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.