what I already know

I know, I know, it’s been a long time.

 

Let me preface this with: I AM KIND OF FREAKING OUT BECAUSE I GOT TO TAKE A CLASS FROM MS NORMA MILLER (with the assistance of the incredible Adam Brozowski).  It was… indescribable.  So many feelings and wow.  And wow.

me-and-norma-miller

I was all hot and sweaty from learning Trickeration, but she was gracious enough to let me get close for a photo.  What an inspirational woman!

But more about that later.

 

I have decided that it has been too long since I have worked on my solo jazz.  I don’t mean learning solo jazz routines, although that is part of it, but even just taking the time to work on my own solo jazz – expanding my vocabulary of moves, working on variations to these moves, creating choreography, and all that… well, jazz.

It didn’t take me long to recognise that a good chunk of the follows in Saturday night’s Jack and Jill final (which I did not make – top 6 out of 27, ain’t it always the way?) were also very strong solo jazz dancers.  This only reinforces what I already know: getting better at dancing on your own makes you better at dancing with someone else.  Their variations and styling were outstanding and I would put a large proportion of that down to solo jazz.

So, I’m going to set myself a few goals.  I know there isn’t long left in the calendar year, so perhaps I will make it my aim to reach these by my next birthday (my last birthday was just a couple of weeks ago, so that’s almost a year.  I’m going to be generous/realistic and exclude September from the count, seeing as there is not much of it left!).

  1. Learn at least 5 new or forgotten routines:
    • Tranky Doo (I started working on this one with Alejandra a while ago, but she’s since been injured – no excuse for me to stop learning it)
    • re-learn the Al and Leon Shim Sham (The first version I learned had a break a leg instead of the heel digs and hitchhiker shown here, but I think I like this ending better! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o6354N-sleE And thankfully, I still remember the eagle slide mantra… starting on 8: kick-ball-change step scoot step kick-ball-change kick, Suzie Q or in timing: 8-and-1 2 3 4 5-and-6 7, Suzie Q)
    • re-learn the Big Apple
    • Hat Trick Shim Sham (some of this seems foggily familiar from the Al and Leon Shim Sham, but obviously HAT TRICKS!!!  With thanks to Tips and Tops for this handy 12-part tutorial, which starts here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_wYvo_pB80s)
    • St Louis Shim Sham (a toned down version of this https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eSVdAqhOIgU …that is, until I know it well enough to revamp it)
  2. Practise known routines at least once a week.  This means Shim Sham, Mama’s Stew, Trickeration (YASSSS!!!) and performance routines
  3. Create at least one new solo jazz choreography (no shorter than four eights) every month.
  4. Create at least one solo jazz choreography in the year.
  5. Throw some solo blues in there from time to time to jazz it up a bit (this can be done in place of some of goal number 3 – but no more than half, lest I get too carried away in that smexy – smoulderingly sexy? – solo blues movement).
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Charleston Dancer by Lambi on DeviantArt  (http://lambi.deviantart.com) – check out more fantastic swing-themed artwork in his gallery!

Looking to hear more about that masterclass with Norma Miller?  You’ll have to hope that I write again sooner rather than later!  (I really hope to do so!)

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a better dancer – and a better person

I was talking to one of my neighbours a while ago, and we were both saying how we were looking at learning lyrical.  Another of my hopper friends was saying that she was looking into taking tap classes.  It is never a bad thing to take classes in a different style; there is always something that can be learned and adapted.  Tap can teach you new rhythms or ways of thinking about rhythm.  Lyrical can expand your vocabulary of movement.  Different forms of dancing teach you different things, and learning new things and pushing your limits will always make you a better dancer – and a better person.

 

I remember taking a one-off class for African dance, which really made me use my body in a way that was vastly different than how I had probably ever used it before…  I was sore in muscles I didn’t even know I had for about a week afterwards!  But it was so good, because it made me think about using  different parts of my body in different ways.  Plus, it was a heap of fun!

 

Anyway, I’m currently faced with a difficult decision…  I would very much like to take up these lyrical classes (and it’s something I have thought about on and off for about a year now, but I’m also looking at joining a gym long-term, and I can’t keep all of that up with swing dancing at the same time, because of limited time and money.  Would it be worth it to take an extended break from swing (or at least cut back on it a little) and come back in a couple of months with new skills and a freshness that I have been yearning for?  Should it also be noted that I am thinking about going to an interstate dance event in May (Bal/Shag focus)?  So many things to consider!

