Monthly Archives: March 2010

Swively Swivels

A while ago I said would post videos of some different swivels to the technique class at Lindy Groove. This is all just my theoretical opinion, and truthfully I can’t even do these things perfectly so take only what you need from here on in.

It’s important to remember that swivels are a styling and should not be your basic, so only do it if the music tells you to. Make them something special, because they are. Also, styling is meant to replace certain spots in your “basic”. Your most “basic step” on the 1-a-2 should be a rockstep therefore your swivels should feel like a rockstep to your leader in an ideal world. You should not just be shakin’ your tush around but actually stepping through and changing weight from one side of your body to the other (think about moving the watermelon over a leg). That is what really defines this movement.

Also, I will try to discuss how these swivels are different form each other. Try to watch the video and pick out these differences beforehand. Once you see the differences, see how you can put them on a continuum and try to push the limits while exploring your own swivels.

Last note: Don’t think about how you want your swivel to look, think about how it feels.

On with the show!


Nina Gilkenson

I’d like to point out a couple things:
First of all, even though Nina’s swivels look very smooth, she does in fact step through them. This step defines her swivel much more than if she was just pivoting with weight shared equally between her feet (her watermelon is not over a particular foot, but centered).
Second of all, I picked this video because Nina is wearing 3 inch heels (I know this only because I have the same shoes, hehe). However, I do not recommend you dance in high heels. The heels only serve to illustrate that the more you are on the ball of your foot the more defined your swivels become at the hip, if that is the kind of swivel you like.


Frida Segerdahl

Frida swivels very differently from Nina, as you can see. Her swivels are not as rotational.They exaggerate the side to side movement. Instead of thinking about how you can rotate your hip more, think about exaggerating the motion of your hip.

Notice also how natural both Frida and Nina look doing their own swivels. They have worked for years to find a way they like to dance and their swivels fit into that style seamlessly. Your dancing should not be a Frankenstein of other dancers, it should be you and your swivels are no exception. You can try out different styles and variations of swivels but make sure you feel like yourself when you do them.

Frida is also really amazing because she can match the intensity of the music and show it in her dancing. She doesn’t have one swivel that she does like a robot anytime she is lead in a swing out. You can crank your swivel intensity up or down depending on what the music is telling you to do. Less rotation vs. more rotation, less hip movement vs. more hip movement, and everything in between.


Carla Heiney

Carla’s swivels resemble Nina’s more than Frida’s. The one thing that really stands out to me about Carla’s swivels (and dancing in general) is how controlled every movement is. She is controlling the momentum and rotation of her swivels instead of just letting her body do them naturally. She seems to deliberately move ever single muscle when she is dancing. This is another factor you could play around with in your swivels.

When you let your own body move and react to the swivels it’s like dropping a ball with perfect elasticity. In a theoretical world (with no friction or air resistance) the ball would just keep bouncing up and down in the same rhythm. This makes me think of Frida’s swivels more. But to change the feeling to a more controlled style think of the ball as being on a crane which is raising and lowering the ball. The crane can lower and raise at the same rhythm as just dropping the ball, but every movement is controlled. This reminds me of Carla’s swivels. So letting your body react vs. controlling every movement of that reaction.


Jewel McGowan

Old clip, not the best quality but as good as it gets. It’s from a short movie, so this clip is just the parts of Dean Collins and Jewel dancing from the movie.

Notice that Jewel isn’t isolating her swivels, the movement still continues from her center through to the rest of her body and the leader can feel that she is swiveling. This is where leads think that they can lead a swivel by doing that extremely yucky thing when they moving their arm side to side. The reason that Dean’s arm is moving side to side is not because he is leading Jewel to do swivels with it but because Jewel’s swivels connect through her body and communicate to Dean that she is doing swivels. Jewel’s powerful swivels make Dean’s arm move.

I repeat: swivels are a styling, styling CANNOT be lead. A leader may choose to lead me into switches (staying out) but that doesn’t mean I have to swivel, I can do any number of other things.


Willa Mae Ricker

She appears with Frankie Manning in the third section of the clip. Even though it’s a bit fast you can still see her swivels. What I find really cool when I watch spirit moves is that the girls don’t swivel equally on both sides. They accent the second half of the swivel more. This makes sense because swing music also accents the second beat. It’s almost as if their swivels are only out and not in and out. You could play with this variation too. Stretch out a certain part of your swivel when the music calls for it. See what different variations you can come up with.


Other videos mentioned in class: Groovie Movie and Jammin’ the Blues.


EDIT: Also check out my friend Mary’s blog who wrote about another swivel tip!

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If you’re subscribed to my blog you’re probably freaking out because of all the “posts” I posted today. Well calm down, there are some technical difficulties with my blog.
Somehow WordPress ate five of my older blogs, including one of my favorites, Musicality is Not Monotony. After not being able to restore them from WordPress, I found the old files (drafts from my blogger days) and I was re-posting them. I posted them with the original date of when they were posted, so they don’t show up on the homepage, unless your flip back a couple of pages.
That’s all! Just didn’t want anyone to be confused.
P.S. Some links within my blog may be broken because of this. I’m sorry! Try using the search on the right to look for a specific post.

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Swungover And Out

Bobby White is writing a five part essay on the old timers and comparing them to the current dance scene. Infinitely informing, thoroughly thoughtful, and never-ending-ly knowledgeable (dang, do I love alliteration!), it is essential reading for every lindy hopper. Unlike me (contrary to what James might think), Mr. White is an exceptionally talented writer.


