Event Organizing Checklist

A Seasoned Event Organizer’s Tips & Checklist

Everyone loves a great event! It takes an incredible amount of planning, project management, and also stage management to run an event that feels great to participants. Detailed planning is critical. You need a great team of people that you can work well with, you need a high level, realistic perspective, and you need to be organized. Really organized.

I’ve created a checklist that you can refer to when you’re planning your next event. I’ve tried to include all of the best event organizing tips that I can offer from my extensive experience as an event planner. This advice comes from my own experience running major dance festivals like Frankie 100, over 12 years of dance workshop weekends, and local specialty festivals like the TD Niagara Jazz Festival, Rawstock Niagara, and the Niagara VegFest.

Obviously, every event is different and this checklist should be scaled accordingly depending on the size and scope of your event. A two-hour book club party is going to be scaled much differently than a four-day jazz festival. However, the core principles remain the same.

1. Set the Date 

As early in advance as possible, set your dates. If your event is an annual one and the event takes place at the same time each year, you have an advantage, but either way you should lock that date in stone ASAP. Make sure to add the date to your website as early as possible.

Be courteous and coordinate your dates with other organizers in your community. Let them know what you have planned and avoid conflicts when possible. Reach out to other nearby organizers, or related community leaders, and be respectful and communicative.

2. Secure the Venue

The next most important step is to book and confirm the venue. Even if your event takes place in the same place every year, confirm it and get it booked. Unless the event is taking place in your own backyard, this is really critical. Make sure to lock into your venue as early as possible.

3. Send Out a Save the Date Announcement

Your full promotions might not begin for some time, and you might not even have any other details set yet, but as soon as you have your date confirmed and your venue booked, update your public. In today’s day and age, people are becoming more and more busy and it’s essential to notify your community as soon as possible. Update your website with the preliminary save-the-date information, and send out the high level announcement on social media and in your newsletter.

4. Build A Great Team

You may already have a core team in pace, but consider what staffing needs your event needs based on your new event scope and budget. Depending on the size of your event, key members might include:

  • Director/Producer
  • Fundraising Lead
  • Sponsorship Lead
  • Treasurer
  • Stage Manager
  • Volunteer Coordinator
  • Registration/Tickets
  • Decorations/Creative
  • Marketing & Promotions Lead
  • Guest Liaison & Hospitality
  • Security Lead
  • Green/Eco Team Lead
  • Roadie/Logistics Team Lead
  • Travel Liaisons
  • Etc.

A great event is only as good as its people. Not only do you need to find great people who you can work with, but you need to build a team that will be communicative and caring with each other. Building a team of hard working, dedicated, mutually respectful, inclusive people is probably my number one tip when it comes to event organizing.

5. Establish an Organizational System 

These days, there is some great project management software available. I love Asana. It’s really changed the way that I work and think about work. If you’re new to it, consider picking up the Asana Definitive Guide. And where would we be without Google docs? I can’t live without my shared Google spreadsheets. A shared Google Calendar might also be useful for your team.

6. Set Out the Organizational Timeline

Depending on the lead up time to the event, determine what benchmarks should take place when. When considering major timeline benchmarks, consider all factors, like the launch of your promotional campaign and the date that ticket sales will open should not conflict with other related events or holidays that will distract from your message.

Make sure that as much of your organizing will ready in advance as possible so that in the final weeks (or even final month, depending on the timeline), most of the large pieces have already been finalized. That way, you can leave yourself wiggle room for putting out fires (the inevitable unexpected) and troubleshooting.

Also, if you’re planning to have any type of after party or volunteer appreciation party, set that date in advance and stick to it. Otherwise, it’s likely to fall by the wayside.

7. Create a Schedule for Regular Team Meetings

Depending on the size and scope of the event, meetings might take place in person or by conference call and should ramp up from monthly or bi-weekly to weekly leading up to the event.

Strive to keep meetings on topic. It’s important to respect people’s time. The meetings should be friendly, but not so casual that you just end up winging it. If you’re in charge, take your leadership role seriously and work to continuously motivate your team and make them feel valued. Take the time to communicate and check-in frequently with your Team Leaders to make sure that they are on track and equipped to mobilize their team own smaller teams if they have subordinates. The larger the project, the more important it is that you focus on mobilizing your people.

