sWinging It – Week 5

sWinging It

Learnin’ to Lindy where everyone’s friendly

Week 5

I’ve fallen hard for Lindy Hop. I know this because a few things happened this week

1) I keep opting for the Paul Anka version of Smells Like Teen Spirit because I can practice to it.

2) I spent an inordinate amount of time figuring out how to meet my Mother (who I haven’t seen in a while and was in Manchester for just one evening) without missing the Tuesday lessons.

3) My 7 yr old daughter spontaneously said ‘One.  Two.  Three.  Four.  Five.  Six.  Se-ven.  Eight.’ in that way*.

So I’m a disloyal fan and a bad son but a very proud dad.

I did a lot in week four that wasn’t mentioned / was glossed over in last week’s post. I will be talking about that a little bit. I justify writing about this now by the fact that I am still digesting and using this in week 5 (and most definitely beyond). If you aren’t happy with that you are going to have to pretend I’m Dr Who or something.

Whilst looking for internet sources of support I found (following a link on this site) Swungover and, more useful to me at the moment, its sister site Swing101 (for beginners). My mind has been blown into tiny little pieces. There is a video tutorial on advanced walking! Enough said.

I could be daunted by how much stuff there is to consider in just doing some Solo Jazz basics but fortunately, the videos are very well done and the concepts are well explained (at least I got them). Also, Bobby White (the blogger) clearly has a sense of fun which immediately put me at ease. So throughout week 4 and week 5 I have been practicing some of these concepts as well as what I remember of the Solo Jazz  and the Lindy moves from lessons.

So thank you Bobby White and thank you to whoever put the link on the Manchester Lindy site (Editors note: that’ll be me! Manchester Lindy happily points at a range of online resources via our links page – we are just a tiny part of a global movement and connecting to our local and International community is important to us. Don’t forget to check out our Facebook Discussion Group, our Twitter and our Facebook Fan Page too! Paula)

The thing I’m finding is that the practice doesn’t feel like practice. I’m enjoying it so much that I just want to do it whenever I can. This seems to be ensuring I have a good attitude (for me) towards progress in getting any better. I’m sure that the time I am putting into practicing steps, posture etc. will turn out with me improving but if practicing is this much fun then I’m fine with needing a lot of practice.

I can’t talk about the beginners lesson or the Solo Jazz because I missed them (I cried inside).  I made the social dancing – I wasn’t going to miss everything! Another night of dancing fun. The lesson had covered some 8 count moves which I fortunately had some experience with because of the lessons I had attended in weeks 1-3 (my weeks 1-3, lesson weeks 10-12. This is going to get confusing…).

So I practiced these with some of the other beginners. I asked a lot of people to dance again and when I wasn’t dancing with someone  I was either getting water, doing a few Solo Jazz moves beside the dance floor, or chatting. Another really enjoyable night.

I’m still learning loads of little bits at the social which I’m finding helpful. Tonight was no exception. I got asked to dance during a song that felt a bit too quick for me. A couple of weeks ago I would have probably asked to wait for a slower song. I’m finding I am much more inclined to just go for it – there’s only so many songs before 10.45pm and I’m not inclined to miss many. Plus it’s nice to be asked to dance so I’m not turning anyone down! The very kind follow had two tips. Smaller steps and/or do some Charleston. We did both – thanks!

I’m still enjoying myself. I’m still practicing. I’m still walking into work with swing music on. I’m still practising ‘walking’ and sometimes even ‘advanced walking’ on the way to work. I’m still feeling cool**.

 

Dan

*If you haven’t heard people count like that you probably will soon. Just count out the beats and drag out the seven. To me it feels like I’m saying 7 & 8 like I would dance a triple-step. Am I the only one thinking this (or do my triple-steps really need some work…)?

**I said feeling cool. I gave up on looking cool a long time ago. If this makes no sense then you didn’t go look at the video tutorial on walking.

Who is this guy?

Once a week Dan travels from his home in Bedfordshire to work as an IT contractor in wonderful Manchester. He has a habit of practising footwork on the train and he isn’t sure if this scares or impresses people (OK he knows but won’t admit it). If you want to help Dan to actually impress people then look for the balding guy with the ginger (and white) beard and ask him to dance. He won’t impress you but he will be very grateful.

 

 

sWinging It – Week 4

sWinging It

Learnin’ to Lindy where everyone’s friendly

Week 4

Muscle memory. I’ve decided that is what I need. That and a bit of an attitude change (i.e. a bit of a more healthy outlook). If you are wondering why then please read week 3 for the context of this week’s activities pre-Tuesday.

Some (most?) people would be forgetting about having a rough 5 mins and move on. I know myself, however. I understood that being shy and out of my comfort zone already, I needed a bit of a boost to make sure I felt better about being at the social dancing next week.

