Posts Tagged ‘lindy hop’
Real quick, here’s a fun exercise you can try…
Stick on your music, and then proceed to make the following into an eight-count footwork pattern for yourself:
- One rock step
- One triple step
- One kick ball change
- One kick step
But here’s the thing: you mix up the order. So for example, you might do a kick ball change, triple step, rock step, kick step. Or then again, you might do a rock step, kick ball change, kick step, triple step.
Anyway, mix those four things up in any order you choose. Every combination will work out to be an eight-count pattern that lands you on the opposite foot, ready to start over from the top. Theoretically, you could use any of these patterns as a lindy basic.
Try one combination, and as soon as that’s easy, mix them up again and dance out the new combination.
I strongly suggest doing this with both lead and follow-style footwork, i.e. practice starting with both the left foot and with the right foot.
Kick it up a notch by adding an “and” anywhere in there, and you’ll have a pattern that alternates the starting foot. Know what I mean? Just go kick ball change, triple step, rock step AND kick step. Move that “and” around and you have like a million more combinations to play with.
Have fun, and stay hydrated!
As promised, here are the notes from the workshop Mindy and I taught on Sunday:
First, we discussed the difference between a weight change and an axis change. A weight change can be limited to just the foot itself, while an axis change shifts your center of balance completely from one side of your body to the other.
Normal Lindy footwork is a pattern of rock steps (which involve a weight change but no axis change) and triple steps (which change your axis). One way to explore footwork variations is to substitute other non-axis-changing steps for the rock steps, and other axis-changing steps for the triple steps.
Here are the steps we came up with to substitute for rock steps: Kick ball-change, pulse pulse, leg sweep, kick-and, double kick, swivel swivel, swoop (a knee-up kick), boogie back, shorty, suzy, cross cross, and a fast hallelujah (rock rock).
For triple steps, we tried substituting a single step, step hop, kick ball-change step, triple swivel, step scoot, tap step, kick step, knee slap step, sweep replace, cross step step, step heel step cross (half a scissors), kick hop/replace, and a grapevine (either front-then-back or back-then-front).
We discussed other steps that could stand in for either, depending on which foot you choose to exit with: v-slide, lock turn, jump, a quick messaround, cross twist, shuffle-shuffle, crazy legs, shimmy, knees in-out, and a slip-slop.
We reviewed swingouts, and explored bringing the follow in on beat one or beat two, using a kick ball-change to substitute for the first rock step. We discussed the idea of letting the follow finish whatever tricky footwork she might decide to throw in before yanking her into a swingout, and then we discussed the importance of the follow being able to move her footwork variation in any direction in order not to break the connection.
To practice that connection, we explored the “shopping cart” exercise, with each partner getting a chance to both lead and follow. We did this first with plain walking, then with plain lindy footwork, and then with individual footwork variations.
Then we went back to the swingout and had each partner take turns using their own customized footwork variations on seven-and-eight, with the emphasis on musicality and on maintaining a smooth connection.
Thanks to everyone who showed up and participated! Mindy and I had so much fun with this that we will most likely offer the same material in an upcoming workshop, so if you’re in the Portland area keep a lookout for it at http://www.stumptowndance.com!
I’m becoming more and more convinced that there’s something fundamentally wrong with the way we as a dance culture approach the process of learning and teaching Lindy Hop.
Specifically, the issue I’m concerned with is this: why doesn’t everyone start out as a follow and then work towards learning to lead? Why should beginner guys, who generally know less about dancing and body movement than beginner girls do anyway, immediately start out leading?
It’s truly a situation of the blind leading the blind. In no other field of endeavor would a new person be shuffled immediately into the role of guiding someone else when they don’t know the first thing about it themselves. I’m not saying that following is easy, but it seems like any beginner dancer should logically be taught to move and control his own body before concerning himself with choreographing dance routines on the fly, which is what leaders have to do.
But as my friend Ben said, when I mentioned this rant, er, idea to him, “The problem is, if guys had to start out following, they wouldn’t.”
I guess there’s two reasons I can think of why this might be. One is that guys get interested in dancing primarily as a way of getting to touch girls. And if they had to start out following, they might, horror of horrors, occasionally find themselves dancing with guys instead.
