Monday, June 30, 2008

Bill Borgida Workshop

Holy hells did I ever get some good stuff out of this class. I wish the overall level of leads had been a little higher (there were probably 4 or 5 leads who simply weren’t prepared enough) but the teaching was absolutely spectacular. I hope in delaying writing some notes about this I didn’t forget anything.

Hokay. So. Biggest revelation of the weekend: don’t stick your butt out! It sounds silly when you say it like that, but when I learned from Joel it was very much a “get down, keep your knees bent, stick your butt out” kind of thing. As Evin put it “now you look like a 1997 swing dancer!” Basically, it’s just an out-dated stylistic thing. As soon as I started thinking about it, I felt much more natural, and joy of joys) my back stopped hurting. Go figure. Hand in hand with this bit of advice (which was given to the whole class) Evin got me working on standing more up-right – again, there may be stylistic merit to really getting down, but for general dancing it’s putting more strain on me than necessary. Hand in hand with that, I need to keep working on keeping my shoulders back and releasing the tension in my arms – I’m getting there, but it takes pretty constant concentration.

The other big thing that Evin talked to me about has to do with committing to steps. She pointed out that “right now you’re doing a lot of sliding your feet, which is usually the last big step before you get to be awesome. A lot of people get stuck there and never take that final step to being really good.” Aside from giving my dance-confidence a much-needed boost, she also explained some stepping techniques that will help me get there. Particularly, for every step I take, concentrating on rolling from toe-to-heel over the entirety of my foot. My weight should never come all the way back to my heels, it should stay over my toes, but for every step I should be engaging the entire sole of my foot. Concentrating on this will help me take distinct steps, while still keeping them springy and light. This also seems to relieve some of the knee pain I’ve been having, or at least distribute the strain more evenly.

We also spent a lot of time working on using all of the beats in a phrase to really stretch out and use your connection to it's fullest - which includes stretching things out through 7&8, rather than reaching the end of your slot on 5&6 and stepping in place. In order to do this, you realy have to focus on taking smaller steps on 5&6. We talked some about using the "and" in the beat to really prep for what's coming next. Additionally, hand in hand with the "stepping" advice is the advice of really "pushing" into all your steps, like you're running, instead of reaching out and stepping. I seem to be doing well on that front, except that I'm noticing myself reaching instead of pushing on the &2 of my swingout, so that's something to keep an eye on.

The final bit of advice I got out of the weekend is this: when you go out dancing, pick one song early in the evening and just for that song concentrate really really hard on applying the new things you’ve learned. Then for the rest of the night, just don’t worry about it. This will help you get the knowledge into your repertoire without bludgeoning yourself in the head with it all night and getting burnt out.

Oh, also, I started keeping an extra log for knee issues – I’m finally going to see a doctor in a couple of weeks, so I figure one definitive list will be more helpful for telling him what’s up than extensive blog-ly rambling.

Hokay, I think that’s about it. This week I’m in DC, and it turns out the Jam Cellar is starting an Intro Bal series! W00t!!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Backyard Blues - 6.24.08

Absolutely excellent Backyard Blues last night, to help offset my horrible day. During the intermediate class we worked a lot on divorcing guy’s movements from girls movements, working a lot from a side-by-side position. For example, getting the guys to lead the girls to take a step without taking a step themselves, then taking a step themselves without leading the girl to take a step. This is very tricky, as feeling the motion of the guy taking a step generally leads you to follow that step, so they have to work to keep you disconnected from that motion. I’ve found it worked better if I kept my eyes closed, so I didn’t get any false visual cues from the guys’ feet – bad habit in itself.

It was a little odd – I almost felt like I got less-good as the evening wore on... I wonder if the two glasses of wine I had dinner did more to get me relaxed than I realized? Or maybe I just started over-thinking things. I dunno. Still, I had some fabulous dancing, regardless, though we were a bit light on guys. Oh, and had to take an advil about 9:30 because my knees were swelling.

