Aut Inveniam Viam Aut Faciam

I have always wondered if other people in the Hammond Building found it strange to hear the sound of desks sliding and screeching across the floor for over an hour.

About four years ago in State College, Pennsylvania I was a new lead and frustrated that follows I danced with couldn’t feel me lead a rock step. The result of that was I decided to take the matter into my own hands. An immobile object wouldn’t compensate for my shitty leading, so I drilled leading rock steps on classroom disks at the top floor of the engineering building in an attempt to get my body to understand the feeling of using my body to create a stretch during a rock step.

The Benefits of an Isolated Scene

The running joke in State College was “we were four hours from everything” and with Washington D.C., Baltimore, Pittsburgh, and Philadelphia in that range it wasn’t far from the truth.  As a scene we had 1 hour classes followed by a usually 2 hour dance twice a week and one monthly large dance. Our big deal event was our semester workshop which had international instructors for absurdly low prices such as $20 dollars for a weekend workshop of 8 classes. While it wasn’t the worst situation in the world, it still was no L.A. or Washington D.C. where you have a large community of dancers and regular instruction from nationally recognized instructors.

What it did give us is the gift of forcing those of us who wanted to improve to take ownership of our dancing improvement. We would do stupid things to get in dancing with advanced dancers like leave after colleges classes at like 5pm and drive four hours to Washington D.C. to dance at the Jam Cellar (which at the time as a newbie I was convinced was like the Mecca of dance), stay to the bitter end, and then take shifts driving back to make it home in time for 8 AM classes the next day. I believe I visited Washington D.C. about three different times before I actually saw what it looked like in the daylight.

One memory that stands out in my mind was feeling left out after attending a workshop weekend that during the shim sham I had no idea what it was or how to do it. That became the catalyst which caused me the following week to use the video below and teach myself the entire routine.

The important concept I got from living in a somewhat small/isolated scene is it was not my communities’ responsibility or whatever instructors’ responsibility to help me to improve, it was mine. If I watched a video and thought I looked like shit there was always a mirror to remind myself of whose fault it is.

The Problem

The problem I have noticed in swing dance communities in general is a sizable portion of dancers are not proactive. What I mean by that is they expect to be spoon-fed and given the answers from instructors. Yes, you can learn that way but it is a slow route and not conducive to getting past intermediate at best. Even worse I would argue you are likely to end up more looking like a poor imitation of another dancer instead of developing your own voice or personality in movement.

I’m not saying to completely abandon teachers or classes, obviously those have value. What I am saying is there is a definite value being able to develop yourself as a dancer outside of formal swing dance class and many of those skills such as being able to visually learn and recreate movement have multifaceted applications. When you have classes as your only source of learning then the material your teacher’s present and possibly the social dance floor are your only source of input. However when you choose to attempt to learn something anything you can grasp is a source of inspiration; Frankie Manning, Dean Collins,  Willa Mae Ricker, or Jewel McGowan. Even non Lindy Hop sources are game, one dancer I have personally have pulled from is Maurice Mouvet.

Over the years I’ve had requests for me to teach people some things like swingout variations or solo jazz routines and often my thoughts are, “It’s on youtube, you could learn it tonight instead of waiting around for me to show you.”

An interesting trend is a lot of amazing dancers (including a few from State College) have always had this attitude in dance and in many cases they actively seek out opportunities to work and collaborate with others outside of a traditional workshop and classroom setting whether that is locally or involves travel. Jon Tigert wrote in his blog about his experience when he was in a tiny remote town in Italy for two and a half months and out of the dance loop. Did he use that as an excuse to rest on his laurels and complain about how there was no one to dance with? Hell no, instead he worked his ass off at improving his quality of movement through solo jazz.