I basically know quickstep

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Kitty’s Mind = Blown

Today my mind was opened to new ways of thinking!  Really on just a couple of points, but I just thought I should jot them down before I forgot.

 

 

So really quickly…

 

On competition dancing:

Remember the basics of comp dancing (which I was going to link here, because I thought I had been over those… but after a quick search, that does not seem to be the case…  maybe more in a later post…  it’s pretty late…)!  But equally importantly, don’t forget you are competing against people.  Likely people who have competed before.  Likely people who have videos of themselves competing.  You know how sports teams and athletes watch videos of their competitors?  Well, same goes here.  Watch a few videos, get an idea of what a typical competition routine looks like for these couples, and think about what they did well, what they didn’t do so well, and how you could do better.  Also got me thinking, the whole gig is a competition, from the meet and greet (sizing up the competition), to the mingling with the crowd (building rapport to get some support while you dance, particularly if you are dancing away – as opposed to home), to the marshalling area (trash talking your competitors to get in their heads), right to the time you walk off the floor and beyond (if a judge does not like something you say or do off the floor and allows that to affect how they view you thereafter, don’t be surprised if it becomes difficult for them to place you first on their scorecard).

 

On dance styles:

My beautiful and talented friend, Siobhan, enlightened me on the quickstep.  I had just told her how I had actually wanted to learn quickstep and foxtrot, mostly for the music (but then I found lindy hop, and the rest is history).

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Um… do I even need to name these two?

Anyway, she told me that quickstep is really just a slow, slow, quick, quick.  I wrinkled my nose, being the music aficionado, and said that it kind of didn’t make sense, because it’s done to 4/4 music (common time).  Then I added, “well I guess it could work, I mean rock and roll is done to 4/4”, to which Siobhan replied, “it’s basically shag.”  And then she revealed why shag variations are the way they are – they come from quickstep.  MIND BLOWN.  I thought for a beat and said, “so, you’re saying, I basically know quickstep?” and she smiled and answered, “pretty much.”

I miss great blues dances

I miss great blues dances.

I was watching this video and as I was watching, a desire came over me, to feel how it would feel to have danced that dance…  and I realised that I haven’t had a truly great blues dance in years.

And it’s not that I’m not trying, I’ve been to a handful of blues nights in Sydney since my return (sadly, the blues scene has definitely taken a downturn since its promising burgeoning where I left it in 2010), trying to get that feeling in a dance – what I would call a dance-gasm – but the occasions this has happened have been rudely few and irreverently far between.

There are really only two types of swing where I have felt this feeling, and that would be in lindy and blues.  There have been incredible moments in other styles, don’t get me wrong – magic can happen in tandem (tandem charleston, that is), but never a dance-gasm type dance.  These dances – dance-gasm dances – are not necessarily amazing dances (although they usually are), but they are incredibly satisfying… they leave you feeling breathless and content and complete.

This is a bit of a rant post, I suppose, since I don’t really have any suggestions as to how to make it happen…  I guess just more opportunities for blues?  I don’t know…  All to say, I miss great blues dances.

some actual dance blogging

Sparkling New Year 2016 stock photo2016.  So begins a new year.

 

I know I haven’t been a very good blogger, dropping off the face of the blogosphere after a brief flurry of posts, so I thought I’d make some dance-olutions (dance solutions? No, dance resolutions).  The first of which will be to update more regularly.

 

  1. Average one dance blog post every 3-4 weeks.  That will be a minimum of a baker’s dozen this year.
  2. Work on my spins.  One-footed double spin by the end of the year.
  3. More social dancing – this kind of dropped off like my blog posts last year.
  4. Watch more dance videos for inspiration.
  5. Choreograph a solo jazz bit.

I think that’ll do me for now.

 

And on to some actual dance blogging!

 

My energetic footwork got noticed!  YAY!  I have been working on lifting my knees, lifting my feet, and creating energy in my feet, to look like I am moving, to look like I am doing more than I am… but let me clarify: this isn’t really a trick of the light or anything, it really does require more work, but it makes a move look more advanced, better.  More footwork = more skill = more awesome.

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I feel like I have found my rock and roll brain.  I now know which muscles in my back to activate to  be more responsive.  I am conscious of my arm, and I will follow the harder, faster moves, to a greater degree.  …it only took me 2.5 years…  Now it’s just a matter of internalising it all to the point where I don’t have to be conscious of it.