8. Budget Budget Budget

Get serious about your event budget. Remember that every event is scalable. If your event is in it’s infancy, be conservative. Start out small. Make modest projections of how many guests you might realistically expect to attend your event. It’s advisable to under-budget on attendance while over-budgeting on costs to ensure that you have a safe buffer zone for unexpected expenses.

There are always unexpected costs and even with extensive experience, you never can anticipate what they will be. If you could, they wouldn’t be unexpected. Set aside some a reserve in your budget for emergencies and unforeseen circumstances. I recommend a buffer of about 10%-15% as a safe buffer zone.

  • Petty Cash & Expensing

Set out a clear policy for expenses. It can be very tough for staff, and especially volunteers, to carry expenses around for too long before submitting for reimbursement. Setup a clear system for your team. Be very cautious about asking volunteers to expense items. I much prefer a petty cash system, and the petty cash available on-site during the event should always be bigger than you think, just in case.

9. Give Your Event Shape

Determine the specific details that will give your event character. This will depend on the type of event that you’re holding. Whether it’s booking and determining special guest needs, booking bands or artists, securing guest instructors, celebrities, local officials, etc. now is the time to work within the budget that you created and shape your event into a blend dreams and reality. This is also the time to manage any artist contracts and riders, and lock in to specific guest requests.

Consider all the ways that the event will affect the guest experience:

  • The event’s vision & mission
  • Event branding, tone, messaging, communications
  • Entertainment and/or educational value
  • Decorations & overall feeling of the event
  • Flow & energy; what kind of “ride” will you be giving your attendees throughout the course of the event. You don’t want to underwhelm your guests, but you also don’t want to overextend and plan more than is realistic for them to absorb.
  • Create value so that guests walk away feeling like the event was a worthwhile experience that was worth the price of admission – even if the event was free!.

Go back to your budget constantly to tweak it and ensure that everything still fits.

10. Operations & Logistics Planning

Now it’s all about balancing logistics with the flow of your event. What should take place when? What parts of the event will be the best attended slotted in where? What logistical support will be required based on how your schedule flows? Think about the way that your event flow will feel from your audience point of view, and also consider the human resources that will be required to execute that plan. As you lock in to your finalized schedule, be as realistic as possible about how much time needs to be allotted where. Various aspects of event setup always take longer than you might think.

  • Organize Registration and Tickets

Unless your event is free, you’ll need a way to manage attendance. What type of ticket or wristband will be most appropriate for your event? What will your re-entrance policy be if someone leaves and wants to come back in? Will the tickets or wristbands be enough for re-entrance, or will you need a hand stamp of some kind?

  • Determine Technical Needs
  • Determine Equipment and Supply Needs
  • Determine Administrative Needs
  • Establish an On-Site Communications Plan

How will your team communicate throughout the actual event? I’m a big fan of walkie talkies with the ear piece attachment. I’m also a fan of being as hands-free as possible. As a woman who usually dresses up to be presentable at the events I’m running, I plan on wearing a belt so that I can attach the walkie talkie to the belt.

I am not a fan of cell phones which you don’t hear ringing in loud spaces. I still carry my cell phone on me because you always need it for something, but I set an out-of-office reply on my email to let people know that I’m in event mode and won’t be able to attend to email. If it’s important, it’s better that they call.

Make sure that you have someone who will be in charge of fielding phone calls and email from the public during the event, or set an office responder for that account that includes all of the FAQ information that someone might need at the last minute.

  • Consider All Possible On-Site Needs

Get your team involved to make sure that as many brains are considering gaps that may need filling as possible. Will your guest artists need water? Lunch? Who will be responsible for that? Are there enough toilets onsite or do you need to order port-a-potties? Are there enough seats? What about coat check? Think about all of the variables, then think about them again so that nothing slips through the cracks. Revisit this line of thinking often.

11. Return to the Budget

Review your budget again to make sure that costs are still lining up with projections or revise the budget as needed.

12. Launch the Full Advertising Campaign 

And begin ticket sales/registration, according to the timeline you originally set out. I’m not going to go into too much detail about the PR side of this other than to say that a strong social media presence is very important. Establish a hashtag for the event and encourage photo uploads during and after the event. Having someone live Tweet the event can also be a good idea.

13. Check Up on your Event’s Health

Check ticket sales in the weeks leading up to the event. Are they where they need to be? Does the event need to be re-scaled, either up or down, based on the current level of sales? Consider whether or not you’ve over or under projected your supply quotas and scale back or add on to make sure that you can meet the needs of the event without either losing money or overselling.

