Lucas Weismann

On the Road Again

Wednesday, I’ll be heading on the road again for the first time since going to Newcastle, UK for Melissa Davy’s Brown Ale Blues.  A short trip to visit family and then off to… … Newcastle, UK for Melissa Davy’s Belta Blues.  Then I’m off to Sweden and Demark to visit Malmö, Copenhagen and Helsingborg.  I can’t wait!

There are a lot of dancers I’ve missed seeing and look forward to spending time with while I’m visiting.

I’ll also be making time for anyone who wants to get delicious food, play games, or work on their dance.  Feel free to get a hold of me via this form or on Facebook and we’ll find the time.

Back in Class – Phoenix

Taught with Jeannie Lin again for the first time since our last trip to Europe.  It is amazing.  I can’t believe how it’s possible to know how good a dance partner can be, intellectually, and yet how easy it is to forget just HOW good they are until you are in the same place with them.  This isn’t limited to her dancing.  Jeannie and I have a working relationship that we’ve been polishing since our first experience back in 2013 at Blue Moon Blues, in Tucson, Arizona. 

Now we’re back in Arizona for the first time since our first time.  We’re older, more experienced and it’s amazing how much our progress as a partnership shows from our first time together.  Rough edges are worn, dance philosophies are understood and class just felt smooth.

Nathan and Stephanie have been great local hosts, with around 8 couples for a small event only advertised two months in advance.  The attitude of the students has been fantastic and the late night taqueria has really nice Carne Asada fries.


In all, it’s been a fantastic weekend and I’m thankful for the opportunities our friends give us to share the dancing we love with their home scenes.  I hope everyone reading this is having a great time and that you can feel a measure of the joy I feel right now.


Thank you all.

6 things you can to do to get more dances.

What should you do if you’re not getting dances and you want to dance more?

Good question! Now that you’ve asked one question lets ask some others:

1. Check your attitude

Are you someone people want to be around?  This is a tough one, as most people are stuck with themselves and so tend to assume other people want to be with them as protection from self-reflection.

Do you complain a lot?  Valid complaints or not, this may drive people away from you.
Are you disdainful of less-experienced dancers?  If so, why should the dancers you look like treat you any differently?

Basically, if you weren’t you, would you want to go on a road trip with you?  This is an important question that should be asked of everyone, not just dancers.

2. How’s your hygiene?

This is not just a question of body odor.  Many people are adverse to body odor, strong colognes and perfumes.  The less strongly you smell, the more people are likely to want to get close to you.  Few people like leaving a dance smelling like their partner.

How is your breath? Mints are often provided, but in the case of bad breath, you may need to see a doctor as it can indicate real health problems that can be dangerous if left untreated.

Are you sweaty, or clammy to the touch?

If so, bring extra changes of clothes.  More than you think you need.  If you run out during the dance, you need at least one more shirt.  In some scenes dancers bring golf towels with them to dry off between dances, particlarly if there’s no air conditioning at the venue.

3. Do you look like one of the crowd?

We all like to think this isn’t important, but a surprising number of people never learn that it’s the skill, not the clothes that make the dancer.

Why is this? Your attire is strong signaling behavior and is an instant way of telling people if you’re part of the group.  This might mean sequins in west coast swing could be in vogue and gauche in lindy hop, it might mean a vest with no shirt in some crowds or tights in another.

Additionally, people are inspired (whether they realize it or not) to dress like their mentors and the people they aspire to be like.  If your dress similarly to them, they may assume you share inspiration.

After all, if you can’t dance like your hero, you can at least dress like them.  This might sound a bit silly (and it is), but can you spot a ballerina, a tango dancer, or a lindy hopper who is experienced in a group?

Maybe not with 100% certainty, but if you’re trying to gain acceptance in a new group, you can always start out by showing people you’re like them and shift your look back to your own style as people realize that you’re one of them.  (this is a technique used to great effect by Alexander the great who made sure his generals and governors dressed and acted like the people they’d conquered so there would be as few feathers ruffled as possible).

This is not to imply that it’s fair that people judge by looks. It’s an acknowledgment that people are people and you *might* benefit from this technique.  )Incidentally, you might be doing this already without realizing it)

You may even have been drawn to a dance more strongly where the dress matched your pre-existing wardrobe without even realizing it.

4. Do you have a partner with whom to improve your craft?

This applies specifically to partnered dancing, but is useful to have a posse, crew or your troupe with whom to practice even in solo dance styles.  being there for each other means you have people who are likely to want to dance with each other and you’re working on helping each other improve at the same time.

