Swing Nation – Let’s talk about Swing Dances

A group of dancers passionate about Lindy Hop created a website in 1997 about it. Excited about the idea, they created a podcast called Yehoodi Talk Show. Later, with the growing popularity of published videos on the Internet, they decided to join the movement and created a video show about Lindy Hop, made by Lindy hoppers: the Swing Nation was born.

“We would like people to look back on it and say: “Oh, there were some highlights in the past that I would like to remember. I can see quickly now (on Swing Nation) and then I can go and investigate more later.”

Manu Smith is one of the producers of the page and the video channel. He says that the idea of every show is to highlight actions within the Lindy hop community that awaken interest and discussions, that are great stories:

“It’s so easy to film Lindy hop now. So you can skip over us and see everything you want somewhere else. But we’d like for it be a digest of what happened this week and what happened this month. (During the show) we give our opinion about what happened and we ask the audience for their opinion too.”

“You learn a lot when you do a lot.” The first video aired in September 2012. From then on, the evolution of the show is evident. “Any aspect of producing a dance video is important: production quality, lighting, recording techniques to capture the movements correctly, for example. All that is important to create visually stunning Lindy hop videos.” But the main thing, for Swing Nation, is the development, the pace and the content choices. For Manu, all dance videos are important, regardless of how they were made: “Your phone can shoot Skye and Frida and it’ll look good no matter what.”

The whole project is a labor of love. From the technical difficulties in the recording of the first episode to the realisation of a groundbreaking project: “A show for Lindy hoppers to watch and to see dancing and to hear commentary about dancing.” – says Manu.

Swing Nation started as a live show, with one-hour episodes. Since the viewership of the recorded content was much higher than the live viewership, they changed the format: it became a half-hour long show with stories, news and funny sketches. Even then it was still too long for such a specific topic as Lindy hop. Currently, it consists of various short videos of around six minutes each. “We made everything quick and informative; we removed what could be boring.” – explains Manu.

In January 2015, they published the video “Creating and Organizing Safe Swing Dance Spaces.” Manu considers this one of the most important videos, because it has the participation of many teachers discussing about the importance of creating and organizing safe spaces for the practice of swing dancing.

The video with the most views to the date of this text’s publishing is “Swing Nation #31, Weird Science.” The tag “Bill Nye” seems to have made all the difference. For Manu, the view count is due to the participation of Bill – a great name in science – on the show Dancing with the Stars: “Maybe YouTube ‘pushed’ it up in people’s ‘Bill Nye’ searches.” This kind of information gives us hints on the importance of #hashtags in online publications.

To extend the content’s reach beyond the Lindy hop scene, each story is contextualized. If you’ve ever searched for Lindy hop on YouTube, you must have noticed that the most viewed videos are of amazing dancers doing amazing things. But, since these are specific topics, the majority of the audience consists of Lindy hoppers. “I don’t think we’re ever gonna go above the number of subscribers that you’ll get on a gaming channel or a cooking channel.” – comments Manu, regarding the limitations of the audience:

“The Yehoodi channel has around 1,500 subscribers, which seems very good. I think it is going pretty well for the audience we are shooting for. Two or three hosts, talking about dance, showing the highlight here and there, this is never gonna reach a critical mass audience.”

The videos are published on social media, like YouTube and Facebook, considered most efficient for a good dissemination of content. The producers use YouTube Analytics, that presents the channel’s access data, to better understand how people watch the videos and how they are sharing them: “We know that most people watch it on their cellphones. We have been getting a lot of views and shares on Facebook, so I guess that’s where most of the audience are.” Are all comments from the audience welcome? Manu considers yes. And explains that different media channels can generate different comments.

“Maybe they’ll say on Facebook: ‘Great job!’ But, if we look on YouTube, we may find: ‘You guys are garbage and you don’t know what you’re talking about.’ That’s the usual comment we’re gonna have on YouTube. Because that’s YouTube.”

Despite the investment such a show demands, Manu makes it clear that all money comes from the pockets of the producers and the people who contribute to the show, including the costs of filmmakers and meals for the team.

In the episode about ILHC 2014, they had the idea to use a crowdfunding platform. If you are interested in supporting this project that creates such good content about this dance we all love, access: https://www.patreon.com/yehoodi

Colaboração/revisão: Sarah Quines

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