sWinging It – Week 17

sWinging It

Learnin’ to Lindy where everyone’s friendly

 

Week 17 (New Term)

My week looked like this:

Monday: Blues (Basement Blues Manchester)

Tuesday: Lindy (Manchester Lindy of course!)

Wednesday: Lindy (Mersey Swing in Liverpool – I can see this being a new haunt)

Thursday: Lindy (Matt and Phreds – The Gelatos can swing!)

Friday: Pub with Lois, Kunnaya, Tom & Sam (This was a rest night, we didn’t even talk Lindy shop  which is a miracle)

Saturday: Lindy (Mersey Swing Winter Ball!!!)

Sunday: Learn the meaning of Swungover*

 

My body isn’t talking to me anymore. This was an exceptional week and I don’t think I can have another like it for a while!

Tuesday was a record for Manchester Lindy. There were countless beginners giving it a try. Apparently they were three or four (FOUR!) rows deep! I didn’t witness this because I was in the Improver class (I had M People – Movin’ on up stuck in my head which probably shows my age).

I won’t go into depth on what happened on Tuesday because I’m thinking of changing the format of the blog a bit. I’m going to just pull out things I’ve improved, discovered or thought about and how I’m feeling in general. This may mean fewer posts as progress slows down but I honestly don’t know. If this week is anything to go by I have a lot to talk about.

So onto things I’ve noticed:

Following is hard!

We did a bit of this in our lesson and I had done a tiny amount of following before (in a blues lesson) and so had a bit of an appreciation for how hard it is. It is very hard.

People I have spoken to talk about how stressful it is to lead because of the thinking ahead and having responsibility for the structure of the dance etc.

Follows just have a different kind of stress. As far as I can tell they are constantly on the back foot, expected to react quickly to a lead’s signals and can have little to no control over how the dance goes (depending on the lead). To me that is super stressful!

That said I’m not put off following. One of my goals (at some point in the distant future) is to get reasonable at following and be able to do switch dances** because they look like great fun.

Six count isn’t scary any more.

Something I started to notice in social dances this week is that somewhere along the way, my brain has become much better at picking up where we are dancing in the music. To the extent that a lot of the time when things have gotten ‘out of sync’ with starting on the 1; either through excessive six count or just fluffing something up, six count has saved me.

I can take an ‘uh-oh where am I in this song?’ panic situation and lead a bit of six count back to ending on the 8. The really exciting thing about this is that I’m not even consciously thinking about how many or what kind of six count moves I need to do. My dance brain just knows. This must be why all the more advanced dancers just look so effortless. Their dance brains must be bulging with stuff they just don’t need to think about anymore (editors note: no matter how long you’ve been dancing, you still get blank moments! However, we have tricks to help with this stuff, and now you are in Level 2 we’ll soon be sharing the secrets of 2,4, and 10 count moves – aka – ways to effortlessly get back to the 1).

This also gives me hope around things like recognising phrases and leading appropriately to the music for a whole song. At some point, if I keep bludgeoning it with social dancing, my dance brain will pick these up as well!

Solo Jazz is going to be HOT for the next few weeks.

The class was packed 5 rows deep and jammed from end to end. A note to whoever is planning Solo Jazz routines – if this carries on there will be no travelling moves possible! The Solo Jazz routine this week was great! I loved the kick ball change and jump into tick tocks! Oh and the Shimmys!

I cannot do a spin to save my life.

The techniques class in Mersey Swing covered this and I just can’t do it and keep balance (something new to practice at home methinks). I did discover I can do lock turns (thank you Solo Jazz!)

The Winter Ball is amazing.

So many lovely people, so many lovely dances, so much lovely cake!

I’m off to sleep for a week now and grow some new feet.

Dan

*A term coined by Bobby White? A hangover type feeling induced by excessive swing dancing, usually at weekenders etc.

** Dancing where both partners can lead and follow and will switch roles mid way through.

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…