It seems a shame to me that Lindy Hop should still be tied into outmoded notions of dance-as-mating-ritual. Why should the swing culture cling so tenaciously to “one man, one woman”? There’s nothing fundamentally romantic or sexy about this dance; only the obsessively homophobic would find anything disturbing about same-sex Lindy. I don’t know anyone who gets particularly inflamed by shaking someone’s hand or putting an arm around someone’s shoulder, which is about as touchy-feely as this dance gets. And if a man is only learning to dance so he can pick up chicks, he can more efficiently do that hanging out in bars anyway.
The other reason why men wouldn’t start out as follows is even worse than the first reason. It’s the idea that men are “natural leaders” and women the opposite.
This is patently absurd. I’m sure we can all think of real-world proof that the capacity for leadership in a general sense is not a function of one’s physical gender. But it’s even more evident in dance class.
It has often struck me that the natural capacity, or desire, for leadership in dancing is less about gender and more a stage-of-life thing. Think about it. In dance class, young beginner girls are so often the ones with the noodly arms who are afraid to move on their own; they panic if they’re not being led every second of the dance, and they love being thrown around. But when women of a certain age start out dancing for the first time, they completely refuse to be led. Their arms are stiff, they’re holding their ground and you can’t move them no matter what you do. They’re the ones looking over their shoulder at the instructors, making sure the leader is leading everything correctly, and they’re so concerned with doing their steps right that they don’t follow at all.
It’s the same thing with guys. Younger men who start out dancing are often too reticent to lead properly. Their arms are floppy, they’re diffident and not clear with their ideas, and often they’ll just be holding hands with their partner and moving themselves around in various exotic ways without really affecting their follow at all. And of course, middle-aged men learning to dance are the notorious arm-breakers and thumb-clampers who seem content to just stand in one place, not really dancing, just steering ladies around by their arms. The way they know they’re doing it right is when they get their follow to move from point A to point B.
So I propose that it would be much more rational if everyone were expected to start out as a follow, with the additional expectation that everyone would eventually learn to lead. So you tell me. What’s wrong with this idea? What am I missing?
There’s this thing beginner leads in my scene do that absolutely drives me crazy.
Maybe they do this everywhere, or maybe it’s just a Portland thing, I don’t know. But what they do is, after sending you out into a swingout, instead of letting you continue the momentum they’ve set up, for some reason out of nowhere they suddenly yank you forward on that last triple.
It always ends up as a yank. Because everyone knows that last triple is where you settle back. It’s the “out” part of the swingout, and it’s the only place the follow can really do styling or whatever. As a million instructors have told us, that last triple is where the follow gets to shine. And then out of nowhere, this professional arm-wrestler is yanking you forward. Ouch!
I was discussing this with a friend of mine not too long ago, and she said she thinks it’s because they’re trying to “body lead.” They’ve been told they’re not supposed to jerk you around with their arms, but instead somehow use their bodies to move you. But they still carry their body weight too high, so what it translates to is that they lean back with their shoulders in an effort to get you to move without using their arms. Of course, they always do give a little extra value at the end of the maneuver by bending their arms anyway.
As I used to tell my kids when they were little, that may be an explanation, but it’s no excuse.
I remember this one time when I was taking a workshop from Naomi Uyama. I was complaining to her about leads who yank on your arm, and asking her what to do about it. She invited me to show her what I meant. So I led her in some swingouts, and tried to imitate the kind of arm yanking that I so often feel on the dance floor.
And you know what? I couldn’t yank that girl no matter how hard I tried. Every time I jerked and tugged on her arm, she just floated. I was getting worn out, but her lovely smile never left her face for a minute; you’d a thought I was Fred Astaire or something.
It actually made me kind of mad. “How do you DO that?” I spluttered.
“Well,” she said patiently, “you just follow.”
So I was thinking about this whole thing with leads who yank you forward on seven-and-eight. And I realized what I should have seen long ago: the problem really isn’t them. It’s me.
The only reason I get my arm yanked in these situations is because I believe, mentally, that I’m supposed to “triple away” on those last two counts. It’s my right and privilege as a follow. After all, that’s where I get to do my styling.
And you know what? That ain’t following.
I know for a fact that if Naomi, or any other brilliant follower, was getting led forward on that last seven-and-eight, she would simply triple forward. She wouldn’t get into a wrestling match with the guy by insisting on tripling away. If I get my arm yanked, it’s because I was tripling away without being led there.
It’s called “actually following.”
I’m gonna have to try that sometime!
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.
