Well, bluntly, there is only one answer to that , and it is very simple. Work more, and work more efficiently.
But, very rarely are people satisfied with that answer, so I have had to develop a better way of satisfying those who clearly want to get better, and here is my official stance on the best way to becoming a better social lindy hopper.
Solo Jazz Dance
Now, most of my opinions are rooted in my own experience and stories. So without further ado, the story, behind my opinion on Solo Jazz:
In 2009, I was beginning to be recognized locally as a pretty good dancer. The local old timers knew my name, and would even tell me when they had planned a jam circle with the band for later in the evening. (Yes, this is how it actually happened. The band would make an announcement, and a big circle would form around the entire dance floor, and the hot shot local dancers would do the same dips and tricks they've done every other friday since 2005.)
I was also investing alot of time into a potentially budding career as an opera singer, having performed with the Indianapolis Opera, and been accepted to a prestigious music camp in Novafeltria, Italy. I, of course, accepted the offer to attend the camp, and off I went for 2 and a half months to a tiny town in the middle of Italy, where they had no more than heard of swing dancing once or twice. Before I had left, I had known that I would have limited internet capability, and would be out of the dance loop for a months. So I found a program that let me download videos from youtube and put them on my ipod. Loaded with Hellzapoppin, The Silver Shadows Frankie 95 performance, Skye and Frida's 24 robbers routine and ULHS 2006 I headed for Italy.
But I had an itch beyond trying to drunkenly lead a few curious local girls or watching old videos. So every morning, I would wake up, and before leaving my tiny, sweaty room, I would put in my small earbuds, with ipod in hand and pick a song. As the first chorus began to play and I started to get a feel for the song, I danced around that room, trying new moves and steps that I might seen someone do once, or at least thought I had seen someone do. Before I knew it, movement was feeling right, and footwork wasn't something I had to think about. Just about everyday for three months my life was filled with Italians who spoke no English, some of the finest classical singing teachers in the world, and my tiny sanctuary of solo jazz.
When I finally returned home in August, I was terrified to go out social dancing again. Thinking how rusty I must have been, even wondering if I could lead a decent feeling swingout anymore. Nevertheless I went out and danced a few times before a regional event in Indianapolis, Swing, IN, brought in Mike Roberts and Laura Glaess. It was this weekend that I decided to compete in my very first jack and jill.
Somehow, I managed to make finals, and actually win the damn thing. I don't think the announcer even made it to announce Beth Hartzel's name before I was yelling and leaping over the sitting dancers to collect my moment in the spotlight.
Looking back on this pivotal moment in my dance life, I can now recognize that I became a better dancer, capable of winning my first Jack and Jill, without having done a swingout for 3 months.
I became a better partner dancer, through Solo dancing.
So you are wondering how you can become a better dancer, even if you don't have a partner, or you can't afford classes.
Get off your butt, stop reading blogs and watching videos, put in your earbuds and just dance.