Finding Limits Limitless

Andrew had an awesome comment last week:

“Being open minded is important and I agree with you on the point that it is always a good endeavor to expand ones horizons.

People have suggested though (and I agree) in certain situations sometimes being creative comes easier when one has limitations to work within.

My question would be how does one find balance among these two ideas? I feel if you choose one exclusively you end up with the extreme of the dancer that just looks like a caricature of the person or idea they are trying to emulate or on the other hand a person who goes on all these tangents that lack context.”

This is an idea I’ve also been thinking about for a long time.

One of my absolute favorite movies is Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window (1954). When I first saw this movie I was so intrigued by how the movie is filmed. It stand out from all of Hitchcock’s other films. Why? Because pretty much the whole film is shot from the window of the lead character’s apartment. The lead character is in a wheelchair, because he broke his leg, and he spends all his time looking out into the other apartments from his own window. Hitchcock put a limit on himself by only shooting from one point of view. Of course it was much harder to do, and obviously doesn’t have these incredible long shots (like in North by Northwest (1959)), however this forced Hitch to be much more creative in his filming and in the end delivered the emotions to the audience that the story called for perfectly.

Okay so done with the film-nerd-dom, but that the heck does that all mean to Lindy Hoppers?

So a while back Jerry posted this incredible interview with Skye Humphries (who will be teaching in Pasadena next weekend at Harvest Moon Swingout, come out and dance with him because he’s never on the west coast!) in which Skye talks about structure in Lindy Hop:

“I think the great appeal of Lindy Hop is not it’s lack of right and wrong, but instead is this simplicity of structure.  By having [a] clear structure the dance allows [for] great improvisation and communication.

Improvisation isn’t about doing away without all rules or all structures or all forms.  It is about subverting those rules, reworking the structures from the inside, allowing one’s self to fill the form of the dance and then refashioning it.  Improvisation comes from mastery of structure not its dissolution, and this is one of the real beauties of Lindy Hop.  Its form is an incredible achievement.  Its basic step is a complex negotiation between the couple and the individual.  It leaves so much space.

To me the only mistake is to approach Lindy Hop as formless or structure-less [by] ignoring the rhythm, ignoring ones partner, ignoring the music, [or] ignoring how the dance has been done in the past.”

We can think about the swing out as a limit. Lindy Hop is also a limit, why do you chose Lindy Hop above ballroom, or hip hop, or modern? For me, there are an enormous amount of reasons, but the main one is perhaps this simple structure that if both partners understand thoroughly they can create something that is bigger than the sum of it’s parts. They can create a dance that could not have been created by any one dancer alone. I believe that no other dance out there can offer this. (If you disagree, challenge me!)

In last weeks post I asked you all to open your mind and find music that you liked that was not something you would dance to. The important part of that was not to listen to every song out there and say that you liked it, but listen to songs that you like. It’s to find or create your own simple structure to be inspired from. You may as well find that you don’t like anything else except for Cats and the Fiddle, but make sure that you know why.

To answer Andrew, I do not think that being open minded and having limits are two different ends of one stick. I think you cannot have one without the other. Being open minded helps you understand your limits, or this structure to an incredible degree. It helps you question why this structure works and why it works so well for you.

I think in the end it’s important to keep an open mind and be receptive to all ideas around you, however it is also equally important to develop your own taste, your own point of view, and your ability to think critically.

See you next week!

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4 thoughts on “Finding Limits Limitless

  1. danielcyoung says:

    For Andrew:

    Think of it as zooming in and zooming out. They are two different modes of seeing that you might employ at any one time, but not necessarily together at the same time.

    We impose constraints and follow frameworks to help us focus. We stay open to new ideas helps us develop new directions. The former helps us answer a question, while the latter helps us come up with the question in the first place. Ideation and execution.

  2. Alex Dupler says:

    yes! I’ve been trying to say that for a while, but not surprisingly skye says it better.

  3. I think something applies here which also applies to following in general:

    It’s not a cage, it’s a platform.

    I don’t like blues that much because I it’s TOO free for me – swing music gives me something to work with which inspires creativity.

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