Found on Yehoodi.com – a 1961 Ebony magazine article on the history of American social dancing. Here, Al Minns and Leon James demonstrate some familiar jazz steps.
You can find the rest of the article and, in fact, the entire issue of the magazine here. Enjoy!
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
Hey, I would have posted something today that would have knocked your socks off, only I can’t. I’m too busy checking out this amazing website. It’s called LindyHopMoves.com, and it’s full of awesome free instructional videos.
Okay, gotta go practice some stuff now. I’ll see you tomorrow.
At the age of forty-five, I have finally learned how to run.
See, I grew up bookish, in a bookish family. We lived purely from our necks up. Nothing involving anything lower than the chin was considered of any value – no dancing, no athletics, no pretty clothes, and sex? Hell, no. Just endless reading and talk, talk, talking.
I never thought of myself as athletic, and as I entered my thirties I was starting to put on pounds. Imagine my surprise when I discovered Lindy Hop, and began to learn that I do, in fact, have hips. I have a cardiovascular system. I have muscles. I have a spine. Who knew?
But I could never run. Even though I could dance long, hard and fast, running was a whole ‘nother thing. As soon as I even thought about running, my chest would constrict, my muscles would tense, and I’d be breathing hard before I even stepped outside! I could maybe run a block or two before I’d have to stop, gasping for air, with a stitch in my side, thinking I was going to die. So the fact is, I developed a fear of running.
I asked a college athletic trainer about it one time. Her helpful advice? “Maybe you’re just not meant to be a runner.” D’oh!
Well, last weekend I was doing a jazz dancing workshop with my friend, teacher and dance guru, the fabulous Brenda Russell, dance maven extraordinaire. And she had us do this thing where we had to move around the room, falling forward from foot to foot in a really relaxed manner. She kept reminding us to breathe and to relax, and after about fifteen minutes of this, I thought to myself, “Hey! Isn’t this just jogging?” Blew me away. It certainly seemed like jogging, yet I wasn’t out of breath, I wasn’t tired, I wasn’t struggling. I was just falling forward from foot to foot.
So the next day, when I went to take my dogs for a walk, I decided to try this falling forward business. I started slowly jogging, and every time I started gasping or dying or freaking out, I would just remind myself to relax and fall forward. And you know what? I made it the whole way like that. I ran, in other words. Slowly, but still, it was running. The whole way! My doggies, Max and Chewy, were certainly surprised. But they weren’t as surprised as I was! I seriously have never done anything like that before.
Okay, so what does this have to do with dancing, you ask? Let me tell you.
As a Lindy Hop scene, I’m sad to say that Portland doesn’t have the best reputation. We seem to have a lot of really arm-y leads who yank their follows in and then shove them out backward in this really rough manner. Correspondingly, some of our follows are pretty heavy and hard to move. And I’m one of them. My main struggle has been learning to negotiate the dreaded lindy swingout – every time a guy looks like he’s going to yank me into a swingout, I instinctively tense up, brace myself, and get really heavy so I don’t get thrown on my ass. Which obviously doesn’t help anything. And then I tend to sort of jump forward on “one,” before the guy has a chance to yank on my arm.
It’s fear, you see. Early on I learned to be afraid of doing a swingout, and now, even though I know better, I’m still fearful, and I still have that tension in my body.
So when I was experimenting with running last week, I was comparing my new way of running with the way I used to run before, when it didn’t work very well. Used to be that instead of falling forward and letting gravity and momentum do their job, I was fighting against both of them. I was tensing up and then sort of springing up and forward on each step, using muscle tension to try and get somewhere. No wonder I was exhausting myself.
And what I realized is that the fear of running that I had, that made running so difficult for me, is the very same fear that I have when I’m dancing and doing swingouts. And it results in the very same tension in my body.
So now, I see what my next step is. I need to learn to take the principles that fixed my running, this business of falling forward and using gravity and momentum instead of muscle tension, and apply them to my swingout.
I’m very hopeful. This running business has given me confidence. If I can learn to run, surely I can learn to do a proper swingout. Wouldn’t you think?
I came across this post that I really love. It’s from Claudio Santorini and he’s talking about a lot of things from a lead’s perspective that I had never considered before. I feel like a latecomer to the party, since there are already a ton of comments on this post, but it only posted a few days ago. I was going to deconstruct it a little bit, but on second thought, it stands just fine on its own, without my commentary. So enjoy!