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I also got my Swing Katz baseball jersey.  Yay!  Only, I realised moments after receiving it, that I’d ordered the wrong number… oops.  Oh well, it’ll be another story to tell, and one more thing to laugh about.  And then it can all be forgotten with two simple words: wanna dance?

In other news, I am creating choreography for a bridal couple.  I did my first bridal choreography last year, for a close friend.  It was really interesting to see how they grappled with a completely new task, how they worked together through the hurdles and how they communicated and resolved any issues they were having with each other and with the task at hand.  From my experience with them, I really believe they have what it takes to make their marriage last a lifetime.  Anyway, they were a dream to work with, let’s hope this couple is just as good.

bridal couple

Before I start teaching them (less than a week to go and the routine isn’t fully choreographed – yikes!) I just want to take a moment to consider a few points about teaching two people their first dance as a married couple.

Think: are they here to learn how to dance or are they here to learn a routine?  There is a difference.  It’s probably not necessary to go through all the technique, although some will be necessary, to ensure safe lifts/dips.  They probably don’t need to know the finer nuances of lead and follow.  Step here, turn to the left, lift your arm, remember to smile, look at each other, take a bow.  Done and dusted.

Think: are they performing for money or performing for fun?  At the end of the day, the routine doesn’t have to be performance-polished – I mean, it’s great if it is, but at the end of the day, these two are starting a party.  It’s about emphasising the fun.  The couple should remember that dancing is fun.  Don’t let them get so bogged down in the angles and the lines and the presentation that they forget the person they are dancing beside: the person with whom they have chosen to spend their life, and the person with whom they are sharing this most memorable day.  The choreographer doesn’t need to charge the day with any extra stress than is necessary; the choreographer must remind the couple often that they are to focus on one another and have fun!

Think: is this a dance for the audience or a dance for the “performers”? This dance is meant to be impressive at times, but it’s also meant to showcase their love – that’s the real deal, not an act put on by dancers to convey a message.  Remember to give the couple some moves where they can have those moments, where they can look lovingly into one another’s eyes, where they can savour the touch of each other’s hands…  Don’t choreograph the cheese, but allow them opportunities for their love to shine through – that stuff doesn’t need to be written in.

At the end of the day, you still have to come up with a quality product, but it doesn’t need to be all smoke and mirrors and pyrotechnics.  If they are having fun and there’s a touch of romance, and the guests get up and dance afterwards, then your work is done.

the rundown

I’m writing this post on my long flight back to Sydney (fourteen and a half hours from LAX, if you were wondering, and yes, I had to spell the number out… I need to kill time somehow).  I have a little while, so here is the rundown on Camp Jitterbug.

THE. SOCIALS.  WERE.  INCREDIBLE.  As I said in a Facebook post from day one of the camp, this is what seven nights of dancing a week does to a city’s scene!  That said, I do recognise that I danced with Americans from all over (as well as a Canadian and another Australian), but the general calibre of dancing is noticeably elevated to what I’m used to getting.  The first night, I got to the welcome dance and was on the floor for an hour, perhaps a little longer, before I took any kind of break!  I thoroughly enjoyed almost all of my dances, the only exceptions being those with novices, but even some of those were quite pleasant.  One of my leads had only been dancing for about six to eight months, which he mentioned as we chatted while I took a break from the floor for about two songs (this was well into the camp and I needed to take breaks at this point, because my feet and legs were so sore’ I thought they might be on the verge of threatening secession or at the very least, staging some sort of rebellion, not to mention that nasty blister I obtained at the track level auditions).  Once I felt ready to return to the floor, I did, with this lead, and we had a most pleasant dance.  I mentioned something about how much I was enjoying the dance as we danced and he reminded me that he was only new – a fact which I had completely forgotten, that’s how good the dance was.  I would have thought he had been dancing two, maybe three years, based solely on this dance that we shared.

I think it might be appropriate to mention that the live bands also did a fantastic job of keeping the dancers on the floor.  I definitely enjoyed Casey McGill LIVE (although I was a little bit disappointed that Deep Rhythm/Swing Brother Swing was played slower than the recorded version, because the recorded speed is PERFECT to do fast swingouts to).  Careless Lovers was also great – I think they knew how to work the floor best of all the bands.  I also think that it was a brilliant idea to showcase local bands.

