Thoughts on swing dancing and Lindy Hop, one word at a time…

Posts tagged “Dance

Attending Bar Dances: A Guide For Swing Dancers

Meshiya Lake at the Spotted Cat

Whiskey and swingouts go together like peanut butter and jelly. It’s no surprise that many dancers love the idea of having a dance at a bar. However the reality of the situation is many of these bar dances are short-lived, often because bars don’t make money on dance nights. I’d like to see more bar dances flourish, so I have written this guide targeted toward dancers who plan to attending them.

Meshiya Lake at the Spotted Cat

Meshiya Lake performing at the Spotted Cat in New Orleans

1. Spend as much as you would on non-dancing night out at a bar

Typically if you go to a bar or club it will cost you between $0-$10 dollars depending upon how posh it is for cover. On top of that you will be likely to have one to three drinks which will probably cost you $5-$10 each if you don’t go for anything particularly fancy. If there is no cover often there will be a tip jar or bucket for the DJ or band.

I would recommending bringing enough cash to buy a few drinks or food. In addition if there is not a cover fee, I would bring some extra cash on top of that to tip the DJ or band. Cash means you can tip the people providing music and all the money you spend goes to the bar. Credit/Debit is a no go because it means you can’t tip the people providing you music and the bar is losing part of the money to transaction fees.

Bar making a profit = you having a fun bar you can dance at.

2. Be even more conscious about floorcraft than usual

As mentioned in an earlier post, while individuals may be more understanding at swing dances in studios and ballrooms. In bars non-dancers are likely to be less understanding if you run into them, especially if you knock over their beer.

To again quote Peter Loggins from his blog post Back in New Orleans,

If you want to learn how to be an exhibition dancer, that’s good for you, but don’t be surprised when a big Jarhead beats the shit out you after you accidentally kick him. It might be fine to kick each other at dances, studio’s and festivals but in the real world all bets are off….

Err on the side of caution when you are dancing in a public space.

Example of Public Space: Happy Feet Monday at (Joe’s Bar & Grill, Burbank, CA) featuring John Reynolds’ N. Hollywood 4 and friends

3. Remember you are going to a bar not a dance studio. Act accordingly.

When was the last time your non-dancing friends said you were going to a bar and you brought along a water bottle and dance bag? That’s right you didn’t (unless if you were attending a dance after).

Things to bring:

  • Yourself
  • Your wallet with identification and cash inside

Things not to bring:

  • Water bottle
  • 3+ pairs of shoes
  • Dance bag
  • Raggity looking t-shirt from that exchange you attended
  • Floor wax (seriously don’t do this, venues get pissed if you do this without permission)

Anything Else?

I’ve written a previous post on what to do when attending an event with a live band, which is useful information if the bar has a band playing for you. A slight tangent but if you are at a bar with live music which hasn’t been advertised as a dance it is always polite to ask the band if it is okay to dance. Some musicians find it disrespectful and intrusive to non-dancers who are trying to listen to the band if you are blocking their view with dancing.

Lastly, common sense in normal life applies at bar dances as well. Know your limits drinking, if you are the type of person that your floorcraft becomes rubbish after 3 drinks, perhaps 2 is the right option. If you plan to dance a lot and drink, make sure to get some water so you don’t get dehydrated.  If you plan to drink have a safe way to get home.

If there are any nuggets of knowledge you would like to share or questions about dancing in bars you may have, feel free to leave a comment in the box below!

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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


Dealing In Absolutes

Welcome to Lindy Hop

When I was a newer dancer who frequently was in different dance scenes such as Irvine, California to Oberlin, Ohio, my biggest difficulty was probably dealing with instructors who would tell me different and sometimes outright contradictory things. When I brought up my frustration one day to a workshop teacher his response was, “Welcome to Lindy Hop”.

After dancing for a few years and teaching regionally for about 2+ years I have to take time and remind myself I was once this new lead who wanted clearly defined rules. I remember my mind being blown when 8-count moves and swingouts were introduced. At the time, in my mind the rule was everything is only 6-counts. It took about a month of solid dancing in California to break me out of a 6-count basic as my default movement.

