Category Archives: Skye Humphries

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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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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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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The brilliance that is Jerry.

I like Jerry.

I think that should be a shirt.

😀

 

My fantastically talented friend Jerry has an amazingly brilliant blog called Wandering & Pondering. He is gradually posting an essay he wrote about the modern lindy hop community and how it became what it is today (and to infinity and beyond!) entitled Artistry in Rhythm. If you haven’t seen it yet you are missing out. It is too good to try and describe so I will merely quote his latest entry; pt. 15: Yin & Yang.

“Micromusicality is also fairly common feature in routines because I think it is easy for dancers to do and to show, however superficially, an audience that they are “connected” to the music.  Rather than interpreting the music, it conveys the image that the dancers are mere puppets of the music with no independent thought or emotion.  Many people uncritically appropriate this idea superficially thinking that this is part of the winning formula without understanding what made the rest of the routine look so appealing.”

Think about that!

And if you don’t continue reading you’ll be missing out on the pure genius (as always) quote from Skye Humphries! So keep reading!

 

BTW. If you dream of sitting down with Skye Humphries and sipping the knowledge from his brain you can get a little taster on Jerry’s blog. He posted an interview with Skye in four parts. pt. 1  pt. 2  pt. 3  pt. 4

 

I love Wondering & Pondering!

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.

Frankie 95 and Camp Jitterbug Double Whammy Pt. 1

Part 1

On May 21 I started my incredible adventure. It would be impossible to capture the inspiration, feeling, heart, craziness, addiction, and overwhelming community spirit this experience has brought to life, not only with me, but with anyone who attended these events. So I will just review some of the highlights, with maybe a few video clips…

Frankie 95 – May 21-25 2009

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Incredible, incredible experience. I cannot believe people who chose to do anything else with the spare 200 (plus travel, hotel, and food monies)  they had. I didn’t even have the money and I somehow found a way to be there. Shame on you.  More on that later.

Single handedly the most memorable, in all aspects, event at Frankie 95 was the Memorial on Friday (May 22). The memorial began with a service at Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church. When we came into the church we saw (and heard) Benny Powell, Frank Wess, and Yvette Glover (and more) playing the most swinging rendition of ‘Shiny Stockings’. These people are the giants of jazz.

The jam continued until the service started with a wonderful and delightful welcome and prayer.

[Video coming soon…]

The service continued with remembrances and tributes from Mercedes Ellington (Duke Ellington’s grand-daughter), Cynthia Millman (who helped Frankie Write his book), Ryan François, Judy Pritchett, Debrah Manning (Frankie’s daughter-in-law), Lennart Westerlund, Larry Schulz (co-owner, I think, of the Sandra Cameron Dance Studio in New York where Frankie taught weekly classes), George Avakian (incredible music producer, the first jazz music producer actually, and all around funnyman!), Dawn Hampton, Manu Smith, Chazz Young, Norma Miller, etc.

The entire service was so amazing it even made both the reverends get up and dance in the pulpit! Heck yes!

I have to say, I am not religious AT ALL, and I’ve never felt comfortable inside a church until that fateful Friday morning.

Then the second line processional to Central Park:

The rest of Frankie 95 was just a crazy amount of dancing and performances which I’m sure you can find on You Tube. The Silver Shadows preformed ‘Shiny Stockings’ but finished it off with ‘Jumping at the Woodside’. I almost wish they just danced to ‘Shiny Stockings’ the whole time and actually finished the song.

Bethany and Stefan’s performance blew me away, as always:

I think there are a lot of people who forget how rich the history of Lindy Hop is. I think most of the new generation is not concerned about Frankie Manning or the Savoy ballroom. Those are the people that chose to spend money to go to Camp Jitterbug instead of Frankie 95. That really upsets me. I think we all need to bring back the history into Lindy Hop. We need to remember Frankie Manning. We need to honor it before pursuing our own interests in this community (such as going to Camp Jitterbug in order to compete and gain status). Because without Frankie we would not have this amazing community to be part of.

What are your thoughts?

Part 2 will be Camp Jitterbug highlights and future plans. And for you not to get too excited I’ll be posting that on Wednesday.