The teaching lineup was phenomenal.  All the big names.  Michael and Evita.  Pontus and Isabella.  The Frankie 100 Hellzapoppin place-getters, the DecaVita sisters.  Peter Flahiff.  Todd Yannacone.  Nina Gilkinson.  They did not disappoint.  The workshops were very good in terms of content; personally, I felt that I learned a lot and was stretched and challenged, which I very much enjoyed.  There was some cool stuff in there, but also a lot of thinking, and some stuff that just got me thinking.  The teachers certainly brought it.  It was also great to see them on the social floor, kicking it with the rest of us!

Intercontinental dance partners

With Cedric.

The competitions.  They were fierce!  I competed, but unfortunately, didn’t make the finals.  (Having watched some of the video footage, I know why: my basics got lost in my variations.  Oops.  Rule number one: music is king.  Rule number two: connection, connection, connection.  Rule number three: have a solid basic.  And that’s where I failed.)  Even though I didn’t make the finals, I enjoyed them thoroughly; they were definitely something to witness!  And I think the winners were deserving.  But!  A big thank you to Cedric, my partner for the strictly lindy, who I had danced with for a day before we signed up to compete on the day of the comp!  We just connected really well and I had some of my best dances with him – it was always so much fun, and I can’t wait to dance with him again someday!

This act from the Jump Session show.  Also the kids.  The kids in the show were pretty spectacular.  I will hate them in five years’ time.

The venues were also quite pleasant, my favourite being the Temple de Hirsch, with its high ceilings and comfortable floors, side dance floor for those too shy to fully get in on the action and outdoor cooling off area (which I was told was new this year).  I enjoyed having the venues spread out over a part of Seattle, because it felt like we got to explore parts of the city, rather than being cooped up in a hotel (not to say that I didn’t enjoy my CSC experience, but it’s different.  They each have their merits.  Pros and cons, y’know?  Pros and cons…).

THE MUSICIANS’ JAM AT THE LAST LATE-NIGHT DANCE!  I loved the intimacy of the room and had one of my best dances of the weekend to Mr Todd Yannacone caressing the ivories.  Also got some compliments after exercising my pipes a little…  With microphones.  Oh yes.  The last dance I had in this room was to blue skies.  We were dancing right up in front of the jamming musicians and I harmonised as I danced.  I WAS SINGING AND DANCING SIMULTANEOUSLY.  BEST.

Before coming to the camp, I had never met my amazeballs roomies, Monica and Mark, but they were certainly a lot of fun.  We had lots of fun talks and some more serious ones, plenty of sleepless hours, the occasional wardrobe consultation (I still hold that stripy shirts look like pyjamas), and some good grub.  I truly hope I can make it to another swing event in the States and bunk with them again, soon!  As Cyndi Lauper might say, “I don’t want anybody else…”  😉

My roomies for the camp, Monica and Mark, and me.

My roomies for the camp, Monica and Mark, and me. Photo courtesy Jessica Keener Photography.

Another personal highlight was hearing news of people talking about my dancing on the social floor!  One of the girls there told me that the leads were talking about me and saying, “have you seen her footwork?  She’s a stud!”.  Kind of an ego-booster, and definitely validation of my dance ability.  I felt about as proud as peacock punch, but tried to take it in like pie, of course (and I don’t mean in large quantities).

Here, folks, is where the post gets a little less friendly.  I must say, I was disappointed in the track level auditions.  First off, the teaching staff were not consulted for the audition process, it was simply in the hands of the organisers.  Now, I’m not saying the organisers know nothing about dance, but the teachers should probably have a say in who gets taught what.  Then there’s the placings themselves.  Allow me to elaborate on this.

This year, Camp Jitterbug ran several track levels (which, in itself, is a great thing!  I think more events should acknowledge the subtle differences between different levels, although I understand that this is harder to do for smaller events.), Beginners, Intermediate, Intermediate Plus, Advanced, Advanced Plus, and Masters.  I would try to explain these in my own words, but to avoid any confusion, I think it best that I copy-paste the level descriptions directly from the site.

BEGINNER

You are new to Lindy Hop, have taken a few classes, or you are a lead/follow that wants to learn how to reverse roles. If you want to fine-tune your fundamentals and really get solid fundamentals, this track is for you! You will have a small class size along with a coach that guides you through the classes to make sure everybody gets the most out of Camp Jitterbug!