I remember one of the big things that confused me as a newer lead was where to step on the 5 of a swingout. The fact that depending upon where a lead steps on 5 can create a different line/look/feeling was beyond me. I just wanted one place to step so I could do it “right”.

Most experienced dancers know how one dances is completely dependent on the song that is playing, who one is dancing with, and likely other miscellaneous factors. Bridging the gap between that and newer dancers who may be just trying to figure out where to find the beat or intermediate dancers trying to dance on phrase is a difficulty as an instructor.

Difficulty with “Right” Answers as a Teacher

What caused me to explore this topic is a post from Sam at dogpossum titled a bit of dance nerdery and in particular this quote,

I had to find a way to say ‘that idea of an absolute value for connection isn’t useful. We don’t look for a single muscle ‘tone’ or degree of hardness or softness in the arm. We look for varying muscle recruitment and use – we use what we need for the circumstances and no more.’ But that’s not a helpful response to a student who’s trying really hard to figure out how they and their partners should feel.  I can’t remember what I said. I’m fairly sure I said too much, which is my main failing as a teacher. Just. Stop. Talking. It was something I grappled with in tutoring as well.

It amuses me slightly because for myself I think I err on the side of talking too little because I am afraid of going on complete tangents of all the possibilities of what can happen when one tweakes little things with connection or movement. In addition it’s a personal bias that I am largely a visual learner and the instructors I have disliked classes have felt more like a lecture and less of a dance class.

I do like the direction that dogpossum takes in her classes though.  I wish I would see it more because I find many instructors on the regional level often settle for absolutes.


Like Obi-Wan, I believe dealing in absolutes is not an optimal choice. Yes as an instructor by giving students absolutes you satisfy their want for hard and fast rules, however this is at a cost. I’ve bet in a swing dance class you have had a fellow classmate raise their hand and say, “Well I learned it X way from Y instructor.” I’ve had it pulled on me as an instructor as well, frequently by individuals who have taken the local ballroom dance courses featured at The Pennsylvania State University (Penn State). This is because when you teach something as an absolute a student is likely to put a mental box around whatever the move/concept you taught and think “This is how it is done” and consider alternatives “wrong”.

rules

What this means for myself as an instructor is I try to encourage students once that they are the level that they have some experience under their belt to understand the importance of context for dancing. Often my favorite classes to teach are taking one movement such as a tuck turn and exploring how it can be altered to match different environments such as different types of songs or if you have a follow who can turn exceptionally well/a lead who pays good attention to their partner.

The difficulty again lies that understanding those different contexts for a move such as a tuck turn or even gaining the level of control over ones personal movement to explore all those possibilities takes practice, time, and patience.  I think the following quote sums up a lot of newer dancers including myself when I first started,

“Asked, in the 1980s, about new dancers, he responded: “They’re looking for too much too quick. They want everything like instant coffee. Nothing works like that, not your mind, not your body, nothing.” – Pepsi Bethel, American Jazz Dancer & Lindy Hopper

Typically newer dancers want a lot of moves and to do them “right”. On a slightly related note I was cleaning up my apartment today since I am moving out soon and came across my notes from some of my first Lindy Hop classes in Southern California. I was literally trying to write out every single detail of how to each move and variation on them that was taught to me.

My struggle as an instructor is I think improvisational and experimental nature of Lindy Hop is one of the things I need to teach and emphasize as a swing dance teacher, however I have to balance this out with understanding the mindset of new or even slightly experienced follows and leads. The importance for me is understanding what I am and am not willing to compromise on and teach accordingly.


How To Put On A Swing Dance Contest

While I am not a top-tier traveling international instructor, I would say I have done my fair share of competitions in my last few years of dancing. One thing I have noticed is the diversity of the types of competitions in the swing dance community in terms of organization and advertisement.