Also, make sure that you’re checking-in with your team members regularly. How are they feeling? How is morale? Take care of your team, and they will take care of your event. Neglect your team, and the event will suffer for it. Your people are everything.

14. Walk the Critical Path

Walk the Critical Path of your event with your Team Leaders to make sure that all aspects of event flow have been considered. By this, I mean create a day-by-day, hour-by-hour, schedule for the event that includes who/what/where/when for event details and staff. You can do this as a flow chart, or I happen to love spreadsheets. However you do it, get it down in writing and get your team on-board to create a functional critical path.

  • On-Site Responsibilities

There needs to be a clear understanding among your team members of who is responsible and on-duty when. Who is committed to the early morning setup shifts? Who is dedicated to late night and clean up? Your team must take the time considerations seriously.

Part of running an event is understanding that you really aren’t there to have fun. Of course you enjoy seeing your vision come to fruition, but while the event is taking place, you are responsible. Drinking, dancing, socializing, celebrating, etc. is for your guests and not for you to partake in unless you are clearly off-duty or taking a break from responsibilities at a time when you are clearly not needed by your fellow team members.

  • On-Site Financial Control

You need a clear plan for managing cash and financials on-site. Who will be responsible for delivering the float/cash box? Who will check-in periodically and remove excess cash to a safe location? Who is paying bands, guests, artists? This should be decided and scheduled clearly in advance.

  • Printing & Personal Tech

Who will be responsible for bringing any printed lists or information that you’ll need on-site? I really prefer to go paperless in the rest of my life, but there is always a need for printed information on-site. Whether it’s registration and ticket lists, lists of volunteer schedules, site maps to facilitate smooth setup, or even something as obvious as the schedule of events, you’re going to need printing and someone needs to clearly be responsible for bringing it.

In terms of equipment, don’t just assume that everyone will have their own laptops on-site, and don’t assume that they’re comfortable using their own laptops. I personally am happy to use my own laptop but I’m not comfortable sharing it. Other people will have their own preferences and that needs to be respected. Same with the use of cell phones. That’s another reason why I prefer walkie talkies; it’s not fair to assume that your volunteers are willing to use their own air time, and the same goes for staff unless there’s an expensing policy.

If you’re using a square to accept credit cards, you must determine in advance whose phone will be used. Giving up their phone for credit card transactions means that they won’t have it for personal use. This needs to be taken into consideration.

Don’t assume that there will be wifi available and be careful about relying on the internet for important on-site tasks. Check in advance, and save or print backups of the information.

Make sure to review the Critical Path again in the final week before the event.

15. Run the Event – Show Time! Event Proper

Follow the plan that you set out in your Critical Path. However, there are times when you need to be flexible. A really good event organizer will know when it’s time to change parts of the plan. Do what needs to be done based on the reality of the moment.

Take the time to respect and appreciate your team members while the event is on, even – no especially – when you’re under pressure and feeling stressed.

You’ll be overworked and busy during the event, but try to be as present as possible aware that your plan is materializing into fruition. As an organizer, events tend to fly by from your vantage point behind the scenes, but try to appreciate what you’ve created!

  • Self-Responsibility

As an individual, I try to be as organized and responsible for myself as possible. By that I mean, I try to pack all of the clothing, gear, a bottle of water, and also snacks so that I have everything I might need for the day already with me. Even if there is a planned break where I might have time to go back and change, etc. things can change and it’s better to have everything you need with you from the outset. Get your coffee and breakfast first before the call-time. If you’re the point person for volunteers or subordinates, brief them with the same suggestions in advance so that they can also plan accordingly.

