Count down to the (unreasonably early) Xmas party begins!

In the words on the great Noddy Holder “it’s CHRIIIIIIIIIIIIIISTTTTTTTTTMMMMMMMMMMAAASSSSSSS’.

Except it isn’t. Not really, but due to a jam packed calendar of Lindy Hop events up north, we’re doing our version a week earlier than usual. 

Flash sale now on! Tickets only £5 via Dancefly.com until midnight Wednesday 23rd November.
PLEASE BRING A DONATION FOR STRETFORD FOODBANK!

Donate food

We’re incredibly excited to announce that this year’s Manchester Lindy Xmas party will feature Birmingham’s swingiest musical outfit, Martyn Nelson and the Rhythm Remedies! We’re returning to our favourite dance floor for an evening of ‘bring your own booze’ fuelled festive shenanigans.
Advance tickets only – £10 via Dancerfly.com
Plus! Charity cake sale in aid of NUV-HOP – http://nuvhop.weebly.com please bring along some baking to donate, and /or some cash to buy something tasty – this year’s charity has been nominated by Evie H – we’ll be donating all proceeds from the bake sale to Manchester Medical School students who will use it to fund their voluntary work, providing medical services to people in Uganda. 
Come and Swing Out with Martyn Nelson and the Rhythm Remedies on 27th November and help raise funds for our two nominated good causes.

We guarantee that you will want to get up and do your dancing thing, no matter how many mince pies you have consumed

Yes, yes. It’s a Sunday. Yes, we know some of you have to get up for work the next day, that’s why we are ending the main party at the civilised time of 9pm. 

And yes, we know some of you *don’t* have to get up for work on a Monday and definitely don’t *want* to go home at 9pm, so we’ve booked a second venue, The Robin Hood, a mere stumble across a car park away, for a bit of an after party. Entrance to the after party is included in the ticket price  but we ask you to register your intent to attend in advance. Entrance to the after party is limited so spaces will be allocated on a first-come-first-served basis. This is currently full but we will do our best to reassign places should they become available.

Party 1: St Matthews Church Hall,  Stretford (nearest tram stop, Stretford, Altrincham line) 5pm -9pm
Party 2: The Robin Hood, Stretford (nearest tram stop, Stretford, Altrincham line) 9pm onwards. 

Facebook event here: https://www.facebook.com/events/622540734591475

Online sales here: https://dancerfly.com/manchester-lindy/manchester-lindy-xmas-party-martyn-nelson/order/shop/

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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

Manchester Lindy Awards 2015 – the results!

To accompany Dan’s sWingin’ It Xmas party post, here are the award winners, and the nominations too!

Massive thanks to everyone who attended the party, or indeed, attended any of our events in 2015. It’s been our busiest year ever, and as we’re always busy, that’s saying something!

‘Most Wonderful Wunderkind’ (dancing less than 2 years)
(for dancing or community endeavours)

Winner: Liam Craddock

Runner Up: Dan Potter

Other nominees (in no particular order): Luke, Jane, Alistair, Agne, Rebecca

Most incredible Intermediate’ (dancing between 2 and 4 years)
(for dancing or community endeavours)

Winner: Kunnaya Wimooktanon

Runner up: Sarah Sharpe

Other nominees (in no particular order): Daisy, Catherine, Victoria, Natasha, Ruth, Beck, Jeremy

‘The Elder (Scroll) Statesperson’ (dancing more than 4 years)
(for dancing or community endeavours)

Winner: Paula Hardy Kangelos

Runner up: Barbara Rockwell

Other nominees (in no particular order):Ben, Nataly, Leanne, Taina, Andy W, Murph

‘The Snowflake Award’
(for the most unique dancer)

Winner: Jeremy Pye

Runner up: Kevin Leach

Other nominees (in no particular order): Chris, Jared, Nataly, Jacqui, Amy, Natasha, Sabie, Sophie, Ben

‘Snazziest Sartorialist’
(for the person who always wears the fanciest of pants)

Winner: Daisy Thurkettle

Runner up: Natasha Evans

Other nominees (in no particular order): Ben, Sonia, Dave, Isobel, Leanne, Ruth, Paula

‘Hotelier of the Year’
(the hostess or host with the mostest or most -aka the person with the fullest abode after Lindy events)

Winner: Velody

Runner up: Kunnaya

Other nominees (in no particular order): Paula, Vee, Lottie, Sonia, Liam

‘Mr.Miyagi Memorial Award’
(the experienced dancer that takes the best care of newbies)

Winner: Amy

Runner up: Ben

Other nominees (in no particular order): Paula, Andy W, Andy C, Beck, Kunnaya, Chris, Katy, Leanne, Liam, Natasha

‘The Overall Awesome, a bit like Sir Frankie of Manning Award’

(we didn’t vote on this one, but instead totted up the votes across all the categories and the person with the most takes the prize!)