I had been planning to start a tango series tomorrow, but I think I’ll hold off until I’m not going to be traveling for work – I should remind me to remind me to enroll once this 6 week series is over.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Graveyard 6.11.08

Went to graveyard last night and had a lovely time! I hadn’t planned on going, but I got all my housework and chores finished, so I figured a little dancing was in order to help shake off the post Buenos Aires Blues blues. So silly to be blue after so much dancing, but whatcha gonna do?

Anyway, the band didn’t start until late, but the DJed music was pretty good. I had a nice warm-up dance with Adam – I feel like I finally comported myself well dancing with him. I don’t know what my issue was the first couple of times, but my quality of following was definitely not in-line with his quality of leading. I’m very glad we finally got synched up.

My goal for the evening was to focus entirely on following well. I made a few opportunities to introduce styling and footwork, but overall I really wanted to concentrate on my posture, the tension of my frame, and really listening to my lead. I think it did some good, as I had some excellent dances, and a lot of the opportunities for improvisation followed naturally. I don’t remember struggling or feeling like a did something off the whole night, which is always an accomplishment, and my dancing was much more relaxed as a result. I had a particularly lovely dance with Juan, which is a change from the norm, as I often feel like I’m fighting his lead due to some timing differences. I’ll have to see if I can keep that up.

Oh, I knew I had one concern for the night – dancing with Bert is always fabulous, but I’m having some dipping issues lately... ending up putting a foot back for support instead of stretching it out, or ending up with my body out of line. It happened a couple of times last night and I’m trying to identify why... I think I might be worrying too much about throwing my weight around. I dunno.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Buenos Aires Blues Recap

Ok, saving the bellyaching about this event for LJ – this post is just about the stuff I learned.

Tango is Le Hard! It’s so very different to stay “up” and on your toes and a little forward. Some takeaway points, other than the obvious:

  • Always collect your feet under you after a step. Make your ankles brush if necessary – seems a good reminder to have your feet together, and it looks nice.
  • Pay attention to the lead’s chest and shoulders – this is good for getting visual feedback about when to do pivots. Once I manage to get better and following tango this crutch will be less necessary.

Hmm. I though I had more points than that, but maybe not. In spite of the difficulty level I do really want to learn some more tango - I think the subtlety of it w

On blues stuff there isn’t much to write about, except to give myself a reminder to try and teach Bert the really cool counter balanced pivot turn. If we end up doing a private with Mike I’ll definitely bring that up a something to learn – Bert actually does the counter balance stuff well enough that I think we could pull it off (unlike many of the leads from BaB. Blargle). I think I spent most of the weekend over-thinking my blues dancing, and thus didn’t do a very good job – I just need to shut my damn eyes, stop thinking, and go with it. Still, the class with Michael and Jaya gave me some interesting blues-style things to think about – namely with tap stepping, using each stap or step to send your hips back and up. This creates an interesting body dynamic, without being to lindy-bouncy.

Tying a couple of things back into Mike’s Master Class from the other day: she’s totally right about trusting my lead. I caught myself being very tentative when dancing with a couple of new people... if varied by how well I felt like I could understand them. The couple of great dancers I danced with I followed unerringly and unabashedly, but especially with beginning/intermediate people I found myself holding back a lot. The result is that my dancing seems hesitant sometimes, or I don’t end up where I need to be, because I don’t trust where they’re putting me. I also think some of the styling from Michael & Jaya will help me put as much oomph into my “up” stance as my “down” stance.

Oh, and as a reference note: my knees both got swollen and achy by the end of the day saturday. Not sure if it was the standing or the dancing. Ice packs and advil brought the swelling down in time for the evening dance, but I was tingy again the next day (albeit without the swelling).

Guess that’s it. Glad I managed to get something useful out of the weekend.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

BYoB 6/3 Addendum

Oh yeah, I meant to note that my elbow was hurting me pretty bad in the tendon last night, which probably means my frame was a lot too heavy. Need to keep working on transferring the weight of that into my back (which is also killing me, but in a good way, rather than an upset-ligament way).

Posture, dammit!

