Category Archives: Frida Segerdahl

Teach More

Resolution #6.

This means a lot to me. I love teaching probably more than life itself so the fact that I don’t get to do it as much as I want need to really bums me out a lot.

At the same time I still want to take a lot of classes from teachers that inspire me. Sometimes big names like Frida and Skye, but a lot of the time there are just some amazing local dancers who I would do anything to take classes from and they just never get the opportunity to teach. It might be that these dancers that I admire don’t want to teach much, but it could also be that these talented, hard working, spirited, knowledgeable, caring, long time dancers are being passed over because someone less experienced relative “newbie” is willing to do it for free.

The bigger question here is how does this affect our community? If the people in the positions of power to set the standard for what a quality lindy hop teacher is hire the lowest bidder, how will we as a community progress? If people choose the bottom line over quality how does that affect your dance community? How does that affect the standards of our entire community? How does that affect how our dance is perceived by people outside of our community?

WTF!?

So here’s my open letter to the people who are in the position to lead our community into the future by the instructors they hire:

Please hire dancers who you actually believe in.
Please hire dancers who you admire.
Please hire dancers who are good teachers.
Please hire dancers who have experience.
Please don’t hire dancers just because they are the lowest bidder.
Please don’t sacrifice quality for the bottom line, this never works in the long term.
Please don’t hire dancers just because they are your friend.
Please don’t hire dancers solely because they can “bring in a lot of people”.
Please only hire dancers who are passionate about the dance and our community and have visions for the future.
And last of all, please don’t hire the douche bags are just there to climb the social ladder because they were never popular in high school.  

I’d like to take this time now to officially and publicly declare that I would like to teach. I would like to teach a lot.  I would like to teach a lot more.

I’d like to think that I’m at least a decent lindy hop dancer. I’ve been dancing for 6 years. I’ve dedicated a lot of time to, not only getting better as a dancer, but growing our dance community as well. I’ve placed in a few competitions. I’m proud of what I’ve accomplished so far and I believe that I have at least some valuable experiences under my belt that would be really helpful to new dancers. I would be so so so grateful for the opportunity to share my opinions about the dance and my experiences. However, if you don’t agree with my opinions, or don’t like the way I dance, please don’t ask me to teach!

Dearest lindy hop community leaders, please only ask the dancers who you strongly feel are the vision of what this community needs to teach at your events and dances! Let’s raise the standards and make our dancers better and our community bigger!

Thanks.

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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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Musicality is not Monotony.

Musicality to me is simply: Music + Brain = Movement. You hear music, your brain process it, and you move to the music. So deceivingly simple. But when you have two people dancing together this complicates it quite a bit. No one hears a sound exactly the same way, just like no one sees exactly the same colors. And even if we all did here exactly the same sound who’s to say were going to move to it exactly the same way. Now imagine 2 people dancing together trying to process the same piece of music with hundreds of sounds which each hears differently and move to it while still trying to be connected. Ladies and gentlemen, you have Lindy Hop!

Musicality is not something one person can hear and the other doesn’t, it’s not magic. Musicality is different from person to person, one person may be listening to the higher notes in the music and the other the low notes. Like wise, the follower could be listening to the drums/base (lower sounds) while the leader to the horns (higher sounds) as in this clip (pay attention around 0:11).

Nina Gilkenson and Mike Faltesek demo to Ochi Chornya by Wingy Manone in Quebec for the no-longer-existing QSRV.

The leader hears something completely different in the music than the follower and wants to accent the horns while the follower thinks it would be much more interesting to accent the drum thud at the end of the intro. Even though they here different things, they do different things they still are dancing together and to the same song. MAGIC!

You cannot “lead” musicality. Yeah, you can lead a certain move that will accent a certain count which the break hits but the follow could always choose to do some insane footwork that accentuates something else in the song. Maybe the leader will lead a plain, good, old, yummy swing out, well the follower can change the whole rhythm of it to fit the song as she hears it as demonstrated beautifully here at around 0:17. Or a plain old sugar push; 0:53. Or just a pass through; 1:09 . Or transition into or out of tandem Charleston (s-turn?) 1:29 and 1:37.

Frida Segerdahl and Mikey Pedroza compete at ILHC in the Invitational J&J to Darktown Strutters Ball.

Notice how even though the leader leads a certain pattern the follower can still add her own musicality to it very easily. Notice how the follow ads a little somthin’ somthin’ at :39 , 1:01, 1:22, and starts a little breezy knees action at 1:12 which the leader catches on to. (I like my knees breezy, please and thank you!)