Winner: Paula

Runner up: Liam

(photos from the party – by the wonder Ruth Hornby Photography – can be viewed here and here)

And on the last Tuesday before Xmas, we had a casual J&J contest!

This started out with an amazing 38 entrants, whittled down to 3 couples by our 6 judges, with the eventual winners being decided by a publicly generated invisible applause-o-meter.

After a tie break situation the eventual winners were:

Isobel Heyworth & John Perry

and the runners up:

Beck Rowaichi  & Julian Harris and Toby Danger & Agnė Chu

Massive thanks to our 6 judges, Mark, Jenny, Meg, Amy, Andy C and Liam.

Same time in 2016? 😀

sWinging It – Week 17

sWinging It

Learnin’ to Lindy where everyone’s friendly

 

Week 17 (New Term)

My week looked like this:

Monday: Blues (Basement Blues Manchester)

Tuesday: Lindy (Manchester Lindy of course!)

Wednesday: Lindy (Mersey Swing in Liverpool – I can see this being a new haunt)

Thursday: Lindy (Matt and Phreds – The Gelatos can swing!)

Friday: Pub with Lois, Kunnaya, Tom & Sam (This was a rest night, we didn’t even talk Lindy shop  which is a miracle)

Saturday: Lindy (Mersey Swing Winter Ball!!!)

Sunday: Learn the meaning of Swungover*

 

My body isn’t talking to me anymore. This was an exceptional week and I don’t think I can have another like it for a while!

Tuesday was a record for Manchester Lindy. There were countless beginners giving it a try. Apparently they were three or four (FOUR!) rows deep! I didn’t witness this because I was in the Improver class (I had M People – Movin’ on up stuck in my head which probably shows my age).

I won’t go into depth on what happened on Tuesday because I’m thinking of changing the format of the blog a bit. I’m going to just pull out things I’ve improved, discovered or thought about and how I’m feeling in general. This may mean fewer posts as progress slows down but I honestly don’t know. If this week is anything to go by I have a lot to talk about.

So onto things I’ve noticed:

Following is hard!

We did a bit of this in our lesson and I had done a tiny amount of following before (in a blues lesson) and so had a bit of an appreciation for how hard it is. It is very hard.

People I have spoken to talk about how stressful it is to lead because of the thinking ahead and having responsibility for the structure of the dance etc.

Follows just have a different kind of stress. As far as I can tell they are constantly on the back foot, expected to react quickly to a lead’s signals and can have little to no control over how the dance goes (depending on the lead). To me that is super stressful!

That said I’m not put off following. One of my goals (at some point in the distant future) is to get reasonable at following and be able to do switch dances** because they look like great fun.

Six count isn’t scary any more.

Something I started to notice in social dances this week is that somewhere along the way, my brain has become much better at picking up where we are dancing in the music. To the extent that a lot of the time when things have gotten ‘out of sync’ with starting on the 1; either through excessive six count or just fluffing something up, six count has saved me.

I can take an ‘uh-oh where am I in this song?’ panic situation and lead a bit of six count back to ending on the 8. The really exciting thing about this is that I’m not even consciously thinking about how many or what kind of six count moves I need to do. My dance brain just knows. This must be why all the more advanced dancers just look so effortless. Their dance brains must be bulging with stuff they just don’t need to think about anymore (editors note: no matter how long you’ve been dancing, you still get blank moments! However, we have tricks to help with this stuff, and now you are in Level 2 we’ll soon be sharing the secrets of 2,4, and 10 count moves – aka – ways to effortlessly get back to the 1).

This also gives me hope around things like recognising phrases and leading appropriately to the music for a whole song. At some point, if I keep bludgeoning it with social dancing, my dance brain will pick these up as well!

Solo Jazz is going to be HOT for the next few weeks.

The class was packed 5 rows deep and jammed from end to end. A note to whoever is planning Solo Jazz routines – if this carries on there will be no travelling moves possible! The Solo Jazz routine this week was great! I loved the kick ball change and jump into tick tocks! Oh and the Shimmys!