So back to muscle memory. I decided I needed to be able to dance without having to think ‘rock-step triple-step…’ in my head. So I stuck some music on my phone and began dancing basic steps to it.

Everywhere.

In lifts: Rock-step, triple-step, step-step, triple-step.

At pedestrian crossings: Rock step, triple-step, strange-look, triple-step.

Cooking: Rock-step, triple-step, chop-veg, triple-step.

I wouldn’t recommend the last one. I almost cut myself several times and it took ages to cook dinner.

You might also have noticed a contradiction about having absolutely no problem doing these things in public, whilst worrying about it with people who are (or have probably been) in the same boat on a Tuesday evening. I don’t understand it either but I have learnt to accept that part of me…

Regards the attitude change I did a bit of internet reading. What I read basically reinforced that a lot of beginners are nervous about asking for dances and how they are on the dance floor . This had already been mentioned by teachers during the lessons by the way. Sometimes you just need to hear something over and over again (or at least I do!).

So lots of preparation but none of it hard work. You know you are enjoying the practice when you want more vegetables with your meal.

One last thing I did before Tuesday evening was buy some shoes. This was somewhat by accident but I was happening past M&S outlet on Tuesday after work and took a chance walking in. I found some leather soled shoes for a good price (leather soles are more slippery so make twists etc. easier when dancing – I read that on a blog post here!). I took them home and tried them. It felt great. I said to myself I’d wear them in for a couple of weeks then take them with me. They were so much better than my other shoes that I took them with me that evening.

So how was Tuesday? Great – best evening yet! It was beginners week 1 so we were covering 6 count steps (6 count is rock-step, triple-step, triple-step – I had been practicing that, too). It felt good to be covering this again after some practice and I noticed my efforts had paid off. My brain was able to focus on all the other pieces rather than exactly what my feet were doing, which felt great.

Solo Jazz was a really fun Charleston routine, which everyone then performed later during the social. I had great fun doing it and haven’t been able to get ‘put a lid on it’ (the song we did it to) out of my head since.

And the social dancing went really well. Several things came together to make this particularly enjoyable:

1) I asked lots of people to dance. These were mainly beginners who were more than happy to be asked (unless I scared them into it..). This felt good in a couple of ways – I got practice asking people to dance and we both got practice doing some basic 6 count moves.

2) At one point the organisers got a few people on the dance floor. They did a bit of dancing together, then each one had to find a new partner. This went on, getting almost everyone on the dance floor and dancing with lots of different people. I don’t know what this type of thing is called but it’s such a good idea it must have a name (Editors note: A snowball! These are great fun and a good way to get the shyest dancers up on the floor – we must do them more often).

3) I wasn’t so afraid of getting things wrong. Having the basic rhythm of the steps out of my head freed me up (emotionally and mentally) to try things without worrying about mistakes. I did nearly have a backwards attitude step when I was leading ‘Man in shorts’ (from week 2) and apologised on getting a bit wrong. His response was “Don’t apologise – it’s dancing!”. Thanks for that – it’s my new motto!!

Some other highlights include learning from ‘Patient lady’ to step forward on the ‘step-step’ because, as she said, “it looks cool”; and watching some of the more experienced dancers going for it with trying moves and making mistakes  – but still having a good time.

I don’t think the evening could have gone better.

Well my shoes could have been worn in first.

Every step is a painful reminder of Tuesday evening.

Every step makes me smile.

 

Dan

Who is this guy?

I studied Physics and ended up in Financial Services (a fairly typical career path) with a wife and a 7 year old daughter. We have two cats at home and I am convinced they look down on my dancing (they certainly move a lot smoother than I do). If you want to help me to dance better than my cats then ask me to dance on a Tuesday evening. I’m the guy with the white and ginger beard.

sWinging It – Week 3

sWinging It

Learnin’ to Lindy where everyone’s friendly

Week 3

Towel. Check. Flannel. Check. Soap. Check. Deodorant. Check. Spare top. Check. I’m ready to go Lindy Hop.

I am determined to do social dancing this week (hence the bag packed with stuff). I’m getting a lot of practice in running through the Solo Jazz routines but I am forgetting a lot of the partner dancing because of my inability to practice with someone outside of lessons. I don’t want to give up the Solo Jazz as it’s great fun so I just need to be clean and presentable afterwards in order to hit the dance floor without gassing everyone.

My week 3 is the course’s week 12 (the last week). This meant a very fast paced lesson, re-capping a lot of moves that I hadn’t done before. Again, there were a lot of beginners there and everyone was having fun; so if anyone is reading this and thinking of trying it out, I wouldn’t be put off starting any week – just turn up and enjoy yourself. That said, I knew I had no chance of retaining all of the information speeding into my brain so I decided to focus my feeble memory on remembering the names of the moves – I can always ask about them later.

