sWinging It – Week 11

sWinging It

Learnin’ to Lindy where everyone’s friendly

 

Week 11 (Lesson Week 8)

The awesomeness this week started before Lindy. Having missed out on 3 Shim Sham routines (once on a Tuesday and twice when we were in Piccadilly train station last Wednesday) I decided that I would nail the routine. I thought it shouldn’t be too hard because Taina had already taught a good part of it earlier. The actual Shim Sham and the Cross Overs (If that’s what they are called) I already had down so I just had to learn the others. Turns out the break step is a £$”$^!

Fortunately Taina also found my online moaning about it and pointed me to another of her great videos (there’s one Facebook friend worth having, like some kind of Lindy superhero 🙂 ). Late Monday night I finally managed to do the routine without falling over and/or looking like I was having some kind of jumping fit. You could argue that I should have been sleeping but I maintain that I had my priorities right.

Beginners lesson was run on a much more sensible amount of pizza. This was good because it turned out to be Charleston. Charleston in a very hot and packed room. It turns out the pied piper of Lindy had summoned around twice as many advanced and beginner Lindy hoppers. I do feel sorry for the committee because they looked like they were at least one person down and dealing with twice as many people and a guest teacher (more on that later). I still really enjoyed my evening so I’m guessing between Taina and the Committee we have a Lindy Hop version of the Avengers.

The Charleston lesson mainly involved kicking and turning. I didn’t catch the names of the moves. In a room that busy there is a lot of background noise so even with the instructors (Amy and Andy W BTW) on microphones it was difficult to hear everything. I started the lesson finding it really tricky to get these down  (I normally get it at least vaguely right). Part way through I re-assessed what to focus on (balance!) and it started coming together.

This has led to me to thinking about a kind of Hierarchy of Needs for learning a move / dancing in general. This is how I’m currently thinking about it. Get ready for an aside where I try to trick Paula & Co. (and you) into dishing out some free thoughts/advice on dancing technique/philosophy 😉

Balance

Like I said earlier, I realised this during the lesson. Once I sorted out my own balance the rest became a lot easier. I also reckon that if you are sprawled out on the floor you aren’t dancing.

Footwork

If I can get my footwork down then I can at least dance in the same direction as my partner. I also learnt early on (week 3/4) that if I don’t have my footwork down my brain obsesses over it and ruins everything else!

Floorcraft

I snuck this in. OK you don’t need Floorcraft to learn a move but if you want to actually dance it without killing people then you do. I also reckon that if I can stay standing up and moving in the direction I want to then I am ready to be responsible for not hitting anyone else. Especially if doing Charleston. Nobody likes to be kicked…

Rhythm & Pulse

I’ve had moments where I’ve missed beats and had to get back in time and they can really disrupt things. I’ve also had one or two moments where my brain stopped working and I managed to be crazy out of time. I wasn’t dancing with my partner, the music or basically anything in the universe. These moments actually feel wrong. It’s horrible.

Also I know I’ve gotten somewhere with learning  a move when I do it and my triple steps are going in the right place and are nicely syncopated in line with the music i.e. they Shoop-De-Doo instead of Bang-Bang-Bang (sorry for the use of such technical terms…)

Frame

Given I only have a vague understanding of what this is I could have this completely wrong. During the Charleston lesson when leads and follows were kicking in the opposite direction then ‘pushing’ off each other’s hands I really noticed when the follow wasn’t offering much resistance/compression. Maybe I’m a dance gorilla (I hope not!) but there were a couple of times when I pushed my hand through theirs on the turn and struggled to spin around on time because I didn’t feel any compression, which threw me. I don’t know if this is to do with frame or something else (would you label it connection?).

Connection

Note this is a list of needs not importance – my favourite dances are when I felt like I had good connection with my partner (not many so far but I’m working on it!) Based on the few moves I am getting fairly comfortable with, I reckon I need to be able to stay up, move in the right way and offer the appropriate amount of compression/stretch before I can actually lead a move well. And that’s before I can read what the follow is trying to tell me through their movement. I hear some dancers can actually do that. I’ll believe it when I do it the first time!

Styling & Musicality

One day this might be something I actively think about in lessons or social dancing. Given I currently worry about everything else on the list this has to be the last ‘need’.

I’m really interested in anyone’s thoughts on this since as I said above I will happily steal any bits of info that make me either technically better or just nicer to dance with (or both!)

 

Sorry about the essay. Back to the lesson. I’d seen people doing these Charleston moves in the social dancing and was wondering if they would be covered at some point in the 12 week cycle so I was really pleased! I also love that when moves like this are getting introduced we are also being shown how to get in and out of basic at the same time so we can actually do them seamlessly (in theory!!!!)