Don’t Dream It Be It

Here is my challenge to you dear readers. Take something you have always wanted to learn (within reason, please don’t crack skulls learning aerials off of youtube) and do it. No partner? Post a facebook status, ask people in your classes, or worst case scenario work on solo quality of movement. Tranky Doo, Big Apple, or California Routine? There are videos for all of those online. If you actually take me up on my challenge write in the comments about it or even better show me on video or in person. I’ll leave you with this quote from Mr. Tigert,

So you are wondering how you can become a better dancer, even if you don’t have a partner, or you can’t afford classes. Get off your butt, stop reading blogs and watching videos, put in your earbuds and just dance. – Jon Tigert

Shim Sham Shimmy – At The Orpheum Theatre

Leonard Reed – Picture from Wikipedia

From former Lindy Hop historian Terry Monaghan’s obituary on Leonard Reed,

The dancer, comedian, songwriter and producer Leonard Reed, who has died aged 97, was one of the choreographers of the “Shim Sham” the anthem of jazz dance. When Nat “King” Cole challenged Mel Tormé to a dance contest on his 1950s TV show, inevitably they danced the Shim Sham. As Norma Miller, the Lindy Hopper remarked: “you’re not a jazz dancer if you don’t know the Shim Sham.”

While many of us swing dancers often do a line dance version of this routine, the original version is often attributed to Leonard Reed and Willie Bryant. Wikipedia has this written on the subject,

The Shim Sham routine created by Leonard Reed and Willie Bryant in 1927 uses four popular steps of the period: the Shim Sham, the Pushbeat and Crossover, the Tackie Annie or Tack Annie, and the Half Break. Originally called “Goofus” and done as a comedic farm dance to the song “Turkey in the Straw,” the dance was performed by Leonard Reed and Willie Bryant around the South while they were touring with the Whitman Sisters Troupe. The dance was then taken to the Shim Sham Club in New York, where the farm theme was dropped and chorus girls were added to the dance. The chorus girls further varied the dance by shaking their shoulders while doing the first step, and soon the dance became known as the Shim Sham Shimmy.

 

One of Reed’s last notable performances was at the Orpheum Theatre (June 2, 1999) with quite the interesting cast of characters; Erik Robison and Sylvia Skylar famed 90’s LA Dancers which Robert White goes into a bit of detail about in this article and that Jerry Almonte touches in Part 2 of his Artistry in Rhythm series as well, Rusty Frank a noteable dance historian and preservationist in swing dance and tap, Maxwell De’Mille a longstanding personality in the L.A. Art Deco Society and swing dance community. Hilary Alexander; a judge at ILHC for several years, vocalist featured in Jonathan Stout and His Campus 5, and most known for organizing Camp Hollywood one of the longest running swing dance events, Chester Witmore a famed; stuntman, choreographer, tap dancer, and the list goes on, Chandler Smith a former old school L.A. swing dancer, and last but not least Leonard Reed himself.

This second clip, a demo reel for the (now defunct) Hollywood Jitterbugs features many dancers from the first clip in the Shim Sham. Also it provides a look back in time to certain dancers in the earlier stages of their dancing, who are now movers and shakers of our scene.

The reason I picked this particular performance of the Shim Sham is it is an interesting snapshot of time in the history of Lindy Hop. Some of the people from that clip who used to be internationally renown in the Lindy Hop Community now only come out to dance once in awhile in their respective local scenes.  At the time some of those individuals were newer dancers, now they are respected leaders in our community.  Others were established instructors at the time and can still be found at big events such as Herräng.

This clip shows the natural ebb and flow in our community, however something else is presented as well. One of the main things all these individuals had in common was this man, Leonard Reed. Inspiration is never a force to be underestimated.

Youtube Doubler

Awhile back, Patrick Szmidt was kind enough to tell me about YouTube Doubler. While it has many uses for the general public such as seeing if the song of one video would be a great mash-up with another video, I am going to go over some uses the swing dance community can have for it.

