After nearly ten years of Lindy Hop, I’ve participated in my fair share of birthday jams, both as a “jam-er” and a “jam-ee”. Here are my top eight tips for making birthday jams more fun, especially for the dancer being jammed:

1. Set the stage.

Create a fun and exciting atmosphere for the jam-ee! How? First, you have to get up (and encourage everyone else to do the same) and make a semi-circle around the jam-ee. It’s a bit of a let-down when people stay sitting and chat with their friends while a birthday jam is happening so don’t be that guy (or gal). Then, make the semi-circle nice and tight; give the dancers enough room to dance but make it feel cozy and close. Clap your hands off! Smile! Have fun!

2. Include the band (or DJ).

They’re making the music that inspires us to dance, and so they should be just as much a part of the jam as you and I. Be sure to leave a space (hence, the semi-circle) so the band or DJ can see the jam too!

3. Get in there!

If it’s your first time, it can be nerve wracking. How do I steal? Everyone is watching! What do I lead? What if I can’t follow what they lead?  Don’t worry. Watch how others steal in and then steal their ideas (see what I did there). Lead what you know and don’t overcomplicate it. Keep it simple if you’re nervous. Try to relax and follow as best you can, but remember it’s ultimately about having fun and making sure the jam-ee is having fun!

4. Say happy birthday to the jam-ee.

It’s a nice touch, and after all, that’s why we’re having the jam, no?

5. Take your turn, and let others take theirs too.

You’re excited. You can’t wait to steal in. We get it. Birthday jams are fun!  But unwritten (until now?) birthday jam etiquette says we should let each jam-er have at least a full phrase of the music to dance with the jam-ee so don’t jump in too soon!  If you’re worried you won’t get in there, make it known that you’re planning to jump in next by making your way in to the circle and looking for the opportunity to make your move and then strike when the phrase is ending!

6. Remember who the jam is for.

Is it your birthday? No? Then this may not be the time to show off your cool new flashy moves that draw all the attention to you. Take this opportunity to really make the jam-ee shine.

7. For the leaders: take it easy sometimes too.

As a follower, being jammed means you typically end up doing a lot of swing outs. A lot. If the song is a bit on the faster side this can get tiring, so if you’re a leader and you’re about to jump in to a jam pay attention to what the last 2 or 3 leaders led and if it was a bunch of swing outs or variations of swing outs maybe change it up and give the follower a bit of a breather with some moves that are a little more chill.

8. Have fun!

Have I said this already? I’ll say it again, just in case. Have fun and make it fun for the jam-ee!

Birthday jams are one of the many wonderful things that I love about Lindy Hop and the swing dance community. How about you? Have you had your first birthday jam yet? Got any tips of your own?

Heather O’Shea
The Buzz Blogger