sWinging It – Week 16

sWinging It

Learnin’ to Lindy where everyone’s friendly

 

Week 16 (Magic Week)

Since the last week of the cycle had already been, this week was a bonus week. A sort of Christmas celebration plus extras. There was a beginners lesson on social dancing which was fun and I think especially useful for people who may have joined late and/or hadn’t had much social dancing experience. It was also lower pressure since it was a beginners class only social dance (although I did notice some level 2/3 people had snuck in 🙂 ).

Solo Jazz was not on this week which meant even more social dancing. Because a lot of people had already gone home or had other plans, the dance floor was not as pressured. Whilst this meant we didn’t get as much practice on the floorcraft front, I was secretly pleased because it does make dancing much easier.

I really enjoyed this evening! Watching the J&J was great fun and very inspiring. I was asked to represent the beginners as a judge but bottled it (I couldn’t bring myself to judge people given how little experience I have). This was a bonus because I really got to watch the dancers and clap along (on the afterbeat – I’m learning!). I had loads of fun looking at how they were picking up on different pieces in the music and watching how well some of the dances flowed. There was also a game of Lindy Musical statues (again good fun) and some Snowballs.

(Editors note: Scroll to the bottom of this post for the results of the J&J!)

So there were a lot of fun things going on and a fairly relaxed dance floor due to the increased space. All ingredients to make a great evening.

But the evening was even better than that. I would say the evening was definitely the best one I’d had in all my 16 weeks so far.

It wasn’t the activities. It wasn’t the dance floor. It was the people.

Most of the people there were regulars. I’d either been through the 12 week cycle with them, been taught by them, danced with them or been to the pub after/before with them. Considering how short a time I have been here there are now a surprising amount of people I would be happy to call a friend. I don’t know the ins and outs of all their lives but would definitely sit and listen sympathetically and gladly give them a hug afterwards. I’ve already been on the receiving end of their good nature and support.

When I turned up 4 months ago I expected to find a fun activity to see me through my first contract. I’ve ended up with a community I really feel a strong part of. I’ve ended up meeting people I really want to spend more time getting to know. I want to stay in Manchester. Lindy has changed my life.

Chances are pretty good I’m talking about you, the people reading this blog.

All the people that work hard to provide a great place to learn and grow.

The person with the amazing tattoos who was great about me blogging here in the first place and continues to be hugely supportive.

The person that danced with a rubbish beginner again and again (still does) and also happens to have awesome taste in music (and long, not short hair, it turns out).

The person that always seems to be the first to post about my blogs and is incredibly encouraging and funny.

The person that travels a really long way to teach or help every week and still stays out late after to chat (he’s also really nice).

The person who champions pre lindy pizza and always seems pleased to see you (when he isn’t insulting you on FaceBook).

The person who first invited me out to the pub afterwards and is always great fun when she comes along.

The person who always has some advice for me in rotation and happens to give an amazing hug dance.

The person who seems to insult everyone but is really a teddy bear underneath (he probably won’t like that description).

And so many more of you.

I was discussing with some other people what made this night so good and came up with the phrase ‘magic people’.

You are the magic people.

Thank you.

Dan

It’s been 16 weeks now. To know anything more about Dan I think you just need to go talk to him. He would be more than happy to see you.

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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!

Swinging It – Week 12

sWinging It

Learnin’ to Lindy where everyone’s friendly

 

Week 12 (Lesson Week 9)

I’ve got to be a rug cutter, SWING OUT in the groove!

Wonder what this week’s lesson was all about?

I’ve been waiting a while for this lesson. My swing outs from open and closed were based on stuff I  remembered (badly) from lessons during my first few weeks, some internet searching (because once I saw them being done I had to learn them) and lots of practice. I’ve been feeling over the last few weeks that my swing outs were getting better and better.

My old swing outs were lame. My new swing outs are awesome*. I will probably be repeating those statements several times for the rest of my life.