YouTube Doubler Uses For Swing Dancers

  1. Comparing Performances at Events: Want to see how your recent performance of a routine compared to a previous one for consistency and improvement reasons? YouTube Doubler will show you if you fixed looking down and other timing related issues.
  2. Learning Routines: Do you have a thing for historical accuracy and want to do the Dean Collins Shim Sham as close to Dean as possible? With YouTube Doubler you can put yourself right next to Dean and compare your Tabby the Cat movements on the spot.
  3. Confirming That Couples Have Pre-Prepared Choreography For A Chorus/four 8’s/et cetera: For personal amusement, want to check if a couple has choreography that they use for a certain timing? With YouTube Doubler you can show how they used the exact same moves at ULHS and ILHC.

While I don’t recommend you go crazy with YouTube Doubler (since trying to sync up sound at times can drive one crazy) it is a great tool for the reasons mentioned above. A recent way I used it was in a class at Stompology this past weekend, Michael Faltesek mentioned that Sharon Davis and himself borrowed a move from the 1943 film Cabin in the Sky.

They did a pretty spot on job.

It Goes To Your Toes

At this past Stompology, Laura Glaess taught a routine inspired by a clip from the film “Greenwich Village” which I found educational and loads of fun. However when I saw the actual clip online after the event I was captivated by the dancing and the scene that goes on in that film clip. If you haven’t watch the actual clip, it has a slow and mellow intro but, it is a great contrast and build up for what comes after.

Sadly in the film the dancers are not credited, but they are according to IMDB: Al Williams, Freddy James, Sylvester Johnson, Earnest Morrison. What is interesting is IMDB lists all the dancers as part of the Four Step Brothers, yet when I looked at the wikipedia page Al Williams was the only name from the “Greenwich Village” cast list I recognized. Interesting thing is StreetSwing.com’s Four Step Brother page lists all three of them as troupe members with the exception of Earnest Morrison. Yet to contradict that Earnest’s Wikipedia page lists he left a performance troupe he was with to work with the Step Brothers act.

My best guess is that possibly other members were busy at the time with service in the military and unable to perform in the film. But if anyone has a theory, or even better factual information that shows otherwise it would be great to hear from you.

On an ending note though the energy from this clip is infectious and am blown away by the combination of athleticism and precision used by the dancers in the clip. Most people I have shown this clip to have not seen it. If you have friends who are big fans of solo jazz I encourage you to share this with them.

Update:

Stompology has uploaded the video of the routine Laura taught at the event based on “It Goes To Your Toes”. Enjoy!

Event Review: Stompology

In spite of erupting volcanoes [1], this past weekend Stomopolgy a.k.a. Stompo in Rochester, New York went off without a hitch. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the event, it is a rarity because it is a weekend that focuses only on solo jazz dance. (Its also the name of a catchy song by Lionel Hampton. [2])

As an attendee of past events run by Groove Juice Swing, I had expected a high caliber event in terms of organization. One thing I liked is they had youtube videos to add on to the Stompology Stomp-off, a solo dance routine created by the instructors for the event. It is great because; it is an amazing promotional tool, it fosters a sense of community and camaraderie for those who learn then perform it at the event, and lastly it is a great warm up/learning experience/or review for those going to a solo jazz dance weekend.

I’ll admit though the idea of a how a solo dance weekend is conducted was unfamiliar to me. I had a nagging fear in the back of my head that it would be the crazy energetic routine from hell the entire weekend. However my apprehensions were dashed because this was not the case and there was a good variety of classes, so either days of workshops did not become monotonous.

Classes

I’ll admit I only took six classes this year, partially because I had a little too much fun at the Saturday late night. However like I mentioned above I was pleased in the fact that very few of the classes were the traditional routine classes I find at most weekends. In addition even within the routine classes the instructors focused more on the transitions in between moves, technique behind a move, and how to add in style to make the move your own instead looking like a copy cat.

My favorite class was one I didn’t originally plan to take which was Solo Blues with Evita Arce. But I stuck around for it due to partial laziness of walking to the next building over and coaxing by my one friend from Charlottesville, Virginia.

In the class we learned two short sequences of choreography and then a transition to piece them together. But one of the important points of the class for myself was how Evita illustrated through example of how details such as gaze or hand placement can drastically change the look and feeling of the movement one is trying to present.