Solo Jazz was run by a guest teacher from Athens! Josephine taught a Charleston routine known as the Blackbottom. Apparently it isn’t well known and hasn’t been passed down in the same way as some other routines like the Shim Sham, Tranky Doo, Big Apple etc. This might be because it’s ridiculously hard! The first 8 counts had a different move on every count and if you messed that up then good luck catching up later in the routine because it is SO FAST. I had lots of fun and Josephine was a very fun teacher. I was especially thankful I had my notebook because the routine was so complex I had to write it all down straight after the session. I’m still worried I missed a bit! This was a really challenging session and I enjoyed it because of that. Plus the routine is cool which always helps.

Social dancing was interesting. It was very busy and very hot because of that. At one point I wondered why the tables at the back of the room were the most popular place (dance floor aside) – they are near the window! This meant fewer dances this week and more time watching the floor. At the moment I still sit there mesmerised by how cool the better dancers look. I might start actually focusing on what they are doing to see if I can spot things to incorporate/think on. I still got some good dances in. A nice moment in the last dance of the night (with Alistair) was when I led a promenade and got pecked. “Sorry, I’m a pecker!” he said. Another one – awesome!

We are legion.

All the world shall be pecked.

Dan

Tell me something I don’t know about Dan?

When Dan was a teenager all the cool kids were dyeing their hair over the summer. He opted for blue but his friend messed it up, getting most of the dye on his scalp which made his hair look grey. He wasn’t pleased. Oh and he also played a Genie in an amateur dramatics club where he had to be painted green once a week, which basically meant he went to school with green eyebrows for half a term. This has led to a slight dye phobia which probably explains why he hasn’t tried to cover up his dodgy ginger and white beard. Ask him to dance (he’d love that) but don’t ask him for advice involving colour or dye!!

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sWinging It – Week 8

sWinging It

Learnin’ to Lindy where everyone’s friendly

Week 8 (Lesson Week 5)

Two months of Lindy have flown by and have been marked this week by… a FAIL. A fail of the social kind (the worst 😦 ).

I nervously walked up to two ladies who were sat down. They both looked at me as I was about to ask one of them to dance and… I asked if either would like to dance. This was pointed out to me (in a very nice way) as bad. A no no. If I had been thinking at all I would have realised (before I said it) that I was basically telling both of them that neither was particularly special and was also labelling myself as needy to boot. My finest hour…

I could just not write about this (convenient being the story teller) but I set out to write about the good (mostly), bad (rarely) and the ugly (hopefully never again). Also:

1) If you have done this and feel like an idiot. You now know you are not the only idiot.

2) If this stops you from being an idiot, then bonus.

3) Most importantly, to say thank you to the two ladies. I basically insulted them and they were really nice in the way they set me straight on how to, actually, you know, be polite. They still danced with me. They also seemed a little worried I was upset (I was horrified – with myself).

People like that are what make Manchester Lindy just a really nice place to come to.

Lesson week 5 (run by Ben and Meg) was sort of Charleston and 8 count refresher but also about moving between the two. This was good because, amongst many other things, I have been wondering a lot about how you signal moving from 8 count to 6 count (and back), and 8 count to Charleston (and back). One of those I can now practice until I have it down cold.

Lindy Circle* was also covered. This move was one that I really was not good at, so I was pleased it was revisited. I can now reliably get a full 360 turn if I want (teacher tip – little steps!). For me I feel like I am really invading my follow’s personal space when it goes right. Either this is correct and I will eventually feel more comfortable doing it, or, someone will tell me how to do it without being creepy and I can have another embarrassing confession to make!

Solo Jazz was run by Paula + a lady I don’t recognise (I think she’s Kate but I could have just made that up) (Editors note: you did, it was Beck – and that was her very first time as a teaching assistant! She was awesome! Paula). We learnt the first 40 seconds of the Tranky Doo. This doesn’t sound like a lot but in 45 minutes this is (to me) a real achievement! Also, Paula announced that she had decided, after reading this blog, that she needed to be as hardcore in the Solo Jazz class as Amy (Paula is the editor so she has the power to read blog future). What have I done??!!! If this carries on there will be casualties.

I loved learning the Tranky Doo! It’s really fun. The shuffle just feels fun to do and it is the only routine I know of that features Zombies. Paula suggested shouting out the names of the moves as we did them to help remember. During practice I had no spare brain power to do this but at home I have concocted a story including the names of the moves to help remember the order** – it works for my brain. We performed this again during the social (it is definitely a thing now – yeeeess!). They may or may not have videoed it. If I am on the video then look for the person that does it wrong about half way through. I did recover (phew), so not all bad.

