a blog about Jazz by Leanne Frank
Manchester Lindy is branching out into the world of solo Authentic Jazz, with a veritable smorgasbord of Jazz knowledge being delivered by the wonderful Taina. But why go? What is it? What’s in it for you?
There have been a lot of questions like this bandying about the social dance floor; so to contextualise, let’s use what we know.
It’s Saturday night. A song comes on that you love but none of your friends are keen to accompany you to the dance floor. Fuelled by (Dutch) courage, you get up and dance, regardless, throwing shapes with such joyous musical abandon that those around you gaze on, secretly jealous of your style and the apparent happiness it brings you. The song finishes and you feel… electric, knowing that you danced because you wanted to and nobody was going to get in your way. Now, add a swing soundtrack and there it is… solo Jazz!
Solo Jazz (or vernacular Jazz, as it is also referred to) is a way of dancing without a partner, which is always helpful on a social dance floor if there aren’t many leads/follows to dance with. Along with that, it’s a fast-track way of developing your own sense of style in your partner dancing and gaining confidence with variations and more technical moves.
If you only remember three things that solo Jazz can (and will) add to your dancing, remember these.
The best international social dancers get to be the best because of their understanding of the freedom solo Jazz offers to you. After a few months of classes, your swing-out repertoire will be unbelievable; follows will find opportunities to try out new moves with the most basic of leads, leads will be able to interpret the music in previously unprecedented ways. This is the stuff that makes a good dancer a great dancer. If you enjoy improvisation and playing with rhythms, then this is the next step.
It almost goes without saying that if you are bold and creative, your confidence will increase. If you are in the middle of a dance, testing new Jazz steps and having a jolly good time, people will notice. People will praise you. Most importantly, people will ask you to dance. Remember, you are partaking in an activity that is visual. If someone sees that you are an innovative dancer, they will want to dance with you because you will put them through their paces and create those ‘did-you-just-see-what-they-did?’ moments that we all feel when watching the professionals dance. Some people may feel self-conscious about dancing alone, but to those people I say: dancing fortune favours the brave, and where you lead, others will follow.
Now, for the science-y bit. The beauty of solo Jazz is that you are completely responsible for your own body movement. It seems silly, but seeing as we are ‘raised’ in a world where our dancing destiny is inextricably linked to the person we’re connected to, breaking that link is enlightening. You have to take command and really contemplate your weighting, balance and positioning, for every move. This is something that feeds back in to your partnered dancing, making you more sensitive to yours and your partner’s movement. You learn what works and what doesn’t, and even better, how to self-correct.
That’s when you’ve made it.
The best dancers don’t get to be the best without making things up, being bold and trying them out, getting things wrong and taking the time to work out how to make it right. Solo Jazz helps with every aspect of this. Of course, there will be some trip-ups along on the path to Jazz glory, but if you aren’t cocking up at some point, you aren’t trying hard enough.