Another unique part of the class was we were split up into six different pods and asked to perform the choreography to a song we didn’t know to whatever counts we felt were appropriate. It was a memorable experience seeing how each individual interpreted the song and in the cases of the later groups adjusted their performances based on what they saw in previous pods. The class had a very experimental/modern dance/theater feel to it but I felt gave me a lot of new ideas and concepts to digest and work on.

Dances

For the Friday night dance they had the band the Crescent City Connection which I enjoyed, however some of their songs did drag on for awhile. The Saturday night dance the band Gordon’s Grand Street Stompers played.A noteworthy song for them was their rendition of “Be Our Guest” from the Disney classic movie “Beauty and the Beast”. Sadly they had a beautiful rendition of Avalon which was played the solo jazz finals, however that was probably a delight for the competitors.  On a side note a nice touch was they had performances by local dancers and the instructors for both nights.

As usual the late night dances and hang out time at the Lindy Compound were amazing. If you want a further description of that experience check out my previous review of Steven and Virginie last year. At the Compound and the main dances I just want to give a shout out to DJ Rob Moreland who did a great job at keeping the energy going the entire weekend.

Grill Jam

This year was Rochester’s 4th Grill Jam as well, the premise is everyone brings along food to grill and musical instruments if they are inclined to a local Rochester home. After a weekend of classes and dancing, it is a great kick-back event, a good way to build a community and get to know people who attended the event, and if you brought a bathing suit to go swimming.

My highlight of the night was when Evita Arce and Nathan Bugh sang Crazy Rhythm together during the music jam. I could attempt to describe the event further, but I think these photos courtesy of event photographer Bobby Bonsey [3] do a much better job.

Ross Hopkins, legendary host and epic grillmaster.
Epic Meal Time... Rochester Style
Music jam, featuring songs such as Nagasaki and Crazy Rhythm

Overall

In spite of the many difficulties the organizers faced, Stompology was a great event in my opinion which I received a good education in solo jazz dancing and had a good time as well.

Footnotes

1. Unfortunately due to a volcano erruption, one of the main instructors Mike Faltesek was stranded in Australia. The organizers though managed to bring Mikey Pedroza, as well as Mike Roberts and Andrew Nemr as guest instructors to fill in.

2. Stompology: Lionel Hampton

3. I’d just like to say if you haven’t yet check out Bobby’s albums of Stompology and of Lindy Focus. Besides a high caliber of work, one thing a friend of mine pointed out that I agree with is when Bobby is taking these photos during events he is not intrusive whether it be during competitions, the social dance floor, or at a Sunday house party.

Tiro to Tranky Doo?

Tranky Doo What Are You?

This past week with a couple of friend at Penn State I spent about 3+ hours polishing up my Tranky Doo. It is a jazz routine that I have taken a lesson on the first third of the routine from Shesha Marvin and learned the rest half-assing it in public online. However like most people in the world with the second half of the Big Apple, I could get through it albeit looking at someone more experienced and presenting it myself sloppily at best.

For those of you unfamilar with it Atomic Ballroom has a great description as follows,

“The Tranky Doo is even more fun than it sounds! A silly series of mostly jazz steps, this line dance was choreographed by Pepsi Bethel in the Savoy Ballroom during the 1940’s. Lindy hoppers will often spontaneously begin this routine and, much like the Shim Sham, individuals will join in once they recognize its beginning moves. Traditionally the song was danced to Erskine Hawkins Tuxedo Junction, a mellow tune, but the routine’s versatility allows it to be danced to a number of more upbeat songs such as Ella Fitzgerald’s Dipsy Doodle. The Spirit Moves, a widely studied video record of vintage dancing, has popularized the Dipsy Doodle because it was the score used for the Tranky Doo.”