I could go on about the details of the lesson but there is so much covered (it took a whole session) that I couldn’t explain it properly. Which is a nice segue into the first of the two most important things I learnt this week.

1) Youtube + practice is useful for learning but is a very poor substitute for having a solid teacher right there. Having someone stop you and your partner part way through the swing out and tell you what you should be feeling worked wonders for me. These bits are crucial to getting the physics of the move right and when I felt the move working, my academic geek** and my dance geek exploded at the same time!

2) You can think you have something down when you really don’t and that’s okay. This point was not based on the swing outs as I knew they weren’t really right. I did, however, think my lindy circle was pretty solid. Thankfully I had Chris as a follow in rotation early on and he showed me how I’d been stepping wrong. They now flow much better (thank you!). I expect to be making improvements to every move I have or will encounter for a long time. Swing outs even more so.

So now I’m dead excited about the next lesson, because I so want it to include swing outs from open.

I skipped Solo Jazz this week. They were covering the Shim Sham. If I hadn’t already learnt it for last week then I would definitely have gone along as it seems to be the most played social dance jazz routine. Plus it’s cool. That said, me and the break step decided to take some time away from each other after last Tuesday so I gave the lesson a miss. I still joined in (with everyone else) when it came on during the social though. I mean it is the Shim Sham.

This meant more time for social dancing. This was nice because knowing you have an extra 45 mins seems to calm things down a bit. It was nice to sit and chat to people. I met a nice phd student (they are everywhere!) who’s subject I can remember but name I can’t. I also caught up with a few other people. Don’t tell anyone but we talked about stuff that wasn’t dance related.

The dances during the social were also great fun! Obviously I practiced my swing outs. They are so much swingier (it’s a word now) when you get that tension in the arms! I enjoyed every dance and I keep trying to look up from the floor. At the moment this feels like it’s going to be a lifelong struggle!

One thing I did notice is that three times I got caught out when a song ended before I thought it would, which often meant I just finished a song in closed and did a quick Jazz Hands to cover it up. That’s what they are for right, kind of like pouring loads of icing sugar over a cake you just burnt? This is the complete opposite to last week where I was getting caught out thinking the song had finished when there were at least eight more counts. Clearly I need to work on recognising this, as per Paula’s great advice last week. Ending the song appropriately is clearly part of the demon that is musicality.

Also worth noting is I took a Blues dancing lesson this week on Monday. Already my posture is a bit better (I would hope so as that was the point of the lesson!). Also, given how slow the music seems compared to what we generally dance to on a Tuesday, I’m learning to be more relaxed, more flowy (also a word now) and to actually fill out the counts rather than rush them. I’m sure this will bleed through into better Lindy too.

I’m off to watch Strictly. I hear they are doing a different kind of dance for the pro routine this week. It’s an awesome dance form and I am in no way biased 🙂

Dan

*Relatively speaking. Plus we haven’t covered swing out from open yet and I am super excited because now my swing out from closed is much better my ones from open feel very limp.

** It’s been over 10 years since I got my degree. Any mention of physics now excites me disproportionately.

What does Dan do when he is allowed out of his ‘Quiet time box’?

Other than dancing and working, Dan loves to play board games with his friends. There is a whole world out there beyond monopoly where you can work together to fight global diseases, build your own space empire, or act like proper Romans by making gladiators fight and stabbing your friends in the back. My current favourite is Dead of Winter. A game where you can fight zombies as a ninja (or an accountant!), hoard medicine whilst your friends look at you suspiciously and face the moral dilemma of whether or not to kill a horse for food. Don’t ask what’s in the stew…

 

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.

 

 

sWinging It – Week 4

sWinging It

Learnin’ to Lindy where everyone’s friendly

Week 4

Muscle memory. I’ve decided that is what I need. That and a bit of an attitude change (i.e. a bit of a more healthy outlook). If you are wondering why then please read week 3 for the context of this week’s activities pre-Tuesday.