5. Are you taking classes?

Classes are a great way to improve your skill level as well as a way to meet people who are at your level and therefore likely in the same boat as you when it comes to finding people with whom to dance.

Take classes and be friendly.  Let the teacher be the teacher and don’t try to fix the technique of the other students.  Introduce yourself after class and stick around to ask for dances at the beginning of the night while the experience of class is still fresh in their mind.

6. Get feedback or help from someone else.

If you’ve gone through the lessons, maybe it’s something else.  Maybe… you really are nice and happy-go-lucky.

Maybe your breath is always fresh, you’re not sweaty and you look like you fit in, neither overly perfumed or odiferous in any particular way.

You’re taking classes and meeting people and you’re kind and rescue puppies regularly because you’re just that great of a person.

Are you sending signals you’re not interested in dancing without realizing it?

Avoiding eye contact, facing away from the floor, standing off the floor, or blocking body language may all be telling people you don’t want to dance and you may not realize you’re doing it.

Maybe you’re not doing that, but you have a habit of doing things that are considered faux pas in a scene (in some scenes this could be lifts and dips on a crowded floor, in others it might be having too much tone or muscle flexion to be comfortable for a potential partner).

If you’re really having trouble and you’ve been dancing for awhile, chances are you’ve met or talked with someone and you can ask them or a teacher or organizer in the dance what might be going on.  They might be able to give you insight and help you see what’s going on better than you can do on your own if you’re stumped.

Generally hosts and organizers have a vested interest in having people come to the night and will often invite people to come to them with any questions, comments or concerns.  use them as a resource to figure out what’s going on.  They may have answers for you.

BONUS: Why are you waiting for dances?  If you haven’t tried asking people to dance, try that.  If you aren’t doing this already, definitely try asking people to dance.

BONUS TWO: For the intermediate or advanced dancer going to venue/scene/event for the first time.  When visiting a new scene for the first time, wait a few dances and look for a likely friendly dancer with whom you could share a dance.  Ask them to dance.  Sometimes this takes a few tries.  Afterward ask them if, since you’re new to the area, there are 2-3 other dancers you should make sure to dance with assuming this is your only night in town.

They’ll often point you in the direction of someone who they dance with frequently and now there are three of you working on the problem, at the same time, providing social proof that people interact with you.

OR… they’ll tell you some people to dance with and  go from Sally to Betty and say something like “Sally said I you’re someone I should miss the chance to dance with.”

Lather.  Rinse.  Repeat.

Who knows, if they like your dancing, you may end up going out for waffles with a group of new friends when the dance is over!

The ways and means of Motivating – Social Pressure as a Carrot and Stick

There are two main types of motivation toward improvement.  Fear and Reward.  Carrot and Stick.  Taking a look at the dance world, we’re going to examine some of the ways that social pressure can be used as both carrot and stick to drive performance and cull the tribe to create a sense of unity.

In different dance scenes there are different costs one must overcome in order to be considered a desirable dance partner.  This means there are different reasons one might need to improve their dance and different difficulties inherent in ‘breaking in’ to a new dance scene.  No matter the specifics of the scene, social pressure is being used to drive improvement in the scene.

Tango – Time Cost – Tango is danced in sets of dance called Tandas.  These are 3-4 songs, 2-3 minutes in length per song and a Cortina or 30 second buffer between each one.  That puts the average Tanda at just around 10 minutes.  That means that there are rarely more than 18 Tandas per 3 hour Milonga (dance).  Now, if we assume that at some point you’ll talk with people, warm up, get a glass of wine (because of COURSE you support your venue and aren’t one of those water-drinker types…), we can assume no more than 12 Tandas per night.  

Assume that a given dancer has one partner they came with and love dancing with, who will dance with them for say, 3 tandas.  This means that we’re down to 9 free tandas.  We can assume they have at least 2 other good friends who each merit 2 tandas per dance.  Now we’re left with 5 songs for people who aren’t known to the dancer that you want to ask to dance.

This means that you need to be worth not just the 8.3% of their likely dances that your tanda would take up for the night, but also the 20% of the dances that are free for strangers or acquaintances.

The question on their mind and the mind of the self-aware novice is going to be “Is this dancer worth 1/5 of my night.”  Maybe not a fair question from your point of view, but t’s one they’re at least considering subconsciously at least.

