It’s Practice Time!

My students are forming long-term goals and it is awesome. As you’re putting the hours into classes and social dancing, also set aside solo time for yourself and perhaps a practice partner.

Mike Faltesek, when teaching a feedback session at Stompology, said something akin to “practice should not be easy.” It should involve sweat, stumbling, mental blocks, maybe some tears. Ok, that is a little extreme, but it goes along with his point.

I know from past experience that my greatest strides have come through intense work whether it was a partnered practice session, a private lesson, and working out a movement or pattern solo. All that time built me, the self-aware dancer. Classroom learnings can only go so far.

I had a private lesson student that was making good progress during our private lessons, but there came a point when I told him to stop taking privates from me and practice more on his own. Though I was giving good value, I felt he needed more time between sessions to really let the learnings settle in his bones.

That leads into the next point. The classroom setting is nearly artificial because leads and follows all know what’s coming… eventually. Rarely does the weekly local class give you lots of time to hone in on those lead/follow skills. You can sometimes accomplish this on the social floor, but that should be fun, go crazy time.

Bottomline? Schedule some personal time and go sweat a bit.

Knees Over Toes

Storm Freerunning just posted this video today. It reminded me of an article I read months ago about why ballet dancers have fewer ACL injuries compared to basketball players, though both are jump-intensive activities. The secret? Ballet dancers are taught to jump and land. Basketball players are taught to jump high with less emphasis on the landings. And landing is a great skill to have.

Trying to find that article lead me to this one where the author reminds of “knees over toes.” It’s a mantra you’re more likely to hear during one of my aerial workshops than a dance class. Us teachers do have our ways of arriving there. Ever hear a teacher say:

hips back
nose over toes
pulse with your hips and large leg muscles rather than your knees

These are each different methods to get student dancers into that athletic posture, so you can enjoy a long dance life. Take care of your knees and start thinking about your full-body posture.

Dive Into Social Dancing

Entering the social dance floor can be like this penguin here. You get nervous. You don’t know how to ask as they’re walking off or standing off  to the side. Or you’re walking toward the person as someone else asks them and so you keep nonchalantly walking past as if they didn’t foil your plan (confession: I do this).  Things happen, but it’s best to dive in and do your best. No drowning on hardwood floors.

Dressing Your Basics

I don’t know how it is for other couples, but when Jesse and I go out we sometimes give each other a hard time if one is dressed much fancier than the other. I think something similar can also happen on the social floor. Rather than relying on solid basics, we get a little crazy. Maybe your thing is too many moves or too much footwork. Maybe you need to work on subtraction rather than addition. Continue reading

Ask Students To Do

One time when I taught in Zagreb, I asked my fellow teacher if she wanted to share anything and she proceeded to tell the students every thing they should not do. It was an impressively long and overwhelming list. Once she was done, I quickly jumped in, asked my students to do one thing and played practice music.

Here’s one of my main teaching philosophies. Ask your students to do something. It’s easy to ask them to not do something, but that opens the doors to limitless possibilities and focusing on what not to do. Instead, make a specific request. Phrase positive. And end any visual examples with good ones. Get them thinking positively and constructively.

DJing for Beginners

Some people think beginners should be treated differently because they’re fresh, but we’re all swing dancers at the dance. I think it’s great to recognize they have a comfort zone, but don’t we all? One of my main goals when DJing after a lesson is to develop musical taste and have fun while doing so.

Here are some of my lindy hop favorites:
Gimme a Pigfoot (and a Bottle of Beer) – Nina Simone (124)
Bill Bailey – Ella Fitzgerald (132)
Spinnin’ the Webb – Chick Webb (138)
Shoo Fly Pie – June Christy or Jonathan Stout and his Campus Five (130 range)

They’re lower tempo, good energy, most have vocals, and they have great rhythms. DJing for beginners is sort of like me taking my parents out for dinner. I have expanded palate, they’re a bit more limited, but I recognize they want good food. No to sushi, yes to palate expansion at Tocabe. It bridges the difference and everyone has a good time.

Another reason to play the good stuff… there are many other dancers there of varying skills. Play to them also. Become The DJ.

DJs – Can’t Play the Set Twice

There’s a national-caliber event that just posted a DJ application for their event. As I was reading through their application, two things jumped out that bothered me. First, they didn’t ask anything about desired rate or compensation. To this event and any DJ applying for such an event, start this discussion early. Both sides should set their expectations.

Second, was this request – “Provide us an example of an hour set that you would want to DJ at an event.” For a professional DJ, this question rankles. If I was one of people that pretty much plays the same songs each set, not so much. So what are my issues with this request? Continue reading