Ben was teaching. I think he had already taught at least one, possibly two, of the weeks previously so I deserve no medals for remembering that name, especially since in my head I still sometimes refer to him as ‘moustache envy’. He has a great swirly Victorian villain moustache. The envy is because the hair above my lip will never grow that long and I have to satisfy myself with a short beard to cover up my weak chin…

The other teacher’s name I predictably don’t remember (Editors note: Megan). I think of her as ‘scary teacher with longish blond hair ‘ I’m paraphrasing but when talking about swing-outs* in the level 2 class she mentioned that she could just say “Drop and give me 10 swing-outs!” A sneak peek into next week’s Solo Jazz class reveals that she isn’t at all scary (although she still has that name in my head).

Again I had great fun and could feel myself getting better at the movements.

Solo Jazz was great. Taina was teaching and it doesn’t take long to see she’s clearly an awesome dancer and teacher. There were a lot of new moves in this routine and I found the sliding moves challenging. There was one at the start of the routine that looked simple (I found it very tricky) and another Taina referred to as ‘bracking’ – a word she confessed was her own, but which made absolute sense when she explained it to me. I asked for some advice on that and she helped out a bit, also pointing me to some YouTube videos she has online (bonus!). This routine was not as tiring as the others but definitely challenging and just as enjoyable. I discovered that raising one foot slightly whilst lowering and moving the other is not as easy as it sounds (at least for me 😉 ).

A quick wash and change of clothes and I’m in the social dancing room! Now I’m introverted (especially so when I’m with new people and doing something I’m not 100% comfortable with), so I knew this was going to be a bit of a challenge. I sat in the corner giving off a very nervous vibe. One lady danced with me a couple of times. I can’t remember your name – I’m really sorry because we actually talked on the way back afterwards and I did ask so I have no excuses. You are currently ‘artist lady’. She confessed that, whilst she had done a lot of other dancing (latin, I think) it had been a while since she had done any Lindy. We fumbled through some basic moves and I got to do some Charleston with her which was fun. My confession – I had, about a year ago, taught myself that Charleston just because I love that move. I definitely did not pick it up that quickly from the lesson (I wish I had).

The other dance I remember for all the wrong reasons. A very kind, clearly competent, follow saw me looking nervous and asked me if I wanted a dance (she is called ‘patient, nice, short lady with short hair’, or ‘patient lady’ for short). The music was too fast so we postponed. I found her again during a slower song and, completely nerve-wracked, all I could do was go backwards and forwards in 8 count steps. My brain was playing ‘rock-step triple-step step-step triple-step’ over and over in a kind of panicked tone. Patient lady was great about it. She thanked me for the dance. I nervously thanked her and secretly wondered if I was a robot.

So a great evening with a dodgy dance. It should be put into perspective (and has been now) but at the time, as some humans are prone to do, I let that and my general nervousness overshadow how I felt about the evening.

Let’s be clear. Everyone I have met in these 3 lessons has been super-nice. All the teachers are patient and fun and I am loving learning the steps in both lessons. Everyone in the social dancing was super-nice. The people I danced with were super-nice (thank you!). The problem was how I felt and what I was thinking to myself.

I knew I was going back next week but I didn’t want to make myself feel like that again. Time to take some action…

 

Dan

* a swing out is a move where the lead ‘swings’ their partner out from closed (side by side ish) to open (facing each other). So far I haven’t encountered a lindy move that doesn’t have a Ronseal name.

 

Who is this guy?

Dan was a simple IT contractor with a wife and child before robots from another dimension kidnapped him for experiments in Social Dancing. He is currently undergoing rehabilitation at Manchester Lindy. If you want to help Dan to recover then look for the balding ginger bloke and ask him to dance. He has been programmed to say yes.

sWinging It – Week 2

sWinging It

Learnin’ to Lindy where everyone’s friendly

Week 2

Must get fitter. I resolve to use the stairs when going to my flat (it’s on the 6th floor) and to practice the Solo Jazz routine every day. My wife has a Spotify account so getting hold of the track from last week’s lesson was easy. I end up doing the Jazz routine morning and evening because it’s really fun. I’m not sure my resolution to use the stairs makes it through the week.

The beginners’ lesson was, yet again, very enjoyable. I recognise a couple of faces. ‘Man in shorts who’s good and clearly helping the teachers by being a follow/lead was there again’ I need to find out his name, or at least start thinking of him as just ‘man in shorts’. There also seems to be a lot of new people (and some from last week are missing). I completely fail to retain anybody’s name again but my basic steps seem to be getting better. I can definitely think rock-step, triple-step, step-step, triple-step to a beat. I’m also executing some of the moves ok, although by the end of the lesson I’ve forgotten what the start of the routine is, maybe I should be practicing memory exercises as well as my dancing… I’m still enjoying myself and that’s the main thing.