 

An example in respect to advertising would be the contrast in these two contest descriptions from ILHC and Lindy 500:

The Second Annual Amateur Champions Invitational Jack & Jill.  from Lindy 500 (2012)

The Second Annual Amateur Champions Invitational Jack & Jill. By invitation or request only. If you think you should be in this contest, contact michael@mobtownballroom.com. You cannot be a regular instructor or international teacher or any such shit. If you teach some locally, that’s okay. Skye Humphries is specifically barred from entering this contest. $5 entry fee.

Invitational J&J from ILHC (2012)

This will be an Invitational social dance competition open to dancers determined by the organizers. Leaders and followers will be randomly drawn to dance together to several songs of varying styles and tempos and judged as a couple as they compete in spotlight format.

Competitors are not allowed to dance with “regular” partner (one that they dance and/or have competed with in a choreographed routine in the last 4 years, Team routines do not count) Social dance partners are accepted and will be considered “luck of the draw”.

Competition Blueprint 

Below is my recommended blueprint or guidelines to setting up a competition:

  1. Developing an appropriate vision.
  2. Write appropriate contest rules and descriptions.
  3. Fill necessary roles.
  4. Figure out and write down logistics.
  5. Last minute checkup.

1. Developing an Appropriate Vision

Your have decided to have a competition, great! Now the question is how many swing dance events have you run in the past? If the answer is little to none, having a ULHS or ILHC sized competition is probably a bit too lofty of  a goal for your first competition to be organizing. The first part of developing an appropriate vision is:

  • Realizing what experience you and potential co-organizers who are putting on the competition have and the resources you have to work with.

Another thing to consider is the context of this competition being organized. Is it part of a workshop weekend with a live band? Is it part of a weekly dance with attendance of less then one-hundred people? Is your scene near a lot of big cities with sizable scenes or are you in the middle of no-where and rarely get out of town visitors? Will other local organizers support your event or openly antagonize you and conflict with your event in spite of advance notice? Some of these things are not pleasant truths to deal with but are the reality of organizing any event, let alone a competition. The second part of developing an appropriate vision is:

  • Realizing what kind of attendance your event is likely to get.
  • Considering if you have local swing dance scenes that will support you.
  • Deciding if your event targets out-of-town dancers and if you have the resources to attract them to support you?

Lastly the intent of the competition is something that is important to think about. Is this a competition that is created for new competitors to get their feet wet and has more of a fun community feeling or is this more of a serious competition where it is going to be on youtube later and the prizes are nothing to scoff at? The context of the contest decides everything from entrance fees, if you use in-house judges or hire professional instructors to judge, if the finals are an all-skate versus phrase-battle, and et cetera. The last part of developing an appropriate vision is:

  • Realizing the purpose of why you and your co-organizers are putting on the competition and the context you want it to have.

2. Write Appropriate Contest Rules and Descriptions

You now have a vision or outline for what type of event you and your co-organizers want. This can be anything from a small Amateur Jack & Jill that is part of a weekly dance to a competition with a Jack & Jill, Strictly Lindy, and Solo Charleston contest that is part of a workshop weekend with a live band.  The next part is to come up with contest rules and descriptions that are appropriate for your event.

I listed the Lindy 500 contest description for their Jack & Jill above because I wanted to illustrate the point that “appropriate” is relative to the dancers which the contest is trying to appeal to. Baltimore’s scene addresses a different audience for their workshop weekend event in comparison to ILHC which is an international competition weekend.  With their description one can infer that having fun and taking oneself not too seriously is something the contest organizers are trying to advocate. My general advice is unless if you know your target audience fairly well, err on the side of being too professional versus potentially confusing or alienating potential competitors. This means assume everyone reading your descriptions are first time competitors and do not know the definitions of phrases such as “Strictly Lindy”, “Jack & Jill”, or “Phrase Battle”. The first part of writing contest rules and descriptions is:

  • Write rules that are appropriate for the atmosphere of the contest you are trying to create. When in doubt, err on the side of being too explicit and professional.

