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

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.

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.