sWinging It – Week 15

sWinging It

Learnin’ to Lindy where everyone’s friendly

 

Week 15 (Lesson Week 12 – last in the cycle!)

Before I jump into the last week of my first cycle (OK I started week 10 of the one before but I don’t think they count), a quick aside on the Christmas Party.

I had a great time! Pretty much everyone was dressed up (myself included) and up for a good time. Dancing to a live band for the first time was fun and challenging. I need to work on my fast Lindy. I did a lot of Charleston and was very pleased I’d learnt some 20’s Charleston at one of the MSDS* lessons. I was also very thankful for the few blues lessons I’d had on some of the tracks so I guess I could do with learning some slow Lindy too.

Other than dancing with loads of people and catching up with loads of people (and eating loads of cake!) my obvious highlight has to be coming runner up in the Lindy Hopper < 2 years category! I’m not sure if this was because of my dancing (really?) or my blog (they did say service to the community) so I’m going to pretend it’s both ;-). All of us got to start a snowball afterwards and snowballs are cool so that was fun!

(Editors note: Full results are over here!)

Congratulations to everyone who won or came runner up in all the categories and thanks to everyone who put my name down!

Week 12 was about musicality. Andy C and Sophie talked about a common structure for some songs. AABA – Each letter has 4 x 8 counts and different letters have a different feel and so call for a change in the dancing style. For example we did 4 lots of ‘normal lindy’ to each A and a set of 4 Charleston moves to the B. We also did some solo jazz at the end of a phrase (a set of 4). This was very enjoyable but I suspect will take some time to make work in the social – I’d need to start recognising a song as AABA in order to change the style and also find some way to communicate to my follow we were going to do something different at the end of the phrase (which also requires recognising and planning for the end of a phrase). Well at least I’m one step closer because I’m actively listening to the music again!

Solo Jazz was another great routine by Amy. I found this one tricky towards the end as I just can’t get the timing right going into the last break and I didn’t grab the name of the track to practice with (which really helps with knowing if you are out on the timing at that point). Facebook has fixed that (thanks Amy!) so I now know when I am nailing it and can practice comfortably at home. The only downside to Solo Jazz this week was my complete failure in bringing a spare top which meant I spent a good part of the start of the social dancing drying off in the window (eew).

I did a lot of dancing during the social and had great fun. Without going into details I’ve got a lot going on at the moment so I needed lots of dancing and the floor was happy to provide. 3 minutes of a song with nothing but the music and your partner to concentrate on is a wonderful antidote to life. Or as one person put it recently, ‘Lindy makes everything better. Science Fact.’ I 100% agree.

Afterwards a group of beginners went to the pub to celebrate the end of 12 weeks along with who I now think of as the regulars (myself included). It was a great way to celebrate the end of 12 weeks. I got a lemon beer in the Gas Lamp. It was amazing! My wallet didn’t appreciate it quite so much.

Next week is the last week before the Christmas break. No lessons just fun including a J&J ( Jack and Jill**). This is where leads and follows are randomly paired and perform a social dance (or more than one) in a competition. Not sure I’m ready to take part in this yet but will enjoy watching it!

Dan

*Manchester Swing Dance Society. I’ve mentioned them before – they are a great group of people (most of which tend to come to Manchester Lindy at least occasionally).

** Jack and Jill presumes gender in the roles of lead and follow so some people refer to it as J&J. Given I’m not a fan of gender stereotyping in any form I will go with J&J or any other gender neutral term.

If Dan was a lindy move which would he be?

Lindy Circle. Every time he thinks he is going somewhere he ends up back at the start! This is a reference to his dancing but could spookily be a metaphor for life. Anyway he is working up to a promenade (with pecks of course!)

sWinging It – Week 14

sWinging It

Learnin’ to Lindy where everyone’s friendly

 

Week 14 (Lesson Week 11)

I’m typing this out quickly before my Tuesday evening starts. I’ve noticed something about what I’ve been typing recently and also what I’ve been dancing. I think they are linked. I’m going to see how it goes tonight (so I’m typing this out now in order not to get any retrospective bias in here) but here’s the context.