 

INTERMEDIATE

You have a few Lindy Hop classes and/or workshops under your belt. The basics are comfortable, but you would like to fine-tune them and get more comfortable on the social dance floor. Higher tempos are a bit challenging

Requirement for this track is to know the basics of Lindy Hop.

 

INTERMEDIATE PLUS

You have been dancing Lindy Hop socially for a few years now and you are definitely striving to reach a profound level with your dancing. Social dancing comes more naturally to you now and you are building confidence on the floor. You are executing moves and patterns, but your repertoire is getting old. You want to bring more styling and footwork variations into your dancing. You want more options out on the dance floor, you want to further fine-tune your technique and you are ready to bring your Lindy Hop to the next level!

 

ADVANCED

You are one of the better dancers on the social floor and you have a lot of confidence. Moves are old news…you are starting to master your technique and bring musicality into your dancing now. You have been Lindy Hopping for a while and have most likely traveled to events. You have probably taught some local classes and/or workshops and possibly won/placed in some competitions, but you wouldn’t say you are the best of the best quite yet. Locally, you may be having trouble finding challenging material so you feel like you aren’t improving or being inspired as much as you would like to. You are eager to learn from masters of the dance and want to be inspired so you can move to the next level.

 

ADVANCED PLUS

You are one of the best dancers on any social floor and the crème of the crop! You have been doing lindy hop for a long time now and have traveled to many lindy hop events to better your dancing. You have a lot of repertoire but want to bring your overall dancing to the next level. You are trying to figure out how to cross into that new territory in lindy hop that is sometimes hard to pin-point. You have developed your own style, but are always open to re-molding yourself. You are ready to be inspired and figure out how to break into being a master.

AUDITION ONLY

 

MASTER

Okay, this is serious business, folks. If you are in the masters track, you are at a level where it is difficult for you to find instruction to better your dancing. You are thinking more conceptually. You are looking to the worlds [sic] top lindy hoppers to help guide you into new ways of thinking and where you can go with your dancing. Nationally, you are one of the TOP social dancers and you have most likely competed and placed in national competitions and/or have taught workshops/classes nationally.

AUDITION ONLY

I signed myself up for the Advanced Plus level.  According to the descriptions, I believed – and still believe – that this is the level that best suits me.  When, however, I got to the auditions, I saw the people auditioning for the Masters level and thought, ‘hey, I could be up there.’  One of my friends who was auditioning for masters actually wondered why I wasn’t up there and by the time the third and last song came on, dragged me onto the floor to one of the spare leads.  Unfortunately I wasn’t given a bracelet.  So, I stayed to audition for the Advanced Plus level, which, as you’ll remember I had originally signed up to join.  Fine by me.  And after a few songs, they announced that everyone had made the level.  Great news!  We were told that if we wished to contest our placements, we could do so at lunch; I briefly took note of this, but debated whether or not I should contest it.  Based on the level of some of the people who had made it into the Masters track, I wondered whether I should contest.  Anyway, I went to my Advanced Plus workshops.  These would have been okay; I’m sure I would have found things to work on, but the level of the leads was, let’s say, less than thrilling.  I found myself having to teach about half the leads – and as I said, I did not fly thousands of miles to teach.  I decided to contest my level and was able to move up to Masters.

Evita herself called the Advanced Plus track out.  She told them that they were lacking in basics.  She mentioned the Masters track was “dubious.”  Here’s the thing:  I believe I should have been in the Advanced Plus track, but many of the people who were in that track needed a downgrade.  And many of those in Masters should have been in Advanced Plus.

What solution then, can I suggest for something like this?  Perhaps a review of how the auditions were conducted – input from the teachers is definitely something that should come into play.  And, and perhaps it may be slightly too much, but could a more stringent enforcement of the guideline for the signups themselves help?  I think there needs to be better self-assessment, but that’s a tricky one to regulate, since egos tend to get in the way.  This is definitely a touchy topic, to say the least, and not having been on the organising team of an event before, I realise that I am not in any way to be regarded as speaking from a position of authority when it comes to these suggestions.  However, as a participant who believes she could have gotten more had the track levels been better distributed in terms of ability, I definitely feel the need to speak up about the issue.

I’m not at all saying my Camp Jitterbug experience was ruined.  This was the single drawback to the weekend.  Other than this one small bump, I enjoyed it all very, very much.  Camp Jitterbug was an experience that I would hate to forget!  I would definitely consider coming again, but for now, I have other swing camps and exchanges to check off the list!

let the adventure begin

I’m sitting at Gate 51 at the Sydney International Airport, waiting for my flight to board.  l thought I might use this time to write a quick post about packing for a dance camp/exchange.  So, here is a list of must-have items for every dancer’s baggage.