Other than my moment of shame, social dancing was again good fun. There are now a small group of beginners that all started around the same time as me and come pretty much every week – we seem to have found each other. This is really nice because I can practice with people at or around my level. For me this is a comfortable break from the great, but sometimes scary, experience of dancing with the more advanced follows. It’s worth noting I’m still enjoying dancing with absolute beginners (says the guy with only 8 lessons under his belt…). It’s not like I can’t do with extra work on my pulse and my rhythm and my connection and…  But there are things I can’t do with people who have attended a couple of weeks. I wouldn’t subject a complete beginner to my very dodgy swing-outs – especially given how keenly I still remember my first session of social dancing!

Nice moment – one of the dances with another beginner in my ‘started same time’ group was declared as awesome (by her not me – but I thought it was awesome too!). It’s a great feeling when you have what feels like a good dance!

That said my best moment was being told by Meg during a social dance that she could tell I had worked on my footwork. Yes!!!! Obsessive practice is paying off!! And I got to dance with Paula for the first time! Good times.

At the end of the evening, as I was being really slow getting ready to go***, I was asked to the pub by Adrian and Valadee (almost surely spelt wrong). Considering I’d never met them this was really nice. Six of us went out for a drink and some pizza and I really enjoyed myself. It’s a nice comedown from the dancing and made even better by friendly company!

Sadly I won’t make it next week because I’m in Rome. I haven’t figured out yet how to get to Manchester for Tuesday evening and back to Rome for Wednesday morning without my wife and child noticing. So there may be no week 9 or, if there is, it will be full of my rambling dancing thoughts (more than usual) rather than any real insight into what happened in lessons.

Dan

*The names are all so obvious that I am only now calling out ones that I feel aren’t particularly descriptive of what you actually do.

** Some things I will not share here and my primary school level Tranky Doo memory story is one of them…

*** I loiter until the very end. I think a small part of me is saying. “Maybe they will stop packing up and put the music back on?”

Who is Dan?

I’m writing this on Back to the Future day. So if my plan worked then Gray’s Sports Almanac has been replaced with a note that Marty McFly will take back to me in 1985. The note will tell me to find somewhere to start learning Lindy and I will be an awesome dancer.

Given I am 4 years old in 1985 I probably ate the letter. This means my 2015 self is not an awesome dancer. I am most likely a humdrum IT contractor with a wife, one child, two cats and no social dancing etiquette. I am, however, starting to feel like part of an awesome dancing community.

sWinging It – Week 7

sWinging It

Learnin’ to Lindy where everyone’s friendly

Week 7 (Lesson Week 4)

Lindy is bleeding into work and not necessarily in a good way. I caught myself looking at people’s backs the other day wondering where I would place my hand in closed position and where I would expect their arm to sit on mine. I hope nobody noticed or my contract could be very short. Also, a colleague asked if I was going swinging again this Tuesday. I cleared that one up pretty quickly.

In other news ‘Patient Lady’ has a name! It’s Katie (if I spelt it correctly). I have been lucky enough to dance with her pretty much every week since week 3 and can report she is still as patient as ever (which is saying something). One day I will be good enough to repay her with an awesome good satisfactory dance (I promise!)

Now I just need to collar ‘Man in shorts’ and get his name.

If you have been reading this every week you are probably wondering if I completed my mission. I danced with loads of the more advanced dancers (more on that later) and at least two of them I asked, so mission accomplished! Also, the dances I did have were really fun. If you are feeling intimidated by the more advanced dancers I would say that, across the other side of the dance floor they look scary, but up close in person they are all lovely – go for it!

Beginners was taught by Amy and Andy C. Last week was Andy W (I just called him Andy). I should have known there are two Andy’s because I have actually looked at the committee page on the website – doh!

This lesson was Charleston – Woo! Amy and Andy went through a lot of material, covering the basic step and no less than 5 cool variations (with pecks* and kicking the dog**)! On top of that they emphasised feeling the pulse*** of the music. My Charleston felt very jerky before this lesson and now seems much smoother – Result!

Taina taught the Solo Jazz again (as well as back in week 3). The stars must have aligned because I saw a video of Al Minns showing some Shim-Sham variations (among other stuff) on the Manchester Lindy Facebook page. This took me to (through the power of internet searching) a video of Frankie Manning & Erin Stevens doing the Shim-Sham. I had planned on using this video to learn myself and I watched it a couple of times on Tuesday night but had to go out to – Manchester Lindy. Lo and behold that night I was taught the Shim-Sham by Taina. Fate wanted me to learn the Shim-Sham. I don’t argue with fate.

