sWinging It – Week 10

sWinging It

Learnin’ to Lindy where everyone’s friendly

 

Week 10 (Lesson Week 7)

After the drought last week, I was very lucky to be able to dance on no less than 3 occasions this week*! It started with Manchester Lindy on Tuesday, fuelled by copious pizza. Yum.

Pre-Lindy Pizza is a Tuesday thing I discovered on Facebook during holiday week (last week). The idea is to have a catch up and a bit of pizza before the lessons. I skipped lunch and so ordered a whole pizza. I had no idea how big they are! I was very hungry and ate over half (I did skip lunch). I was told by Kunnaya** that I was very brave/foolish eating that much.

Beginners session was ‘All about the pecks, ’bout the pecks, like a chicken…***’ . Basically promenading along and pecking at each other for two counts. A lot of people are self conscious about looking at their partner whilst dancing. I am definitely included in that list at the moment.

Many are also very self conscious about pecking. I’m not on that list. If it involves pecks then I’ll promenade and look right at you whilst my dignity flies out the window and my inner chicken breaks free! I don’t know if this makes me more or less scary to dance with. I’m too afraid to ask for feedback.

They did cover other things including 8 count tuck turns  -> twice the spinning = twice the fun and some very dizzy follows! However, as you can probably tell, pecks were the highlight! Hopefully I didn’t scare off half the follows with my pecking. I guess we will find out next week.

The pizza didn’t affect my dancing at all.

On to Solo Jazz which I am still enjoying loads! This week was run by Amy again. If you’ve read all the blogs then by now you know that Amy runs a very fun but intense lesson. This one was no exception! Highlights include the Mess Around, Knee Slaps & Scoops. I’m beginning to think I am unnaturally attracted to moves that make you look silly. By the end of the session I can say I had the routine firmly set in my head, which is great because I can work on the muscle memory at home! By the end of the lesson I had also learnt (the hard way) how to do knee slaps lightly. This is an important skill.

Pizza. What Pizza? Kunnaya hasn’t got a clue what he’s talking about.

I have a quick wash, change my top and grab a glass of water before social dancing. The water is vital after a whole Solo Jazz session and I down it and go to grab another. I’m suddenly reminded that my stomach exists! I miss around 5 or 6 songs sitting down, feeling sorry for myself, watching the sensible people on the dance floor and willing myself to digest as quickly as possible.

Kunnaya why didn’t you tell me before I ate the pizza 😦 !

There was a side benefit – watching the better leads and follows dance. You learn loads just watching what they do. How they flow from one move to the next is (for me) still really inspiring.

The social dancing I did do was great fun. I got a couple of pecks in (of course) and my swing-outs from open and closed feel like they are getting better. I got a compliment on my Floorcraft****!  We got our Solo Jazz on and there was a nice Celebration Jam followed by a Snowball! We went out for a drink afterwards and I got to chat again to all the nice Lindy folk.

And that was just dance session number one!

Wednesday morning involved getting up early to hit Piccadilly train station and do some Lindy Hop to support the Poppy Appeal. Taina organised it and around 8 of us (9 including the DJ) went and did some dancing. This was nerve-wracking beforehand, but once I was actually dancing I didn’t even notice the commuters. Lindy Hop is either increasing my confidence or destroying my dignity. Perhaps both. Either way it is a good thing. I found I really enjoyed doing this!

Wednesday evening involved a trip to Manchester Students Union for a quick lesson with the Manchester Swing Dance Society. I was a little bit nervous about this. A 34 year old man going into the students union and not dressed as a Dr/Professor is a bit weird. Fortunately there were several friendly regulars from Manchester Lindy there and all the students I met seemed nice enough.

We covered Baskets. Because of the extra complication of suddenly realising you can do stuff with your arms, my feet sometimes stopped working, which added to the difficulty just a little bit! A lot was covered (they did say it wasn’t for complete beginners). I had loads of fun and learnt a ton about my frame just by doing the moves and focusing a tiny part of my brain on how my shoulders, back etc. felt when it went right, or, more often, wrong! In retrospect maybe I was using my footwork brain for that bit. That would explain a lot.

I had to go home early because Wednesdays nights are for gaming with my wife. So I missed the beginners lesson and the social dancing but I had great fun with the improvers lesson. Another group of Swing Dancers that are really friendly! Not surprising really.

So I’ve definitely had my Lindy fix and feel much calmer and rational this week! I’m glad I’m living on the 6th floor. Practicing baskets and pecks at home without a partner would be interesting for anybody spying through my windows…

 Dan

*I’m breaking my own definition of a ‘week’ because I danced twice on the Wednesday after the Tuesday lessons which technically would be next week. I’m such a rebel, that’s just how I roll.

** A very nice guy (Organiser?/Teacher?/Overlord? at Manchester Swing Dance Society).

***I’m listening to ‘Scott Bradlee’s Postmodern Jukebox version of All About The Bass’ right now so it is filtering into my typing.

****The art of not bashing yourself or, even worse, your partner, into someone else on a crowded dance floor.

Dan Who?

During the early 1980’s, in a secret laboratory in Stevenage; scientists attempted to create a master dancer with the ultimate knowledge of dance physics. Combining the DNA of Al Minns and Richard Feynman, the result was Dan – an abject failure. During the week Dan leaves his wife and child at home in Bedfordshire and attempts to achieve his genetic potential through rigorous training at Manchester Lindy. It’s not working very well but he seems to be happy.

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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.