Southern Belle Swing Bash

•September 17, 2007 • 4 Comments

The beginning of a new school year is always busy, thus the lack of posting as I’ve been frantically running aroun for three weeks getting school supplies, schedules, books, etc sorted out… and of course figureing out how to study and do work again while managing a life and finding time to dance! End personal note.

Southern Belle Swing Bash was this weekend in Atlanta, Georgia. It was a BLAST! I highly recommend it to all dancers in the future… especially guys! Leaders get in free to this event which is directed towards making women better follows.

After the long drive home after a weekend of dancing, i’m too tired now to give a complete rundown, but I’ll definitely touch on some highlights after i’ve recovered!

http://www.southernbelleswing.com

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Gulf Regionals Overview

•August 14, 2007 • 1 Comment

This past weekend was Gulf Regionals in Orlando, Florida. While I sadly did not have the money to attend the full day of workshops, I was able to attend the Saturday evening dance at Whirl and Twirl and watch a few of the competitions and get some good fun dancing in. There were so many talented people at the dance that I felt much more self conscious than normal of my amateur, intermediate level dancing. Of course, with so many great dancers to watch on the floor, it’s one dance where you don’t mind playing wall flower in order to learn by watching some of the great dancers from the area.

The competitions that took place on Saturday evening were the Amateur Lindy Hop competition, for people who had not previously taught Lindy, or competed before. It was great to watch new talent emerging in this competition. The next dance of the evening was the Jack and Jill prelims. It’s definitely interesting to watch how dancers react to a new partner and adjust their style according to the partner they are randomly paired with. Following the Jack and Jill was the American Lindy Hop Competition qualifying round for slow dance. There was some amazing dancing during this round and I was awed by the talent of some of the dancers who competed. A bit later in the evening, after some more dancing for the rest of us, the competitions concluded with the Jack and Jill finals, the ALHC fast dance, and the solo Charleston competition. There was some really great dancing during the final rounds, and the contestants really stepped it up when they competed in the jam format. I was incredibly impressed with what they were able to do.

I will probably take some time over the next few days, as videos of the competitions are posted on the Gulf Regionals website (www.gulfregionals.com) to go more in depth into each of the competition rounds and point out some good segments of the videos. Of course, until the videos are posted, it’s hard for me to discuss without saying “it was a neat move” a few thousand times 🙂

Pictures from the Saturday competitions have been posted at the following website. http://www.flyinfootwork.com/gallery/v/gulfregionals/2007-Sat/ but pictures don’t really do the dancing justice 🙂 My favorite picture was taken of Joel and Lenka Green during the ALHC slow dance segment when they did this amazing move. If I were Lenka, I would have been scared out of my mind to do the move. It was quite impressive, as you can get some idea from the picture: http://www.flyinfootwork.com/gallery/v/gulfregionals/2007-Sat/IMG_1006.jpg.html

Stay tuned for more as I find the videos and pictures posted 🙂

Learning from other dance styles

•August 13, 2007 • 4 Comments

I read an article on addicted2salsa.com today and found that it meshed nicely with some of my own ideas on learning to dance.
http://addicted2salsa.com/2007/08/03/thinking-outside-the-box-step/#more-366

I started out knowing nothing but swing dancing; it wasnt until recently, about 3 or 4 months ago, that I started getting into other styles of dance. I was invited to a social at a ballroom studio, where I now take Ballroom lessons. I learned the basics of about 6 or 7 new dances while I was at that party and since then have been working to learn more about them. Beyond just having fun learning and dancing these differnet styles, I’ve found that every new dance I learn helps me improve in what I already know.

A lot of what you learn in one dance can translate nicely into another dance. From my experience with swing, I was able to quickly pick up the basics of Chacha, Salsa, Rumba, Hustle, and other stationary dances. I knew how to follow when I was led through a turn, I knew how to set my feet going keep up with the beat, I knew how to dance the basics of these other dances well enough to have fun. Then, as I practiced and learned more, I started noticing the things I was learning in other dances. I would be on the dance floor, and during a Salsa or Chacha I would be brought into a cradle or sweatheart position, and I would recognize the lead from swing. I would learn a new move in Salsa or Hustle that was a move I had difficulty recognizing in Swing, but because of the slight difference in lead due to the different dance, I was able to respond to the move in that dance, and it allowed me to respond better to the move when I went back to swing. Dancing Salsa has greatly improved my ability to following elaborate arm locks and twists and turns that are performed in swing.

Dancing the traveling dances such as Foxtrot, Waltz, and Tango has given me insight into the use of the body to signal a lead. In swing, I was used to responding to the tension in the arm from Lindy Hop, but learning Waltz has giving me greater knowledge of how to respond to non-stationary movement, using the body to signal a turn to a new direction, and more. It has made me more aware of the space around me on the floor, and more trusting of my lead… dancing around the floor backwards is definitely a slightly scary experience at first!