We also spent a lot of the session doing a Jam (Battle or just a Jam? – I can’t remember the proper name). Taina had taught two routines. One side of the room came in to the middle (with a cool entrance, of course) and did some moves. They then exited (again in a cool way). As team 1 exits, team 2 enters (in their cool way), does their routine and exits. Repeat until the song ends and you all want another song. The only downside is my bum hurts from  doing ‘Spank the baby’. If I will choose that move to exit on then I will pay the price…

And finally on to the Social Dancing which is how I danced with countless more advanced dancers (awesome). Among various Lindy traditions is a Birthday Jam, where the Birthday lead/follow (or more if there are more birthdays) gets to dance to a whole song. Their partners swap in and out during the song so they get to have fun dancing with loads of people. This Jam was different in that they asked everyone who had anything to celebrate up. This means some more people on the dance floor which lowers the pressure for nervous people.

Week 1 of this blog went live this week, which Paula announced as something worth celebration (I was too shy to mention it but secretly pleased). This meant I got to be in the Jam! My first ever!

If you are worried about feeling on show then I can confidently say that the setup minimised this and that, once the music was on, any nervousness disappeared. The benefits of taking part far outweigh any fear of participation. You feel special and it’s like being asked to dance loads of times in the space of 5 minutes! Every time I am asked to dance I get a little warm fuzzy feeling so having a Jam was very cool. Thanks to everybody that danced with me during the Jam – that one dance is worth way more than any time and effort I have put into writing this blog!!!

As I mentioned earlier I asked a couple of advanced dancers I hadn’t danced with before. I also danced with lots of people I had danced with before. Lots of dancing, lots of attempts at a decent swing-out. One day (soon hopefully!) I will be able to actually do one and reliably follow it up with something, rather than have my mind just say “Swing out done. Time to shuuuut doooowwwn.” But I’m having fun trying!

If I had to sum the evening up it would be.

A.MA.ZING!

Dan

*You peck your head a couple of times – like a chicken

** You kick three times in this move (six including your partner). I feel sorry for the dog…

*** I can’t explain this very well. I don’t exactly associate pulse with the timing of the music (although the pulse definitely has a rhythm). The way my strange brain thinks about it is, if I put some swing music on and just step softly on the balls of my feet in time to the music, I will naturally bob up and down as well – that’s the pulse (to me). I could have this completely wrong in which case call me out as a liar. If you call me out as a liar you have to say why so I learn more! More delicious learning!

Who is Dan?

Dan is a contractor working in Manchester. As long as he is here he plans to squeeze as much enjoyment out of learning and socialising at Manchester Lindy as he can! Like making a big glass of juice, but with fun instead of oranges. Help Dan get more fun by finding the balding guy with the ginger beard asking him to dance. He doesn’t actually squeeze people. Promise.

sWinging It – Week 6

sWinging It

Learnin’ to Lindy where everyone’s friendly

Week 6 (Lesson Week 3)

I’m sitting here typing to some Jazz on the headphones. It’s hard to type when you keep wanting to tap out a beat instead…

My left hip had a message for me around Thursday this week. Something along the lines of “You haven’t exercised properly in a long time and now you’re working me every day! I feel used and under-appreciated.” It wasn’t hurting, but I could tell I needed to treat it better.

Fortunately, the fear of missing out on a Tuesday night has now turned me into a very pro-active exerciser. I have been doing some hip strengthening and flexibility exercises since then and am certain I will keep it up. It did mean I had to lay off the dance practice a little bit, particularly anything with swivels etc.

I had a great recommendation from Paula (tattoo lady from week 1 – now named properly!) last week to just listen to lots of Jazz/Swing music so I did a lot of that (even more than usual). My knowledge of this music is poor (I hadn’t really got into it until I started Lindy) but here are 3 tracks that made not practicing very difficult

1) The Cats & The Fiddle – Gangbusters (doo dee ah doo dee ah… – not part of the song name but I just have to say it every time). The rhythm of this song just makes me want to get up and start some Solo Jazz. I’m loving it.

2) Alberta Hunter -The Darktown Strutters’ Ball (Amtrak Blues version – I’m not sure if there is another but I wouldn’t be surprised). An amazing song IMHO. Fortunately I can just focus on her voice whenever I get the urge to jump to my feet.

3) Anything by Count Basie (at least anything I’ve heard yet) but particularly Jumpin’ At The Woodside because I seem to have been conditioned to attempt The Stew (see week 2) whenever it comes on.