From “The Old Timer (Part 2: A Release of Energy)“:

“Of course, the modern dance scene, especially a lot of competitors, don’t seem to have much of a problem with wanting to show off. But I think there are several important problems with the way many of the modern dancers choose to show off . (For instance, I think it’s easy for many competitors to choose the form of showing off where you say “Here’s what I can do, can you do it?”, whereas a more difficult, and more artistic, way to show off is “This is who I am, who are you?” That’s what I see so clearly when I see Al and Leon dance next to each other. Of course, an up-and-coming swing modern competitor should not be expected to have reached the level of self-expression of veterans like Al and Leon.) But that’s something we’ll talk about later. …

In discussing this essay, my partner Kate pointed out something that struck home. If you look at a lot of advanced swing dance competitors today, they seem to compete for the end product, rather than the means to that product. They dance to be thought of as a badass, to get the recognition. There dancing asks “Will this get people thinking highly of me?” rather than says something like, “This is who I am,” or “I’m really loving this song,” or even “Check out this great move I’m really excited about.” which is, as we mentioned, an important component to the way the Old Timers showed off.”


Food for thought. Oh, and also, go start some jam circles!


Read the entire essay “The Old Timers” here:

Part 1: A Classless Dance

Part 2: A Release of Energy

Others to come sooner than later hopefully…


You can also check out his equally brilliant post “Al Minns: A Dancer’s Dancer”, if you haven’t already.

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Dr. All-level (Or How I Learned To Stop Being Pretentious And Love The Lindy Hop)

And I’m back! HA!

This post stemmed from a comment I made on Jerry’s post a while back. Ah, If I had a dollar every time I said that.*

In early December I attended Killer Diller Weekend, which proceeded to blow my mind on what a dance event can be and how all level classes can be so much better than an uber-selective masters track. It is a small-ish, local event in Seattle. This year they brought out Skye Home-fries and Naomi Uyuma to teach the classes. Even though the classes were all levels, I had absolutely no hesitation in signing up for the full weekend package. The classes were incredible even though there were people in the classes that had very (VERY) little lindy hop under their belts. Every class was insightful to advanced dancers yet managed to keep the (barely) intermediate dancers busy as well, and not overwhelmed. It shows that when you really think about how to present material to a true all level class you can keep every person in the class busy and fulfilled.

Note to small, local event organizers: A few lessons to be learned from Killer Diller.

It is exponentially more benefcial to bring out two incredible teachers and to bring out eight or more crap teachers for the following reasons:

  1. Two (or even one) incredible teacher will appeal to the more advanced dancers in your community which gets more people to your event than hiring a lot of uninspiring teachers so you can market them as rockstars only to fool the beginners.
  2. The beginners will learn from the best right away. This helps them become better dancers faster because they don’t learn bad technique or habits (which will improve your scene). Plus it eliminates taht whole hero-worship awkwardness when you introdce beginners to the movers in the scene early. It also gets rid of the whole weirdness when you watch someone on youtube for 2 years straight and then try to ask them a question in class without staring at them like a stalker (uber-guilty!).
  3. All-level classes (with premiere teachers) will unite the advanced dancers and the beginners and eliminate clique-i-ness factor. It will empower the beginners to ask the more advanced dancers to dance and not be intimidated by them, which will also help bring up the beginner faster and force everyone to have fun in the process.

This brings me to another point. Why does it take so friggin’ long to be at least decent at lindy hop? From that first beginner class at your weekly dance venue, how long did it take you to become a strong intermediate dancer? How does this affect our dance scene?

It took me more than a year to really get comfortable enough in the dance to get a good hang of it and to at least start to feel like I knew what I was doing. And then I realized how many bad habits I have. I got it from crap teachers who were overly confident on what they were teaching even when they barley had thin grasp on what they presented as the ultimate truth. How can one be so confident in their technique when they only teach at a place called Lindy Groove? Wah, wah, waaaah…

Our dance community insists on teaching fluff to beginners simply because they are beginners. Dubbing proper technique and connection as “too advanced” for them. It’s like playing neo-swing and bebop for the beginners at the start of the night, it doesn’t make sense. If you fell in love with lindy hop because of swing music, why not entice beginners the same way? Play medium tempo real swing in your beginner classes and dances, it will make it easier for the beginners to dance to than no-beat bebob or neo-swing. We should do the same with the material we teach. I understand you have to be able to to teach them enough to get them started so they can have fun right away, but you can plan your lesson and teach moves that require some technique. You don’t need to get all conceptual on them and start rolling water bottles across the room (hehe, you know who you are). You can blend your lesson to have moves and technique. Every once in a while tell the class to relax their arms, tell the leaders to really step back on the rock-step so their body goes back, teach the follows to rock-step on 1 and 2. That is all I ask for, it’s not too much is it? Basic technique is not “too advanced” for anyone. Especially beginners.

When you teach people good technique they are able to enjoy the dance more which means they are hooked. They will also pass on that joy to their friends and now you have a growing community. Sometimes I wonder how many amazing dancers quit because they could not get rid of their bad habits which they learned in their first month or two of dancing.


*I would be able to donate $65 to myself so I can go the the Cancer Dance-A-Thon this weekend. Speaking of which, please DONATE to get me there and support cancer research! I still need $55 more!100% of the donation goes to City of Hope!


P.S. I’d also like to point out how awesome James Bianco is. He says I’m a really good writer. HA! Take that, my 12th grade English teacher who failed me! But seriously, you are much to kind, you amazing person you.

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