I cannot do a spin to save my life.

The techniques class in Mersey Swing covered this and I just can’t do it and keep balance (something new to practice at home methinks). I did discover I can do lock turns (thank you Solo Jazz!)

The Winter Ball is amazing.

So many lovely people, so many lovely dances, so much lovely cake!

I’m off to sleep for a week now and grow some new feet.

Dan

*A term coined by Bobby White? A hangover type feeling induced by excessive swing dancing, usually at weekenders etc.

** Dancing where both partners can lead and follow and will switch roles mid way through.

sWinging It – Week 15

sWinging It

Learnin’ to Lindy where everyone’s friendly

 

Week 15 (Lesson Week 12 – last in the cycle!)

Before I jump into the last week of my first cycle (OK I started week 10 of the one before but I don’t think they count), a quick aside on the Christmas Party.

I had a great time! Pretty much everyone was dressed up (myself included) and up for a good time. Dancing to a live band for the first time was fun and challenging. I need to work on my fast Lindy. I did a lot of Charleston and was very pleased I’d learnt some 20’s Charleston at one of the MSDS* lessons. I was also very thankful for the few blues lessons I’d had on some of the tracks so I guess I could do with learning some slow Lindy too.

Other than dancing with loads of people and catching up with loads of people (and eating loads of cake!) my obvious highlight has to be coming runner up in the Lindy Hopper < 2 years category! I’m not sure if this was because of my dancing (really?) or my blog (they did say service to the community) so I’m going to pretend it’s both ;-). All of us got to start a snowball afterwards and snowballs are cool so that was fun!

(Editors note: Full results are over here!)

Congratulations to everyone who won or came runner up in all the categories and thanks to everyone who put my name down!

Week 12 was about musicality. Andy C and Sophie talked about a common structure for some songs. AABA – Each letter has 4 x 8 counts and different letters have a different feel and so call for a change in the dancing style. For example we did 4 lots of ‘normal lindy’ to each A and a set of 4 Charleston moves to the B. We also did some solo jazz at the end of a phrase (a set of 4). This was very enjoyable but I suspect will take some time to make work in the social – I’d need to start recognising a song as AABA in order to change the style and also find some way to communicate to my follow we were going to do something different at the end of the phrase (which also requires recognising and planning for the end of a phrase). Well at least I’m one step closer because I’m actively listening to the music again!

Solo Jazz was another great routine by Amy. I found this one tricky towards the end as I just can’t get the timing right going into the last break and I didn’t grab the name of the track to practice with (which really helps with knowing if you are out on the timing at that point). Facebook has fixed that (thanks Amy!) so I now know when I am nailing it and can practice comfortably at home. The only downside to Solo Jazz this week was my complete failure in bringing a spare top which meant I spent a good part of the start of the social dancing drying off in the window (eew).

I did a lot of dancing during the social and had great fun. Without going into details I’ve got a lot going on at the moment so I needed lots of dancing and the floor was happy to provide. 3 minutes of a song with nothing but the music and your partner to concentrate on is a wonderful antidote to life. Or as one person put it recently, ‘Lindy makes everything better. Science Fact.’ I 100% agree.

Afterwards a group of beginners went to the pub to celebrate the end of 12 weeks along with who I now think of as the regulars (myself included). It was a great way to celebrate the end of 12 weeks. I got a lemon beer in the Gas Lamp. It was amazing! My wallet didn’t appreciate it quite so much.

Next week is the last week before the Christmas break. No lessons just fun including a J&J ( Jack and Jill**). This is where leads and follows are randomly paired and perform a social dance (or more than one) in a competition. Not sure I’m ready to take part in this yet but will enjoy watching it!

Dan

*Manchester Swing Dance Society. I’ve mentioned them before – they are a great group of people (most of which tend to come to Manchester Lindy at least occasionally).

** Jack and Jill presumes gender in the roles of lead and follow so some people refer to it as J&J. Given I’m not a fan of gender stereotyping in any form I will go with J&J or any other gender neutral term.

If Dan was a lindy move which would he be?

Lindy Circle. Every time he thinks he is going somewhere he ends up back at the start! This is a reference to his dancing but could spookily be a metaphor for life. Anyway he is working up to a promenade (with pecks of course!)

sWinging It – Week 14

sWinging It

Learnin’ to Lindy where everyone’s friendly

 

Week 14 (Lesson Week 11)

I’m typing this out quickly before my Tuesday evening starts. I’ve noticed something about what I’ve been typing recently and also what I’ve been dancing. I think they are linked. I’m going to see how it goes tonight (so I’m typing this out now in order not to get any retrospective bias in here) but here’s the context.