One of the things that I love about the Tranky Doo is the room for self-expression or in some cases cohesion. Philly always looks adorable when you see sometimes they have certain quirks that most of them do together when they perform it. Yet some individuals can bring out a plethora of crazy creativity when it comes to the simplest of movements like the mambo-step.  Anyways here are a long list of videos that I think are great if you are looking to get some Tranky Doo creative inspiration.

Below I have listed many different recorded Tranky Doo performances vintage & contemporary that have inspired me and I hope it does the same for you.

Vintage Tranky Doo Videos

Spirit Moves (Al Minns, Pepsi Bethel and Leon James)

The 1950’s documentary produced, directed, edited, and narrated by Mura Dehn shows the choreographer of the routine Pepsi Bethel and two legendary dancers Al Minns and Leon James performing the Tranky Doo.

Al Minns and Leon James on DuPont Show of the Week (1961)

Al and Leon start with the Tranky Doo but go into other dances such as shimmies and snake hips. Mike Faltesek & Nathan Bugh did a wonderful tribute to this performance at Lindy Focus 2010.

Al & Leon Performing During American Musical Theatre Credits

Al and Leon perform during the closing credits for American Musical Theatre to the song “When the Saints Go Marching In”. This was part of the promotional campaign for Marshall Stearns’s book “The Story of Jazz” that they both were interviewed for.

Unknown ??

Unfortunately I am at a loss when it comes to the historical information to this version of the Tranky Doo. However the performance is smooth as butter and is the only other performance I have seen to a live band. If you know any information about this please provide it to me and i’ll tack it on here and give you credit.

Contemporary Tranky Doo Videos

CCX 2008 Tranky Doo by Mike, Stefan and Bethany

The funny thing about this clip is I had friends in two different states (Pennsylvania/California) say that this is best performance of the Tranky Doo they have seen hands-down. I couldn’t agree with them more. My friend Annabel Truesdell insightfully commented the other day something to the effect that while they are all doing the steps, they are adding in their own personalities. I’ve noticed when a lot of people try to add their personalities in routines, they sometimes err into the region of going off on a tangent. None of these three make that mistake, on top of that they bring a truck-load of energy to the performance.

The Tranky Doo Performed by Shesha, Emily, and Mikey

This was the first version of the Tranky Doo I ever saw online a few years back. I just love how all their personalities shine through. Jo is yelling and hip shaking, Mikey makes a eagle caw noise on the eagle slide and uses his face to accent movements, and Shesha really uses his height to create some good lines.

Austin Swing Syndicate’s 10th Anniversary Dance

http://vimeo.com/5238135 (Sorry embedding will not work for this clip)

What I particularly love about this clip (besides that it is in high-def) is the way that Laura Glaess really uses her dress to its full effect in accenting her motions. In addition a lot of them are ‘selling it’ to me and not just going through the motions.

New Years – Tranky Doo-Lindy Focus VII

Bobby White owning every shimmy, rock, and box steps. I know I overstress this in my blog, but it is the key point that separates someone from doing choreography and performing.

MoKanSwing (Nina Gilkenson and Mike Faltesek) 

Most teachers when reviewing a lesson at the end of class usually glaze over the topic. They give a good review but lacking the energy they had in the class. Nina and Mike give it all in an end of a class review and bring a lot of energy to the table in this Tranky Doo. It is also one of the few videos shot at the rare side angle.

Hat Trick Tranky Doo (ILHC Cabaret Division 2010)

Props for the dapper hats, extra props for doing the Tranky Doo while using them for hat tricks. Also 1:14 is simply magical, the level of coordination that takes is impressive.

Sving du Nord 2007 (Dax Hock & Jojo Jackson)

What I like about this one is they seamlessly transition in and out of social dance during it and they are both paying attention to each other and using that within the performance. Some useful comments from the danceprimer blog where they note the smoothness of the performance and the inclusion of Shim Sham & Big Apple steps.

SHSC 2009 – Jazz Root Week – Dax & Alice Tranky Doo

This is a good example of a Tranky Doo performance in a class that from appearances literally just learned the routine. In addition I am a sucker for the beautiful shadows shown in this performance. Watch at 1:40 for how Alice accents the “When you think you’re crazy” lyrics in the Dipsy Doodle, hilarious.

