We’ve all done this at one point in our life. You’re talking to a group of people and suddenly you get caught in this game of one-upmanship. Sometimes it’s fun, sometimes it isn’t, but it happens. What about when it happens in the classroom? Continue reading
In 2005, I went to Boogie by the Bay, a crossover event (lindy and west coast swing) in San Francisco. The Champions Jack & Jill was an awesome contest particularly because Mario Robau and Sylvia Sykes were the first ones up and crushed it. No other pro matched their dance. It was a blending of simple moves, musicality and two dancers that knew what each other is capable of.
Fast forward a couple months. Sylvia Sykes is in Denver giving a workshop and I told her congratulations and mentioned I had the DVDs from that event. She asked to watch the video because she never saw it and as she watched it proceeded to get very mad at herself for the way she danced.
Ever have an antsy class that’s chomping on the bit to move and do things? There are times to rein in the class and there are times to do the new pattern alongside them. You have to be a skilled observer of the class’ mood, be willing to adjust your plan and teaching style, and try new things confidently. Sometimes your students can teach you with their unspoken desires.
I was watching a teacher say to a student “don’t be afraid” and to the whole class “don’t be afraid.” I’d rather encourage the student to be bold or to embrace the unknown. Be positive. Dance is fun and accessible and so should the teaching language.
Where’s the music? Big thanks to Aric Dunn for his work putting these Spotify playlists together.
What if you’re hooked and want more classes? You can check out the Swingin’ Denver classes or refer again to the Colorado Swing Dance Facebook group for other classes around town.
Bring water bottles when taking classes at Sanctuary Studio.
Practice, practice, practice!
Many times I watch teachers and study who they’re addressing. Are they addressing the entire room or are they always addressing one side of the room? Unless every single student is on one side of the room, you should be altering who you communicate with.
When you’re demonstrating different patterns, demonstrate at 2-3 different angles. When you’re talking about a technique maybe address one side and then the next time you talk address another portion of the room. Everyone there deserves your time equally.
Move your orator’s orientation.
I’d like to see more swing dancers step forward rolling through their foot heel-ball. Yes, there are different philosophies about how to step and yes sometimes things change at different tempos. That being said, I like to see swing dancing related to what people do naturally.
Take a moment to walk forward. You’re probably stepping heel-ball. If you walk backward, you’re probably stepping ball-heel. Side steps for me feel nearly flat-footed not distinctively either style mentioned above. If you start moving forward at a fast enough pace, you’ll probably be jogging or sprinting on the balls of your feet.
Take a look at your basics and I’m going to ask two things.
1. Strive to move forward in your swing basics just as naturally as you would in real life
2. Roll through your entire foot, enjoy the entire beat and the space between the beats
Four of us Swingin’ Denver performers – Reese, Todd, myself, and Jesse, had a gig for the Westin DIA Grand Opening Gala this past Saturday. Typical gigs involve a lot of social dance style performing and crowd interaction. In essence, we add to the ambiance.
Saturday was made much easier because we got to work with the Queen City Jazz Band, a Denver-based band that been playing together for 58 years. 58 years! They’re great musicians, have a fabulous singer, but you want to know what struck me the most? How flexible they were with their plans to get the crowd up and dancing.
During their first band break, we talked about some strategies and they decided to try some more slower tunes during the next set and if that didn’t work, they’d go for rock ‘n roll tunes that had their originations in blues or swing. They even discussed having their singer talk about the songs before they were played to draw the audience in. They did that. Then we even had a spontaneous Charleston lesson where they ripped into a Charleston tune with three rows of people dancing with their new Charleston skills. Well done, Queen City Jazz Band!
How can you positively influence the scene? I’ve been thinking about this because of two things recently happening that could be attributed to me or could be pure happenstance.