That little “visual lead” is an integral part of Lindy Hop, at least in my crazy little head. It’s what makes Lindy Hop, Lindy Hop and not ballroom. That is what is meant when you hear people talking about lead and follow as a conversation. One person does something cool, a footwork variation, a styling, a jazz step, and the other catches on. It’s like an exchange of steps or styling, or like a mini competition, where you are trying to out do each other, or game of Simon Says, or just a fun conversation. Frankie describes it the best. You create some thing together, not the leader tells you what to do, but you truly create something together, something you could have never created on your own without a partner because of that conversation with them and the music. Those are the best dances you’ll ever have and you’ll remember them forever. Try to find the visual leads in this here clip all by your lonesome self.

Nina Gilkenson and Mike Faltesek demo at Lindy Focus

Here are my favorites: Apple Jacks at 0:26 and Boogie Forwards at 0:48.  Also, something you might have noticed, starting at 0:19 you can also see how Mike is listening to the horns while Nina listens to the piano. Very cool.

The most important thing is to remember that just because the leader is called the leader and the follower is called the follower doesn’t mean the leader can’t play off and visually follow a cool step the follow did. Leaders, try it next time you go dancing! Lead a bunch of swing outs and see what kind of variation the follow comes up with on the 7 and 8, 1 and 2. Then on the next 8 count try to copy what she did. Don’t worry if you didn’t get it exactly right, it’s called social dancing for a reason. Who knows, maybe you’ll come up with your own variation. Believe me followers love swing outs, they could do them all night on repeat, so don’t worry about trying to shove in other “moves”. Next try to do your own variation and see if she catches on to it on the next 8 count. Caution: this may cause you to experience the best dance of your life.

In conclusion, the leader doesn’t always have to be dictating every single movement to the follower and the follower can have her own thoughts and impact on the dance you both are creating, and not just blindly following the leader. You can do completely different footwork or styling and still be dancing together. It’s not a dictatorship it’s kind of an anarchy. Rules in Lindy Hop? Pffft.

Now go and dance!

The Influence of Dance on Music

This actually started out as a comment to Jerry’s post of another piece of his wonderful paper on the history of the Lindy Hop revival but it got too long. If you have not yet read the entire paper, you should definitely do so, now. Right now.

There is one particular sequence that stands out.  It starts at 4:06 with Jai Latimer dancing with Frida Segerdahl.  They end their shine with Jai landing a split.  Andy Reid follows suit while dancing with Nina Gilkenson.  Kevin St. Laurent, dancing with Giselle Anguizola, responds with his own split.   The band, particularly the drummer, responds to each successive split with their own musical hits.  Next Peter Strom and Jo Hoffberg (formerly Emily) come out, and Peter feigns a pained  half split to break the pattern, but Jo surprises him by executing her own.  Nick Williams and Carla Heiney end the sequence when Nick launches into an extended spin while Carla patiently waits before they both go down into simultaneous splits.

I found this clip particularly interesting. I especially liked how the drummer accents  the dancers movements with hits. I think I mentioned this in my review of Camp Jitterbug, but the band at Camp Jitterbug also did this for the strictly finals, which was awesome. (BTW, if anyone can tell me who that band was it would be much appreciated.) This got me thinking, how do dancers influence the music the dance to?

We all know that music greatly influences the dancers, and that’s the main reason why dancing evolves, from Charleston to Lindy Hop, think of the change in music from the 20’s (tuba, oom-pah, 2 beat) to the 40’s (more swingy, base on every beat, drums ). But how did the dancing affect what the musicians we’re doing?

When I read Frankie’s book it really surprised me how much interaction there was between the dancers and the musicians at that time. Dancers gave musicians ideas through their movements, their line dances (think shim sham and ‘Stompin’ at the Savoy’), and their personalities. Musicians were inspired by dancers because they worked in such close proximity to each other.

During the 1950’s musicians began to carve their own path by experimenting more with the music, using groovier rhythms and not hitting the base every beat for the dancers. Music became something you listen to instead of something you experience. George Avakian mentioned this at the Frankie Manning Memorial in May, he said that when he was growing up there were no music concerts, there were dances where you would go to dance to a live band but never sit and listen.

Now music and dancing are almost separate and it’s hard to find a decent dance band because they all play 8 minute songs that are 260 bpm just because they want to do it. Even the Balboa dancers get tired.

What happened to the days where the dancers would create rhythms which the musicians were inspired by to create new rhythms, new sounds, and new ways of doing things which would further inspire dancers to create more new rhythms, new moves, and new ways of doing things?

I think we should push for modern dance bands to work closely with the dancers and the dancers work closely with the musicians. I love the new initiative that the showcases are performed to live music at ULHS. Dancers (including myself), learn to play an instrument! Even if it’s just a kazoo or a bongo or learn to sing! Learn to read music and learn the terminology. Talk to Jonathan Stout, easily the best dance band leader on the planet, or Mike Faltesek (or any  jazz musician friends who are also dancers) a lot. Do what you can but let’s keep the music as inspired as our dancing! Let’s eliminate canned music once and for all! MUAHAHA.