Solo swingtanzen mit Ali&Katja aus Darmstadt un Heidelberg

If you couldn’t figure it out by the title, this is a Tranky Doo performed in Germany. Ali & Katja lead what appears to be a class of recently taught students. At 0:50 there is some pretty fancy footwork for the break by the gentleman in the front right. He does a fun walk variation at 1:48 as well. Also love the blue/red lighting as well.

Mike & Frida – Chevy Chase Ballroom (2003) 

Unfortunately the person filming this clip only give us less then a minute of this Tranky Doo performance. However it is to probably the fastest song I’ve seen it performed to, and both Falty and Frida bring their A-Game, I don’t know how Frida does it but her applejacks look so controlled yet wild simultaneously. The commentary on the clip while slightly obnoxious, is also particularly hilarious.

KBF2011 Line Dance #1 Tranky Doo (Korea Balboa Festival)

Last but not certainly not least our friends from the Korea Balboa Festival throw down. Watch the girl in the red skirt and bow; she uses her skirt to accent her movement, looks like she is having the time of her life, puts her personal touch into the routine, and even has time to tease the guy in front of her at 0:37.

Overall

I watched around 30+ Tranky Doo videos and still had a hard time narrowing it down to the large amount of ones I posted. If you want to look at the rest that are not linked on here, check out this following link.

If you want to learn the Tranky Doo you can check yehoodi or an OC Swing Dance Club page for a list of printable choreography. In addition here are a bunch of youtube videos as well that you can follow along.

If you need an extreme detailed breakdown FreeSwingDanceLessons.com gives you what you need in these seperate videos.
So if you know the routine already take a gander through the videos and try some new things out. If you don’t know it yet, you now have more then enough resources to learn it. Carpe Noctem folks.

Tabby the Cat

A jazz step I like because of its kooky name and look is known as a “Tabby the Cat”. I was casually chatting about it with my friend Annabel the other day and she mentioned its rather popular in the swing dance community these days, apparently due to Sharron Davis.  I do not know the exact origins of this move (besides it coming from the song “Tabby the Cat”  Edit: See Peter Loggins comment below for details.), however I do have a feeling it has something to do with Dean Collins.

They are still working on getting the move down.

Dean Collins: The Cat’s Meow

First reason is Dean seen doing the move with follow dancers Johnny Duncan,  Jenny Duncan, Jack Arkin, and Irene Thomas in a 1945[1] soundie Tabby the Cat, which also featured comedian/pianist Eppy Pearson.

The move is first shown at 0:36, then Dean strolls in and does it with the gang at 1:05

Second is it is a featured move in his shim sham, the Dean Collin’s Shim Sham. You can him do it himself below in a 1983 impromptu performance at about 1:25.

A more modern demo of the Dean Collin’s Shim Sham is below with our friends at the London Swing Dance Society. They do the move at about 1:28.

Modern Uses:

The move Tabby the Cat is great for partnered, solo dancing and a necessity if you want to learn Dean Collin’s Shim Sham. One of my favorite examples of it used in partnered dancing is below by Juan Villafane with Carla Heiney at this past year’s Lindy Focus. He hits it perfectly at 0:33, BAM.

Sharon Davis seems to have adapted it for the blues ascetic.

How to Learn It?

Thanks to Gaby at freeswingdancelessons.com you too can learn how to do this awesome move.

For the skim notes version for you fast learners, check out this video from the Houston Swing Dance society.

Footnotes:

[1] The interesting thing about the Tabby the Cat soundie when I was attempting to do research for it was IMDb has 1945 as the year of the clip and only lists the pianist and vocalist. Whereas whoswhoinswingdance.com lists the full cast of dancers but has the year listed at 1939??. I chose IMDb’s date, because the song is listed in wikipedia coming out 1944 {Tabby The Cat (Arr. Dave Matthews) Broadcasat Hollywood Paladium, Hollywood, Ca.}

The Joy of Charleston

One of the things I like the most about watching solo Charleston dancers and by extension solo Charleston competitions, is the amazing amount of musicality and expression that can happen when they dance. The two clips below show some evidence of this.