To prevent awkwardness and to allow people to save face, a few defense mechanisms and social structures have evolved, which allow both parties to save face, but can sometimes make new dancers feel unwelcome.

These are: 

1) Avoiding eye contact with someone you don’t wish to dance with.  It’s a clear (to some) nonverbal signal of their lack of interest in dancing (for whatever reason) and a sign not to approach.  Should eye contact be made for some reason having nothing to do with a request to dance, the second line of defense is….

2) The Cabaceo.  It’s basically the mini head nod, you’d use to indicate “do you want to dance” across a crowded floor so you can ask them to dance even if someone else would get to them before you’re within voice range.  Again, if it isn’t returned, you don’t have to make the long walk back to your drink (that of COURSE you bought to support the venue) after having been turned down for a dance.

As mentioned before, this can make an uninitiated newcomer feel quite unwelcome in the world of tango, but the system is in place to avoid awkwardness rather than to create it.  A brilliant way for beginners and unknowns to get dances in without having to deal with this is the following:

3) Taxi dancers.  Whether it’s a sort-of dance gigolo like in the traditional sense, an experienced dancer who is paid to dance by a group of people who lack the standing to be in demand; or a refreshingly modern sense, a volunteer (paid or unpaid) from the community who is there to dance with any dancers on behalf of the organizers of the dance.  This tends to make new dancers feel more welcome and is sometimes even introduced as a taxi dancer during the announcements portions of the evening either immediately at the beginning of the dance session or in the middle of the evening.  This is a fantastic tradition and would be wonderful to implement in any scene that is having issues with newcomers feeling less-than-welcomed.

Lindy Hop – Danger – Ahh lindy hop.  It’s dynamic, it can be fast.  If done improperly, you can REALLY hurt someone.  This alone is a good reason for people to be reticent about saying yes when someone unknown asks for a dance.  I cannot stress how much I support people saying ‘no’ in any situation where they feel there’s a likelihood that they might be injured by taking a chance.

Balboa – Speed – Traditionally Balboa is danced fast and in close embrace (this means a body to body connection).  The story goes that the owners of the balboa ballroom packed the dance floors like sardines.  Why?  Each dance couple was worth a dime to them (back when a dime meant something) per song and so… ….the more couples on the floor, the more dimes you made.  

The bands played faster and faster to increase the thirst of the dancers and because there was no shortage in the 1000s of dancers who went every night during its heyday.  A house rule was that any couple that broke from Close embrace would be kicked off of the floor by the bouncers.

As a consequence, complex footwork and fast tempos became the order of the day.  This means of selection against dancers often results in self-selection away from the dance.  If you’re not good or in good shape, you don’t dance… at least not a lot or for very long.

Ballroom – Expense – Ballroom is expensive.  It’s expensive.  Lessons are expensive. The surreal sartorial expressions of mad dressmakers they call dresses are expensive, the swarovski crystals they glue to themselves like so many burlesque dancers are expensive, the hair and makeup and cost of paying your teacher to compete with you are expensive.

This one works to make people improve because 1) there is more pressure on instructors to work on the craft of teaching, 2) by paying a living wage to the instructors, they can devote more time to being better teachers and 3) people value products and services proportionately to the amount they pay for them.

West Coast Swing – Gamification – A variation on the competition is the points system that is in the West Coast Swing world.  Maintaining your points for many people is a way of getting into the “better” levels of competition.  Failing to do this means you have less of an opportunity to access the more interesting and desirable dancers.  This is by no means universal as there are social west coast swing scenes, venues and clubs, but it is a means that is being used to drive people in some cases to essentially grind for xp so they can quite literally “level up” and get to the good dancers.

Hip Hop and Lindy Hop – Jam Culture – This is a friendly competition that occurs either regularly or spontaneously in which a group of people crowd around a central dancer or few dancers, cheering them on as they take small sections of a song to show off their skill.  Now days in the partner dance worlds this is often used to welcome new people; out of towers; or to thank instructors, organizers and volunteers.  

But in more traditional sense, it’s a low cost way to get respect from your contemporaries by giving a platform for you to show what you’ve been working on in the past week.  Because of it’s voluntary nature, this is somewhere between competition in a traditional sense and Show and Tell.

