Swing Dance

Analysis of Spotlight entrances – ILHC Champions Strictly Final 2010

I’m entering a few divisions at the London Jitterbug Championships in May, and one of the things I really need to work on is getting on and getting off in a Ninja fashion.

To that end I’ve been watching some big international competition clips trying to work out what’s what. In this post, I analyse the spotlight entrances of the Champions Strictly Final at ILHC in 2010:

Max and Annie won. You can find the rest of the placings on Rhythm Results.

First things to note is are the format and the structure of the music:

  • The music is in Blues phrasing: each phrase has six eights.
  • There’s an intro of two eights of drum solo
  • Each team gets three spotlights – the first one of two phrases, the others of one phrase.
  • For the first round of spotlights the beginning of each pair of phrases (coinciding with the beginning of the spotlights) is a bridge (?) with no drums.

Dealing with the Intro

I’m not sure how Mikey knows when the music is really going to start – maybe he can see the trumpeter getting ready, maybe it’s just that signal from Max (but how does he know?). Perhaps it’s just pre-arranged (you can see the organisers talking to the band just before it starts).


Take your best guess and commit – it’s better to dance through a lull in the music than to abort and start again.

Dealing with the Bridge

Looking at how about different teams react to that drumless pair of eights at the beginning of the spotlights in the first batch:

  • Thomas and Alice basically ignore it and dance straight through
  • Nick and Laura very much dance to the music, but there’s no clear shift when the drums come back in. On the other hand they get the guitar solo, so there isn’t so much of a contrast anyway.
  • Todd and Jo just walk casually up to the middle spot and swing out when the drums kick back in (3:27)
  • Max and Annie walk the first eight, then start busting out on the second (3:50)
  • Skye and Naiomi swing out straight away but clearly shift up a gear when the drums kick back in.
  • Kevin stands still and lets Carla dance around him.
  • Mike and Laura do almost exactly the same as Skye and Naiomi…


Anything goes. Just walking it shows how casual and badass you are, but using it as a prep to really STFO is badassier still.

How to enter

So apart from just walking there, how do they actually get out into the centre spot and start dancing? There are a few common approaches (clearest examples in brackets):

  • A swingout where the lead gets well in front (Thomas and Alice at 2:40)
  • A pair of swingouts where the lead does the travelling instead of the follow (Skye and Naiomi at 4:14)
  • Some sort of travelling Charleston kick  (Mike and Laura 8:20).

Here are the more unique and exciting examples:

  • Max uses a kick-the-dog with a fakeout to get from side-to-side out into open position (3:52)
  • A ‘running’ swingout where the whole frame travels (Mikey and Laura at 5:23)
  • Spinning corridor things! (Thomas and Alice 5:34)
  • Travelling Round-The-World! (Todd and Jo 6:00)
  • A running drag! (Max and Annie 6:10)
  • Shorty Georges! (Kevin and Carla 6:33)
  • A throw-in! (Kevin and Carla 8:07).


  • If in doubt, just swing out (twice, with a lot of travel)
  • Have an unusual entrance prepared – it’s a little dull just to do the same thing over 3 spotlights (unless you’re Skye)
  • Consider getting into position early (Max and Annie 7:43)
  • Casually walking up to the spot is cool if the music allows it.

So that’s how you get in. Maybe I’ll do another post about how to get out!

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