Meet the Boulder Swing Dance Teachers: Interview with Sarah Siertle

Q:  How/when did you get started dancing?

I started about 5 years ago in Cleveland with Case Western University’s swing dance club.

Q:  New dancers are often discouraged after their first couple of lessons. Do you remember how long it took you to feel like you were really dancing?

My confidence came and went in waves. I actually went to my first dance weekend after just a couple months of dancing, and it helped to dance with lots of different people. I would feel like I was getting good, then not, then good again. It took a few months to feel comfortable dancing for a whole song, and it took about a year for me to feel like I was a “good” dancer.

Not everyone picks it up quickly. For some people it takes several years. It’s always good to work on the basics no matter how long you've been dancing. Go at your own pace, and take a private lesson if you feel stuck.

Q:  When did you start teaching?

I started about one year after I started dancing, mostly because that’s how it works in a college club. I taught out of necessity because the club needed teachers. Teaching helped my dancing, and that’s also when I started leading. It really helps to know both roles when you’re teaching. It also helped me think about how I was moving and how my partner was moving so that I could successfully teach the move to others.

Q:  What surprised you most as a new teacher?

People wanted me to teach things I didn't want to teach. Like crazy moves – aerials before swing outs, for example! I want to teach solid basics before getting flashy.

 Q:  Any advice for new dancers?

You're going to suck before you get better and you just have to dance through it. Don’t get scared away by feeling that you're not dancing well. Keep at it. Dance with advanced dancers and don’t apologize for being a newer dancer- we’ve all been there and enjoy dancing with dancers of all levels.

Q:  What can you say about the pain of watching yourself on video? Is this something new dancers should try to do?

The first time I was videoed dancing was at my first Jack and Jill final after only six months of dancing. I thought I looked cool then, but now when I watch it, it makes my eyes hurt! It’s good to have videos so you can see how you’ve progressed. Try taping yourself during a dance lesson. It’s helpful to be able to see visually how you’re moving, instead of just thinking about how it feels. I think it’s better to video after you've been dancing awhile when you’re past the point of always thinking about where to put your feet.

Q:  Dance weekends, private lessons, special dance workshops --- what’s most helpful for a beginning and/or intermediate dancer?

Dance weekends are really important. You don’t have to travel far; it can be an event in your town. You’ll get to dance with people who dance a lot of different styles. Listening to swing music for a whole weekend also really helps get the music in your head. 

Q:  Do you have a regular dance partner? How important is that when you’re learning?

I don’t have one right now and I wish I did. When I started dancing, two leaders started at the same time as I did, and we practiced together several times a week. We'd bring in videos and just practice. It makes a huge difference to have someone you’re comfortable with to try new moves. And it’s great to have someone to try things you don't want anyone else to see (yet). It’s fun to have a dance partner who's your best friend cause then you can walk down the street and randomly Lindy Bomb places.

Q:  What do you do for fun when you’re not dancing?

Dancing is my fun. I also like hiking and just being outside. Drinking whiskey is lots of fun, too. My favorite scotch is Lagavulin 16.

Thanks Sarah! 

Here's some of our favorite pictures of Sarah swinging out at our Monday night Dances!