Posts Tagged ‘celebrities’
One of my dearest friends in the whole wide world has an interesting job. She’s an actual, authentic, professional, jet-setting rock-star dance instructor.
This is a woman with whom I’ve shared laughter and tears, good times and bad, and all the ups and downs of being a human being on this planet. She’s the sweetest, dearest person imaginable. I’ve taken dozens of classes with her, and from her, and danced with her hundreds of times.
And still, every time I dance with her, I’m terrified.
Why? I don’t know. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that no matter how much I think my dancing has improved and how pleased with myself I might be because of this, every time I dance with her I still get incredibly intimidated. As a result I end up dancing like one of Santa’s reindeer with a Duplo block stuck in his hoof.
I admitted as much to her recently. We were out dancing one night, and she was actually getting a little discouraged with me. “Why is your arm so tense?” she asked. “What’s wrong?” I confessed to being intimidated at dancing with her, and she was frankly amazed. “You’re scared of ME?” she asked. “Why??”
Well, let’s see (I think to myself): you’re famous. People pay you to travel all over the world and teach them how to dance. You have more dance expression in your left clavicle than I’ve got in my whole body. No special reason.
So then and there I decided that from now on, when I dance with her, or with any other dancer I’m especially nervous about, I’m going to take a new approach. I’m just going to TRY to dance bad.
See, back when I used to have to work in offices and go to meetings and such, I learned that in the business world, people expect you to be businesslike. Above all, this means that you can’t ever cry at work. And sometimes I’d be at work and I’d start thinking about my kids and how much I missed them while I was at work and they were at daycare, and I’d start to tear up. You know, hormones. It happens.
Anyway, I hit on this strategy. If you ever start crying and really really need to not cry at that exact moment, here’s what you do. You TRY to cry. It will totally derail you and completely confuse your tear ducts and they’ll dry up immediately.
So I figure the same thing might work with dancing. If you’re dancing, and you start to feel like you’re dancing badly just at the exact moment when you really need to be dancing well, like say if you’re dancing with your rock star BFF, then just try to intentionally dance as badly as possible. It very well might trick your body out of being able to dance bad.
It’s actually just a theory. But so far it’s working: I haven’t had a really horrible dance since I started using this system. Of course, that might be a coincidence. I don’t know. What do you think?
Yesterday, at Dance World Takeover, Rebecca Brightly posed a couple of great questions. “When does walking become dancing?” she asked. “What makes movement art?”
I don’t know that I have an actual answer, but I do have a response. Rebecca’s questions got me thinking about the difference between dancing and acting.
With some kinds of dancing, there isn’t much difference. Ballet and certain kinds of folk dancing are very close to being pantomime set to music. The dancers use their bodies to act out the stories they are telling. That’s exactly what pantomime artists do.
So did the stars of silent film. Get ahold of a new reissue of a silent classic, one that’s been cleaned up and slowed down to normal speed, and you can easily see that the Barrymores and Gishes and the residents of Pickfair were not just pretty celebrities. These first-generation film stars were highly skilled actors who could tell a story with every gesture of their bodies and faces.
Then there’s comedy. While many comics achieve their effects mostly through words and vocal delivery, certain comedians are able to use every part of themselves for humor. Jerry Lewis, Lucille Ball and Jim Carrey totally blur the line between comedy and dancing. I’d say that the great Lindy Hoppers do the same thing.
Some actors just never stop dancing. Fred Astaire was dancing every moment the camera was on him; even if he was just sitting in a chair or leaning against a wall, his body was saying something coherent. Marilyn Monroe is another favorite of mine; think of her ascent of the staircase in The Seven-Year Itch after she got her “fan caught in the door,” or her “jello on springs” walk down the railway platform in Some Like it Hot. She wasn’t known as a dancer, the way Fred Astaire was, but you can’t tell me she wasn’t dancing.
