So this is the big project I've been working on. I'll be posting follow up posts with nifty charts and graphs in the following weeks, so sit back and enjoy the geekery.
Stalking a lot of people at the same time is hard. Although stalking for academic purposes can be called research. Try that one on the judge next time someone files a restraining order on you. Let me know how it goes.
Not too long ago I was in the mood to make one of those lists of top dancers. No particular reason. Just one of those lists I was just curious to see written out in front of me.
What? Don’t you ever research something just to see the information in front of you? No? Well, I do. Don’t judge.
I jotted down what I could off the top of my head, looked at a relatively short list and thought to myself that this couldn’t be it. There had to be more people I wasn’t thinking of; probably around Europe, since I don’t feel I’m as familiar with what’s going on over there. That’s what led me to checking out the Herrang teachers awhile ago since I consider Herrang the center of the European Lindy-verse.
I still wasn’t satisfied after I was done with that, so I decided to check a few more event web sites around Europe to see if I could find any more unfamiliar names. Along the way I just started recording who was teaching where. I kept clicking and clicking until I had the instructor line ups for 120 events in front of me.
I admit it. That’s a lot. Curiosity and OCD does that to you. My excuse is that this time last year I was spending all my free time working on Frankie95. Trust me, clicking around on some event web sites is nothing compared to that.
Anyway, once I compiled all that info, I figured the next logical thing to do was to crunch some numbers. Yeah, that’s weird. I’ll give you that one too.
Long story short: All that effort and I didn’t find out anything terribly earth shattering other than confirm that the lindy community really is still very small. However, from looking at all the lists I did notice some interesting tidbits. I thought I would share because I like you that much and my therapist says that keeping things bottled up inside is what makes the ghost of my stuffed dog appear to me in the toilet and tell me to do all those bad things.
What I did
This survey includes information on 380 instructors teaching for a total of 1138 times at 102 events. Overall there aren't any surprises. The dancers that conventional wisdom thinks are the best dancers out there get hired the most to headline the big events. That was a little disappointing to discover, mostly because I started this project to find some unknown great dancer. But it is a little comforting to see that skilled dancers are doing most of the teaching around the world.
I looked at 120 events, but for the purposes of this little study I only counted instructors from 102. Even my OCD has its limits, so I just arbitrarily drew a line that included events that hired at least three couples for a workshop/event weekend. A few reasons for this:
- There are just too many little one couple workshops going on, many of them with little to no advertising, so it was just too much to track them all down. Same with most two couple workshops especially since it’s a common tactic for a promoter to hire one big name couple and then just pad the advertising with their own names.
- I think once you commit to hiring three sets of teachers, an event promoter is shelling out a good deal of money and is expecting a significant attendance to cover that. That’s what makes it a “big” event for the purposes of this survey.
I did make a couple of exceptions here and there. I tried tracking down every event in east Asia, Australia and New Zealand simply because those areas don’t have that many events. The Asian events were a little problematic since some of them are only advertised in their native languages and their websites are designed in such a way that defies my efforts to translate them with my meager means. So I know there are a few more events out there, especially in Korea, but I can’t get any more info from them.
Also, in the US, I made exceptions for the various follow or solo centric workshop weekends since an event that brings in four instructors can teach as many classes as four couples.
This list of events is not confined to a specific date range although most of the events take place in 2010. 82 in 2010 and another 20 from 2009 to be precise. Since I started compiling the data a few weeks ago, I noticed that I didn’t have very specific info for events that occur in the last quarter of 2010, probably because most events don’t start giving out serious details until 4-6 months prior. However, I could still track down information that was still up on many late 2009 events. I also included a few one shot events like Frankie95 mostly because I’m biased that way, but also because I think there are a few things that are happening in 2010 that didn’t happen in 2009. I’m basically hoping that everything will even out. There’s no statistical basis for that hope; that’s just how I roll.
Europe has the most events in this survey with 50. Interestingly, only 9 of those events have no Americans teaching at them.
Also note that I stopped looking at event websites at the end of March of this year. I’m sure information has changed for many of those events, but I kinda don’t care anymore.
Finally, there came a point where I just had to stop compiling events because it was just getting too much. I kept finding more events after I started crunching numbers, but it became a pain to keep integrating them into my calculations so I just stopped. That said, I think I have a pretty comprehensive list of the major Lindy hop events occurring around the world that have taken/will take place within a year.
