sWinging It – Week 19

sWinging It

Learnin’ to Lindy where everyone’s friendly

 

Weeks 18 & 19 (New Term)

Both these weeks have been very similar to me in terms of what I’ve done, (Manchester and Mersey each week, with some added social fun at Ruby Blues in Liverpool last Wednesday) and how I’m feeling about my Lindy at the moment.

Overwhelmed and frustrated!

This isn’t because the routines we have covered so far are too difficult. They are tricky (especially the Manchester ones recently) but I’ve found that by the end of the lesson I have it to a place where, if I could practice more, it would be ok. It’s just because now there is a lot more going on.

Take Mike and Kate’s routine from week 19. In that one session concepts that were new to me were:

1) Varying energy in the rock step to signal/get a ‘quicker’ cross over.

2) Leading your follow in a direction where you aren’t strictly speaking going yourself (right towards the end I felt like I’m kind of bringing the follow towards whilst moving out of the way at the same time and I’ll be honest I’ve still not figured that bit out).

3) Breaking the comfortable beginner pattern of ‘rock step, triple, step-step, triple’. I’ve come to the conclusion now that this basically doesn’t exist anymore. It’s the correct step on the correct counts to make sure you (and your weight) are in the correct place and you are moving nicely with the music.

4) Moving your connected hands in time with the music for certain steps (this was right at the end).

And that’s on top of actually learning the routine. Oh and there is most likely more stuff that was new that I’ve just forgotten about before typing this up.

There is SO much to learn. SO much to get better at. And I can’t learn it all.

This is where the feelings are coming from. Overwhelmed (and a little excited) by how much there is to learn and frustrated that I can’t do it. I’m a quick learner (I like to think) and when I don’t get something I will go at it again and again until it works. I can’t do that here.

It’s hard to practice these routines during social dancing when you are navigating the floor and you actually would like to fit what you are doing to the song (still working on that…). It’s impossible to practice completely at home unless you have a partner because knowing if you got something right relies so heavily on seeing your partner move and feeling the connection, especially when you are trying for compression and stretch.

I almost gave up Solo Jazz for a while to get a bit more social dancing action in the hopes of helping consolidate these things. Thankfully I realised that was crazy. Take the one thing I am getting good at and drop it to feel more frustrated about the other stuff I want to work on… Not my best plan.

I’m sticking with the Solo Jazz. In fact I’m pouring more energy into it at home again. I need to balance out the frustration. Fortunately, the Manchester p__p (censored) walk routine this week was a lot of fun and quite rejuvenating after a really tricky class. On the classes front I’ll just make sure I get a few things out of it to think about and work on. The reality is if I get one thing out of a class I’m making progress. I like to really learn everything and consolidate stuff so I feel like I know it (spot the internally competitive one…) but I need to realise this just ain’t happenin’.

So more Jazz and more patience.

Let’s see what the next few weeks bring.

Dan

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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.

Superhero Leads!

On May 29th, Manchester Lindy’s Tuesday Swing Social is going Superhero crazy!

Leads (including lady-leads) are invited to attend dressed as superheroes – we’ll also have a communal dressing up box for those too shy to travel to Freemason’s Hall with their underpants over their trousers.

Here’s the official low down:

There is an exciting project coming up to make a fun film about celebrating all the lovely leads who are our prince charmings & book on with us wonderful follows for events – the aim is fun whilst also encouraging the sluggish leads to step it up!

What we want to do is get some still shots of lots of leads striking their superhero poses!

This is going to be a fun montage & the leads featured can have exposure for their local event/group/cause or remain anonymously gorgeous – their choice. All guys posing need to be comfortable with the shots being used online around the swing community.

Whether you want to wear your groups’ t-shirt or your red cape it’s up to you, as long as you look awesome & it’s suitable for kids/grannies to watch!

The rest of the nature of the film is under wraps so we make an even bigger impact when the film comes out in the summer

Manchester Lindy will be snapping pics and submitting them on your behalf so all you have to remember is your cape!

Illustration by Jesse Lonergan, see more dancing comic icons here.

Oldham Jubilee Street Party – Lindy Hop Demo

Want to show the good people of Oldham how wonderful the Lindy life can be?

Well here is your opportunity to do just that! The lovely Kat Birks of Lindy Bomb is organising a vintage dance demonstration as part of Oldham’s Jubilee celebration and she’s looking for social dancers, Charleston strollers and jam circlers!

 

Like to take part in this great community event? Email Kat – lindybomb@live.co.uk

but hurry, the street party is taking place on June 4th.

Coming Up in Manchester

May/June/July 2012

Manchester Lindy’s Saturday Swing, TV21, 10 Thomas Street, Northern Quarter, Manchester M4 1DH – Saturday May 26th

Taina K’s Spice it Up Shag and Balboa workshop at Fitness First, Lower Moseley Street M2 3DW – Sunday May 27th

Manchester Lindy’s Sunday Swing Jubilee Special, TV21, 10 Thomas Street, Northern Quarter, Manchester M4 1DH – Sunday June 3rd

Authentic Jazz Workshop with Trisha Sewell, Fitness First, Lower Moseley Street M2 3DW – Sunday July 15th

Learn the Tranky Doo for just £5! Fitness First, Lower Moseley Street M2 3DW – Sunday July 29th

And of course, Manchester Lindy Tuesday Swing Social every Tuesday at Freemason’s hall, Bridge Street!