Category Archives: teaching

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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New Dance Resolutions

So I’m gonna make some goals. Because that’s what successful people do. I think I’m going to try this whole successful thing this year. YEAR OF PYE! 2013! Ready? GO!

1. Get a job. DONE.

It’s starting off pretty good. I have a job, which is incredible that anyone would ever give me a job. But not only is it just a job, it’s the best job in the entire universe. I get to play with kids all day, and on top of that help them be awesome at life, and on top of that get paid to learn a lot.

2. Drop off unnecessary baggage. DONE.

Got rid of some things I didn’t need anymore. ‘Nuff said.

3. Be more confident.

Almost there, but not quite. Just generally in my life, in my choices, and especially in my dancing. I need a little bit of Irene Thomas up in here.

4. Do things I’m scared of, but secretly love.

Here’s a secret that maybe 5 people in the world know about me. I have a dream of singing in front of people one day. By posting this fairly embarrassing thing about myself I am putting it out there. I am committing to it. This IS the YEAR OF PYE, after all.

5. Save money for things.

Since I have a job now, I can do this. I’m going to travel more and…

6. Teach more.

I was incredibly honored to get asked to teach at Le Hot Sauce this year with Conrad.  I’m so excited and I cannot wait. Also, I’m going to…

7. DJ more.

This is scary for me so it is part of #4 up there. But I’m tired of being stopped by fear. Ooooo. I got deep there for a second. Also, I will…

8. Compete more.

I’m going to ILHC or Bust, as previously stated. And…

9. Dance more.

However, this is the YEAR OF PYE. This calls for something epic. Something drastic. Something insane. Something unimaginably amazing. You know what I’m talking about. The one. The only. Herrang.

BRING IT, UNIVERSE.

10. Care less about what other people think.

And how self centered this entire post sounds.

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Follow Up to True Improvement

I had some more thoughts to add to True Improvement post.

1) Andrew had an awesome post in which he talks about how he improves by dedicating practice time.

I think its important to set up your priorities. If your priority is to just have the most fun ever when you are dancing, then having fun should be what you focus on the most when you dance! If you feel that the most fulfilling way for you to exist is to constantly improve your dancing, then read on…

2) Daniel sent me this awesome video, which is just perfect:

I think when we say that practice makes perfect, it’s not entirely true. It’s practicing the right way. Knowing what you are not so good at, sucking it up, and honestly working on it. My first teacher used to say that it’s like eating your vegetables. IT SUCKS, I know. For me, that is focusing on one of the multitude of things I am not so good at and working on it anytime I’m dancing (class, practice, social dance) for however long (usually months) until it slowly creeps into my muscle memory.

I have this dichotomy that exists in my brain between wanting to have fun, just forgetting about everything, and enjoying dancing and while also wanting, SO desperately, to fix all those different parts of my dancing which are honestly terrible. Obviously there are times where I abandon my practice mindset for a few songs. But I know those few songs, or moments, I’m not actually improving my dancing at all. I’m just having fun. That’s cool too!

It’s important, at least for me it is, not to trick yourself into thinking that when you’re not thinking about your dancing critically (when you’re just having fun) that you are improving. You might be improving at having fun, but you won’t have any quantifiable improvement in your dancing. For me, the times when I feel like I’m improving the most is when it is the hardest for me focus on the thing I am working on. On that note…

3) A thought from Daniel and Dax Hock, who mentioned this in a conversation I was eavesdropping on, was that the closer we actually get to that threshold of progress the more discomfort we feel. And when we can stand that discomfort for just a moment longer is when we break that threshold and truly improve and progress.

Just something to think about.

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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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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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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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10 Helpful and Simple Tips on How Not to Be an Asshole on the Dance Floor

  1. ALWAYS use your words to ask someone to dance.
    If you stick your hand in my face and stand there I’ll probably spit my gum in your hand. We have a mouth and the ability to communicate through language for a reason. Use it.
  2. NEVER use baby powder in the middle of a dance floor.
    Or even in a corner where you know people will be dancing of stepping. Do it under a table or a chair, or bring some wet wipes with you and clean up after yourself.
  3. ALWAYS give your all to the dance.
    Just because a beginner asked you to dance, it doesn’t mean that they want you to dance with them like you are a beginner yourself. This does not mean you cannot have fun. It took a lot of guts for them to ask you to  dance so give it your all and dance with them as if you were dance with a "rockstar".
  4. NEVER dance with yourself.
    Dancing is about creating something together that you could not have created apart. This does not mean using your partner as an anchor to do cool moves to make yourself look cool. If you liked something your partner just did; let them know. Try to repeat what they just did or just smile, laugh, or say "nice!". WARNING: If overused this can get creepy.
  5. ALWAYS thank your partner warmly and sincerely.
    Even if your dance sucked you don’t want to be the centerpiece of restroom gossip just because you didn’t smile and say thank you. It really isn’t that hard. And if you like dancing with them let them know! Make it Swedish and ask for another dance.
  6. NEVER treat someone like they are below you.
    Just because you know someone has been dancing for a shorter amount of time than you it doesn’t mean that they suck in comparison. They probably know more than you anyway and you’re too stuck up to see it.
  7. ALWAYS assume that you have more to learn.
    Because no one is perfect and everyone always does have more to learn. Even if you like the way you dance, it does not hurt to take more lessons to learn a new way of thinking about the dance or just to see how different people teach the same thing.
  8. NEVER teach on the dance floor!
    I mean really, common. Instead of saying "You should do this" say "I feel this". Make the statement about yourself instead of the person you are dancing.
  9. ALWAYS think about how your words will affect someone else.
    This should kind of be a mastered skill from first grade.
  10. NEVER tell a person that you don’t like dancing with them for any reason EVER.
    That’s just horrible

Most (if not all, with some alteration) of these rules also go for life in general. If you just realized that then you are an ultimate asshole far beyond help and hopefully I’ll meet you someday and shank you a few times.

Catch Up

This week it’s time to catch up on what I’ve been up to the past year, but very fast and as short as I can make it, which will be fairly long.

So since almost a year ago, a few things have happened with me. And now I actually know what I’m talking about. At least slightly more. In the moment you always feel like you know a lot but after sometime you look back and you think to yourself  "What the heck was I thinking?!" But it’s also a good feeling because you know you are learning and improving. I wonder if you ever look back and realize that you haven’t learned or changed?

What I’m up to at the moment is quite a few things. I’ve started helping out with Neil’s Technique Class at LindyGroove. I’m so thankful that this opportunity came my way because I’ve been trying to start teaching for a little bit. Thanks to Neil I’m getting so much experience form this! You have to start somewhere, this is more than perfect for me. Does anyone remember their first time teaching?

Camp Hollywood is at the end of the month and I’m competing not only in the Jack & Jill but also in the Strictly (with Alan). Watch out! Naw, not to really… But maybe I’ll pull a surprise attack! The judges will be so mesmerized by our matching outfits what they will automatically give us the highest scores! Any tips for competitions, Strictly’s or J&J’s? When was the first time you competed? How did it go?

People to dance with in LA:
Patrick Fredrickson and Debbie Gitt. There are no words good enough to describe them. But if you should ever meet Patrick (who teaches at Camp Swing) ask him to show you the infamous ‘Penguin’ move. Ouch!

Thanks for bearing with me through this! Next week I’ll post memories from my Frankie 95Camp Jitterbug coast to coast adventure and some plans for the future.