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 9

sWinging It

Learnin’ to Lindy where everyone’s friendly

 

Week 9 (Lesson Week 6 Holiday Week)

As mentioned last week I was on holiday and so missed lessons this week. For those of you interested, my withdrawal symptoms included an increased need to listen to swing music*, spare minutes spent reading internet articles about dancing (covered more below) and a small bit of solo jazz to some buskers in Rome (in my defence they did swing).

Also worth noting this week is that I discovered the identity of ‘man in shorts’ through the power of social media. Not all of social media is a force for good but the Manchester Lindy Facebook group clearly is. ‘Man in shorts’ is called Chris. It’s good I discovered this before winter set in as I can’t imagine Chris needing shorts much longer.

So without much opportunity to practice, but plenty of thinking time whilst squashed on Rome’s buses, these are the things I have been wondering about before, and during, my holiday. I don’t blog about them normally because my random thoughts are nowhere near as fun as what happens on a Tuesday evening. There are two running themes to these questions.

1) They have a lot to do with interpreting music (or over-thinking it, a speciality of mine)

2) I am nowhere near ready to actually start worrying about them during lessons/social dancing** (which is why I torture myself with it in my spare time)

Why do Jazz steps start on the 8 count?

OK there are plenty that start on the 1 but I’ve also seen enough that start on 8. I did do some looking into this using the magic of the internet but couldn’t get a satisfactory explanation. The best I found was that for those moves, the second step contrasts/compliments the first beat. I don’t have a clue if this is right. It bothers me.

What on earth is a break / how do I know it is a break?

I will hold my hand up and say there are some good articles on this which talk to musical structure and have examples to listen to, but I haven’t had time yet to really focus on them. I have seen a break described as when all of the instruments stop but also as when most of the instruments stop. I’m convinced that breaks exist, but not very clear on how to accurately recognise them. At least I no longer think it’s where you stop in the middle of a really fast song and hyperventilate.

I have been listening out for breaks and think I hear them sometimes. I do have trouble in tracks where one instrument stops and another starts. Is this a break or something else? Can I make up a name for it in case I accidentally hit it? I definitely hit that swap…

I can picture a moment in my future when I hit what I think is a break but clearly isn’t. If/when that happens I will have to tell myself to read this post again. Right now I can’t imagine having any brain capacity left over from all the other stuff I need to think about during a dance to actually hit a break, real or imagined.

Musicality

Oh yes. That word. Come on. From the Oxford Dictionary no less:

1) Musical talent or sensitivity:

her beautiful, rich tone and innate musicality

his compositions reveal an exceptional degree of innate musicality

2) The quality of having a pleasant sound; melodiousness:

the natural musicality of the language

Glad that one was cleared up.

This is the most ambiguous but often used term I have come across. People seem to use it to express an awful lot of things and that bothers me*** because it leaves me open to misconceptions which I am sure I would swallow. It would not surprise me to hear someone mention the word ‘musicality’ and ‘you can’t get pregnant during your first social dance’ in the same sentence. I would probably believe it and spend the rest of the evening wondering what kind of social dancing they do.

In all seriousness, I would like to see at least some kind of list of things that express/show musicality. I guess hitting a break would be one. Maybe by the time I’m ready to start actually demonstrating musicality I will be a bit clearer on what exactly it is.

I have just read this blog post back to myself and think I need to add ‘ranting about Lindy concepts which frighten and confuse me’ to my list of withdrawal symptoms. I need my next fix. Tuesday is only one sleep away. I can make it.

 Dan

*Flights go really quickly when accompanied by The Boilermaker Jazz Band, Artie Shaw, Duke Ellington and Glenn Crytzer And His Syncopators.

** This is actually a blessing. I am actively trying to have fewer things to worry about during social dancing in the hopes I might actually relax a little bit

*** As a (long ago) physicist I confess that I probably have a hang-up about precise definitions and that, in more artistic areas, that isn’t always possible because it is very subjective. It’s like being cool. Everyone can accurately tell me I’m not cool. Nobody can tell me what I need to do to be cool. Except my daughter who says I need sunglasses like a spy, a leather jacket and some black trousers…

Dan clearly needs help, what can I do?

The doctor he found on the internet has prescribed dance related treatment. Dance with him. If you spot a break you can punch him until he starts to recognise them. Then he will be known throughout the world as ‘that guy who hits all the breaks by cringing’. A small price to pay to hit all them tasty  breaks.