Category Archives: classes

Heroes

Heroes can be lots of things. Sometimes they are close to you, sometimes you never meet them, and sometimes you can’t meet them because they exist in your mind. To me, Skye Humphries is all of the above at the same time.

My first swing dance teacher mentioned this crazy guy in DC who was doing amazing things in Lindy Hop. His name was Skye Humphries. This was the first time I had heard his name, not knowing that it would essentially change the course of my entire life. So being a dedicated student (or maybe an aspiring internet stalker) I typed his name into the YouTube search box. This was 2007 and I saw this:

I remember watching this clip for hours on repeat, trying to figure out exactly what was so mesmerizing about it. This started my two year YouTube binge. I couldn’t go out social dancing because I was still in high school, so instead, whenever I had free time I’d prowl YouTube for more videos. For two years my life was YouTube.

He makes the simplest movements look incredible. He is not hiding behind flash and trash. The level of perfection that must be reached in order to make a rock step look as inspiring as an aerial is mind blowing. But everyone already knows that Skye is an incredible dancer.

What really inspired me about Skye, is that he’s not embarrassed to be himself. Ever.

And that’s something that will always stay with me for as long as I’m alive.

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Private Lessons

I am starting to offer private, one on one lessons at LindyGroove, on Thursday nights in Pasadena!

Private lessons are available at the following rates:

$20 per half hour
$30 per hour
Inquire about student and other discounts 🙂

If you would like to schedule one with me please email me at pye.alice@gmail.com and don’t forget to put Private Lessons in the subject!

You can also click on Classes above to find out where I’ll be teaching group lessons next.

PS: Click on Photos to see more photos!

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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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Blues it up good.

Oh no, blues!

Yeah, you should get over yourself.

LA Blues October 23th – 15th, 2009

It was a fantastic event from beginning to end. It was small enough to be intimate and relaxed but intensive enough to make it well, well, well worth your money.

The Dancing

Well, it was pretty good. Personally there were like four people that I wanted to dance with so if you’re looking for a great exchange with lots of fantastic social dancing, this is not it. However, 3 of those people were teachers so if you’d like to dance with some of the best dancers without the pressure of a big event where everyone wants to dance with that one instructor (Skye Home-fries, ever tried asking him to dance at an event?) than this is your event. In fact since the event was so cozy the teachers have a lot of time to hang around and dance without many people attacking them every 3 seconds you can get some valuable one on one time with them. In fact their even willing to help you if you ask them for it!

I really enjoyed how relaxed the atmosphere was. This kind of let the learning sneak up on you, so it seemed like you were not doing much but then all the sudden you’re getting better and doing lots of things you never thought you would get to do, like make it to the finals in the Jack and Jill.

The Competition

Yup. That’s me. (The first one out in the spotlight)

This was the only competition they had this year. Maybe next year they’d have a solo one, those are always more fun than anything else, but scarier to enter. A strictly would have been nice too and would have probably drawn out a few better dancers at least for the one night.

I know that the organizers felt that putting on too many competitions would not only cause a lot of work and stress for them but would also interrupts the social dancing which is so important to blues (and arguably lindy hop but that’s a whole different post). I really like this idea because at a few recent events I’ve really felt cheated out of my dancing due to interruptions for performances and competitions *cough*Frankie 95*cough*. Even when there is a lot of time for dancing, the flow of the night kind of sucks when there is an interruption every 30 minutes.

If you’re curious, here’s Part 2 of the competition:

The Instructors

They were all fantastic. There is really no other word for it. Laura Glaess and Mike Roberts, Nelle Hatley and Joe DeMers, and of course Karissa Lightsmith and Topher Howard. Fantastic instructors and above all fantistic people willing to go the extra mile to see that their students master the material given and excel. Otherwise known as picking up what they’re putting down.

I had a fantastic time and I will FOR SURE be attending next year. I don’t think I’ve ever said that about an event. Plus I have some inside information that the organizers are thinking about asking Mike Faltesek to come teach solo blues in 2010! WOW!

Don’t be a looser and miss it because you think blues sucks because you’re stuck up.

Just in case you’re wondering about future events I’m going to my last one for a while will be Lindy Focus on Dec. 27th to 31st in Asheville, NC. I’ve decided to focus on school for a while so I can finish it extra fast, try to dance at more places locally (Strutter’s and Atomic), then marry a gay man in Seattle to get a green card, move there and start traveling again. This master plan will take approximately one year to reach completion. Stay tuned my lovely Seattle friends.

Just a reminder, If you’re reading this on facebook you’re missing half the fun! Please click on ‘View Original Post’ below!

Spanish Rose.

I’ve been working on solo jazz for a while, although not as intensely as I’d like to. I’ve also started to explore other dances a bit more. If you know me at all, I’m not really all about learning salsa to improve your Lindy Hop because frankly they are completely different dances in movement and attitude. I dance Lindy Hop because I like it and if I would have liked salsa I would have started dancing salsa. But that is a different rant for another time. However I think learning other "cultural dances" can really open up your horizons. Dances with their own culture and scene, like the Lindy Hop scene are most appropriate.