Solo Jazz was run by Leanne (I remembered! – although I probably spelt it wrong). It was a routine called The Stew. Now, before the lesson I thought I might try some social dancing after this, because I did actually feel fitter this week. I did not do social dancing. By the end of the session we were moving at what felt like 300 miles an hour. By this point I’m not even sure I’m on time to the music (probably not!). I’m tired and my brain is saying just… keep… kicking… I was, however smiling (in between jagged breaths).

One great thing about the Solo Jazz session (other than The Stew, which is definitely great) was getting run through ‘the festival toilet pose’ to make sure I’m standing properly. I won’t go through it here – Leanne gives a very good explanation. Suffice to say I can easily remember it and I am now trying to use the festival toilet pose when practicing.

I went home after Solo Jazz. I was tired, but could have done the social dancing. I was also, however, covered in sweat and didn’t want to inflict that on anyone.

 

Dan

 

Who is this guy?

Dan has been learning Lindy Hop from scratch with the fine people at Manchester Lindy and has recently started talking about himself in the third person. When Dan is not dancing he is working in Manchester as an IT contractor or at home with his wife and child in the South of England.

If you are at the Freemason’s Hall on Tuesday and are brave or foolish enough to fancy a dance with Dan, look for the balding man with the ginger and white beard (or the only one that will admit it). Dan does not know how to say no so you are guaranteed success!

sWinging It – Introduction and Week 1

sWinging It

Learnin’ to Lindy where everyone’s friendly

Who is this guy?

Hello. I’m Dan.

I’ve been learning Lindy Hop from scratch with the fine people at Manchester Lindy. I’ve enjoyed it so much I wanted to write about it and they very kindly let me. When I’m not dancing I am working in Manchester as an IT contractor (or Data Monkey as some call it), or I am back at home with my wife and child in the South of England. I try to make every Tuesday at the Freemasons’ Hall (I don’t know when I’ll be working somewhere else).

If you are brave or foolish enough to fancy a dance with me, look for the balding man with the ginger and white beard (or the only one that will admit it). I don’t think I’ve said no to anyone yet!

What’s this all about?

This blog is about my personal journey learning Lindy Hop (and Solo Jazz!) with the great people at Manchester Lindy. It’s a mind dump, so will be full of thoughts and feelings and anything I have (hopefully) discovered along the way. You will not learn anything about dancing reading this (I’m the one learning). I may even ‘discover’ misconceptions – please, please, please call me out on those!

Finally, it’s about me learning to dance at Manchester Lindy so I am highly likely to mention (by description or first name) people there. If you don’t want to be mentioned please contact me (danielbrianpotter (at) gmail.com) or Manchester Lindy (manchesterlindy (at) gmail.com) and I will make sure you aren’t included (and remove you from anything you were in).

Week 1

I’m excited. I’ve just found out where I can go learn Lindy Hop. I’ve always wanted to but never been able to make it work. As a bonus they teach Solo Jazz as well! I’m away from my wife and child in the week so this is something I can practice on my own. It’s a nice evening at the start of September. I’m going to go and give it a try.

The beginner’s lesson is fun. Two people are teaching so everyone sees the movements of both parts of the partnership. They refer to themselves (and us) as a lead (I knew that I’m not clueless) and a follow (OK I didn’t know that…). The follow teacher has loads of cool tattoos (Editors note: Thanks Daniel!) but looks friendly and often does some cool twisty thing with her legs whenever the lead sends her away from him. That looks great but back in my world I’m discovering it’s actually quite hard to fit three steps into two counts (sensibly called a triple-step). Especially so when you are also thinking about everything else you should be doing. I am, however,  having lots of fun learning.

We are all paired up with a follow (I’m a lead). The follows get moved on every now and then so I end up practising with a lot of different people. We are learning  a lot of moves and stringing them together into something we could practice on the dance floor later. I introduce myself to a lot of people during this. They all seem friendly as they tell me their name. I forget them all. I don’t expect anyone to remember my name. I’m so busy watching, trying moves and enjoying myself I can’t even remember the teacher’s names.

I go to Solo Jazz after the beginners’ class. It’s run this week by a short lady who sounds Scottish (at least to me, which means she is probably Italian, German, or maybe, Welsh). Of course I don’t remember her name (editors note: That’ll be Amy). We learn a whole Solo Jazz routine. I’m knackered by the end of it. After drinking several cups of water I manage to ask the name of the song so I can practice at home. “We cats will swing for you”, she says. I thank her. I want to go to the social dancing but I’m dripping with sweat and feel like I’ve run a marathon (it’s not the lesson – I’m unfit). I go home and promise myself I will do some more exercise. I’ve had great fun and I want to do it again next week without feeling an imminent heart attack.

 

Dan