Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Final Stretch Part 4: Sunday Swing Sillliness

Sunday was full of swing. SS chatted with me last night about how to get lessons at Atomic Ballroom. I told her about the 5:30 lessons, but she needs to get basic proficiency for Sunday evening to accompany a friend to a black-tie swing event, Cicada Club. I volunteer to teach her a lesson, but warn her that I'm only in my first month myself. She has nice wooden floors so I journey to her house to teach the lesson just after 11. Meet the hubby and his crew as they head off to play Dungeons and Dragons. Wow. I really enjoyed doing that at one point in my life, and as I've told CH, if I had infinite time, I might do it again. As it is now, I'd rather spend my day dancing with women. Then again, I'm not married.

I go over ECS Basic, then Charleston Basic, and Lindy Hop with SS. That's a lot to learn. A lot. I'd spent the last evening really thinking about follow footwork, so I was pretty prepared (though I couldn't teach swivels or any other variations). Then went back and taught transition from ECS Basic to Charleston. Then the Pendulum. Then the Tuck Turn (used that ballroom hold for this). And Changing Places. Went back to Lindy and showed her how the outside and inside turns worked. Probably too much too fast. But we did do an entire song with ECS Basic and Charleston. Did some ECS mixed with Lindy. Again, it's probably too much too soon, but she needs to do some basic stuff to get through tonight.

I leave SS's place and drive to Avant Garde Ballroom in Irvine for the OC Swing classes. I take the absolute beginner series at 2, the Charleston Kicks for Lindy Hop at 3 and Intermediate Lindy at 4.

The beginner class is nothing new, going over a swing out from closed then a lindy circle (or swing in, or eight count circle). After that, Shesha goes over a standard swing out. Interesting teaching technique. The swing out from closed is a good transition from ECS. The eight-count circle just builds a bit on the 6 count version that was taught previously. The standard swingout takes the end of the swing out from closed and the beginning of the 8 count circle. I'm having a bit of trouble with my 8-count circle, as my partners are stumbling in their footwork. What am I doing wrong? Strongest follows are Melissa and Jennifer. At least one other follow tells me my frame and lead are great.

Shesha mentions that he teaches the opening step of a swing out differently than it's taught at Atomic, leading with a rock-step instead of a step-step (forward for the follow). Interesting, as Alan had mentioned something like this on Friday night. However, I don't actually see the difference past the beginner classes. Jerry teaches the follows to hold back on 1-2 and snap forward on 3 in the advanced classes. Shesha seems to be doing the same thing, but the follows don't know to help create the tension in the connection, which makes it really tough to snap together.

In Charleston Kicks, we go over inside-out kicks again, then learn outside-in kicks. We start with a sideways rock-step (left foot), then kick the left inside, and step. The right foot then kicks out sideways to the right, then kicks inside to the left, then step. The step is a little begin where we cross-kicked, I think. For the routine, we add a free spin to the right (both partners), then switch to inside out kicks. Shesha's scatting cracks me up every time (bump-a-bump-a-diddlee-dee-a-bump-a-diddlee-dee).

Nothing stands out about the Intermediate class, which is odd as it should be all new material. Oh, I did dance with a follow I recognized from last Friday, Verna, who has a habit I find it difficult to deal with. Since I'm essentially an advanced beginner, I like the structure of the steps we do, as I know and can understand it. Every once in a while, Verna would stop and do some improvisational solo stuff at the end of a swing out. Even after I told her I have no idea what she's doing or what I should be doing. If she wanted to do switches, that would be one thing, as I would be doing skill development. This was just random.

At the Atomic:
Swing 1: Technique
Jerry's private lesson (a couple doing their wedding dance to Michael Jackson's The Way You Make Me Feel) is running long, so Jenny starts us off by just doing some swing outs with basic turns. Interesting point right away: Changing Places and the Walk-Through are very similar moves, but they're actually distinct in Atomic's vocabulary. They're both inside turns from open to open, but Changing Places is led with a rock-step while the Walk-Through is led as forward steps for the follow.

Just when I thought I was solid on the basics, Trish points out to me that on my Sugar Push, my blocking hand gives ground instead of being solid. I need to keep it solid and push from the frame, not a rebounding arm.

We worked on an interesting variation which flows from the Sugar Push. I've learned the Sugar Push as the leading a step-step (forward), tap, step, triple-step. On the variation, we block then catch with the right hand, release the left hand on the forward step, then lead a body-rotating rock step instead of the triple, ending with a free-spin to open on the other side. Very cool.

Technique-wise, Jerry shares what he calls the "gun" grip. Leads present the middle and ring fingers for the follow to grip. The little finger isn't gripped, the forefinger is pointed forward along the arm, and the thumb is up (making the hand look like a gun). Great pointer!

Swing 1: Social Patterns

Changing Places
Sugar Push
Sugar Push to Free Spin (that we learned in the last class)
8-Count Circle

Interesting addition was the "Cabbage Patch" swing out from closed. Jerry is a self-admitted abuser of the oppositional rock-step, which this is based on. Lead does an oppositional rock-step sendout, but doesn't let go with the right-hand connection, staying in closed position for the triple-step, then using a similar movement for 5-6, sending out follow to the left while doing what feels like an oppositional rock-step with the right foot in the opposite direction of the send out while the shoulders are going with the follow. The overall effect of the lead's shoulders look similar to the "cabbage patch" dance from the 1980's (the horizontal stirring motion). I'm totally adding this to my social dance patterns. It's a counter-clockwise 8-count move, while most Lindy is done clockwise, which makes it quirky, but not stupidly difficult to do (or lead). In fact, the oppositional rock-step is awesome for exactly that reason! Note to self: do an oppositional rock-step at least once in each social dance, twice if you can do the cabbage patch swingout!

Also, I mentioned the problem I was having with the 8-count circle (at the OC Swing class, but I didn't mention that). Jerry wants me hold the follow at arm's length and work on leading the turn with the right shoulder, which totally works. Trish thinks I might be missing a step at times. Interesting.

Swing 2: Bal-Shag Routine
Balboa Basic
Transitional Step
Come Around
Basic with Break on 7
Come Around with down hold on 7 (facing left of starting position)
Come Around with Spike Out
Falling off the log stating left
rock-step-down-hold, rock-step down-hold
Come Around
Jig kicks (hook left around right on 8)
slide backs hop-slide on 5

Different transitional step than Jenny taught. 1-2-kick-hook(left over right) step-rock-step-down. After the kick, the hook and step is on one count.

Falling off the log is kicking out to the side, step, cross-step, step, then repeat in the other direction. Helped to be behind Jenny's lead, as I noticed she's a lot more aggressive on coming around on 3. I was facing forward looking at her while rotating around, and she was already facing me. She hooks her right foot around and is really pushes the rotation. I remember that I need to focus some more on my right-shoulder lead during this rotation.

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