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.

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.

sWinging It – Week 5

sWinging It

Learnin’ to Lindy where everyone’s friendly

Week 5

I’ve fallen hard for Lindy Hop. I know this because a few things happened this week

1) I keep opting for the Paul Anka version of Smells Like Teen Spirit because I can practice to it.

2) I spent an inordinate amount of time figuring out how to meet my Mother (who I haven’t seen in a while and was in Manchester for just one evening) without missing the Tuesday lessons.

3) My 7 yr old daughter spontaneously said ‘One.  Two.  Three.  Four.  Five.  Six.  Se-ven.  Eight.’ in that way*.

So I’m a disloyal fan and a bad son but a very proud dad.

I did a lot in week four that wasn’t mentioned / was glossed over in last week’s post. I will be talking about that a little bit. I justify writing about this now by the fact that I am still digesting and using this in week 5 (and most definitely beyond). If you aren’t happy with that you are going to have to pretend I’m Dr Who or something.

Whilst looking for internet sources of support I found (following a link on this site) Swungover and, more useful to me at the moment, its sister site Swing101 (for beginners). My mind has been blown into tiny little pieces. There is a video tutorial on advanced walking! Enough said.

I could be daunted by how much stuff there is to consider in just doing some Solo Jazz basics but fortunately, the videos are very well done and the concepts are well explained (at least I got them). Also, Bobby White (the blogger) clearly has a sense of fun which immediately put me at ease. So throughout week 4 and week 5 I have been practicing some of these concepts as well as what I remember of the Solo Jazz  and the Lindy moves from lessons.

So thank you Bobby White and thank you to whoever put the link on the Manchester Lindy site (Editors note: that’ll be me! Manchester Lindy happily points at a range of online resources via our links page – we are just a tiny part of a global movement and connecting to our local and International community is important to us. Don’t forget to check out our Facebook Discussion Group, our Twitter and our Facebook Fan Page too! Paula)

The thing I’m finding is that the practice doesn’t feel like practice. I’m enjoying it so much that I just want to do it whenever I can. This seems to be ensuring I have a good attitude (for me) towards progress in getting any better. I’m sure that the time I am putting into practicing steps, posture etc. will turn out with me improving but if practicing is this much fun then I’m fine with needing a lot of practice.

I can’t talk about the beginners lesson or the Solo Jazz because I missed them (I cried inside).  I made the social dancing – I wasn’t going to miss everything! Another night of dancing fun. The lesson had covered some 8 count moves which I fortunately had some experience with because of the lessons I had attended in weeks 1-3 (my weeks 1-3, lesson weeks 10-12. This is going to get confusing…).

So I practiced these with some of the other beginners. I asked a lot of people to dance again and when I wasn’t dancing with someone  I was either getting water, doing a few Solo Jazz moves beside the dance floor, or chatting. Another really enjoyable night.

I’m still learning loads of little bits at the social which I’m finding helpful. Tonight was no exception. I got asked to dance during a song that felt a bit too quick for me. A couple of weeks ago I would have probably asked to wait for a slower song. I’m finding I am much more inclined to just go for it – there’s only so many songs before 10.45pm and I’m not inclined to miss many. Plus it’s nice to be asked to dance so I’m not turning anyone down! The very kind follow had two tips. Smaller steps and/or do some Charleston. We did both – thanks!

I’m still enjoying myself. I’m still practicing. I’m still walking into work with swing music on. I’m still practising ‘walking’ and sometimes even ‘advanced walking’ on the way to work. I’m still feeling cool**.

 

Dan

*If you haven’t heard people count like that you probably will soon. Just count out the beats and drag out the seven. To me it feels like I’m saying 7 & 8 like I would dance a triple-step. Am I the only one thinking this (or do my triple-steps really need some work…)?

**I said feeling cool. I gave up on looking cool a long time ago. If this makes no sense then you didn’t go look at the video tutorial on walking.

Who is this guy?

Once a week Dan travels from his home in Bedfordshire to work as an IT contractor in wonderful Manchester. He has a habit of practising footwork on the train and he isn’t sure if this scares or impresses people (OK he knows but won’t admit it). If you want to help Dan to actually impress people then look for the balding guy with the ginger (and white) beard and ask him to dance. He won’t impress you but he will be very grateful.