My all-time favorite performer in this regard is the classic Japanese actor Toshiro Mifune. He was intensely physical in all his films, but one example will serve.
At the very beginning of Yojimbo, while the credits are still rolling, Mifune does a gesture with his shoulders that tells you everything you need to know about his character and the nature of the film you’re about to watch. As he walks away from the camera, he does a rolling gesture of his shoulders that tells you at least three things:
1. He’s a tough guy. The shoulder roll is equivalent to a thug cracking his knuckles; he’s squaring his shoulders to prepare for whatever dirty business may lie ahead.
2. He’s not as young as he once was. There’s an element to the shoulder roll that looks like he’s getting the kinks out. He’s getting just a little too old for this shit.
3. He’s down on his luck. When he rolls his shoulders, he manages to shudder just a little. He’s cold. He probably slept outside last night.
And then he follows up this gesture, which he repeats at key points throughout the film, with another. He reaches his hand up through the back of his kimono and scratches his head. This tells you he’s just a little bit confused and just a little bit on the filthy side. It also tells you that the film you’re about to watch is going to be funny as hell.
When does walking become dancing? I don’t know. But I offer these examples as a way to explore the question.
Just came across a clip today, courtesy of LindyHopMoves.com. Have you seen this thing? It’s a compilation of classic lindy hop moments, all choreographed into an amazing routine and performed by Andrew Thigpen and Karen Turman at ILHC 2010.
Now, find out how big a dance nerd you really are! How many of the references did you recognize?
1 – 7: They call you the Pretzel King.
8 – 14: Very impressive! Frankie would be proud.
15 – 21: This dance thing might be getting a little out of control.
22 – 28: Total Dance Nerd – do you even have a real job?
Now, here are the original clips, and here’s the clips in order of appearance:
1) After Seben, 1929
2) A Day at the Races, 1937
3) The Big Apple in Keep Punchin’, 1939
4) Hellzapoppin, 1941
5) Buck Privates, 1941
6) The quick stop, Groovie Movie, 1944
7) Mama Lou Parks, 1982
8) Mama Lou’s Parkets at Basie Ball, 2004
9) Frankie Manning leading the Shim Sham, 2003
10) The Jitterbug Stroll, 1990′s
11) The Rhythm Hotshots at Can’t Top the Lindy Hop (Frankie Manning’s 80th Birthday Festival), 1994
12) Jam Circle featuring Ryan Francois and Sing Lim at Can’t Top the Lindy Hop (Frankie Manning’s 80th Birthday Festival), 1994
13) Swingers/Big Bad Voodoo Daddy/Neo-Swing, 1996
14) The Gap Commercial, 1998
15) Erik Robeson and Sylvia Skylar Showcase at ALHC, 1998
16) Minnie’s Moochers at NADC, 2000
17) Todd Yannacone and Emily (now known as Jo) Hoffberg Showcase at ALHC, 2001
18) Mad Dog at ALHC, 2002
19) Kevin St. Laurent and Carla Heiny at NADC, 2003
20) Todd Yannacone and Naomi Uyama Showcase at ULHS, 2005
21) Todd Yannacone and Naomi Uyama Liberation Finals at ULHS, 2005
22) Skye Humphries and Frida Segerdahl Showcase at ULHS, 2007
23) Max Pitruzzella and Annie Trudeau Showcase at ILHC, 2008
24) The California Rolls at ILHC, 2009
25) The Silver Shadows at Frankie 95 (Frankie Manning’s 95th Birthday Festival), 2009
26) The Silver Shadows at ULHS, 2005
27) The Silver Shadows at ALHC, 2006
28) Andrew Thigpen and Karen Turman Showcase at Lindy Focus VII, 2009
Here’s another way for you dance nerds to fritter away an afternoon obsessing about your solo dancing. Try this:
Set up a video camera on a tripod, put on your favorite tune, and then video yourself dancing to the song.