I wasn’t completely honest last week. I said I enjoyed the social dancing and, on one level, I did. That said, after some reflection at home a couple of days later, I realised that I was unhappy with a few of the dances. They were really bad. I’m risking a telling off from Chris here by apologising to any follows that got a raw deal last Tuesday but I justify myself by claiming I wasn’t even really dancing (which you don’t apologise for!) but just stupid practicing. I can do that at home.

I realised this when I was practicing my Solo Jazz and really not enjoying it. It was also going badly. I knew I could do better. I had done better. The only time I was enjoying dancing on my own was when I was just randomly dancing to some other music. The rest had gone stale.

And I think the last few blog posts have probably been a bit stale too. I think I’ve been overly focused on technique in my dancing and my blogging. I’m not leaving room for anything else, including enjoyment (how sad). So I had to go and re-learn a lesson I had taught myself without noticing (and then forgotten without noticing) way back around week 4. At the risk of invoking that word, it is probably the first and most important lesson in musicality (IMHO).

Listen to the damn music, and feel it!

I tried it at home. My Solo Jazz suddenly feels awesome again. I did it at Basement Blues* on Monday and it felt awesome too. Working on technique has its place. I’ll work it to death in the classes and clinics etc. But when I’m dancing, for now, it is going to stay at the back of my mind.

I’m trying it tonight. I’m excited. First ever lesson excited.

Let’s see how this goes…

 

 

Oh yeah! Every dance I had last night was fun! Oh some things got messed up (I’m only 3 months in!) but every dance felt good. Some highlights are:

A dance with Katy (Patient Lady – now with correct name spelling!) where we both just changed the footwork timing & styling together (turns out it’s easy when you listen to the music). Also throwing in a Texas Tommy from the class earlier and getting a surprised smile (maybe I’m getting closer to that awesome great satisfactory dance I boldly promised some weeks ago?!)

Dancing with Beck** and ending the song bang on time with a kick the dog. You know the dance went well when you are high fiving at the end! Paula – I found the end of a song! (Woooo! I’m so proud – Paula) Still struggling with the drawn out endings but I’ll get there.

So I feel like I have recovered my mojo. That is a real relief!

Other great things from this week include:

As said above, learning a Texas Tommy. My favourite part of the lesson was Andy W showing how to switch from the right hand to the left at the end of the move. You probably had to be there but I found it really funny! I can’t (won’t) tell you how but it’s a masterful sleight of hand.

Solo Jazz with Kate and Mike! I had heard tales in Pedro’s just that evening of Mike’s scatting whilst teaching. Now I have experienced it first-hand. It made some footwork and timing that was more complicated than normal SO EASY TO LEARN. I am now a big fan of scatting to help with dancing. It hasn’t happened yet but this will likely be something else I end up doing on the streets in broad daylight. Yet another reason for the commuters to fear me.

So back on the up after a little dip.

Roll on next week!

Dan

*This is a blatant plug but you should try Basement Blues if you can make it to Bridge Street Tavern on a Monday night (starts 8.00 to 8.15). I was hesitant because I thought it would be way out of my comfort zone but I’m enjoying it. Half the people there you would recognise from Lindy and the rest are really nice too. Plus, because it’s small at the moment, you know everybody by the end of the class which is nice!

**It turns out Beck was too active on Facebook to get an alias – I recognised her. I think this may have disappointed her a bit. She thought she could be ‘Leopard Print Lady’. She is now.

Tell me more of Dan’s great triumphs!

I can say llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch without spitting on anyone – we moved to North Wales when I was seven and I had to go on intensive language training. The taxi driver made us sing it. They are serious about their Welsh there.

I didn’t pick up a Welsh accent during my 11 years there (I love the South Wales accent but the North Wales accent is not good).

The idiot who picked on me for pronouncing lemon like an English person got a lower grade than me in the Welsh first language GCSE. I’m better than him in his own language.

Sometimes it’s the little things that keep us going…

sWinging It – Week 13

sWinging It

Learnin’ to Lindy where everyone’s friendly

 

Week 13 (Lesson Week 10)

I feel like I’ve passed a milestone. I was asked how long I’ve been doing Lindy for and couldn’t remember how many weeks I’d been coming here so I said “a few months”. I can’t explain why but this feels good (probably just a tiny little beginner ego trip). I now measure my dance experience in months. I suppose I am a Lindy toddler?