What I find inspiring about both these clips is besides featuring amazing dancers in terms of technical skill, each dancer is performing and giving away ‘who they are’ to the crowd.

Below I have two more modern examples that I think this is present:

One thing that bothered me slightly lately as a trend in recent solo Charleston competitions, is it seems acrobatics is being awarded over being musical and really layin’ it out on the floor.

Now take my words with a grain of salt, I do not claim to be an amazing solo Charleston dancer or experienced judge of solo Charleston myself.  However I am expressing the sentiment of a conversation that I have had with many dancers on the East Coast, and that even some others have expressed online.

Don’t get me wrong, acrobatics are amazing. Done musically and appropriately they can bring the room to a tumultuous crash of energy. However like aerials in partnered dancing, just done for the sake of looking impressive leaves me with a kind of ‘meh’ feeling.

I’ll leave you with a quote from Rik’s Blog that I linked to, The Click Heard Around the World in which he wrote about Jana Grulichova dancing in ILHC 2010’s solo Charleston comp,

“What she brought, that no one else really had, was 300% commitment to what she was doing, plus a beaming joy to be doing this dance.  It reminded me of the first time I saw Hurley Francois at the first ILHC in 2008.  Jana didn’t need to do any of the acrobatics or flashy tricks that the boys were pulling out in their solos.  She delivered very classic charleston and jazz vocabulary, but amped up to a whole new level.  So incredible”

 

Steppin’ Out On Your Own: (Intro to Solo Jazz & Charleston)

Why Solo Jazz & Charleston?

If you didn’ t catch it in my last post, solo Jazz & Charleston is awesome in my book. Here is the video I linked in the previous post as one of the examples why:

If you still aren’t convinced, here is some benefits of learning to dance solo.

  1. Your quality of movement increases, which allows for your partnered dancing to improve.
  2. When people do routines like the Big Apple/Tranky Doo/Shim Sham you can join in. If you don’t know them, it will be easier to learn them with some training in solo dancing.
  3. If you don’t have a partner to dance with, problem solved.
  4. Lastly, if solo Charleston circles open up you can join in.

How To Learn Solo Jazz & Charleston

This short guide is written assuming you are at least a beginner/intermediate dancer who has taken at least one partnered Charleston class.

1. Turn On Some Music & Dance

The number one way to improve at dance in general is practice. It may be awkward at first, but you can trust me the best way is to get better is going through the motions until they start to feel natural. When you are out in public and see someone dancing solo, join them. However, do not make the novice mistake of taking up a ton of room and running into people.

Pro-Tip: Do this in front of a mirror or video tape yourself to see what works and what doesn’t.

2. Build Up An Inventory of Jazz Steps & Moves

While being able to improvise on the fly is important, it is also nice to have a variety of steps/moves to fall back on as well. There too many to list fully here, however below are some for you to try:

Pro-Tip: When practicing these try to figure out where these fit in with the music instead of doing them at random.

3. Learn Some Swing Dance Routines That Incorporate Solo Movement

Examples are the Big Apple/Tranky Doo/Shim Sham as listed above. The material you learn in these routines can be incorporated into both your solo and partnered dancing.

Pro-Tip: When you have any routine down where you can do the absolute basic version in your sleep, attempt to make it your own.

4. Attend A Solo Jazz/Charleston Focused Workshop

It’s hard to find them, but if you do take one. It makes you do step number one in this guide consistently during a weekend. In addition you will have amazing dancers to throw ideas at you, learn from, and possibly give you feedback. You’ll see a considerable improvement in your solo dancing.

Pro-Tip: http://www.stompology.com/ is an amazing event in Rocahaha

So…

Why are you still reading this? Go turn on That’s a Plenty and start jammin!