Another thing important to note is no matter how relaxed and carefree the competition you are about to host is, addressing safety is a highly recommended idea. The last thing you want is the newer dancer who is entering his first competition trying to throw an aerial he or she learned off of youtube in the middle of an amateur Jack & Jill. If you want to reinforce the seriousness of ignoring the rules, listing the penalty of it such as disqualification from the contest is a good idea as well.  The second part of writing contest rules and descriptions is:

  • Especially for safety, if you don’t want something happening in a competition explicitly write what is not allowed.

Lastly make sure to address the essential questions about a contest in your description such as,

Who is allowed in each division? Where are the competitions being held? What time are the competitions? What kind of competitions are they? How are the competitions being judged? What tempos are going to be played in the competition? Who is judging the competitions? How is preliminary rounds being held? How are finals being held?

It is the prerogative of an event organizer of some of these details if they are publicly listed, perhaps the final format being secret is part of the atmosphere of the event. It is a nice touch though to let people know where and when they should be. On a positive note if you actually post contest rules and descriptions you are already ahead of the game. I have participated in many contests where I simply knew there was going to be a contest at that event and that was the only information I was provided. The last part of writing contest rules and descriptions is:

  • Make sure it is written out what type of competitions you are having, where they are, when they are, and other essential information relevant to potential competitors.

3. Fill Necessary Roles

Now that you have the rules and descriptions for your contest, you now need individuals to run your contest under those guidelines. Depending upon the scope of the competition you are attempting to put on you may need a few people to an entire team of people to help you run a competition.  If this is just a casual local competition you can probably use volunteers/compensated individuals from your local scene, whereas if you are trying to make it a serious competition you will probably have to hire people experienced at their respective roles.

Below is a short list of roles that should be filled at a minimum.

  • Competition DJ or Live Band: For either a DJ or a live band this should preferably be people who have experience doing this or at very least been educated and briefed on what playing for a competition entails. 
  • Judges: Depending upon the seriousness of your competition this can be randomly chosen people to professional dancers who are regularly hired to judge at events.
  • Master of Ceremonies (MC): The job of this individual is to host the contest and this entails introducing competitors, announcing what is happening, making sure the judges are ready before a contest begins, and other miscellaneous activities. 

Here are optional roles that may or may not be necessary depending upon the scope of your competition.

  • Wrangler/Phrase Battle Counter: The job of this individual is to count people off when they are supposed to enter in a phrase battle. If you are having finals where couples go out one at a time, it is advised to have someone do this.
  • Contest Tabulator: If you are having multiple competitions it is advised to have an experienced individual handle contest tabulation. For a smaller event with only one to two competitions, often the head judge can be responsible for this.
  • Contest Coordinators: This is only necessary if you are having a competition with a massive amount of dancers. I’m talking like ILHC, Frankie 95, Camp Hollywood, and et cetera sized. The job of this person is to make sure people do things like rotate during Jack & Jills properly and are lined up while waiting to go on the floor.
  • Sound Guy: This is only necessary if you are having a large and professional competition and are renting/using a massive room for your event. The job of this person is to make sure your band/DJ’s music is clearly audible to the competitors and the crowd.

Below is the Invitational Strictly Lindy finals from ILHC 2012, notice Falty doing the job of Wrangler/Phrase Battle Counter.

4. Figure Out and Write Down Logistics

At this point you should now have a mission statement or vision for your contest, contest rules and descriptions decided upon, and know which individuals need to be hired/delegated to fill in the necessary roles for your event. Now that you have all the puzzle pieces, you need to fit them all together.

You can have the coolest event in the world with the best instructors, a beautiful venue, and a killer live band… but if nobody knows that your event exists all your efforts are for naught.  Advertising is key to having not just a competition but any successful event and the earlier you start the better. An important thing to note is how you advertise your event can also set the tone for it:

With high production value Lindustrial Revolution 2012’s youtube advertisement sets the tone that the organizers are professional. In addition the youtube clip emphases that their steampunk theme is something to dress up for. The ways you can advertise for your event are limited by you own creativity; word of mouth, fliers, free-shirts for traveling dancers to wear with your event logo & date on it, youtube advertisements, and paid advertisements on yehoodi are some of the few different ways I have seen organizers advertise their events.  The first part of figuring out and writing down logistics is:

  • Develop an effective advertising strategy that sets the tone for your event. 