I’ve been taking flamenco lessons for a few weeks now at my college and I really enjoy it! It’s kind of like tap dance with more restrictions and rules and pain. I have taken "jazz" class at my college last year, but it was terrible. At one point the teacher said that she was choreographing a "combination" but she hadn’t picked out the music yet. Whaaa?! That is another rant all it’s own. It did not feel like dancing. Flamenco feels like dancing because it comes from a naturally evolved dance not from something that was packaged for the entertainment of the rich and famous. Our teacher taught us a step (much like the mambo step that’s in the middle of the Tranky Doo) and then he asked us if we knew where the step came from. Everybody was  like "Spain?" The true answer was Cuba. Much like Lindy Hop, Flamenco also evolved from different countries and other styles influence flamenco. I love that kind of organic progression of a dance. That evolution is why we have Lindy Hop and Balboa, and Hip Hop.

So if you’d ever want to take other dance classed I’d suggest tap, first and foremost because so much of it is in Lindy, African dance, flamenco, or basically any other cultural dance.  You’ll feel very at home.

But ultimately if it’s not fun, don’t do it anymore no matter how many people have told you that it will help your dancing.

Just a reminder, If you’re reading this on facebook you’re missing half the fun! Click on ‘View Original Post’ below!

Camp Hollywood

The most anticipated lindy event in the LA area… well, after they postponed the Catalina Jazz Dance Fest till next year and Inspiration Weekend was canceled this year… so the only large lindy event in the LA area… is now over. Yes, Camp Hollywood.

Camp Hollywood – July 30-August 2nd, 2009

It was badass. Even more badass than last year, but that’s probably because I was an idiot last year. Man, I really hope I say that every year.

The Classes

The classes were alright. They were not mind blowing or innovative, they were alright. I took an aerials class and that sucked, because there were maybe 60 couples in the room. If you ever need to learn aerials, which is probably a bad idea anyway, you should take a private because it’s impossible to learn something so technical and so heavily dependent on follow-leader connection in a group workshop or class.

The Music

But the DJ’s were AWESOME. Mary Freitag was unbelievable. It was 3:00 AM and every song was so perfect I never wanted to go to sleep.  She DJ’s often at Third Saturday Swing.

As for the bands, they played very fast, very long songs for the shag and balboa dancers which isn’t too much fun on a crowded floor. That’s no surprise. I might have danced a few interspersed songs (yes, even to Jonathan Stout!) to practice balboa, but I saved the real dancing till late night because that’s when you wanted to dance and actually had room to also.

The Contests

Some pretty awesome things happened surprisingly. Must be because of Mikey Pedroza last year. Kim and David’s eight helicopters in a row, One2Swing Jitterbug’s routine which brought tears to peoples eyes (including me), Andrew Hsi’s and Sarah Breck’s routine, and other such things that cannot be summed up in words.

Californians swept the awards, maybe that’s because there weren’t as many people from out of town (perhaps due to the economic situation and most lindy vagabonds having spent their last dimes on Frankie 95). But I have to say that Andrew’s routine blew my mind, amazing. There should be more stuff like that instead of the same old trickery we see all the time with bad technique and no variation or musicality. Yawn.

I had a good time, no, I had an excellent time. Thanks to Charlotte who’s awesome in every way imaginable, Mikey Pedroza for giving me the best dance of my life so far, and to Mike Faltesek who I actually tricked into agreeing to dance with me. HA, sucker!

Future Plans

August 22nd, 2009 – Le Hot Sauce III
August 27th-30th, 2009 – ILHC
September 18th-20th, 2009 – Cowtown Jamborama (Still deciding on this one, depends on how cheap the flights get!)
October 8th-11th, 2009 – ULHS! (WooHoo!)
October 23rd-25th, 2009 – LA Blues (If I can volunteer…)
November 26th-29th, 2009 – US Open (ONLY if I can volunteer and get in for free.)
December 3rd-7th, 2009 – SF Bal Fest (Need to get a room together…)
December 27th-23rd, 2009 – Lindy Focus (Haven’t registered yet…)
January 10th-17th, 2010 – Sea Swing Sensation Cruise! (With my mom!)

I’m gonna drop out of school due to lack of funds soon… *sigh*

Frankie 95 and Camp Jitterbug Double Whammy Pt. 2

Part 2 (Here’s where you can find Part 1)

Funny, I remember when I first started dancing I lurked around different blogs and probably the first one I encountered was Carl Nelson’s blog (which doesn’t exist anymore, at least not where I found it. He is now writing about his lonesome travels across North America, and beyond?, here) The first blog I read was a review of that year’s Camp Jitterbug. So of course I was totally dazzled by all the videos and descriptions of classes and such and such. Now I actually got to go to Camp Jitterbug! And I got to dance with Carl (at Frankie 95, though…)! Haha! Just goes to show that all you need is the Internet to inspire dreams… no matter how small/lame. 😀

Seattle

Well I have to say, I throughly enjoyed Seattle. I’m completely in love with the city. Even though to walk to any of the venues you had to walk uphill, I enjoyed walking in Seattle more than I did in NYC. We walked in Seattle more thank NYC! I think it’s because it’s just physically tiring to walk in NYC because there is always so much going on, too many sounds, too many people, too many signs and traffic signals to pay attention to. Too much sensory input all at once. Seattle was very relaxed and cool city. Also, Seattle had lots of trees and green things called plants… incredible! So much good food and shopping! Ahhh!

