Tuesday, December 1, 2009

A toast and kudos!

Before I share these clips, I'd like to mention an anecdote. I was working with one of my students a few weeks back on his swingout. He was having that normal frustration with body leads that happens before you figure out how to do it. He huffed "this is like spelling!" and explained that you had to have all the pieces in the right place. It made sense to me. It's often said that dance is a language. Even if we only count the communication between lead and follow, shouldn't it matter we take care to communicate clearly?

I've been working through The Artist's Way for a few weeks now. The author mentions that Spelling is one of the main reasons that some writers choose to give up on their art. Whatever frustrating thing comes up in the dance, the choice seems to be either to give up or to climb past the challenge. I think the most interesting folks are the ones who choose the latter!

I propose a toast: Here's to more challenges!

As an aside, I should note that this student has made some enormous strides in the past few weeks. He is starting to put it together really nicely.

From last weekend at the US Open, here are Dave Frutos and Kim Clever competing in and winning the Sophisticated Swing division. Sophisticated is an age range competition, which essentially means that both performers are between the ages of 35 and I'm guessing 50. Dave and Kim are the first ever Lindy Hoppers to win that division, so kudos to them for not only winning, but for making history!

Also making us proud were the One2Swing California Rolls. This is the routine that brought down the house twice this weekend! Congratulations to the whole team.

As far as I'm concerned, the hand dancers won the weekend. See the previous post for a little more about that. I'm gonna have to go back to the videos I picked up a few years ago.

Friday, November 20, 2009

I Want to Hand your Hold

I mentioned Hand Dancing briefly in class yesterday. It was such a brief mention I don't think anyone would remember it. Hand Dancing is an offshoot of swing dancing that's as far as I have observed completely regional to Washington, DC.

Here's an example of what has now become known as Old School Hand Dancing:

Lately Hand Dancing has taken on a lot of influence from West Coast Swing. The modern movement in Hand Dance is dancing to more modern music. Here's a bit from last year's US Open, just under a year ago:


Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Lindy on the Rocks!

Here's footage of Peter Strom and Nina Gilkenson dancing in the invitational jack and jill at Lindy on the Rocks.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Looka There!

Here's a clip from a 2005 featuring Skye Humphries and Frida Segerdahl.

We're working on slow dancing this week. I wonder what that will bring.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Camp Hollywood footage

Here's the final from the amateur Lindy division held last night at Camp Hollywood. If I find more I will post it here. Congratulations to the competitors this weekend, whether they won trophies or not. The winners of the amateur division were Aubri Siebert and Gabe Cashman (third couple).

Also, you should buy Camp Hollywood DVDs.

The One2Swing Jitterbugs - All the Cats Join in

The One2Swing California Rolls - Love Me or Leave Me

The Underground Jitterbug Championship - Dax and Max vs. Tiffiny and Kenny
edited to add:

Here are the results to all of the contests:
Amateur Lindy
1st – Gabriel Cashman & Aubri Siebert
2nd – Will Ayces & Jenny Knox
3rd – Jason Vaughan & Tunde Hrotko
4th – Dean Curtis & Ali Bevilacqua
5th – Daniel & Tomoko Young

1st – Johnny Lee & Rebecca Williams
2nd – David Frutos & Kim Clever
3rd – Marcus Koch & Baerbl Kaufer
4th – Morgan Day & Karen Vizzard
5th – Joe McGlynn & Heidi Rosenau

Amateur Jack and Jill Leaders
1st – Dean Curtis
2nd – Morgan Day
3rd – Matt Richey
4th – Sam Chan
5th – Douglas Van Sant

Amateur Jack and Jill Followers
1st – Yon Richner
2nd – Sharlene Choy
3rd – Jenny Knox
4th – Tomoko Young
5th – Mariko Ozawa

Advanced Jack and Jill Leaders
1st – Dax Hock
2nd – Marcus Koch
3rd – Tip West
4th – Bromley Palamountain
5th – Shesha Marvin

Advanced Jack and Jill Followers
1st – Moe Sakan
2nd – Sarah Breck
3rd – Laura Keat
4th – Sara Deckard
5th – Casey Schneider

1st – One2Swing Jitterbugs
2nd – One2Swing Jitterbugs’ The California Rolls
3rd – The Fly Rites

1st – Zack Richard & Maryse Lebeau
2nd – Chris & Beth Grover
3rd – Steve Garrett & Heidi Salerno
4th – Marcus Koch & Baerbl Kaufer
5th – Jacob Wigger & Jen Scricco

Pro Lindy
1st – David Frutos & Kim Clever
2nd – Max Pitruzzella & Annie Trudeau
3rd – Shesha Marvin & Sarah Breck
4th – Mike Pedroza & Nikki Marvin
5th – Kenny Nelson & Tiffiny Wine

1st – Zack Richard & Maryse Lebeau
2nd – Max Pitruzzella & Annie Trudeau
3rd – Kevin St Laurent & Jo Hoffberg
4th – Mike Pedroza & Nikki Marvin
5th – Andrew Hsi & Sarah Breck

Slip Slop Shim Sham

So much stuff from Camp Hollywood!!!

