Tag Archives: swing dance

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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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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ILHC or Bust.

Oh hey there.

So… I have decided to make a resolution. A dancing resolution.

I will go to ILHC this year.

Courtesy of taintwhatyoudo.wordpress.com

What inspired me you may ask? My good friend Nicolle and her post about failing and another good friend, Andrew because we both just got jobs.

That’s right I have a job. Which might mean I can travel now. Prepare yourselves, I’m back.

Here’s what I need from you: If you know anyone that can help, if you have any creative ideas about raising funds for personal endeavors, or even any excellent tips on how to save money or get great deals on travel please leave a comment or email me!

Feels good to be back/a gangster.

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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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True Improvement

In a recent and enlightening (as always) chat with Daniel Young, we realized something about true improvement.

Everyone has these waves where sometimes we feel amazing about our dancing and every night we go out we have an awesome time. But is this when we are truely getting better as dancers?

I know when I am working on something in my Lindy Hop I think about it every single dance I have. Right now one of the things I’m focusing on is keeping the pulse throughout my dancing, so every time I dance, this is all I think about. It sucks. It feels like I am not dancing. But this is the only time I feel that I improve in my dancing.

The most difficult part of this for me is keeping up with it until it is in my muscle memory and I don’t have to think about it. Then that’s when I can have my next wave of feeling awesome in my dancing. The problem is being honest with myself and focusing on that one thing I’m working on as much as I can. It is easy to forget about it and fall back into not caring and just dancing and having fun.

Having fun is important, but you have to be honest with yourself about what you want from the dance. If all you want is to have fun, that’s so awesome! Focus on that! If your goal is to make yourself the best dancer you can be, than keep your focus on that and you’ll be fulfilled beyond anything else you have ever done.

We have the most fun dancing is when we improve our abilities the least.

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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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Music Variety is the Spice of Life

I’m back. Things have slightly settled in my life for the moment and I have time for blogging again! I’m challenging myself to post once a week. You can help keep me honest by spamming me with hate mail or lovely comments.

So onto the meat and potatoes.

When I first started dancing, maybe for the first year or two, I went into this “I LOVE LINDY HOP SO MUCH!OMFG!!” spiral and ended up only listening to swing music. It definitely made me a better dancer and helped me a lot to define what I liked and didn’t like dancing to. But it also made me a more boring person and therefore a more boring dancer.

When we put ourselves in boxes or align ourselves with only one way of thinking about something we put limits on our thoughts and therefore our actions. It’s so important to be open minded, but it’s also very difficult.

So I give you this little challenge for the week, listen to music you loved in high school. I suggest getting Spotify. You can find every song on there (even ones you never bought on CD, or tape, or… whatever else I’m to young to know about) and have a little nostalgia party with your self. It’s amazing how much our tastes change yet stay the same. I challenge you to discover and explore the music that you might have forgotten about. You gain a new appreciation for your own taste in music. If you want to dive further: look up sound tracks to movies you love, find friend’s playlists with Spotify Social and see what they are listening to, type in random words in the search and listen to the first song you think looks interesting.

Expand your mind, and you’ll find your ability expands as well.

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