Also, If you are ever in Seattle, make time to take the Underground Tour. It’s insane. I’ll post some picture up later, even though they aren’t that good.

Camp Jitterbug – May 28-31 2009

The Jump Session Show

So clearly the highlight of this year’s Camp Jitterbug (and probably any Camp Jitterbug) was the Jump Session show. There were some amazing, AMAZING pieces shown. Sharon Davis’ banana dance, Karen Thurman and Andrew Thigpen’s routine,  and a fantastic rendition of the Al and Leon shim sham. The Harlem Hot Shots had some nice numbers too, you can find videos of their performances from Frankie 95.

The Dances

Everything at the event seemed very organized, unlike a lot of other events. The first night welcome dance at the Knights of Columbus Ballroom was VERY HOT, unbearably hot. But they did give out free vitamin water and it was video DJed which was awesome because I’m VERY into video clips so I liked that a lot, and found a few new treasures. A couple people mentioned that they didn’t enjoy it as much because the music was bad quality and it sometimes would cut off a few notes before the end of the song (due to the nature of vintage film clips). I didn’t really mind that, I say give me music and I will dance. I don’t mind if it’s a bit raspy or tinny sounding, it just adds to the allure and atmosphere.

The second night we were at a much larger venue which was not nice. Except the floor was like concrete and a thin layer of this wooden covering I think? It was ouchy. To add to the pain, they had a Charleston-y band playing the whole night. I mean, don’t get me wrong I love that Charleston-y stuff and I think people don’t break it out often enough (well at least in LA, groove city), but the whole night? On a concrete floor? Ugh..

The other venues were awesome, and the late night dances were SO much fun. Too much fun? Maybe.

The Classes

The class were all fine but one thing that annoyed me that’s been starting to bug me a lot in a lot of events is the class levels and their descriptions. The different tracks or levels are described very lightly and generally having no real lines of distinction between them. Therefore things get very muddled up. You end up taking an "advanced" class where the level of dancers is beginning intermediate at most. All beginner intermediate dancers think they are advanced. I sure as heck did. Then I took the advanced track at Camp Hollywood last year which made me believe that I was actually advanced because all the dancers were at my level (or below, which is scary.). Therefore the teachers have to dumb down their material and it all becomes pointless.

Even though they had "auditions" for the advanced plus and master track at Camp Jitterbug it still sucked. The master track auditions were real since I guess they decided to only put through a certain amount of people. The people who didn’t make it were told to audition for advanced plus, which was a joke. We danced 3 partial songs and the tapped out like 4 people and said the rest of you are in. What the heck kind of an audition is that? I was excited because I was maybe going to learn something from these classes but I was wrong yet again. I talked to a few people after a class that used the tango bit from the California routine, and they were like "What is that?" I mean the track is called advanced plus, for pete’s sake! You should at least KNOW what the California routine is, if not knowing how to do it minus aerials! Yeeeeesh.

I think organizers of all events should come together and devise a certain standard for what an advanced class is, like you have to know the shim sham and at least have heard of the California routine and you should be able to do all the steps in it, not necessarily the entire routine as a whole. As simple as that! It’s not hard…

I have to say, though, that the solo track was awesome! (Probably because the teachers could teach what they wanted to and people who picked it up picked it up, not having to depend on the level of their partner.) Makes me REALLY want to got to Stompology next year but I have no money (donate at the top left!).

There were also a lot of really inspirational and mind blowing classes taught by Ramona Staffeld and Mikey Pedroza, Laura Keat and Jeremy Otth, Laura Keat and Nick Williams, and Ria DeBasie and Mikey Pedroza, Casey Schneider and Mike Faltesek, and Skye Humphries (in the solo track). These classes influenced my dancing the most because they taught concepts and not moves or steps. Especially for follows, at a certain point classes that just teach different moves become pointless because when you’re dancing, you’re not really going through moves, you are just moving your body to the music. But when someone teaches you something that influences your philosophy of dancing or your technique it really makes a difference and makes it worth your time and money. Camp Jitterbug was in abundance of classes like this, I loved it. I highly, highly recommend it.

The Food

The provided food awe delicious Thai food from a local eatery, even though it was awesome. Another delicious tidbit was the awesome lunchtime lectures by Lennart Westurland about the old school Savoy dancers and Peter Loggins’ hilarious rememberings of the old school dancers in LA.

Thanks to Sheri Kang and Ben Yau for making Camp Jitterbug even more awesome than my highest expectations!

Here’s something for the road home. Surprise performance at one of the late nights:

Also if you’re dying to find out, I’ll be at Camp Hollywood in a week and a half. I’m also trying desperately to gather up monies to get to ILHC and ULHS. PLEASE HELP ME OUT! Click DONATE at the TOP RIGHT!