The competition weekend to end all competition weekends…

ILHC was a blast. I’ll try to make this on the shorter side since I really want to go to sleep right now.

First of all, whenever possible fly Virgin. It’s awesome. Second of all D.C. is such a great place to live, their metro system is awesome. We used it to get from the airport and it was surprisingly easy, if well researched. I didn’t get to see much of the city, which doesn’t really bother me that much because they’re all the same to me, but some of my friends used the metro to see al the famed sights of D.C. Since our hotel was very close to a station it made it even more simple. You can have a very affordable and fun-filled vacation in D.C. very easily.

ILHC – August 27th-30th, 2009

When I first walked in I was surprised at how small the space actually is. You would think from watching the videos that there is much more space off to the sides and behind the camera for the audience, but what you see in the video is basically it.

The Dances

The night dances were a bit slow with less advanced dancers coming out since they were all busy worrying or practicing for their competitions. However, many came out during the late nights and Saturday and Sunday nights. But I had more fun just dancing with anyone who asked me than being a snob and trying to dance with only the ‘pros’. During one of the late nights I had a sort of epiphany about my dancing. I was so tried and sleepy that I decided to stop caring about how I’m dancing entirely.  It turns out that’s how you have fun. Stop caring about how you cool you look, what awesome footwork you’re going to do next, how good your following is, and just dance. I can’t believe I haven’t done that before.

The Music

So The Boilermaker Jazz Band played on Saturday night and they had everyone on the edge of their seats looking for a dance partner for every song. They also provided music for the Champions Strictly, which was ridiculous. They really drove the energy of the dancers. See for your self:

That’s approximately a 260 bmp song for 12+ minutes! Wha!?

However the other nights we not so exciting. The bands felt like they played a lot for crowds of people sitting down but not much for dancers. They played very long very fast songs in a row which didn’t make me want to dance very much. Not to mention one band played melody… It was terrible. I looked forward to DJ’ed late nights the most, even though the DJs were also unsatisfactory most of the time. Like that time they killed a jam on the last night by playing a slow song right after a faster song which had started the jam, and then playing a faster song right after the slow song  to keep the jam going which they already killed. Maybe there should be some sort of camp or event for DJs too. Mary Freitag and Augie Freman would teach them how to do it right!

But I guess that’s what you get for wanting quality social dancing at a competition event.

The Competitions

Amazing. The dancing was superb and awesome. But like most lindy hop today, it was missing fun.  Sometimes  don’t want constant AWESOME in-your-face lindy hop. Sometimes it’s much better to have fun. What am I saying! It’s always better to have fun! You need the dance to have a character and a direction than just a sequence of AWESOME steps/moves/footwork/styling etc. without fun, it wouldn’t be lindy hop anymore. It would be like… Broadway jazz… yech… But that’s just my personal bias. Check out my 3 favorite moments of fun:

3.

Watch the second couple up, especially during the all-skate

2.

1.

Silly That Up.

Even though I wanted to post like 5 clips from ILHC this past weekend I decided not to because even if you’re a mild lindy video clip addict you’ve probably already seen all of them twice.

So I’ll post something a bit different.

Inspirations…

One of my favorite videos since I first saw it. This month I’m still going to focus a lot on solo jazz, still trying to learn the Tranky Doo. I think working on solo jazz will really help me get through this weird plateau I’m going through right now in my dancing. Plus it’s also really easy to work on solo jazz alone when you’re bored or have a spare moment in your day. Introducing new movements and ways of moving your body through space will force you to be more creative on the social dance floor too, I presume. I often find myself doing the same 3-4 movements/stylings when I’m following and getting my muscles to do diffrent things will probably help get me moving in new ways so I can have more tools at my disposal to pullout so I can match the music better. Hopefully that made sense.

Another thing I would like to focus on more is to be more silly and have more fun. I’m tired of AWESOME all the time. I want fun. This video is so awesome because it’s so silly. Frida and Sakarias tell a story, portray characters, and are silly while they are dancing. Being silly and having fun goes much further than being awesome in my book. I don’t care if you have some fancy new aerial and you learned this step from Skye Home-Fries himself. I’d rather see you having fun and being yourself.

For example, you are performing a routine and you have to get every single step exactly right, and you can’t screw up this break here, and watch out and don’t slip after this aerial here. If you weren’t so busy worrying about trying to be the coolest and best routine EVER you would probably have remembered to have fun and it would have been the coolest and best routine ever.

This weekend I stayed up pretty frickin’ late dancing one night and I remember being so tried that I didn’t even care how a looked or how good my technique was or how well I was following and I just danced. I had the best dances of my life ever. Consecutively. It was awesome. So from now on. I’m just going to dance and not give a rat’s behind about anything else, like how cool or awesome I look. I’m done with that. I want to have fun now and be silly. Silly it up.