Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Whole New Month (of dance) Part 1

Tuesday, April 3rd

Swing 1 Jerry
We start the class by helping the follows work on swivel step technique for swing outs. We tweak the swing out so that on "& 4" the lead is using the tension to slightly sling the follow away before reversing direction for the send out portion of the swing out on "5." I can't get the timing until Jerry makes a really interesting observation on my stance: I have a bent-knee, athletic stance which absorbs some of the tension in the partner connection. One effect is to make my swing outs more circular than the linear, springy style we're working on. Taking out the knee bend completely changes my timing and feel during the swing out. It's ... awesome.

Lindy Variations class is kind of a blur, but the Shag Swing Out class was lots of fun. In a nutshell, we did shag footwork during a swing out, which was a pretty neat variation (though I'm not sure how much shag I'll be doing. Ever).

I have a minor breakthrough during the dance this night. I finally feel confident enough in (still) small number of variations I have to dance more. The most dancing I ever did before was with other people I met in the beginners classes before the dance. This night, I'm asking the women from the Atomic teams, women from the Sunday OC Swing class, and of course women who took the beginner classes right before the dance. I dance a -ton-, which makes the entire evening more enjoyable. So for posterity, that was around 50 hours of lessons into my dance career.

My standard 6 count pattern is a tuck-turn followed by changing places (an open to open inside turn led with a rock step), then ease-to-closed. I'm trying to vary this by replacing the turn part of the tuck-turn with a free spin. A minor change, but still different enough to make the second time through the pattern not exactly the same as the first time. I also experiment with the changing places as a "she goes, he goes" move where I execute a turn after the follow is almost done with hers. Again, this makes the pattern repeat not quite the same, so hopefully less boring.

Taking the bend out of my knees during swing outs has made them so much better.


I take the series of "Club Dance" classes on Thursday. This incorporates swing, ballroom, and latin dance footwork to contemporary music. Interesting, and a good way to mix things up. Thursday is the night for Lindy Groove in Pasadena, though, and I'd definitely like to check that scene out and work on the groovy variant they dance there.

Swing 1: Balboa Basics (Jerry)

We switch to a slightly different transition step than the one Jenny taught us, which has me lost for a long time, though the rest of the routine is the same as last week. The left kick on 3 is accompanied by a slight push away of the follow, followed by crossing the left foot over the right for the step on 4, then the rock-step, down-hold.

Swing 2: Lindy Turns (Jerry)

The thing that sticks out in this class is leading an inside turn on the entry into the swing out. For me, this leads to an explosion of variations, as one can lead an inside turn on the way in, then a regular swing out on the exit, or an inside turn in and inside turn out, or inside turn in and outside turn out. All based on a single variation on the 1-2 count of the entry.

We also cover the Apache swing out (or Texas Tommy), which is a behind-the-back pass of the follows right hand from the lead's right to left hands during the 5-6 of the swing out. We catch the follow's hand in loose circular grip around the wrist, allowing the follow to rotate in the grip. Also remember to switch hands back to lead's left unless specifically doing a right-to-right led move.

Swing 2: Cool Moves (Jerry)
Repeat of the material we did in an earlier class but I didn't blog. I think I'm classifying this class as complex stuff I won't be able to use in social dancing for a while.

The Friday night dance is another good one for me, with tons of dancing, including quite a bit of dancing with follows who are better than me. I dance with Sydney, one of the Atomic staff for the first time (yet another really good dancer on staff). The night is a blur, but I make it a point to dance with people I haven't danced with that often instead of returning to the same partners time after time.

Again focus on taking the bend out of my knees during swing outs, which really energizes them. When catching views of myself in the mirror, I'm amazed at the difference in how it looks.

Perhaps a small thing, but I also make it a point to smile as I dance, which has a very interesting effect during dancing. The follows smile back. And I think it's helping me leave a good impression with the better follows I dance with: I'm enjoying myself, and if they smile, they enjoy themselves more. I think it's too easy to fall into a grimace or look of concerned concentration when dancing (or blank boredom), which gives off the wrong vibe.

At Jenny's suggestion, I ask about the music so I can add the tracks I like to my collection. My favorite is the amazingly bluesy "Ruby Mae" by Indigo Swing (Jerry tells me to get all their albums), but close behind is "Lonely Teardrops" by Jackie Wilson (to be fair, identified for me by CB's wife Angela a couple days earlier). Also very cool is "The Girl From Ipanema" covered by Lou Rawls.
I said oh yes, yes, I would give my heart to that girl so gladly,
But each and every day, as she walks to the sea,
You know she looks straight ahead, she won't look back at me,
Now tall and tan and young and lovely, the girl from Ipanema goes walkin',
And when she passes I smile, but the girl just won't look back at me,
To see if I am looking back to see,
If she is looking back to see,
If I am looking back to see,
If she is looking back to see,
If I am looking back at her,
As she walks down to the sea,
Oh she looks so good to me
And everybody else because she's wearing
One of them real cute bikini bathing suits,
And sure does look good to me,
I said it really really really looks so good to me,
Oh I was looking back to see,
If she was looking back to see,
If I was looking back to see,
If she was looking back at me,
But she wouldn't look back at me,
As she walked down to the sea,
She wouldn't look at me.
Amazing that the right singer can do with a song which has been ruined by Muzak.

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