Category Archives: Aerials

Competition Tips – Strategy vs Comp IRL

“This will be a no-holds barred, all air-steps allowed social dance competition open to all.”

What happens when your competition expectations, strategy and plan match the contest description but not the music provided? Do you scrap it, dance your plan, or adjust accordingly? It’s a tough call and I sympathize with competitors that find themselves in this situation.

Since I coach some of the Coloradans featured in this video, I had the opportunity to speak with them about their strategies and perhaps what to do in the future. They’re also not the only ones that perhaps planned for a more intense finals than what was provided as evidenced in the Hellzapoppin’ Strictly shown below. This statement isn’t meant to criticize any one dancer, but to use these videos as a discussion point for this post.

It’s also very true to say that I’ve been in their shoes. Here’s me relying on choreography, dancing over the music, and having little spontaneity inspired by the music. This is what I get for practicing sequences outside near Denver’s dancing statues.

The first thing I’ve learned is that it isn’t enough to rely on your flashy steps, big tricks and bigger aerials. Lindy hop is about dancing and you need to constantly work on your skills as a partner and solo dancer.

This leads into dancing into and out of your flashier steps well so they don’t look like isolated chunks. This is the airsteps versus aerials mentality. Airsteps have a rhythm, breath, a flow whereas aerials don’t to not flow as well. If people don’t necessarily “see” your swingout coming, perhaps you should treat your tricks the same.

You’ll also want to up your musicality and improvisational game with comps featuring chorus-long spotlights or slower tempos or less energetic songs that might shout for choreography or airsteps.

Also, be sure to thoroughly read the contest description. The description above includes – “all air-steps allowed social dance competition.” Unless your scene is vastly different than my scene, airsteps aren’t a regular part of your social dancing. My airsteps are either called (long-format competition), followed by a certain pattern (mini-routine), or part of a choreography (how I survive Camp Hollywood’s Pro Lindy division). For even better strategy-making, I’d research past competition videos to calibrate your expectations.


Even then, you might want to decide to just dance how you want and not give a care what the judges or anyone else thinks. You gotta do you, right?

The Expert Witness

back-to-backOn January 13, 2014, I was asked to be an expert witness for a personal injury case concerning a man who flipped a woman and grievously injured her. The lawyers found my aerial recap videos on YouTube, looked me up via my website, and emailed me. We talked that day and the next morning at 7am I sent them questions for their upcoming deposition.

Over the next 16 days, I spent 25+ hours on this project. I analyzed the written deposition, picking apart the defendant’s language; critiqued the video deposition where the defendant demonstrated how he performed the back-to-back aerial; videotaped the aerials using his technique and mine, comparing and contrasting the two through captured stills; and writing a best practices document along with my deposition analysis.

It was intense. We even discussed that they might need me and an aerial partner at the hearing to demonstrate. That was to happen the day I was supposed to fly to Grenoble. Fortunately, this case never went to trial. They settled out of court thanks mainly to my work.

Here are some takeaways from this case:

  • If you’re inebriated, don’t do aerials. Don’t offer, don’t suggest, don’t accept.
  • If you’ve never done aerials before with this person and you’re both sober, do preps before going over. Build trust.
  • If the trust isn’t there and you’re compromised in some manner, do not fly and do not throw.
  • If you’re wearing compromising clothing or footwear, do not fly or throw. This could be a tight shirt limiting arm movement or stiletto heels.
  • If you successfully threw a gymnast for your first aerial, it’s totally them and not you. Same thing goes for tiny children. In the scheme of things, doing an aerial successfully with gymnasts and tiny children doesn’t count.
  • As a base, you should always have a sense (visual or physical) where your flyer is. If you don’t, re-establish it quickly and get ready to become a landing pad.
  • As a flyer when doing connected throws and landing, you should also have a physical sense where your base is. If you don’t, re-establish quickly or get your arms out quickly for a crash landing.

How To Be A Good Spotter

How To Be A Good Spotter by Chelsea Rothschild

At my team’s practice this week, I got a compliment from our coach for good spotting. I’ve also had the honor of being specifically requested as a spotter by teammates and friends, because they feel especially safe with me. I take a lot of pride in that ability to make people feel safe, and I thought it might benefit the community if I shared three foundational principles I’ve learned/developed over my 25+years as a spotter. (I started waaay back when I was just a little girl in gymnastics classes.)

 1) Know for sure how to spot the trick. It’s not enough to vaguely plan to grab someone’s shoulders if you see them taking a headfirst dive. Think about the trick, decide where you can provide the most help as a spotter (it usually involves contact around the hips and/or shoulders), and test your spotting technique on an experienced acrobat. Whenever possible, learn the proper spot technique from someone who’s successful at it, rather than coming up with your own.