Essentials:

  • Clothes – more complicated than what your everyday traveller might expect to bring, tailor your travel wardrobe to what activities you expect to undertake.  E.g. l will be participating in daily workshops, l expect to attend a few social dances, and I’m also hoping to catch some cultural activities.  Therefore, I have packed some more workout type clothes, some fancy outfits (plus accessories), and some casual wear, for each of these scenarios, respectively.
  • Shoes – be prepared for a variety of floors: spilled soft-drink sticky to well-worn church hall, and everything in between.  Unless you have been to these venues before, be prepared for any kind of surface.  Personally, I have packed no fewer than eight pairs of shoes, plus the pair on my feet.

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    It’s shoe-time!

  • First aid and injury prevention – blister band aids, sports/strapping tape, deep heat/other creams to soothe those aching legs after 14-hour dance days.  Don’t go looking for an injury, but be prepared in case it happens.
  • Personal hygiene items/products – expect to sweat, and remember to be polite about it.  Deodorant, perfume/cologne (optional), towels, breath mints/gum.  And a spare change of clothing can’t hurt!

Optional extras:

  • Hair and make-up essentials, because being dressed to the nines helps at those big socials when nobody knows your name and has never seen you dance.
  • Water bottle – stay hydrated! Just be aware that some venues for socials may not allow you to bring it in.  You can also opt to buy bottled water at your destination.
  • Something to record what you’re learning in workshops, if you’ll be taking any – a camera/video recorder can be handy, but always remember to ask the instructors before filming.  Some of them prefer you don’t film, or will ask you to keep the videos private.  Always respect their wishes in this regard.  In case you can’t film, a notebook to jot down your thoughts and key points can be useful.
  • A big smile, a bit of daring, and a sense of adventure – I would list these as essential, but if you don’t want to make friends and have fun, then by all means, leave them at home. 😉

All packed and ready to go?  Then, let the adventure begin!

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Me and my plane!! =)

one giant leap

Something very exciting is happening in my dance life: in a matter of weeks, I will be flying to the other side of the world to attend Camp Jitterbug, a four-day lindy hop event, with workshops, competitions, and social events.  I’m very excited to discover some new music, dance with a whole bunch of new people, learn from a blindingly amazing lineup of international teachers, and, with any luck, make the finals for the Jack and Jill (Obsessed?  Driven?  When do you start calling it insanity?).

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More than that, though, I’m so excited to push the boundaries of my dance and to grow as a dancer!  I have always found that I have developed so much by attending these events.  I tend to put myself up a level – I haven’t done that this time around, as I feel like the levels are nuanced enough that I can be challenged in the appropriate level – because I love to be pushed.  Put me in a sink or swim situation and I will rise to the surface – I strive to become the crème de la crème.

I love dance camps and exchanges so much!  “Why?” you may ask.  Well, I love the opportunities to grow that a huge event like this presents!  The new music and new people to dance with inspire me in my social dancing, which is the place where I can expand my creativity on the dance floor.  I also refine my skills as a follower and general social dancer there.  The competitions push me to be a better dancer, by the goals I set for myself, and also by the calibre of my competition!  I also like to go back and review how I did, both with my own assessment of how I went and, if there are photos/video/judges’ feedback available, I will look at that.  I’ll also take into account the comments of people who were watching – because in an all skate, they might catch things the judges don’t.  And that’s just the learning I do without even any mention of the workshops with international teachers!  Those are so inspiring.  I learn so much, and not just in terms of content.  I love learning by osmosis, taking bits from their own styles and incorporating them into my own.  There are moves, there’s technique, but there’s more to that in dance.  There are subtleties in how people move, in their flourishes, in their variations, in their spirit, their fire – and I want to pick up on – and simply pick up – all of it!

Anyway, that’s happening in about a month.  One small step for me, one giant leap for my dancing!

more time

Q: What separates good dancers from their competitors?

A: Good dancers look like they have more time.

 

When you watch a good dancer dance, it will look like they have more time to do things.  A good dancer will have more time to style and more time to place emphasis on the music, which means they also have more opportunities to be musical.  Advanced leads will lead the follow out early and bring her back later, giving her time to do fancy stuff.  It should be difficult to tell where the lead ends and the flow-on from the lead begins.