A lot of people get set in the dance they like and don’t go out and try anything else. Many swing dancers I know aren’t willing to try something new. They found swing, they dance swing, they know swing, they like swing. They are happy to dance it. And that’s great, but you never know what you are missing out on, or what you could learn from dancing another style. I have definitley become a better follow, a smoother dancer, and a more stylistic dancer from my experiences with multiple forms of dancing. I think that no dancer should be so stuck to their own style that they are unwilling to try something new.

I encourage all swing dancers to go out and try ballroom. You will learn to have more control of your body, and become more aware of the space around you. You will learn new moves that can be integrated into swing, and new twists on moves you do every day. You will learn more about the interaction of your body with your partner… weight shifts, forward and backward movement… it will help with your Balboa 😉

And ballroom dancers, I encourage you to try swing! It’ll teach you to have some fun! I’ve danced swing with some ballroom dancers who maintain the strict, upright posture and form of ballroom… dancing swing in a swing setting, versus a ballroom setting, will cause you to loosen up a bit. From my experience, swing dancers tend to have better tension in their arms, which is helpful in the stationary ballroom dances. Their arm and hand leads are usually more pronounced, versus ballroom dancers with better body leads. Swing will also give you new ideas of styling to add to your dances.

In conclusion… open up, learn some new dances, and try and incorporate everything you learn into as many other dances as you can. And to all you swing dancers out there, remember that swing developed out of ballroom! There are more similarities than you are willing to admit 😉 You might be surprised that you can like something other than swing.

Embarassing dance moments and how to make things better

•August 8, 2007 • Leave a Comment

This evening I had my first experience knocking someone upside the head with an elbow.  I know I didn’t collide too hard with the side of his face, but I definitely made contact and I felt horrible. I was falling all over myself apologizing, while still trying to keep dancing. It’s bound to happen once in a while, and I was being led through a relatively complicated set of arm locks and maneuvers in a Salsa. As a follow, one thing I always say I need work on is following those crazy arm combinations… back and forth and over the head and under and all over the place. I’m always afraid I’m going to whack someone and this evening those fears panned out. I can only be grateful that I didn’t hit him that hard and that it was a person I know relatively well, so he did his best to make me feel better after, which is a good thing!

After I had become coherent again after my babbling apologies, he slowed down and showed me the move he had done step-by-step, talking me through what was going on, and I made it through without causing further injury. Toward the end of the song, he did the same move again and this time I was able to follow at tempo without causing injury. I really appreciated the way he handled the situation, and took the time to show me where I had gone wrong, causing the elbow incident. From a follow to a lead, this is one of the greatest things you can do for your follow. If they get lost and confused on a move, and especially if some sort of elbowing or arm wrenching is caused on either side, take the time to slow down and show the girl what you wanted her to do. It will make her a better dancer by increasing her knowledge of moves, and it will help you become a better lead through really focusing on the lead so that the girl can learn it. I’ve had some dancers throw a move at me that I’d never seen before, or that had some weird lead that I wasn’t expecting, and as I still have a great deal to learn about dancing, I messed up the move… but instead of giving me feedback on how I could have improved, or trying again with a stronger lead, they shrug it off or make a gesture as if I wasn’t good enough. Us girls can only improve with help from the wonderful leads out there. I’ve had some amazing guys take the time to talk me through a move while they do it, or try it again until I get it, instead of pretending they hadn’t done it at all, and this has done a great deal to help my dancing. As for girls, try your best to be attentive when you are dancing with someone who does a new move. If you mess up once, try and do it better last time, or ask them to do the move again. I’ve had times where I messed up and asked could we please try that again, and the second time I was able to follow.

Dancing is about having fun, but each dance you go to should also be a learning experience. Dances are a chance to meet new people, see some cool new tricks, and try your best to pick up a few new moves. Help each other out with it. And don’t forget, experienced girls can teach guys new moves too! I dance with a lot of guys who are just learning, and so I try and give them feedback on how they could lead something better, or try and tell them how to lead a new move. Guys shouldn’t be afraid to ask a girl if the girl can teach them something new, and girls should be willing to help out. We’re all constantly growing and learning in our dancing, and we always have to remember to share our knowledge with everyone, and for advanced dancers, to not just focus on the other “dance elite” and “in-group” when asking girls to dance. You never know when a beginner is going to have amazing talent 😉