Because Jam Circles don’t take from the regular time from the dance like an organized competition and are often spontaneous, they serve as opportunities to inspire and galvanize dancers to greater heights, even those who don’t participate directly, by going into the circle.

a note: if a jam breaks out.  please clap on beats 2 and 4 and keep the circle continuous so the energy doesn’t “leak out”.  being part of the community in situations like these is further social proof that you are ‘one of us’ for the people around you and in people’s exuberance after a jam, they are often more likely to say ‘yes’ to dancing with a stranger.  These are great times to see the possibilities inherent in a dance if you put the work in to improving your skills.


Most of these mechanisms become both filtering mechanisms, weeding out those who lack discipline and would be lukewarm on the dance; as well as proving grounds driving others to excel and improve their dance.

Social pressure can be overcome with social proof.  For instance, getting points leads to a higher level competition being open to you, which means the better dancers know you and you unlock more dances.

Bringing a partner is a clever way.  Dancing the first song with the person you came with is a means, not only of warming up and setting the tone for the evening with someone whose dancing you probably enjoy, but also a form of social proof that shows the other dancers whom you’re likely to ask for a dance what your dancing is like and whether you’re worth their time, risk of injury, and etc…

It also shows people that at least one other person is willing to dance with you and if there’s one thing that interests people in a person, product or service, it’s a testimonial.

Okay, so what if I want more dances?  Well… in the next article I’ll talk about six things you might be doing to prevent yourself from getting dances and what you can do to improve your lot on the floor.

What is the Point of Teaching

Why the hell do I spend the effort teaching?  What do I hope my students will gain from it and what what do I gain from helping them to learn?

Why do I spend the effort teaching?

There are several reasons I suppose.  

1) I like people who are skilled and the confidence with which they can approach the world.

2) I like to share the experience of dance with someone who can understand music similarly to me.  After all, every class any teacher teaches on the subject of social dance for example, is how to dance with that particular teacher or teaching couple.

3) I like to see the inspiration in the student’s eyes as they realize they can do something that they couldn’t do before.  This is a big one.

What is it that my students are actually gaining from learning?  Well knowledge, for one thing.  Knowledge of a particular art.  This knowledge gained from disciplined practice for a long time is called Kung Fu in chinese.  Kung Fu isn’t necessarily anything to do with martial arts, though the most common way people think of the idea is a martial arts master.

One of my favorite philosophers and Kung Fu practitioners Bruce Lee said that “all knowledge is ultimately self-knowledge.”  If I follow that line of thinking, what we do when we teach, is to teach our students about themselves by taking them along the path of discipline we’ve used to discover who we are.  

As the student learns or doesn’t, we gain further insight into who we are and so, achieve greater self-knowledge as teachers.  

There is never a teacher who is not first a student, nor a student who is not a teacher.  The best teaching relationships are those with greatest discipline, though not necessarily those that are most serious or those that push the hardest.

The best teaching unlocks the potential of student and teacher and helps to discover and grow the joy of the art (no matter the specifics of the art) in both.  This means that the best students and teachers are combinations that are made based on the personalities of each as well as the art in question.

If you are teaching something like medicine or hang gliding, where lives may be lost, perhaps a more serious approach is warranted.  If you are teaching something that is difficult, but not life-threatening or inherently risky, perhaps a lighter touch can be used.

There are different ways to achieve the same end, and as with raising children, no approach works perfectly with everyone.

On When to Quit

There comes a time an anyone’s life when it is time to stop doing what you are doing and do something else.  Sometimes it’s for obvious reasons like the idea that if you don’t stop it will kill you.  Mostly though, the reasons people quit have nothing to do with that kind of risk.  Most of us aren’t taking the sorts of chances that would lead to this being a likely outcome.

In most day-to-day situations, we quit because of the momentum loss of breaking a habit we’re trying to establish.  Often times when we make a mistake, we end up feeling a sense of guilt or hopelessness that attaches itself like a parasite on to the thing we were doing.  This is not the time to quit.

You are going to screw up.  Repeat this out loud.  (I don’t care if it’ll get you funny looks.  Do it).  I am GOING to screw up.  I am going to fail.  I am going to mess things up so badly that I need to bulk order duct tape and super glue in order to even THINK about fixing it.  Did you say it?  No.  Didn’t think so.  It’s true though.

You learned to walk?  That means you’ve fallen a lot.  I’m sure you probably got back up.  Well guess, what.  You need to be as tough as you were when you were like 13 months old.  Suck it up.  The alternative to tenacity in the face of messing up is misery and death, and sometimes death comes way before we plan it, so having resources as a Brooklyn wrongful death lawyer could help families in these situations.