I wasn’t completely honest last week. I said I enjoyed the social dancing and, on one level, I did. That said, after some reflection at home a couple of days later, I realised that I was unhappy with a few of the dances. They were really bad. I’m risking a telling off from Chris here by apologising to any follows that got a raw deal last Tuesday but I justify myself by claiming I wasn’t even really dancing (which you don’t apologise for!) but just stupid practicing. I can do that at home.

I realised this when I was practicing my Solo Jazz and really not enjoying it. It was also going badly. I knew I could do better. I had done better. The only time I was enjoying dancing on my own was when I was just randomly dancing to some other music. The rest had gone stale.

And I think the last few blog posts have probably been a bit stale too. I think I’ve been overly focused on technique in my dancing and my blogging. I’m not leaving room for anything else, including enjoyment (how sad). So I had to go and re-learn a lesson I had taught myself without noticing (and then forgotten without noticing) way back around week 4. At the risk of invoking that word, it is probably the first and most important lesson in musicality (IMHO).

Listen to the damn music, and feel it!

I tried it at home. My Solo Jazz suddenly feels awesome again. I did it at Basement Blues* on Monday and it felt awesome too. Working on technique has its place. I’ll work it to death in the classes and clinics etc. But when I’m dancing, for now, it is going to stay at the back of my mind.

I’m trying it tonight. I’m excited. First ever lesson excited.

Let’s see how this goes…

 

 

Oh yeah! Every dance I had last night was fun! Oh some things got messed up (I’m only 3 months in!) but every dance felt good. Some highlights are:

A dance with Katy (Patient Lady – now with correct name spelling!) where we both just changed the footwork timing & styling together (turns out it’s easy when you listen to the music). Also throwing in a Texas Tommy from the class earlier and getting a surprised smile (maybe I’m getting closer to that awesome great satisfactory dance I boldly promised some weeks ago?!)

Dancing with Beck** and ending the song bang on time with a kick the dog. You know the dance went well when you are high fiving at the end! Paula – I found the end of a song! (Woooo! I’m so proud – Paula) Still struggling with the drawn out endings but I’ll get there.

So I feel like I have recovered my mojo. That is a real relief!

Other great things from this week include:

As said above, learning a Texas Tommy. My favourite part of the lesson was Andy W showing how to switch from the right hand to the left at the end of the move. You probably had to be there but I found it really funny! I can’t (won’t) tell you how but it’s a masterful sleight of hand.

Solo Jazz with Kate and Mike! I had heard tales in Pedro’s just that evening of Mike’s scatting whilst teaching. Now I have experienced it first-hand. It made some footwork and timing that was more complicated than normal SO EASY TO LEARN. I am now a big fan of scatting to help with dancing. It hasn’t happened yet but this will likely be something else I end up doing on the streets in broad daylight. Yet another reason for the commuters to fear me.

So back on the up after a little dip.

Roll on next week!

Dan

*This is a blatant plug but you should try Basement Blues if you can make it to Bridge Street Tavern on a Monday night (starts 8.00 to 8.15). I was hesitant because I thought it would be way out of my comfort zone but I’m enjoying it. Half the people there you would recognise from Lindy and the rest are really nice too. Plus, because it’s small at the moment, you know everybody by the end of the class which is nice!

**It turns out Beck was too active on Facebook to get an alias – I recognised her. I think this may have disappointed her a bit. She thought she could be ‘Leopard Print Lady’. She is now.

Tell me more of Dan’s great triumphs!

I can say llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch without spitting on anyone – we moved to North Wales when I was seven and I had to go on intensive language training. The taxi driver made us sing it. They are serious about their Welsh there.

I didn’t pick up a Welsh accent during my 11 years there (I love the South Wales accent but the North Wales accent is not good).

The idiot who picked on me for pronouncing lemon like an English person got a lower grade than me in the Welsh first language GCSE. I’m better than him in his own language.

Sometimes it’s the little things that keep us going…

sWinging It – Week 13

sWinging It

Learnin’ to Lindy where everyone’s friendly

 

Week 13 (Lesson Week 10)

I feel like I’ve passed a milestone. I was asked how long I’ve been doing Lindy for and couldn’t remember how many weeks I’d been coming here so I said “a few months”. I can’t explain why but this feels good (probably just a tiny little beginner ego trip). I now measure my dance experience in months. I suppose I am a Lindy toddler?