By the way, in case it’s not obvious, I didn’t include exchanges simply because I was tracking Lindy Hop instructors. Same with Blues and Balboa events. However, I did include instructors who were brought in just to teach Blues or Balboa simply because there’s not always enough information on many event websites to distinguish whether or not those people were also teaching any Lindy related material. However, I did eliminate most instructors who were brought in to teach dances like Boogie Woogie, Tap, African dance, Modern Dance etc.
What did I find out?
Our scene isn’t that big. According to my data only 27 dancers get hired more than 10 times to work a large event. In actuality it might be higher than that due to events I’m missing, but I don’t believe it’s that much higher.
For some perspective, at Frankie95-probably the largest modern gathering of Lindy Hoppers-it was estimated that we had about 1600 people in the Hammerstein Ballroom at the height of the event. 27 dancers is just short of 1.7% of that total. Now try wrapping your mind how that compares to whatever theoretical number you can imagine for the total number of Lindy Hoppers in the entire world.
These 27 people got hired a total of 376 times. That is 33%, one third, of all the jobs/gigs accounted for in my data. Remember dancers were hired for a total of 1138 jobs/gigs.
On the other side of the coin are 198 people who only got hired once, roughly 17.4% of all gigs. 62 people got hired twice. All total, these 260 people worked 323 gigs which is still significantly less than the amount of work that the top 27 instructors get. Seen in another way, less than half of all teachers in this survey work more than one event.
Overall, the US produces the most teachers. 165 dancers working 585 times around the world, so they work a slight majority, 51.4%, of all gigs worldwide. Sweden is a distant second with 36 dancers that work 137 times worldwide.
|Instructor Origin||# of Teachers||Gigs|
Where do they work?
A slight majority of jobs are in Europe. 590 out of 1138 gigs. That’s 51.8%. Although the US is still the single biggest employer hiring 406 times. In case it isn't obvious, the difference work in Canada.
|Where do NA teachers work?||US||CAN||Total|
|Minus NA only workers||US||CAN||Total|
As a whole, Americans work on average 40.2% of their gigs over seas. Interestingly enough, if you only look the Americans that get hired to work abroad at least once (Table 4), you’ll find that they work a slight majority of their gigs overseas. That’s 259 gigs out of 501.
Of the top 18 American teachers hired abroad, 16 work at least half of their gigs outside of the US.
US events rarely bring in anyone from outside the country to teach. All total, 22 teachers are being brought in to teach 40 times. This doesn’t include Canadians. Frida Segerdahl is the most significant exception teaching a total of 7 times in the US. Max Pitruzella and Annie Trudeau work quite a bit but they’re just across the border. Alice Mei, Juan Villafane and Sharon Davis are brought in for a couple of events but they spend a lot of time in the US anyway. Beantown brings in Ryan & Jenny Francois. Other than Camp Jitterbug which is bringing in all of the Harlem Hot Shots, The International Lindy Hop Championships has the most international representation with Max & Annie, Kenneth & Helena Norbelie, and Marie Nahnfeldt Mattsson. Frankie95 had more but that was a one time deal.
European teachers don’t dominate in European events the same way Americans do on their home turf, but they are still the majority. Europeans work 60.7% of all teaching gigs in Europe. Other non-European and non-US teachers account for 6.3% of hires and Americans fill out the last 33%.
US events that hire the most teachers/judges
|Boston Tea Party||24|
|American Lindy Hop Championships||23|
|Lindy on The Rocks||21|
|International Lindy Hop Championships||21|
European events that hire the most teachers/judges
|Rock That Swing||28|
|Swing, Brother, Swing||23|
|Studio Hop Summer Camp||21|
Not noted on this chart, but Herrang is in another category by itself.
Ironic: Even though Lindy Hop is a dance with African roots, Africa (aside from Antarctica) is the last continent without a Lindy Hop scene.
A couple other things I noticed not reflected in the numbers.
- Most events follow the same formula: headliners from the US and/or Sweden and then some lesser known dancers from the home country or a nearby one.
- As I mentioned before, I didn’t track small workshop events that only featured one or two couples. But generally I noticed that for the big name teachers, these events usually account for 1/4 to 1/3 of their gigs.
- On the whole, Lindy Hop teachers do a pretty terrible job of keeping their web sites up to date with their schedule.
I’m going to post some more individual charts and graphs separately in the coming weeks just so they don’t overwhelm you with numerical awesome all at once. I’m also going to follow up with a post about general observations in event trends.
I’ll also note that numbers and statistics aren’t my thing. I didn’t really intend on doing something this hardcore until I was neck deep in information. I tried to keep this as basic as possible mostly because of my own mathematical limitations, so if you find something wonky or just want something clarified, feel free to point it out.