Tag Archives: Learning

Learning and Self-Reflection

Last night, Jesse and I taught a role switch class. It’s where all our dancers danced their less dominant role. You can see what we taught below.

What was fascinating, and I only realized this when Jesse pointed it out at Birdcall, is that the new leaders were self-reflective and the new followers were rarely self-reflective. This meant that the new leaders were more likely to take responsibility and internalize things while the new followers were more likely to lay responsibility on their new leaders. Hmmmm…

One example is when the student pointed out there were 3 good leaders in the class and he would probably learn faster as a follower with them. We conceded that observation, but turned it around to emphasize their responsibility in their new role. Not to mention, there were 4 good followers in the class so everyone was on a level learning field. We know this person didn’t state this in a hurtful way, but we teachers could have handled it better.

Going forward, we’ll need to encourage greater self-reflection and perhaps coach our students how to do this. We covered it slightly through connection, spotting, and generating/following momentum, but we could do more. Overall, I’d say that the dominant-role followers made the largest adjustments during class.

Creativity Explosion

Watching my students struggle slightly with a creativity exercise, made me reflect on one of my more influential private lessons with Jeanne DeGeyter in Tulsa, Oklahoma. One part consisted of watching regional pros compete and she pointed out that’s a whip, that’s a side pass, that’s an underarm passby, that’s a tuck turn, and other basic patterns. I wasn’t quick to recognize them for what they were because the handholds were all different! So we played with this concept.

The private lesson dialogue may have gone like this: “Lead a normal underarm passby. Ok. Now do it in right to left handhold. See how it feels different? What might you do after this that feels good? Now do it in right to right. Ok. Try a whip with a two-hand open-position hold. Interesting interpretation, but it worked.”

Try it out! See what you create and learn.

A Banning in KC

kenny-at-frankie-manningBack in the early 2000s, I (Kenny) was banned from Kansas City’s only all-ages swing dance venue. I was banned for soliciting attending dancers to come to my swing bomb events held across the Kansas City metro.

There was an understanding among ballroom studios that you never offered flyers for events that you were not directly participating in. Studios were insular and very protective of their students. They didn’t want to risk them going elsewhere.

I had become disillusioned with this studio, quit their team, and stopped teaching there. I had discovered the great shining light called lindy hop. In my naivety, I thought I could skirt the studio understanding by inviting dancers outside the studio space to pass out flyers on the sidewalk. That didn’t fly with the studio owner who physically accosted me and banned me.

It was a badge of honor to be banned there. It came with notoriety that felt pretty cool back then. My friends supported me, said they had my back, fluffed my ego. Even 5 years after that event, newer dancers knew I was that “banned guy.” Yeah, that was me.

Looking back, I realize I was foolish. I could have accomplished so much more if I worked with them, somehow communicating my needs and passions. In a way, I became those lindy hoppers I used to intensely dislike as they looked down upon as east coast swing dancers. Well, there I was looking down on the venue holding the only all-ages swing dance that allowed me to dance before I turned 21.

I could have probably used some friends that didn’t enjoy fanning my flames so much either. At the very least, some introspection. Banning is a harsh step and typically not taken very lightly. I wish someone close to me had said the studio owner had just cause. This was my dance mentor that kicked me out.

Banning is tough from all angles. Yours, the person doing the banning, the person making the accusation that results in a banning, the friends who are confused that perhaps pick sides to bolster you, their friend, that one that was just banned.

In the end, I know I was wrong. I don’t hold animosity toward the one that banned me or the person that perhaps told them what I was doing. It takes courage to step up and do the right thing like apologize, empathize, and to ask your friends to do the same thing.

Hitting The Reset Button

A dancer we know was talking about hitting the reset button on their lindy hop. If I remember correctly, they weren’t expressing the music how they wanted and didn’t feel current with their vocabulary. They want to hit that lindy hop reset button and jump into some classes, though they’ve been dancing for years.

I find it extraordinary to hear this. I think many of us could use that reset button, but it’s discomforting to admit that we don’t know what we think we ought to know. It’s probably discomforting to attend a class with dancers that have been dancing less than you and treating them as your classroom peers.

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When Roadblocks Aren’t

I was super pumped to attend my first national swing dance event ever. It was the last Monsters of Swing event in Ventura, California. I was really excited to take classes from some of VHS heroes (chiefly Tip & Holly) and swing dance to bands I only heard on CD or mini-disks.

Then I learned how much I didn’t know. I was an east coast swing kid who learned a smattering of lindy hop, but not enough to handle to counter-balancing Californians. I had such trouble with flying lindy, but I had no trouble flying aerials (there were a lack of followers, so I flew). Then when first handling counterbalance, I confusedly thought the follower was leading. I was a newb in a strange world. Continue reading