  • My Personal Must-Have Onsite Items, aka. My Event Kit
    • Ziplocks – In a variety of sizes, ziplocks are extremely handy to keep at your event’s front desk. They can be used for a variety of things, from organizing cash, receipts, loose papers, pens, pencils, tickets, etc. You can never have too many ziplocks!
    • Sharpies – ie. permanent markers. There is always a need to write signs or label items (including writing on ziplock) and it’s very handy to have extra sharpies around.
    • Cell Phone Charger – Because you always run out of charge. Always.
    • Laptop – And charger, because you never know what you might need to reference or look up onsite.
    • A Small Purse – As a woman who dresses ‘up’ for events, I don’t usually have pockets and there are things that I need to have with me for functionality. I have a small purse that’s big enough to hold my cell phone, a pen, a sharpie, a little change, an event or personal credit card, and lip stick. 🙂
    • A Larger Bag or Backpack with Everything I Might Need – Including print outs of my important documents, a folder that seals or a large ziplock to keep and seal important incoming documents, a bottle of water, a change of clothing and change of shoes (usually I leave the house wearing something very casual and then change into something nice before the event starts), several snacks, hand wipes in case we end up doing something dirty and it’s inconvenient to find a washroom to wash up, makeup and a comb to freshen up before the event proper.
      • Great suggestions from Rich:
        • First Aid kit // Combo of Band-Aids+Tylenol+Advil
        • Safety-Pins
        • Sewing needles and white+black-thread
        • An 1/8th”-to-1/8th” audio cable (headphone size) with an 1/8″ stereo to 1/4″ mono adapter. (Can come in really handy for emergency DJ’ing / Audio issues.)
    • A Belt – So that I have something for my walkie talkie to hook onto. In a pinch, I can hook it to my small purse instead but it gets clumsy.

16. Conduct an Event Post-Mortem

After the event, conduct a post-mortem meeting as soon as possible to review the event. Create detailed notes while the event is fresh in your mind. Discuss the successful or needs-improvement aspects of the event with your team.

Don’t postpone the post-mortem! Despite being tired, it’s important to attend to this as soon as possible or you’ll lose all momentum.

Review finances and budget in the first few days after the event.

Also look at how the team worked together. Sometimes the truth can be a bit brutal, but it’s important to be communicative with your team so that you can learn and grow. Make yourself listen to the good, the bad, and the ugly, as well as any praise. The constructive criticism is far more valuable than any pats on the back. Don’t be self-deprecating but don’t succumb to hubris either. Live, learn, improve.

Once the wrap up has taken place, relax and look back at what you’ve accomplished. Feel proud of a job well done!

If you have any comments, questions, or suggestions of items you would add to your own checklist, please let me know!

Frankie Manning honoured in Google Doodle

It’s May 26th, 2016 and Frankie Manning has finally been honoured in a Google Doodle!frankie-mannings-102nd-birthday-5160522641047552-hp2x

I just did some digging in my email and I was able to locate some early efforts made towards having Google recognize Frankie Manning in a Doodle. I was able to find this event from 2012 created by Alex Gaw. Over the years, other people like Lucie Q Mazzanti also did a big push to help make it happen, and David Ljung Madison in 2013/2014. Cynthia Millman in particular and the rest of the Frankie Manning Foundation board have been coordinating with Google in secret since January. Thank you to everyone who has helped to get Frankie the attention he deserves! https://www.facebook.com/events/280677998690775/281066528651922/

Here is the page from the Frankie 100 efforts: http://frankie100.com/participate/google-doodle/

It’s wonderful to see this come to fruition.

Hoppin’ on the Hudson

April 9th, 2016

*Most of the photos are from Voon Chew & Geoffrey Holmes. Thanks guys!

Screen Shot 2016-04-13 at 6.16.20 PMThe cat is out of the bag. I was the event planner for a very special event called Hoppin’ on the Hudson that took place this past Saturday at the Rockefeller Estate in Tarrytown, just outside of New York City.

Due to the nature of the event being private and the strict security surrounding the estate, it had to be kept very quiet. I wish that the event could have been open for the Lindy Hop community; it was a very special occasion, but it was private and only the performers and a small pool of guests could be included. The guests were mainly non-dancers. My sincere apologies and regrets to all of my New York friends who had to be left out. If it had been my event, I would have invited all of you.

The show was put together under the artistic direction of Chester Whitmore and was absolutely brilliant. Thank you so much to all of the performers who helped make it such a success. Michael Hashim’s 12 piece band, similar to the one that played at the Apollo Theater, was outstanding. The Big Apple Lindy Hoppers, Bathtub Ginnys, Harlem Strutters, Catrine & Chazz, Barbara Morrison, Barbara Billups, Sugar Sullivan, LaTasha Barnes, Calle Johansson, and many others were all incredible. A highlight for me was certainly the terrifying and thrilling experience of performing with Norma Miller to close out the show. That was not part of the plan and I couldn’t be more stunned and honoured that it actually happened. I’m still pinching myself. Thank you Voon for posting many lovely photos!

