Tag 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.

versus

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?

Aerials – Kaye Flip & Horse

International swing dance champions, Kenny & Delilah will be teaching a specialized aerial series in July. On July 27 from 7:00-8:15pm, our goal is to teach everyone the kaye flip and horse. The kaye flip is a classic Hollywood aerial and you can see the horse in Hellzapoppin’.

We require 8 couples to pre-register for this class to run. Registration will close July 25. Pricing per class is $40 and is per couple. When registering, please list your partner’s name in the notes section or separately email us. If we do not meet the required numbers, everyone will be refunded back to their original method of payment.

These aerials are intermediate and above. We prefer that you have some aerial, lifting, acro yoga or similar experience flying through the air or being responsible for someone else’s weight.

What to bring:
a partner
long sleeve shirt option
snacks
your own water
sticky shoes
cameras for filming your progress

Aerials – Knicker & Snatch

International swing dance champions, Kenny & Delilah will be teaching a specialized aerial series in July. On July 13 from 7:00-8:15pm, our goal is to teach everyone the knicker and snatch, both featured aerials in Hellzapoppin’.

We require 8 couples to pre-register for this class to run. Registration will close July 11. Pricing per class is $40 and is per couple. When registering, please list your partner’s name in the notes section or separately email us. If we do not meet the required numbers, everyone will be refunded back to their original method of payment.

These aerials are intermediate and above. We prefer that you have some aerial, lifting, acro yoga or similar experience flying through the air or being responsible for someone else’s weight.

What to bring:
a partner
long sleeve shirt option
snacks
your own water
sticky shoes
cameras for filming your progress

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!

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

Airstep Safety Checks For Competitions

Jacob Spinney writes: “Hey Kenny! As someone who throws air steps in crowded all-skates, I’m wondering if you happen to have a kind of list of safety checks in that environment that you’ve developed over time?”

Lindy Flip at The Broadmoor
Lindy Flip at The Broadmoor

Hey Jacob,

That’s a really great question. I’ve mainly thrown air steps in crowded fields at Camp Hollywood and now Montreal Swing Riot. Just this past weekend, though, I bailed out of an aerial because I realized that I was too close to a soundboard. I mentally checked the proximity and decided to go for it. Then I had doubts since my back was turned to it and it was inanimate. That leads into my safety checks. Continue reading

Flip Flop and Fly! – Frankie’s Airsteps

Reese and Todd will be teaching Frankie Manning aerials from 1-4pm at the Washington Street Community Center. Aerials you might see include the Frankie Flip, the Pancake and more! Aerials are subject to change, but we want to teach what inspires us and you.

The workshop is geared toward people comfortable with the idea of weight supported movements and developing your sense of air awareness. We’ll start with a warmup, jumping and landing technique, trust-building exercises and then we’ll dive into the airstep portion! Please be sure to register with a partner because it is required.

$30 for pre-reg, $40 at the door. We will need 6 registered couples by February 29 to run this workshop. If we cancel, we will refund all pre-registrants.

What to wear:

Comfortable clothes!
Preferably loose pants without a belt and a t-shirt. Bring a long sleeve t-shirt if you can as well (one of the partnership is fine), as repeated rubbing can burn a little.

Shoes with plenty of padding or minimalist sneakers!
Heels and leather soles are a NO GO, since they’re slippery and unstable. Sneakers, casual shoes or jazz shoes are best. Again, wear something comfortable

No need for jewelry!
This is for your safety and your partner’s. And we’d prefer for it not to break. Feel free to bring watches but remember to take them off for the classes.

What to bring:
-Water
-Towel (for everyone that sweats!)
-Spare t-shirts/tops
-Snacks for energy
-Energy!
-Your partner 🙂
-Helmet (joking! we’re very safe here!)

And most of all, we’re looking forward to some fun! It’s going to be great and you will walk away with one amazing day, a few sore muscles, new aerials, and massive amounts of grinning!

Educate not Negate

Have you ever complained or heard someone complain about bad dancing, a much-hated move (the pretzel or a neck roll comes to mind), aerials or bigger tricks on the social floor? Sometimes my first reaction is to be negative, but most of the time these dancers just aren’t aware or know any better. Sure, they may have just learned this from a teacher or from a YouTube clip, but they may have missed some finer detail or just not know when it’s appropriate to throw trick. The thing to realize? We’ve all been there. Continue reading