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John Festa Teaches West Coast Swing at Dance Manhattan

by Robert Abrams
January 9, 2008
Dance Manhattan
39 West 19th Street, 5th Floor
New York, NY 10011
(212) 807-0802
Dance Manhattan's website: www.DanceManhattan.com
John Festa's website: www.SwingIsLove.com
John Festa is teaching West Coast Swing workshops on Wednesdays at Dance Manhattan starting this month (January 2008). He teaches an intermediate II class from 7 to 8 pm immediately followed by a pre-advanced/advanced class from 8 to 9 pm. As if that wasn't enough, he is also starting a West Coast Swing dance party a few blocks away at Taj (48 W 21st Street), which starts at 9:30 pm.

John proved to be an excellent teacher. He was entertaining without putting on the sort of "show" that would get in the way of helping his students improve their own dancing. In the intermediate II class, John focused on whips.

I really liked this class because John limited the class to two moves that were related to each other, plus a bonus move that served as a preview to the advanced class. Many group classes are problematic because they try to squeeze too many moves into one class. As the class comes to an end, you feel like you are just starting to get the complicated sequence of moves, but you haven't practiced enough to get them ingrained. By the next week, you have half forgotten what was taught, and end up piling more stuff on top of a poorly built base. With a class like John's, this is much less likely to happen.

In addition, because the two moves were related (a basic whip and a redirect whip), you store the two together in a connected form, which means that they become easier to remember. In educational psychology this is referred to as a "chunk". The more unrelated items you stuff into your memory, the harder it is to remember any of it. The more structure the items have, the easier it is to remember.

All of this meant that John had time to concentrate on technique. He had time to make sure everyone in the class was getting it. The class had time to practice. There was a balance of talk, demonstration and practice. The technique in question was to have the leader go in the direction that the follower is moving, which is advice I haven't heard before.

There was one small problem in the class. The redirect whip changes the direction of the slot at the end of the move. Since this was a class, everyone started out lined up the same way, like this: | | | |, so there was plenty of room. Since everyone was doing the same move at the same time, at the end of the move, everyone was lined up like this: — — — —. Not a huge problem, but there was some chance of people bumping into each other. I am sure that John can come up with a creative solution to the problem. Or he could get a bigger room, which he will need anyway when more people find out about his classes and sign up for them.

These are group classes, so you can't expect the same personal attention you would get in a private, but you can expect some personal attention. John delivered in this regard. At one point, I wasn't sure which way the move was supposed to go. When I asked him to show it again, he danced directly in front of me. It helped. So if you are feeling a little lost in a group class, make sure to speak up and ask. John is sure to respond.

The advanced class had both more moves and more complicated moves than the intermediate class, but they were moves that largely built on the moves taught in the first class. You can take just one class, but I thought they fit together well and that even an advanced dancer would benefit by taking both. The advanced class did move a lot faster than the intermediate class. If you try the advanced class and find that the moves themselves are within your reach, but you need more time to work on them, speak to John about it and I am sure he will find a way to adjust the instruction to meet your needs, either in the class or separately.

Prices for John's Dance Manhattan classes are $25 per hour, $35 for two classes on the same night, $75 for a four week course of one class or $135 for four weeks of both classes. There was a good turn out for the classes, but there was still room for more students.

I went to Taj after the classes for a little while. I saw people practicing the moves they had just learned in John's classes. If you have been seeking a very good West Coast Swing learning opportunity, the combination of John Festa's Wednesday Dance Manhattan classes and Taj party are worth serious consideration.

To make this perfect, though, John should hand out a syllabus so that students can easily see how the moves taught in the one class relate to other moves that might have been learned in the past and could be learned in the future, with links to little reminder videos. John's classes are very good value already, and these kinds of supports would make them even more valuable.
John Festa (in white shirt on right) teaches West Coast Swing at Dance Manhattan

John Festa (in white shirt on right) teaches West Coast Swing at Dance Manhattan

Photo © & courtesy of Robert Abrams


John Festa teaches West Coast Swing at Dance Manhattan

John Festa teaches West Coast Swing at Dance Manhattan

Photo © & courtesy of Robert Abrams


John Festa teaches West Coast Swing at Dance Manhattan

John Festa teaches West Coast Swing at Dance Manhattan

Photo © & courtesy of Robert Abrams


John Festa teaches West Coast Swing at Dance Manhattan

John Festa teaches West Coast Swing at Dance Manhattan

Photo © & courtesy of Robert Abrams


John Festa teaches West Coast Swing at Dance Manhattan

John Festa teaches West Coast Swing at Dance Manhattan

Photo © & courtesy of Robert Abrams


John Festa teaches West Coast Swing at Dance Manhattan

John Festa teaches West Coast Swing at Dance Manhattan

Photo © & courtesy of Robert Abrams


John Festa teaches West Coast Swing at Dance Manhattan

John Festa teaches West Coast Swing at Dance Manhattan

Photo © & courtesy of Robert Abrams


John Festa teaches West Coast Swing at Dance Manhattan

John Festa teaches West Coast Swing at Dance Manhattan

Photo © & courtesy of Robert Abrams


John Festa teaches West Coast Swing at Dance Manhattan

John Festa teaches West Coast Swing at Dance Manhattan

Photo © & courtesy of Robert Abrams


John Festa teaches West Coast Swing at Dance Manhattan

John Festa teaches West Coast Swing at Dance Manhattan

Photo © & courtesy of Robert Abrams


John Festa teaches West Coast Swing at Dance Manhattan

John Festa teaches West Coast Swing at Dance Manhattan

Photo © & courtesy of Robert Abrams


John Festa teaches West Coast Swing at Dance Manhattan

John Festa teaches West Coast Swing at Dance Manhattan

Photo © & courtesy of Robert Abrams


Dance class makes people happy

Dance class makes people happy

Photo © & courtesy of Robert Abrams

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