Now that there is a system in place for people to find out about your contest the next thing that needs to be accomplished is how is it actually being set-up, run, then taken down. In simple terms, “Who does what? and where?”. My advice is to create a  detailed schedule of events that what individual, is doing what particular task, and at what time. An example is below:

8:00 PM – Jim Jones – Unlock the doors to the venue and set thermostat to coldest possible temperature.

8:10 PM – Kendra Robbins/Robert Jones/Sarah Smith – Start setting up tables and chairs according to the floor diagram.

The important thing this covers is who is responsible for every task. The reason I put emphasis on writing this all down is when you say things verbally it is not as binding and people have a tendency to forget. When things are on paper (and/or google documents) it makes it easy for people to know what they are responsible for and when they need to do it. The second part of figuring out and writing down logistics is:

  • Create a schedule of events that lists of tasks need to be completed, what time they need to be completed by, and the individuals responsible for working on them.

Lastly an important detail to cover is what prizes you are providing for the competition. This can be anything from cash, trophies, passes to other events, passes to vintage shops/shoe shops, and et cetera. A piece of an advice though big events like Lindy Focus/Camp Hollywood and such have a billion organizer barking up those respective trees for free passes for competitions, a better and more realistic idea is to probably offer to other organizers you know to trade passes for events. Also it is your choice as an organizer if you want to advertise the prizes for your event beforehand. I have noticed the larger events tend to, whereas smaller events don’t. The last part of  figuring out and writing down logistics is:

  • Decide upon what prizes will be provided for your event and if needed network to obtain them. 

On an aside I have not noted the process to renting a venue, how to hire instructors, and things in a similar vein because those are basics to organizing an event. In the scope of this article I am focusing on mainly how to organize a competition.

5. Last Minute Checkup

You now have everything to set up to run your own competition and haven’t pulled out your hair or killed someone yet, congratulations! The last thing to do is just to oversee your competition, create contingency plans for any possible problems and handle any situations that come up. The last responsibility can often be prevented by effective planning, but sometimes things come up that no one could foresee.

As an organizer what I mean by oversee the competition is just making sure things are at where they should be and people are doing their jobs. Some examples of this could be checking to make sure safety-pins and numbers are available at the registration table or making sure the judges are present a few minutes before the competition starts.  The first part of doing a last minute checkup is:

  • Making sure everything in your schedule of events is running smoothly.

If you are planning to have a competition outdoors sometimes rain happens or perhaps a ton of people signed up for your competition, but not as many people showed up as you planned for. Contingency plans should be created for factors that are out of your control, especially if you are dealing with as something as fickle as weather.  The second part of doing a last minute checkup is:

  • Creating contingency plans for conditions that are out of your control. 

Lastly no matter how much you prepare, stuff just happens. One event I know literally had one of their headlining instructors stranded because a volcano grounded his flight. Another event I know had their headliner band literally get snowed in so they couldn’t travel to their event. The important thing for you to do as an organizer is not to freak out and instead explore your option and choose the best possible one to deal with the situation. At times unfortunately this may consist of choosing the lesser of two evils. The last part of doing a last minute checkup is:

  • Being prepared to make difficult on the spot decisions if something out of your hands goes awry. 

Concluding Remarks

While I tried to cover the full scope of how to run a competition, I did not literally cover everything. To do so would be a document far lengthier then this already long blog post. My advice is if you have any doubts or concerns, seek out an organizer who is experienced in running competitions or even season competitors and consult them for their experience. My personal advice on someone who has been in multiple competitions and have helped to run a few myself is:

  1. Never underestimate the ability for dancers in a Jack & Jill to mess up rotation. Assume they are sheep that need to be herded.
  2. Safety wavers, have them. If I run an event this is a non-negotiable because it prevents liability issues from occurring.
  3. Have a strict time schedule and stick to it. My biggest pet peeve as a dancer at a competition that I am not a participant in is competitions taking forever.

