comp shirt on. Tuck it in. Check yourself. Put the bib number on. Take the shirt off. Wear a regular T as you warm up. Put your shirt at your table hanging dry and pretty. Listen to the MC. Go to bathroom clean up. Put shirt on. Go own the dancefloor when your bib number is called.
Listen to the MC! Listen to the floor moms! Respect the clipboard!
Some judges are watching from the moment your bib number is called. Attire, Attitude, Attentiveness! Show the competition respect. This falls into sportsmanship because you are showing respect to the competition, by showing up dressed for the occasion, by having a positive attitude, and by listening to the MC.
Greet the competitors around you. When a follow is brought to stand in front of you. Introduce yourself unless you already know them. Interact positively. Interact positively with everyone. Don’t try to draw attention to yourself. Smile. This is fun.
Pay attention to the MC. Smile as people go by. Greet the partner you get with a positive attitude. Smile. This follower is now your greatest ally. Treat her with respect. When applicable. Escort your follow to the edge of the floor when your heat is over.
It’s ok to be bummed about results. It’s ok to vent and be upset. Life is hard. Always get back to the positive, though. 15 minutes of comps shouldn't ruin 3 days of dancing.
People are human. We will possibly say negative things about other people's dancing after comps. Sometimes it’s the partner. Sometimes it's “so and so flash and trashed and won.” Refrain from doing so in public places. BE AN ADULT ABOUT YOUR WHINING! DRINK!
Everyone's journey is different than your own. Some people are naturals at everything. Some people have to work very hard to make any noticeable gains. Some people are just lucky. Respect each other’s journeys.
Take the blame for everything that goes wrong in a dance. If you're responsible for the error, you can improve, and make that situation work for you in the future. If you blame your partner, that means you are admitting you're incapable or unwilling to improve in that aspect, and that makes you a less accomplished dancer.
This is a partner dance. Either side can make an error. Focus on the things you can fix. It’s up to your partner to seek out help for their errors. It’s not very mature to tell them they screwed up or blame them for poor results.
Always, always, always, take lessons from an instructor you respect. Stick to the plan you form with them!