Some (most?) people would be forgetting about having a rough 5 mins and move on. I know myself, however. I understood that being shy and out of my comfort zone already, I needed a bit of a boost to make sure I felt better about being at the social dancing next week.

So back to muscle memory. I decided I needed to be able to dance without having to think ‘rock-step triple-step…’ in my head. So I stuck some music on my phone and began dancing basic steps to it.

Everywhere.

In lifts: Rock-step, triple-step, step-step, triple-step.

At pedestrian crossings: Rock step, triple-step, strange-look, triple-step.

Cooking: Rock-step, triple-step, chop-veg, triple-step.

I wouldn’t recommend the last one. I almost cut myself several times and it took ages to cook dinner.

You might also have noticed a contradiction about having absolutely no problem doing these things in public, whilst worrying about it with people who are (or have probably been) in the same boat on a Tuesday evening. I don’t understand it either but I have learnt to accept that part of me…

Regards the attitude change I did a bit of internet reading. What I read basically reinforced that a lot of beginners are nervous about asking for dances and how they are on the dance floor . This had already been mentioned by teachers during the lessons by the way. Sometimes you just need to hear something over and over again (or at least I do!).

So lots of preparation but none of it hard work. You know you are enjoying the practice when you want more vegetables with your meal.

One last thing I did before Tuesday evening was buy some shoes. This was somewhat by accident but I was happening past M&S outlet on Tuesday after work and took a chance walking in. I found some leather soled shoes for a good price (leather soles are more slippery so make twists etc. easier when dancing – I read that on a blog post here!). I took them home and tried them. It felt great. I said to myself I’d wear them in for a couple of weeks then take them with me. They were so much better than my other shoes that I took them with me that evening.

So how was Tuesday? Great – best evening yet! It was beginners week 1 so we were covering 6 count steps (6 count is rock-step, triple-step, triple-step – I had been practicing that, too). It felt good to be covering this again after some practice and I noticed my efforts had paid off. My brain was able to focus on all the other pieces rather than exactly what my feet were doing, which felt great.

Solo Jazz was a really fun Charleston routine, which everyone then performed later during the social. I had great fun doing it and haven’t been able to get ‘put a lid on it’ (the song we did it to) out of my head since.

And the social dancing went really well. Several things came together to make this particularly enjoyable:

1) I asked lots of people to dance. These were mainly beginners who were more than happy to be asked (unless I scared them into it..). This felt good in a couple of ways – I got practice asking people to dance and we both got practice doing some basic 6 count moves.

2) At one point the organisers got a few people on the dance floor. They did a bit of dancing together, then each one had to find a new partner. This went on, getting almost everyone on the dance floor and dancing with lots of different people. I don’t know what this type of thing is called but it’s such a good idea it must have a name (Editors note: A snowball! These are great fun and a good way to get the shyest dancers up on the floor – we must do them more often).

3) I wasn’t so afraid of getting things wrong. Having the basic rhythm of the steps out of my head freed me up (emotionally and mentally) to try things without worrying about mistakes. I did nearly have a backwards attitude step when I was leading ‘Man in shorts’ (from week 2) and apologised on getting a bit wrong. His response was “Don’t apologise – it’s dancing!”. Thanks for that – it’s my new motto!!

Some other highlights include learning from ‘Patient lady’ to step forward on the ‘step-step’ because, as she said, “it looks cool”; and watching some of the more experienced dancers going for it with trying moves and making mistakes  – but still having a good time.

I don’t think the evening could have gone better.

Well my shoes could have been worn in first.

Every step is a painful reminder of Tuesday evening.

Every step makes me smile.

 

Dan

Who is this guy?

I studied Physics and ended up in Financial Services (a fairly typical career path) with a wife and a 7 year old daughter. We have two cats at home and I am convinced they look down on my dancing (they certainly move a lot smoother than I do). If you want to help me to dance better than my cats then ask me to dance on a Tuesday evening. I’m the guy with the white and ginger beard.