Thank you so much to everyone who was a part of it. I’d especially like to thank my good friend and partner in crime, Elliott Donnelley, for driving me crazy but always managing to make incredible magic happen. You’re nuts and I love you. Jen Pringle, I could NOT have done this without you! You are my favourite person!!! Besides my husband. 🙂 And my husband, Geoffrey Holmes, for supporting me and for sharing this memorable experience with me.

Videos to come.


Screen Shot 2016-04-15 at 4.26.14 PM
Geoff has uploaded a big photo album to Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/geoffrey.holmes.77/media_set?set=a.10154022634835126.1073741855.631395125&type=3&pnref=story
Geoff's Album
Voon took a photo series of me at the pool.

Screen Shot 2016-04-13 at 6.15.52 PM

Screen Shot 2016-04-12 at 12.39.52 AM
Chester Madness! Photo by Jen Pringle.
Screen Shot 2016-04-15 at 10.06.03 AM
Great to see Daniel!
Screen Shot 2016-04-11 at 8.19.01 PM
Breakfast at the guest house for our guests! Photo by Catrine Ljunggren.

Elliott Donnelley Mandi Gould

Jen Pringle Mandi Gould

The Collapse of World Lindy Hop Day

It is with deep regret that I’ve shared the information of the collapse of World Lindy Hop Day 2015 in Rome.


Many people have been let down by what has happened. Many people are looking for answers, and frankly deserve them. I swear by diplomacy and do not want to perpetuate drama, but for the people who have been wronged by what has happened I will share what I can of this debacle.


Since Mabel Lee’s accident in June, this has been a terrible year for the world of Lindy Hop. It’s been a series of bad news, and World Lindy Hop Day in Rome is another terrible scandal.

The WLHD concept was originally my friend and fellow event organizer, Sing Lim’s idea. It was meant as a follow up to Frankie 100. The event was intended to continue for years to come as a way to honour Frankie by turning his birthday into something beyond just celebrations within the Lindy Hop community. It was meant to grow and travel around the world and become something bigger, much like World Tap Day is celebrated on Bill Robinson’s birthday.

Sing and I were both part of the global selection committee that awarded WLHD to Rome at the end of the summer of 2014. The committee included dancers and instructors from around the world and she and I were the co-chairs.

The strongest application was put in by Ryan Francois and Silvia Palazzolo. It was a very close race between Rome and one other city, but after a lot of difficult deliberation, Rome received the bid. While the other city also had a great deal of organizational experience like Silvia’s, a large part of that final decision was made because of Ryan Francois’ involvement.

Based on the information we had, the application, Palazzolo’s track record as an event organizer, and Ryan Francois’ involvement at the time of the application process, this was not only a reasonable choice, but the best one. There was no way to predict this implosion.

Unfortunately, shortly after the decision was announced, I began to receive messages from people who had a lot of information about Silvia’s event organizing that I wish I’d been made aware of before the selection process. I began to learn that Silvia had a long track record of not paying instructors or bands.  Most of these instructors were too embarrassed to say or do much about it, so other instructors did not receive warning and continued to fall under the same scam, not only being denied payment but also losing money out of pocket for their own flights which they were supposed to be paid back for. This extended not only to the younger generation of dancers and bands, but also to senior citizens from our dance world who should be have been honoured and treated with deep respect and grace.

I received an anonymous tip through the WLHD website from someone in Italy who described this history. I was later contacted Meschiya Lake herself who let me know that she and her band had never been paid for one of their previous gigs. This was of course more than troubling, but I didn’t know what to do. Silvia had put on a lot of events, and we could only giver her the benefit of the doubt… Particularly with Ryan involved, we were sure it would be ok.

When we created the WLHD idea, we thought we would be able to award the bid to a different city each year and that after a rigorous application process, we would be able to find trustworthy and reliable event organizers who would run an event. We never had the capacity to micro-manage (or even macro-manage) an event remotely. Myself and Sing were the most involved of all the selection committee, but we had already given up our lives last year to run Frankie 100. We never anticipated that we’d have to step into someone make sense of the drama that was about to unfold.