Continuing the analogy, I am starting to feel like a toddler on the dance floor too. This is good and bad – I’m comfortable with my footwork on the moves I know so I’m starting to experiment a little bit (good), starting to explore a bit more (good). Like a toddler I have no idea what I am getting myself into (bad or just normal?) and thinking about other stuff sometimes messes up the basics again (bad)!

I tried a lot more 6 count and didn’t force it into sets of four (which brings you comfortably back to 8 count on the ‘1’). My brain does not like this and I’m aware that it isn’t working well most of the time but fortunately all the advanced follows are very understanding or way too polite. They are also very good at keeping rhythm and pulse which saved me a lot of times when it went wrong and I had to try to reboot without actually stopping everything. It’s frustrating but I haven’t had a tantrum or cried. Yet. I don’t know what a Lindy hopper tantrum looks like but it’s probably something that should be done in private. Certainly not on the dance floor.

We did swing outs again in the lesson this week but this time with different teachers (Andy C and I think Lisa). This meant an emphasis on different things so still lots to learn! We also covered swing out from open (score!) and had a variation thrown in (double score!) I have some questions on swing outs from open that I didn’t have time to grab someone about this week (I rushed off to change for Solo Jazz). They don’t feel right, or my expectations are wrong. They don’t seem to swing like the ones from closed do. I’m booking a slot on the clinic next week to cover that off I think. I got some more advice from Chris in the rotation so thanks again! If he had a pound for every thank you I owe him he would have enough for a good session down the pub.

Solo Jazz was awesome. Taina was teaching again and we covered the second part of the Tranky Doo so I was really pleased! It has an Eagle Slide. Eagle Slides are cool. It also has 8 counts of freestyle, the catch being you have to have your weight on the correct foot for count 7. Taina showed a few different ways to do this (and I’ll practice as many as I can remember) but I tried to actually decide when it came to that point i.e. actually freestyle. This didn’t work as well as I planned but I did discover that when my brain freezes that Tick-Tocks are my default jazz power. For some reason this makes me think of Sylar from Heroes.

I’ve decided to drill a set of moves that I can do during that freestyle so I have a box of tricks that my brain can just pick from and minimise the thinking time. In addition to this I want to spend some time on really trying to get better at moves (I’m looking at you Applejacks and Bracking), rather than routines. All this is eating into Solo Jazz time that is full of all the routines I’ve learnt over the last 12 weeks and counting. Something’s going to have to give but deciding what is hard!

Social dancing was fun but packed, so very much an exercise in Floorcraft. Floorcraft does not come naturally to toddlers but given it has been busy a few weeks now I am getting much better at things like looking over my shoulder before swinging out my follow. I heard it referred to as ‘Checking For Tigers’ a few weeks ago*. Not only is it an amazing term, it is also very memorable which has helped me to actually remember to do it! Even with my more cautious approach there were some scary moments and a lot of swing outs ‘pulled**’ short. Those tigers are damn sneaky.

I have tons to look forward to next week. Tuesday lessons, hopefully including a clinic session (I hope I get a slot!), the Manchester Lindy Christmas Party (WOW!) and, because I’ll be in Manchester that Thursday evening, hopefully some more swing dancing at Revolution de Cuba!

I’m all giddy with excitement.

Dan

*This was from someone who I have danced with before but, unsurprisingly and embarrassingly, I have not stored her name. Fortunately I have a pre-booked dance with her for next week as she couldn’t dance this week because she had been, in her words, “Destroyed in a workshop with Frida and Skye.” So until next week (and let’s face it, probably for a while after given my track record) she is the FridaSkyeTiger Lady.

**For people new to Floorcraft – don’t pull! Just tense your arm and don’t let it come out so far in front of you – the follow feels the compression and stops. They might also spot that something is wrong when you look at them with a bit of panic in your eyes – at least that’s what I am doing! Check out the Swungover video on Floorcraft for some more handy tips (and a better explanation).

 

Dan, would you like to dance?

Music to my ears, yes I’d love to! It’s been a while since I used this blog to beg for someone to dance with. I also like to chat. So if you spot the guy with impeccable style and taste on the side of the dance floor, look past him at the guy with the dodgy beard and ask him to dance or just go up and talk to him. Warning, if you chat for too long he will end up asking you to dance as well!