Continuing the analogy, I am starting to feel like a toddler on the dance floor too. This is good and bad – I’m comfortable with my footwork on the moves I know so I’m starting to experiment a little bit (good), starting to explore a bit more (good). Like a toddler I have no idea what I am getting myself into (bad or just normal?) and thinking about other stuff sometimes messes up the basics again (bad)!

I tried a lot more 6 count and didn’t force it into sets of four (which brings you comfortably back to 8 count on the ‘1’). My brain does not like this and I’m aware that it isn’t working well most of the time but fortunately all the advanced follows are very understanding or way too polite. They are also very good at keeping rhythm and pulse which saved me a lot of times when it went wrong and I had to try to reboot without actually stopping everything. It’s frustrating but I haven’t had a tantrum or cried. Yet. I don’t know what a Lindy hopper tantrum looks like but it’s probably something that should be done in private. Certainly not on the dance floor.

We did swing outs again in the lesson this week but this time with different teachers (Andy C and I think Lisa). This meant an emphasis on different things so still lots to learn! We also covered swing out from open (score!) and had a variation thrown in (double score!) I have some questions on swing outs from open that I didn’t have time to grab someone about this week (I rushed off to change for Solo Jazz). They don’t feel right, or my expectations are wrong. They don’t seem to swing like the ones from closed do. I’m booking a slot on the clinic next week to cover that off I think. I got some more advice from Chris in the rotation so thanks again! If he had a pound for every thank you I owe him he would have enough for a good session down the pub.

Solo Jazz was awesome. Taina was teaching again and we covered the second part of the Tranky Doo so I was really pleased! It has an Eagle Slide. Eagle Slides are cool. It also has 8 counts of freestyle, the catch being you have to have your weight on the correct foot for count 7. Taina showed a few different ways to do this (and I’ll practice as many as I can remember) but I tried to actually decide when it came to that point i.e. actually freestyle. This didn’t work as well as I planned but I did discover that when my brain freezes that Tick-Tocks are my default jazz power. For some reason this makes me think of Sylar from Heroes.

I’ve decided to drill a set of moves that I can do during that freestyle so I have a box of tricks that my brain can just pick from and minimise the thinking time. In addition to this I want to spend some time on really trying to get better at moves (I’m looking at you Applejacks and Bracking), rather than routines. All this is eating into Solo Jazz time that is full of all the routines I’ve learnt over the last 12 weeks and counting. Something’s going to have to give but deciding what is hard!

Social dancing was fun but packed, so very much an exercise in Floorcraft. Floorcraft does not come naturally to toddlers but given it has been busy a few weeks now I am getting much better at things like looking over my shoulder before swinging out my follow. I heard it referred to as ‘Checking For Tigers’ a few weeks ago*. Not only is it an amazing term, it is also very memorable which has helped me to actually remember to do it! Even with my more cautious approach there were some scary moments and a lot of swing outs ‘pulled**’ short. Those tigers are damn sneaky.

I have tons to look forward to next week. Tuesday lessons, hopefully including a clinic session (I hope I get a slot!), the Manchester Lindy Christmas Party (WOW!) and, because I’ll be in Manchester that Thursday evening, hopefully some more swing dancing at Revolution de Cuba!

I’m all giddy with excitement.

Dan

*This was from someone who I have danced with before but, unsurprisingly and embarrassingly, I have not stored her name. Fortunately I have a pre-booked dance with her for next week as she couldn’t dance this week because she had been, in her words, “Destroyed in a workshop with Frida and Skye.” So until next week (and let’s face it, probably for a while after given my track record) she is the FridaSkyeTiger Lady.

**For people new to Floorcraft – don’t pull! Just tense your arm and don’t let it come out so far in front of you – the follow feels the compression and stops. They might also spot that something is wrong when you look at them with a bit of panic in your eyes – at least that’s what I am doing! Check out the Swungover video on Floorcraft for some more handy tips (and a better explanation).

 

Dan, would you like to dance?

Music to my ears, yes I’d love to! It’s been a while since I used this blog to beg for someone to dance with. I also like to chat. So if you spot the guy with impeccable style and taste on the side of the dance floor, look past him at the guy with the dodgy beard and ask him to dance or just go up and talk to him. Warning, if you chat for too long he will end up asking you to dance as well!