I’ll gratefully take any recommendations for other tracks/artists that could lead to compulsive dancing!

So I came to Tuesday without much practice in the week and I was eager to get to it.

Beginners Lindy was re-cap week for weeks 1 & 2. I had missed week 2, but through attending weeks 10-12 I had picked up the footwork covered in that lesson and RobotGate (see week 3) meant I had definitely put some practice into them. Paula and Andy (the teachers) somehow managed to get through 6 count and 8 count footwork (for several moves) and talk in good detail about hand placement and connection* in what felt like a very short 45 mins!

This was fortunate because I was pretty comfortable with the steps by now and was really trying to focus on where my hands were, how the connection felt and sending clear signals when leading (well trying to – it is hard). I was lucky because I was paired with ‘Man in shorts’ early and he immediately told me my hand was too high on his back (in a very nice way which makes me feel guilty for not knowing his name again). He showed me why by having me push on his back, which pitched him forward (making him bend over rather than move forward). I’m now wondering if I did that accidentally to anyone in the past few weeks – oops!

I was really pleased to be able to practice this connection rather than spending my time on the footwork, because it’s something that I can’t really do at home with my imaginary partner, Magneto**.

Solo Jazz was taught by Amy. She taught Solo Jazz in my 1st week (back when she didn’t have a name or a clear nationality). Whilst I am fitter than week 1 (please I must be) I was still feeling knackered after the session. Amy is a relentless Jazz machine. Oh, she will smile at you sweetly and be really friendly whilst she takes you up to, and then over, the edge. And you will enjoy every sweat covered minute – I certainly did!

There were lots of new steps, which was cool because my bank of Jazz moves is getting bigger and bigger. I also discovered the first Lindy/Jazz move that I don’t understand the name of (and can’t do – I really need to practice it). If anybody knows why an Applejack is called an Applejack I’d love to know. If they can help me to do it properly as well then they earn bonus gratitude!

Inspired by the beginners lesson, part of the Social Dancing for me was focusing on really trying to send clear signals and feeling signals back from my partner (the other part was focusing on having fun!) It didn’t happen very often but there were snippets. Tiny moments when it really felt like I wasn’t just doing some footwork and expecting the follow to guess what it was and copy, but was really feeling and, maybe even, leading my partner.

I want to work on this more because the feeling I got when I led some simple steps and could feel the response from the follow was great. This is clearly a part of how all the really cool looking advanced dancers seem to just know that their partner is throwing in some extra stuff and it just seems really natural.

We also got to do the Solo Jazz routine during the social again, which was cool! I certainly won’t complain if this happens again. As far as I’m aware, everyone that had attended the Solo Jazz (a lot this week!) and was still in the hall joined in. There is safety in numbers!

One thing I did notice during Social Dancing is that I have developed a little bit of an ‘advanced dancer intimidation’ mentality. If I ask one of the more advanced dancers to dance it’s always the same one or two and I’m not as relaxed when I’m doing it. So I’m setting myself a mission impossible type task of asking one or two of the other more advanced dancers next week.

I will also try and be more chilled and just dance (assuming they say yes). I will be reporting success (or failure 😦 ) next week.

Now I have put this in the public domain I’m going to have to do it. Better get my Ethan Hunt on.

Dan

P.S. I got a notebook for dancing. It’s great! I manically scribble down the Solo Jazz routines and anything I learnt or observed in the lessons and social. Now I don’t have to worry about forgetting things in between lessons. Notebooks are underrated.

*I’m probably going to give a really bad explanation here but my understanding of  the connection is basically kind of where the two partners are touching. When dancing close together (closed position) this would mean the hands they are holding in front of them and their other arm/back touching. The term seems to cover anything you can perceive about your partner and their intentions through your sense of touch e.g. the way their weight shifts, the pressure of their hands/arms etc. I really hope someone jumps in here and gives a better explanation!

** I named my imaginary follow after an X-men villain. I know that probably makes me very sad. It seemed a good idea at the time…

Who is Dan?

I’m Dan. I am a contractor currently working in Manchester. I liked watching Charleston (it’s so fun) so I looked for some dancing in Manchester and found Manchester Lindy. I seem to have fallen in love hard and fast. My wife doesn’t dance and my daughter tries to copy me (she’s 7), but can’t exactly practice with me. This, as you would have read above, has reduced me to appropriating imaginary follows. If you think I might have more fun dancing with a real person then please ask me. Look for the guy who is going bald and compensating for it with a short ginger and white beard.

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.