Evolution of Dance

•August 3, 2007 • Leave a Comment

As per normal, I was bored, but today I was browsing comedy videos on youtube. I had seen this video quite a while ago, I believe it’s over a year old by this point, but upon watching it again I remembered how amusing it was and just had to post it. While none of this is really the type of dancing I do, it’s great to watch, and the guy is pretty good! And in some ways, it reminds me why I dance the way I do…

The Evolution of Dance
http://www.evolutionofdance.com

I guess seeing this reminds you that there are new, modern forms of dancing beyond the more traditional swing, ballroom, and salsa partner dancing. But it’s easy to ignore the existence of some of these forms. To me, the music doesn’t make me get out of my seat and want to dance. Of course, being raised on classical music, I’d listen to Mozart over rap and pop any day. A lot of forms of “modern” dancing to me seem to require very little skill… anyone can put their arms in the air and shake the bodies back and forth, rubbing against other people in the process. But knowing the steps, having the ability to communicate through the tension in your arms, being able to perform wild moves completely spontaneously… that requires a skill many of the “club dancers” will never know.

I tell people sometimes, jokingly, that they should come do some “real dancing” at Swing events… but to people accustomed to the modern “mosh pit” dance styles, they aren’t always interested. It’s really quite sad that a lot of the great partner dances have been turned into something obscure, obsolete, and “old-fashioned”. Upon telling people that I enjoy ballroom dancing, I often get a weird look… the skill, grace, and beauty of these dances is lost to them. I often tell my male friends that they should come to a dance with me, but it is common for guys to have this notion that “dancing is for girls” and “guys don’t dance”. It’s sad, really. They never want to see what they may be missing out on, just because they believe that saying “Yes, I dance” will immediately give the impression that they are not “manly” enough. Dancing is a sport, it requires athletic skill and ability that competes with many sports out there. Maybe someday more people will see the more traditional partner dances as an enjoyable alternative to rap music, mosh pits, and “booty dancing.” Until then, I feel sorry for all the fun they are missing out on! The result of the evolution of dance isn’t a dance I will ever be interested in dancing… I will always prefer the thrill of swing, the grace of ballroom, and the feel of salsa.

Gulf Regionals

•July 31, 2007 • Leave a Comment

Gulf Regionals is coming up in Orlando, Florida. It’s August 10-12 for a weekend of workshops, competition, and dancing. They are offering a great selection of class, from dance history to performance. Their contests are going to be a blast to watch, especially the Endurance Contest… fast music, only Lindy Hop allowed. I know *I* don’t have that kind of stamina, but it should be some great fun to watch.

The evening dance schedule is pretty intense. Saturday evening the dance is at Whirl & Twirl Dance Club, a great venue for dancing; Whirl & Twirl  is one of my favorite floors to dance on. There are always great people to dance with, and on a workshop weekend such as during Gulf Regionals, the dancing is going to be quite an experience! The normal evening dance is from 7pm – 1am, and then at an as yet undetermined location, late night dancing will be until 5:00 am. They’ve planned a pretty incredible weekend!

Anyway, enough of my shameless plug for Gulf Regionals. I’ll end with a video from last years Fast Dance finals at Gulf Regionals

Salsa

•July 27, 2007 • Leave a Comment

I always find that watching others is not only enjoyable but also a great learning experience. Seeing new techniques and moves performed makes one more aware of the types of move to expect while dancing. While the lead is the guy thinking up what to do and attempting to clearly communicate these moves to the follow, a very difficult task indeed, being the follow is also very difficult, especially in faster paced dances. You have to put your entire trust in your lead, no easy task if you are dancing with many people you’ve never met. But having an idea of what kind of moves to expect in a dance helps improve your following. When I had just started dancing, I wouldn’t know the proper way to respond to a lead that was given to me, and it was difficult to make the move my own.  Watching other dances really helped me to become a more competant follow. I am certainly, by no means, an advanced, star quality follow. But by constantly analyzing myself and others, I become better.

Needless to say, this is all leading up to the fact that I was watching videos on Youtube this afternoon. I decided to explore Salsa this afternoon. I found a variety of both impressive and not so impressive Salsa, but one of them stuck out:
Junior and Emily Alabi

I was amazed at how much and how fast Emily was able to turn. Wow. This video also impressed be because, as a follow, I usually have great difficulty following the crazy combinations of pretzel arms and hammerlocks and anything else that may be done with arm and spin combinations. Some of those moves would scare me quite a bit, being afraid a minor mistake will wrench my arm out of my socket. Of course, having danced with a variety of dancers, and a variety of levels, it’s always something to be afraid of, as a follow. Often i’ve found beginner leads become a bit overzealous and try leading the fancy arm combination they saw a more advanced dancer lead and end up with a hurt follow. For a follow, it’s definitely a concern. Needless to say, the video was impressive.