Bad spotting can happen, even when everyone involved knows better.
2) Communicate with your acrobat. If it’s your first time spotting this person doing this trick, be explicit about how you’re going to spot them. Demonstrate the spot while they just stand there, eg, “I’ll have your right shoulder like this, and my other hand will be here, on the back of your hips.” If you’ve spotted this person doing this trick a thousand times, at the very least verbally confirm whether they want an aggressive spot, a passive spot, or just a reassuring presence. Here’s how I define those options:
  • Aggressive Spot: I will place my hands firmly on the acrobat, whether they appears to need help or not. I will base with my own body, expecting to take  a significant amount of the acrobat’s weight. I will expect to help them complete any necessary rotation, achieve necessary height, etc. If the trick goes wrong, I should be able to keep the acrobat from falling quickly to the ground. They may fall, but they’ll fall slowly and be at minimal risk for injury.

Fantastic Aggressive Spot: The two primary spotters have the acrobat’s shoulders, with one more spotter available to stop her from over-rotating and sitting the landing.

  • Passive Spot: I will place my hands lightly on the acrobat, whether they appears to need help or not. I will be prepared to take on some of their weight, but I won’t presume that will happen. I expect the acrobat will provide all the necessary height, speed, rotation, etc. If the trick goes wrong, I should be able to protect the acrobat’s head, neck and spine. If they fall, they may get bruised, twist an ankle, etc., but should be protected from serious injury.

Both Passive Spotters make brief contact with the acrobat; they’re prepared to intervene or let the trick succeed as necessary.

  • Reassuring Presence: I will not touch the acrobat unless I see they’re in danger. I will plan to have my hands and arms within their field of vision and within their reach, so that they may reach for me if they need a little stability. If the trick goes wrong, I’ll do what I can to protect the acrobat’s head an neck.  

Here the spotter keeps her hands available to the acrobat, without touching her unnecessarily.

3) Prioritize what you protect. Even after establishing proper technique and communicating with your acrobat, it’s challenging to make smart choices in the chaos of a failing trick. So remember, it doesn’t really help the person you’re spotting if you prevent a sprained ankle at the expense of a broken neck. Your top priorities should be the head, neck, and spine. It bears repeating that this is usually best accomplished by supporting shoulders and/or hips. Conversely, it’s almost never a good idea to grab someone’s arms, legs, feet, or hands, all of which they can instinctively use to break a fall or even pull off a weird-yet-safe landing.

Great spotting technique has almost as much nuance and difficulty as great acrobatics, so I could go on at length! But with these three principles, anyone should be able to contribute to a safer environment for their friends and teammates. Happy spotting, everyone!

Practicing What We Preach

swing-riot-lindy-flipI think it was Dan Newsome that may have influenced my lindy flip the most. We were at the Mercury Cafe during a lull (practice, class, I don’t remember) and he stepped in to give me some aerial pointers. I definitely remember chest up. It’s likely we talked about stance, driving leg and more, but it’s been far too long ago.

Anyway, this picture illustrates the technique that I advocate when teaching lindy flips.

  • My stance features a narrow track, one foot clearly in front of the other.
  • You can see that I launched off the back leg due to its extension.
  • I shared space with Delilah by how the chest is rotated.
  • I’m also quite upright due to powering the initial momentum from my legs.
  • Based on how high my hair is, I’d also say that a tremendous amount of force was generated and that this picture perhaps captures the peak force.
  • I wish that my left leg was pointed more forward rather than inward, though. At least it appears that my knees are in alignment with my feet.
  • The palm is more open for my partner to use and for us to rotate hands for the perfect landing to dance out of.
  • And our mouths are open which hopefully means we’re not holding our breath.

A word from Delilah:

My legs look crazy because I direct my energy differently than a traditional tuck, and I jump and drive my weight off of one foot out of the chase. With a tuck straight out of the chase, I was still adding too much height and landing too close so kicked then tucked as I went around.

Big thanks to Braden Nesin at American Vernacular for capturing this moment. I think it really shows the hours and years we put into this one aerial.

Social Floor Appropriate Airsteps

Joshua Aughenbaugh asks: “Also, what exactly is inappropriate on the social dance floor? (I still haven’t really been taught.) I know I’m not supposed to throw a Lindy Flip. What about a K-dip? What about a frog jump? What about a toss out? What about Mop the Floor? Are all of these inappropriate on the social floor? ”

Lindy-Hoppers-etiquette(from Holy Lindy Land)

This is an excellent question. An easy mass way to answer this is to state: “No airstep is ever appropriate for the social dance floor. They should be reserved jam circles or practice on your own.” However, this isn’t the entire truth. It’s just the uncomplicated blanket method because I don’t want to get into the Choose Your Own Adventure decision making that sometimes happens for me on the social dance floor. So let’s get complicated, shall we? Continue reading

Aerials – Social Dancing vs Competition Floor

In response to my Airstep Safety Check post, someone on Facebook responded with: “How about….don’t. Before most of you were born, I hauled my 22 yo cutie dance partner off to Boulder Hospital–with a concussion–because some idiot kicked her in the back of the head. Just don’t ….. it is the *height* of inconsideration. Dancers are supposed to be highly considerate of others on the dance floor… no?

Here’s my response with further extrapolation…… Continue reading