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It’s natural, when you’re working with swings, to want to help them any way you can when they’re in.
And on behalf of theatre swings everywhere, we appreciate your efforts.
There are some things that are not as helpful as they seem and actually end up making things a lot harder for us. And the downside of most musical theatre performers not being taught how to be swings is they don’t know how to tell which things are actually helping them.
So let’s walk through some do’s and don’ts for supporting your swings, shall we?
DO ‘shove with love’ if you see someone who’s clearly in need of assistance - especially if there’s a safety issue involved.
Shove with love is the term we affectionately give that little nudge of guidance you can offer if your swing is in the wrong place and is potentially in harm’s way. As a rule, I wouldn’t just go putting your hands on people - we covered that shit in kindergarten - but if there’s a risk to someone’s safety at stake, absolutely move them.
DON’T add extra details to your track when someone is swinging in.
That fun moment you’ve established with another actor right before you go on for the big number in Act II simply does not matter to your swing. If they have space for it and want to be a part of the fun, cool! Love that for you all. But if the creative team didn’t set it, it’s not technically a part of their job and you need to be okay with letting it go for the sake of their brain.
DO make aggressive eye contact to help guide your swing to where they’re going.
This is shove with love’s subtler best friend. If the situation could benefit from a little correction but isn’t actually a major problem, this is a pathway that allows you to help without actually making contact.
DON’T share your preferences on your swing’s performance vs the person who is usually in that track.
While it is kind and lovely and everyone likes to hear that they’ve done well, it doesn’t help anyone for that swing to know that people like their performance better/worse than the primary performer of the track. It makes things awkward socially when the person returns to their track. It makes things weird for the swing. If you can’t say ‘good job’ without adding a comparison, just keep it to yourself.
DO stick to your normal show, even when someone new is in.
Often I find that people adjust their show ever so slightly (think giving the swing the right of way in a traffic pattern when they typically go first) in order to try and make things easier on the new person. This line of thinking is lovely, but that swing is waiting to see you move before they start moving. You’ve created a weird stalemate that didn’t need to exist. We can handle doing the show. Trust us and just do your usual thing.
DON’T give them notes.
Swings are actors like any other actors. If you’re having an issue, bring it to your stage manager or your dance captain. It is not your job to tell them if something is off with the way they’re doing the track. It’s still giving another actor a note. So. Just. Don’t.
DO make the hole your swing is looking for.
As swings, we’re constantly looking to fill in the gaps in formations. So as clearly as you can, make that hole so that we can fill it. No most of the time, we know where it is. But things look different when you’re on stage and surrounded by people than they do when you’re rehearsing in the back corner of the studio. So be clear about where you’re going, get to your spot, and let that hole become visible so your swing can fill it and keep things looking good.
And at the end of the day, if you’re not sure whether you’re helping or hurting, ask us! We love that you care and appreciate the help when it actually helps 🙃