If you have any particular advice for individuals putting on competitions or any questions yourself feel free to post in the comments section!


The Pitfall of Patterns

“Rock-Step, Triple-Step, Triple-Step”

Most people when starting to learn swing dance can remember a certain pattern they were taught in their introductory class, usually the “Rock-Step, Triple-Step, Triple-Step” pattern.Often there is this solid framework because an issue that John White writes about in his blog post Dreyfus Model of Skill Acquisition.

In the post he comments how many novice level dances will often look for hard and fast rules for swing dancing. However as many people learn quickly (especially follows) if you try to dance within only patterns, you are only getting a small subset of the dance known as the Lindy Hop.

Positives and Pitfalls of Patterns

Don’t get me wrong though, I am not saying that patterns are rubbish and should not be utilized in instruction or on the social dance floor. They are great at providing a simple model of dance where dancers can work on fundamental technique and isolate external variables that they would normally have to deal with and could crowd out their understanding of the issue.

However the important thing to convey is in fact that patterns are simple models that are not completely representative of the actual social dance floor. Groovy Movie actually lampoons the idea that you can completely learn swing dance through step patterns here at 3:00:

As a follow if all you try to do anticipate the patterns in class, if you dance with anyone outside of that class it can easily become a difficult dance as many new follows quickly learn. For leads if you just lead patterns you learned in a class, often one can technically be on time but still be completely ignoring the music.

The difficult thing for me as an instructor in beginner classes is still providing newer dancers patterns that provide them an isolated environment for them to get down steps to at least survive one social dance, yet still attempting to provide them with instruction technique and give them perspective of where to use these steps. It is a difficult compromise that I am always attempting to fine-tune each lesson.

The struggle for an dancer who moves on beyond the novice stage is often breaking free from this framework. I remember out in California one of my biggest struggles the first summer I was out there was not defaulting to the six-count footwork from open. I had to have several nights where I completely forbid it from my repertoire and forced myself to do other things.

I could ramble on about this topic for awhile, but I’m curious to hear the rest of your thoughts. But before that I will leave you with this quote.

“All fixed set patterns are incapable of adaptability or pliability. The truth is outside of all fixed patterns.” – Bruce Lee [1]

 

[1] Mainly known for his prowess in the Martial Arts world, it is actually a not as well known fact that Bruce Lee was an excellent dancer as well and won the Crown Colony Cha-Cha Championship in China at the age of 18.


T’aint What You Do

Hey everybody, this is Apache and I have decided to jump on the whole lindy-blogosphere train.

This blog will cover my opinions, experiences, travels and insights in what is known as “The Swing Dance Scene”.  Ranging from random events I attend, youtube videos I feel like rambling about or random topics that have a loose affiliation with swing dancing.

I thought I would start off with explaining the reason I chose the name of my blog, T’aint What You Do.

For those of you unfamiliar with the song, it is what the routine known to many Lindy Hoppers as the Shim Sham is performed to on the East coast.

‘T ain’t what you do it’s the way that you do it
‘T ain’t what you do it’s the way that you do it
‘T ain’t what you do it’s the way that you do it
That’s what gets results

Above are lyrics from the song T’aint What You Do. Yes I chose to quote the entire chorus instead of  “‘T ain’t what you do it’s the way that you do it” line once for a reason. For me as a dancer, one of the most important things in dancing is quality of movement as some people put it.  Too often (Newbie leads are especially guilty of this.) people think learning the latest flash and trash or acquiring  x amount of moves under ones belt is how one becomes an ‘advanced’ or ‘good’ dancer.

Often when watching competitions or performances, it is what some consider the most ‘rudimentary’ or ‘fundamentals’ of the respective dance, done well and with a personal flair that make me smile and inspire me.

Nina Gilkenson and Mikey Pedroza

The reason for the name of this blog is it is one of my primary beliefs in dancing is the intent and quality of motion in dancing are more important then the moves that are performed in a dance. It is a theme that will probably be prevalent in this blog.

T’aint what you do… its the way that you do it.