Whoa, whoa, whoa. Stop right there! That’s way too scary.
No, it isn’t! You can do this. Just get over yourself, and do it.
If you absolutely can’t track down a video camera, don’t worry – in a minute, I’ll tell you how to modify this idea for the technologically-challenged.
So if you can, I want you to record yourself dancing to the song a whole bunch of times. Like a dozen. I’m serious!
Remember, this video is just for practice purposes. You can totally erase it as soon as you’ve done a couple more things with it – nobody but you ever has to see it, so don’t freak out.
Now I want you to watch the video, of course. And after you get over the shock of how great or how terrible you think you look, or probably a little bit of both, what I want you to do is this:
I want you to analyze your own dancing the way many of us try to analyze the rock stars on You Tube. Pretend you’re one of those rock stars, and try to figure out what it is you’re doing.
I’ll bet you a nickel that you’ll discover patterns. You’ll find that there are certain moves that always lead into other moves, or signature moves that you do over and over again. There are probably at least one or two things you do that look really, really awesome. Try to write down the moves you see yourself doing, as if it were a piece of choreography you were trying to transcribe.
Don’t be weirded out if you see yourself doing stuff that isn’t really anything. The spots where you kind of stop and wiggle around or just do something totally lame? Don’t worry about that, it happens, it’s kind of like stuttering. Just ignore it. What you’re looking for are the highlights, the parts that look like you know what you’re doing.
Try to generate a nice little list of moves. These are the ones that work great for you today, at the level your dancing is at right now. See if you can organize these moves into a little choreographed routine for yourself.
Now, if you’re technologically inept, you can still do this. Just dance to the song a bunch of times, and try to notice patterns as you find yourself doing them. Say you’re dancing along and you notice some awesome combination that you just did. Stop right there, and write it down. Then start dancing again, and keep going until you have a list to work with. When you’re done, arrange the moves into a little choreographed sequence.
This bit of choreography you just invented is like a catalog of all your best stuff. It’s your greatest hits. These are all the moves that are totally comfortable on you, and they probably look great on you as well.
Now you have a chance to make it better.
Memorize your routine, work on it in front of the mirror, make it look as great as you can, practice it to a few different songs, and then take it out to the social floor and intimidate people with it.
Do this, and I promise your dancing will be so awesome that people will absolutely hate you!
Wow. So many good dancers out last night! My head is spinning.
The Band Battle at Glen Echo was incredible, of course. With the Tom Cunningham Orchestra and Glenn Crytzer’s Blue Rhythm Band it couldn’t hardly be otherwise.
But I totally didn’t realize that Meschiya Lake was going to be there! I saw her standing off to one side of the ballroom – you can’t mistake Meschiya for anyone else – and before I knew what I was doing I barged up to her and said, “I didn’t know you were going to be here, I’m totally stoked!!”
She looked at me a little bit like, who the hell is this? And then she smiled, turned her head away slightly and said, “You and me both, sister.” She was so elegant; I felt distinctly like a doofus.
So I decided that as long as I was going around bothering celebrities, I might as well barge up to the lovely and talented Andy Reid and make his day too. I asked him to dance – one of the braver things I’ve done in my life – and we had a very nice time. Or at least I did. With these friendly, cheerful types, you can never really tell, can you? Anyway, he was very gracious.
I saw a couple more celebrities there, but I was too scared to ask them to dance. I did have a whole bunch of really great dances with some non-celebrities, or at least if they were celebrities I didn’t know about it. I tried to get all their names and remember them, and of course I forgot. So thanks, everyone who danced with me, whoever you are. I had a great time!
The downside – everyone was dressed up but me. All the girls were cuted up in their little vintage dresses, and here I was wearing jeans and a t-shirt. Duh! Must remember to dress up next time.
The Careless Lovers were delightful as always; nevertheless, late-night defeated me once again. Although I did stay until three, so that beats my former record anyway. See you all tomorrow!