In January, after Snowball in Stockholm, the problems really became apparent. Ryan Francois reached out to Sing and me to tell us about his struggles over many months with an increasing amount of drama, lies, and confusion working with Silvia. He was embarrassed because he realized the responsibility he had taken on in teaming with Silvia for such an important event, but working with Silvia was ruining his life. I still can’t even begin to understand the complexities of what went on, and that’s Ryan’s story to tell, not my own. But I will say that I saw enough confusing correspondence and strange emails that Ryan shared with me to know that there was something really unhealthy going on and that it was being directed by Silvia.

Ryan made the difficult decision to leave the event. This was a very hard choice for him, but there was no way that they could work together. It did not make sense for him to run an event in Italy on his own, so if the event were to go on it would have to continue being run by Silvia.

To be clear, Ryan Francois ended his involvement with WLHD Rome officially in January as he felt that he could not work with Silvia Palazzolo. He is not responsible for what has happened.

I now very much regret that the event wasn’t cancelled at that time. I take responsibility for being a big part in encouraging the event to still take place. I kept thinking about the people who had bought non-refundable plane tickets and booked hotels. I’ve run Lindy Hop events of all sizes and I thought that surely Silvia could hold a 200 person event on her own, with her Italian committee, even without Ryan.

Everything seemed to settle down and I didn’t hear anything for a long time. No news should have been good news, or so I thought. I trusted that the event organizer would be doing what event organizers do – rallying her team and getting the job done.

Unfortunately, all the event planning that should have been taking place did not come to fruition. Despite all of the problems we’d heard about, we still wanted to give Silvia Palazzolo the benefit of the doubt. We see now that we were unrealistic about the goals of having World Lindy Hop Day travel around the world. I understand the folly in that now. So much can go wrong when you rely on external forces, particularly when we were putting it under the banner of an “official” event. We are not the Olympics. We don’t have dedicated resources to pull that sort of thing off. We’ve learned that the hard way now and have since disbanded the WLHD bid.

We did try to help Silvia. We reached out to her to see if we could support her in some way like publishing the schedule if there was one. Instead, she kept saying that she would update everything herself but every time we checked with her, it still hadn’t changed. The truth of the matter is that she has dug herself into a hole. She had been trying to pretend that there is an event to save, but there was nothing there. Silvia is upset with me and Sing for “convincing her to cancel the event” but it is more accurate to say that we finally persuaded her to come to terms with the fact that there was no event that can be salvaged.

I’ve been speaking with Chazz Young this week. When he learned about the event being cancelled he was so sad and disappointed that he turned down other opportunities as an honoured guest at other events marking his father’s birthday. He hadn’t heard anything from Silvia for months and had hoped the event would still happen. He has always had somewhere to go for his father’s birthday weekend so it would be a first for him to have no place to go. I’m so proud and grateful that my dance community, Toronto, was able to arrange for a last minute place for him at our local event.

I’m thankful that Norma Miller had the keen sense to see that something was amiss a few months ago and drop out herself. I feel terrible for the other instructors who were also left in the dark, along with the registrants.

My heart is broken by what I’ve seen. It’s not fair for people, particularly the paid registrants, to be left in the dark about what’s going on. I have never witnessed this level of disregard in our community. Though this was not my event, as someone who helped intimately with the WLHD selection process, I feel terrible for what has happened.

I am so sorry for the inconvenience and monetary loss that this is going to cause a lot of people. The dance community in Rome is very upset by what is happening. They are not involved and as a community, we should not think poorly of Rome. There are people on the ground there who are trying to pull together some dances for the people who will be there over the May 22-24th weekend.

*May 13th, 8:31pm. At this time, many people have reached out to me privately to tell me their personal stories and experiences. I believe that Silvia is extremely unwell and needs to seek some serious help for what what is surely pathological lying. I am not here to re-share stories that are not mine to tell, but I understand that a lot of people have been seriously wronged over the years. I only wish that I’d known this sooner. A lot of drama and damage could have been avoided.

**Many people are reaching out to me privately to tell me their stories of wrongdoing. The damage has been long and extreme. Because this is proving to be so extensive including cases of real fraud, I am going to help by collecting testimonials from whoever would like to add their voice to the list of what’s been done. If you have been one of the many victims, you can email me your statement: mandi@mandigould.com. I ask that you do not send it to me by FB message and email me instead, or you can leave a post here on the blog.