Backyard Blues – 6/3/08

The beginner class was a “pre-baby” intro class to both blues and tango. We mostly practiced taking steps in each and talked a lot about the differences in lead and frame between the two. The large majority of the time was spent eyes closed, practicing very subtly lead weight-changes. Tango is... odd so far. Stepping backwards feels strange, and I’m not sure I’m correctly drawing my weight up. Taking my legs so far out from under my center of weight feels strange as well – it’s such a non-swingy thing to really stretch out your legs like that. Looking forward to learning a bit more at Buenos Aires Blues this weekend.

Last night’s intermediate class was something that I should have expected from the title, but just didn’t make the connection... it was a master class, which basically means everyone gets up and dances one at a time (or rather two at a time, but with everyone focusing on the person whose “turn” it is). I’m exceptionally glad I came to the beginner class first, because it got my nerves entirely un-jangled, so I wasn’t too tense for the mater class. We played spin-the-bottle to pick who was going first and who would dance with them. Of course I ended up being first -_- My partner was Angelo, who I’m much more comfortable dancing with now than I used to be (now that I know he’s actually fun and goofy in spite of the serious face he puts on while dancing). However, I have a bit of a hard time sometimes because I’m a good... oh... 6 inches taller than he is, so it’s really easy for me to get strung out and disconnected. Bleh. I don’t feel like I did a really great job – it was nerve wracking being the center of attention, and I was concentrating so hard that it actually made it harder to follow.

Still, I got some good feedback – FG complimented my footwork, which is nice. James reminded me to look up... I thought I’d been doing better about that, but maybe it was the nerves. Mike’s feedback was interesting... the first bit was to commit as solidly to being “up” as I am to being “down.” It’s kind of hard to word-ify without demonstrations, but basically as much as I get down into a nice low frame and commit to it, I should also take the same energy when I’m in a more up-right frame. This is an interesting observation, and makes me think that while I’ve mostly broken the habit of getting too high or on my toes during turns, I may still be doing a lot of low-energy “standing there” while I wait for things to happen sometimes. Definitely something to keep in mind.

The second bit of Mike-feedback was to trust my lead and commit to the actions he’s leading, even if I don’t know where they’re going. This is something I’m fine with in lindy with pretty much everything, I think the trouble last night just sprang from the fact that I was nervous, not as comfortable with Angelo, terrified of screwing up, and not nearly as confident doing blues as I am doing lindy.

Good feedback overall, and I was pleased with the opportunity to get to know a lot of the folks that came a little better. Nothing gets you comfy with each other like constructive criticism! I had some nice dances later in the evening, as well. I feel like I’m still fighting with James a bit when he and I dance – I can’t figure out why I tend to get my feet tangled with his. I do better when I just fucking relax though, so I should focus on that. It’s not like James can be intimidating, since I was the one who dragged him into dancing years ago. Dancing with Ken is also getting better, though there’s still a bit of awkwardness from time to time. I had a nice start of a dance with Angelo before work called him away – he promised we’d finish it up another time. I also danced blues with Reggie for the first time, which was goddamn heavenly... I hope my inexperience doesn’t scare him off, because damn it was nice. And, as always, I had a number of good dances with Bert, though the music tried to skip out during my favorite song, which was Le Sad.

Right, that’s probably more than enough about that.

Jam Cellar Retrospective

Things for follows that Kate went over in the “31 flavors of footwork” class:

  • Swivels with a wide base vs swivels with a narrow base
  • Swivels from the ankles, knees, and hips
  • “Steal the lead” swivels... the kind of “waterski to the side” lead gank. I had trouble getting this one down, dunno if I like it. Right now it just looks weird.
  • Whip kick swivel (left foot draws counter-clockwise circle on 6 into a tango-esque whip. Ideally finish and hold on 7&8)

I need to try and remember to focus on trying all of these and isolating them, rather than just letting a bunch of them bleed together into a “standard” swivel. I’d also like to spend a little time working on the original swivel I learned, so I don’t lose it... that is, after all the one Sylvia Sykes complimented me on ;P

Obligatory Intro Post

I need somewhere to keep notes on my dancing and workshops, so here we go! For now I'm not releasing this blog widely, as it will mostly just be a dumping ground for my dancefull thoughts, with little eye to any audience but myself. Hoorah.