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 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!!

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.