***May 17th Important Update: There is an update to the World Lindy Hop Day in Rome cancellation situation. Here are 3 statements made by Ryan Francois, Marcus Koch, and Katerina, a member of the Italian team: https://zootman43.wordpress.com/

****Statement from the Frankie Manning Foundation: http://www.frankiemanningfoundation.org/statement-by-the-frankie-manning-foundation-concerning-world-lindy-hop-day-2015/

Other dance options from the Roman dance community for people who will still go to Rome will be listed here:

https://www.facebook.com/groups/romanlindyhoppers/ and updates to the schedule listed here: https://www.facebook.com/bunny.donowitz/media_set?set=a.851158161644729.1073741834.100002516581581&type=3&__mref=message_bubble

Lindy Hop Philosophy

For many years I’ve been saying that following in Lindy Hop all comes down to just a few key principles. This weekend, my pal Krister prompted me to actually define what those principles are. So here it goes.

***THIS IS JUST MY PERSONAL PHILOSOPHY. TAKE IT OR LEAVE IT. It’s evolved over the years and will likely evolve some more. I also think that most of these principles apply to leaders as well.

Mandi’s Key Themes of Following in Lindy Hop

1. Momentum – To me, Lindy Hop is all about grounded momentum. The breakaway in to an open, stretchy position is really what started to define Lindy Hop at the end of the 1920s and still does today. The stretchy momentum of swingout-type shapes is really what defines the overall feeling of Lindy Hop. Followers should keep moving through the direction that the leader creates.

2. Elasticity – The dance should feel stretchy. Delay to make sure you’re actually responding to the lead and use that delay to ground yourself so that you can snap/release and achieve momentum through the elasticity of the dance. You aren’t supposed to be a mind reader. Don’t move because you “know” you’re supposed to. Move because you’ve actually felt a lead that you’re responding to it in a stretchy, elastic kind of way.

3. Grounding – Lindy Hop should drive from the legs. Power with the lower body. Push through the floor to transfer your weight from one entire leg to the next. Strive for balance and grounding and fight the contemporary temptation to float across the floor. Work those legs and use the floor.

4. Rhythm – Every movement and shape has a rhythm. Seek it out and find the fun in all rhythms, from basic triple steps to more sophisticated variations. Without rhythm there would be no Lindy Hop.

5. Posture/Core/Frame* – Seek good lines and posture through what a lot of people call “frame*” but not at the expense of your grounding and not with a rigid upper body. Don’t pull upward to the point where you’re starting to dance “up” – you want to have good posture while also staying in to the ground. Your upper body should be open and ready to respond to your lead in a flexible, loose, absorbing way that catches your core without your arms interfering. *I’d like to find a different word than “frame” which is more appropriate for ballroom dancing but I haven’t found a word I like better yet. 

6. Followers should drop the weight of their connected arm – The connection a follower creates should be equal to or less than what the leader creates. Respond to the level of connection that the leader is setting and start at a “zero” connection (dropped arm) so that you’re sensitive enough to feel the intensity of what the leader is setting. Respond by connecting through your core and your shoulders, not by pushing, pulling or flexing arm muscles. (As a follower I might choose to increase my connection under certain circumstances like when I want to let my partner know something or I want to use them for something very intentional. See bonus #8. But that’s an exception and most of the time my connection would be lighter or equal to the leader’s.)

7. Be in the moment – My overall philosophy of following is be in the moment, or even behind the moment. Don’t care about what’s coming next, enjoy and squeezing out where you are right in the instant.

And I’m going to actually add a #8:

8. SPIRIT > TECHNIQUE – Lindy Hop, at its root, is a raw and wild dance. Don’t let all of the contemporary analytical stuff spoil the spirit of the dance. Lindy Hop should be a conversation, not a lecture. Follow… But not too much. Not so much that all you’re doing is hanging on for the ride. I believe that followers should assert their voices and not let #1-7 prevent us from playing an active role in the dance… In fact, there should be times when you throw #1-7 out the window because the music overrides “good” following technique. Connecting with the music is just as important (more important?) than being a “good” follower. Find your voice and self expression and use it to influence and contribute to the dance!

This is just my personal philosophy; there are no right or wrong ways to dance the Lindy Hop. Take what you like, try it, and put the rest in your back pocket to try out again in the future. Your dancing will continue to change and evolve and what doesn’t work for you today might appeal to you some time in the future.

Have fun and happy swingouts!