Category Archives: videos

Jazz that nobody asked for

This is how I want my dancing to be.

Found and promptly stolen from dogpossum. Thank you!

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Oh, The Places You’ll Go!

Now, anyone who knows me knows I hate dirty hippies. But this is pretty frickin’ rad and super inspiring.

Lindy hop needs more inspirational and share-able videos like this one, who’s on it?

 

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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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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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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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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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Performance and Competition

I’ve been thinking about dancing, and trying to define certain things like why I like to dance, who I like to dance with and why, and why I love competing as much as I do. I was re-reading some of Jerry’s old posts and one really stood out to me. He wrote about Creativity & Competitions a while back and I just wanted to throw in my two cents to the epic lindy loggers blog-o-sphere.

In trying to figure out what I like best when I watch contests, I always see two different kinds of competitors:

1) There’s the competitors who don’t pull out any tricks and just dance for the moment and have a blast doing it. These dancers make you want to run up there and dance with them to join in the fun.

2) Then there’s the competitors that are over prepared. These dancers always look like they are thinking about the next move, or trick, or gimmick they are going to do. Personally, when I see this I fear for their lives. They are so focused, it’s terrifying.

These aren’t really precise categories, but more like two sides of a continuum and both sides have their benefits and deficits. I love watching spontaneous awesomeness erupt, it’s really incredible, nothing else like it. However performance and showmanship is also important in dancing and in competitions (see this for further discussion on why tricks are an important part of contests and performances). But when you combine both, that’s when the magic happens.

Obviously there’s no step by step procedure you can go through for this to happen. Some days the spirit takes you and other days you’re just too worried if people can tell that you haven’t shaved in a week. The one thing that you can do consistently to get the most out of every competition, not necessarily win, is enjoy every moment like it’s your last time dancing on this earth. This is why I compete, because I enjoy each fleeting moment knowing that there will never be another one like it.

Next time you are in a competition, remember it’s your time to dance and you should enjoy ever second. If you don’t enjoy dancing, why do you do it?

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Forgotten Man

From “Gold Diggers of 1933”, with vocals by Joan Blondell and Etta Moten, dance number directed by Busby Berkeley.

What a great, great song! Busby Berkeley is always associated with fantasy dance numbers that are huge and luxurious and beautiful so it is incredible how real and potent this clip really is. Also, incredible for how true this is today. It blew me away when I saw this movie.

Just a drop of randomness. 😀

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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; Further Discussions On Call and Response.

A while back I wrote about how I view musicality. While watching the following video from Lone Star Championships it reminded me of that post, so I’m expanding on an idea briefly discussed in that post.

I have, for a little bit now, admired Nathan Bugh. But only from a very far distance. When I was at Lindy Focus I had a glorious opportunity to take classes from him (and Evita Arce, of course) and, even more gloriously, watch him furiously at work on the dance floor. That is when I fully apprehended how wonderful he is.

He is one of the very few leads that creates something with his partner instead of just using her to do cool moves or tricks. When he dances he constantly gives the follow an opportunity to shine completely on her own. Then he augments her spotlight by elaborating on whatever she just did. He is constantly paying attention to her.

Just to give you an idea of what I’m talking about:

Watch at 1:27 how he clearly gives Sharon Davis her own time to play with the music, then takes whatever she did and elaborates on it or changes it to fit the riff he is dancing to.

Another thing which blew me away, is how musical all this is. The call an response session fits so naturally within that phrase of the song, and ends naturally just as the phrase changes and the horn starts. Also if you closely watch Nathan’s movement it also changes as the feel of the melody changes throughout the song. He starts out with very smooth moves with almost no pulse and hanging back on the beat then, when the music changes at 0:48, he dives in to a swing out and makes his pulse more visible, his movements more energetic, and more on top of the beat. When the music changes back to those long, dragging horns at 0:58, he changes his movements yet again to match.

Check out both Nathan and Sharon (and Evita! and Jo Hoffberg, Kevin St. Laurent, and Juan Villafane) on their web site The Killer Dillers.

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