Beginners be like...

Beginners be like…

Of course, there’s more to good dancing than that, but that’s just one thing that will separate the wheat from the chaff.

 

On another note, in the name of conquering fear, today, we jumped off the top of a ladder, probably about 2.5 metres tall, into a pile of mats, two wide by four deep (by about two inches per mat).  Justin said we could jump off the top rung, or the two below it.  As he pointed at each rung below the top, I muttered quietly, “nup, not gonna happen.” Then, he singled me out and said that I would probably still be scared on the third rung, making a concession for me to jump from there, but I told him that I was going to jump from the top.  And I did.  Boom.

Okay, so maybe my feat wasn't so impressive, but I still did what people didn't expect that I could do!

Okay, so maybe my feat wasn’t so impressive, but I still did what people didn’t expect that I could do!

 

When nobody believes in me, I believe in myself.

back to my roots

Let’s get right to it, shall we?  I went to an absolutely incredible social on Saturday night (and I would highly recommend going to this event the next time it’s on!).  The music had the whole joint (lindy) hoppin’!  I attribute this to the fact that the main DJ has mainly been working at major events, where, to quote her, “people are like, ‘convince me to dance'”.  When this DJ method/mindset is transferred to a smaller event, such as this one was, the vibe is electric.  You could not take me off the floor any longer than the time it took to have some water/catch some air/cool down, before I was right back on it again.  And even some of the time I was outside the room “cooling off”, I was having a solo-fest with two other dancers.  The music made me move – I had no choice; I needed to dance.  Add to that the fact that I only had a couple of dud dances (even those were bearable), and you have an incredible social.  I found my groove right there on the social dance floor.  I know I am a social dancer.

At training yesterday, we were told to divide ourselves into competitive dancers and social dancers; without hesitation, I grouped myself into the social category.  There is no doubt, that is where my dance is strongest.  The complete and utter freedom of social dancing, the lack of pressure, the ability to just get into the dance with your heart and soul without having to think about structure or technique (but the possibility to do so if you wish – again, freedom).  A couple of the other dancers muttered about being performance dancers, but I know I perform on the social floor.  I dance for me, but my dance is worthy to be seen, admired, and enjoyed.  I’m proud of my craft.

I was talking to one of the newer members of the troupe yesterday about dance progression.  He was saying how he found it difficult to just dance because having started with the Katz, he was now very much concerned with technique and presentation and all sorts of things that we have to think about when we are performing or competing.  I agreed that it could be difficult, but expressed that I was now at a point where I wanted to get back to my roots.  Yes, there is a lot of higher level thought in my dance, but when I’m actually dancing, I just want to get into it.  I know I have incorporated a lot of the higher level concepts into what I now naturally do.  What I want now is, having been affected by these advanced ideas, for my dancing to become a reflection of why I committed to swing dancing in the first place, what I love about it, what it means to me.  So, I’d like to take some time to explore those.

Why I committed to swing dancing in the first place

There’s no doubt, I love to dance.  Lindy hop feels amazing.  The first night I ever danced lindy hop (probably very badly), I got home and wrote a song about it, songwriting being another passion of mine.  The chorus of the song goes:

Spinning ’round the room and I don’t care what tomorrow
Don’t care what tomorrow brings
And my spirit’s oh so light
And my feet are in full flight
And I don’t care what tomorrow
Don’t care what tomorrow brings

It’s that feeling of freedom, of having nothing to worry about.  It’s getting lost in the music and the movement.  It’s the feeling of flying when you’re on the ground.  I committed to swing because I love it.

What I love about it

Back when I used to take dance breaks at socials (because I can no longer spare a minute unless I’m getting water or air), I loved sitting back and watching other people dance and enjoying the music.  It’s such a fun dance to watch and even more fun to dance.  I am a big fan of jazz music, and I do admire the incredible talent and skill of jazz musicians.  I love the challenge of dancing, of always striving to become better at my craft.  Apart from that, I love that dance is a fun way for me to keep fit.  I love that dance gives me a tight circle of friends.

What it means to me

If I’m not dancing, I’m thinking about dance.  I live so many emotions through dance.  I spend so much of my time dancing – and I wouldn’t change that for the world.  I have dreams and aspirations for dance, for developing the scene.  I love my fellow dancers, I love the music, I love the fashion, I love the scene.  I love the dance.  Dance is my life.