How do you do this?  I’ve had a few teachers and summer camp counsellors use the “how fascinating” method.  Throwing your hands in the air, taking a big breath and shouting “how FASCinating!!!” instead of beating yourself up is silly, but it can be really effective.  More importantly, you need to lear to forgive the sin and repent.

What repent?  Luke, you adding religion to this?  No.  To sin means to error.  To repent means to turn away from that error (sin).  See?  No biggie.  That means, if you mess up and have dessert when it’s not your “cheat day”, you need to acknowledge it and move on.  No big deal.

This is not when to quit.  This is a minor setback.


There are a few times you SHOULD quit what you’re doing and they are as follows.

1) you realize your goals have changed.

2) you realize your actions are not leading to your goals

3) you realize your pursuit is harmful to yourself and/or those around you on a level you’re unhappy with.

You realize your goals have changed

Now is what you’d think would be the most obvious time to quit.

On Returning To Something You Once Loved

Sometimes coming back to something is like coming out of a hibernation.  Take anything, a sport you love, going back to school or even writing. If it’s been a long time, you’re probably feeling aches and pains.  You might feel like you’re moving through molasses or honey.  That’s no real surprise.  You haven’t used those muscles or those neurons in a long time and it takes a while to get back into the swing of things.

After awhile however, things warm up and you’re going to start feeling good.  Really good.  This is something you love after all!  It’s amazing to hit that ball, throw that opponent, or get those words on paper.   You now want to do the thing!  Great!  Don’t go nuts.

“What? But I haven’t been doing anything!  I haven’t gotten off my butt in so long!  How am I supposed to catch up?”

Short answer:  You’re not.  Lost time is lost.  Just accept it.  You had other things that were more important to you at the time.  Video Games, The Netflix Original Series Marco Polo, or some member of whatever sex/gender combination you are attracted to.  Congratulations.  You spent that time.  You’re not getting it back.

The worst thing you can do when re-introducing stuff back into your life is to overdo it right away.  Why?  There are a few reasons:

  1. You could pull something.  Yes, even metaphorically.  You need to warm up before you can be at your old strength.  Sorry, that’s just the penalty you pay.
  2. You might uncover old patterns that lead to your burnout (if that’s why you took a break).
  3. You’re likely to exhaust yourself without having built up a reserve.

Part of your goal now is to build up a habit and make it stick longer than it did before.  Your goal is consistency, not marathon power sessions.  So, here’s what you do:

  1. Limit your time.  Leave yourself wanting more.
  2. Tell people how excited you are to be doing the thing.  People knowing you’re doing something will make them ask you about it when they see you, so telling people you see often will not only make you more interesting than if you’re just gossiping about celebrity nonsense like the rest of the people at the watercooler, it will also make them have something to ask you specific to you.
  3. Set a goal.  Goals come later, but right know just know it needs to have a specific “win” state.  We’ll work more on setting goals in a future thing.

Okay, these are some basic guidelines I recommend as someone who has taken breaks from things I love and returned to them sometimes, years later.  What things in your life do you wish you hadn’t given up?  Which things would you rather do than watch movies?  Maybe try one of them for a bit and see what happens.

Things I’ve Noticed While Traveling pt. 1

I’m taking the months of  December and January to visit my hometown of Stillwater, MN.

Some of you know that I’ve been on the road as a traveling dance instructor for the last several years.  While traveling as a dance instructor, I get to take a look at the people around me and see into their lives; see what makes them tick (a bit) and see patterns arise between the way they approach dance and the way they approach the rest of their existence.

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A lesson I relearn every few years. (Needs Refinement)

Whether in Martial Arts or Dance or Life, I’m finding that I should not seek a system or a code.  These are inflexible.

Often there are simple ideas that started them, but they were supple as a result.  The situations were able to be shaped as their situation demanded.

Once you adopt a code, it’s like covering yourself in clay or mud.  In time, it may armor you a bit until it dries out or crystalizes.

Then it becomes brittle and will crack under strain, leaving you exposed.

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Jolene – Why the original is still better than the remake


This is a fun exercise, but I think the original shows awareness of the more obvious advantages (things you can tell by looking at someone- e.g. looks) as opposed to things you’d need to know someone to know about (e.g. – intelligence, wit, skill) that Jolene had over the singer or it show Dolly’s insecurities.

Rather than being a showcase of the literal things that a person “should” be looking for in a mate it shows what Dolly was insecure about and in doing so touches us wherever our own insecurities lie.

That’s part of what makes it real and not just a writing exercise.


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