Here's a bit that I worked on that has a clip readily available. Max Pitruzzella and Annie Trudeau taught a class on the Slip Slop Shim Sham and I thought it was really cool. I showed up halfway through class and had to spend a lot of time catching up. Watch the whole clip and you'll get an idea of one of my weekend projects.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Camp Hollywood schedule

Posted because people have been saying that they can't get the main schedule on www.camphollywood.net to load. It's going to be a killer weekend and I haven't even read the schedule.

10 – 11am
Marcus & Baerbl – Lindy Basics (Beginner Track)
Ben & Sheri – Permutations of Lindy (Intermediate Track)
Kevin & Emily – Flash & Trash from Around the World (Advanced)
Jeremy & Laura – Jammin’ Combos (Masters)
Joel & Alison – Texas Tommy (All Levels)

11:15am – 12:15pm
David & Kim – Lindy Basics II (Beginner Track)
Mike & Casey – Whole Body Dancing (Intermediate Track)
Max & Annie – Advanced Aerials *partner required (Advanced)
Marcus & Baerbl – Fast Lindy Routine (Masters)
Kevin & Emily – Bad Technique is Not a Style (All Levels)

Lunch Break 12:15 – 1pm Lunch buffet near ballroom

David & Kim – Charleston for Lindy (Beginner Track)
Mike & Casey – Swing Out Intensive (Intermediate Track)
Kevin & Emily – Power Moves (Advanced)
Max & Annie – Connection (Masters)
Marcus & Baerbl – Finding Your Center (All Levels)

Marcus & Baerbl – Mixing 6s & 8s (Beginner Track)
David & Kim – Charleston for Lindy Int. (Intermediate Track)
Mike & Casey – What Would Al & Leon Do? (Advanced)
Joel & Alison – Put the Stank on it (Masters)
Ben & Sheri – Competition Class (All Levels)

4:00 - 5:00 - Pro Lindy Prelim
5:00 - 6:00 - Am Lindy Prelim
6:00 - 6:30 - Balboa Prelim
6:30 - 6:45 - Shag Prelim
During Friday night dance: Shag Final, Balboa Final

10 – 11am
Mike & Casey – Footwork Variations (Beginner Track)
David & Kim – Redirection Connection (Intermediate Track)
Max & Annie – Charleston Variations (Advanced)
Jeremy & Laura – Getting Crazy with the Footwork - Shag (Masters)
Marcus & Baerbl – Footwork Workout (All Levels)

11:15 – 12:15pm
Joel & Alison – Balboa Basics (Beginner Track)
David & Kim – Hot Off the Griddle *partner required (Intermediate Track)
Mike & Casey – Lindy Routine (Advanced)
Max & Annie – Masters’ Aerials (Masters)
Kevin & Emily – Al & Leon Shim Sham (All Levels)

Kevin & Emily – Spins & Turns (Beginner Track)
Joel & Alison – Smooth Combos - Balboa (Intermediate Track)
Marcus & Baerbl – Crazy Footwork for Shag (Advanced)
Max & Annie – Slip Slop Shim Sham (Masters)
Jonathan – Live Music Theory (All Levels)

Ben & Sheri – Slides (Beginner Track)
David & Kim – Letting it all Hang Out (Intermediate Track)
Joel & Alison – The Kitchen Sink - Balboa (Advanced)
Kevin & Emily – Fancy Footwork (Masters)
Mike & Casey – One Man Dance (All Levels)

4:00 - 4:30 - Advanced J&J Prelim
4:30 - 5:30 - Am J&J Prelim
5:30 - 6:30 - Showcase
During Saturday night dance: Team Division, Pro Lindy Final

11:15am – 12:15pm
Joel & Alison – Lindy Classics (Beginner Track)
Ben & Sheri – Sweetheart Moves (Intermediate Track)
Kevin & Emily – Fast Lindy (Advanced)
Max & Annie – Slides Variations (Masters)
Mike & Casey – Partnered Black Bottom (All Levels)

Lunch Break 12:15 – 1pm Lunch buffet near ballroom

Mike & Casey – All Flash, No Trash (Beginner Track)
David & Kim – Shag (Intermediate Track)
Max & Annie – Crazy Footwork Variations (Advanced)
Jeremy & Laura – The Balboa Genius – Getting In-sync-ocpated (Masters)
Joel & Alison – Big Apple I (All Levels)

Marcus & Baerbl – Shag Basics (Beginner Track)
Jeremy & Laura – Smooth style Lindy Dean & Jewels Secrets (Intermediate Track)
Max & Annie – Technique (Advanced)
Kevin & Emily – How to Lead & Follow Rhythms & Syncopations (Masters)
Joel & Alison – Big Apple II (All Levels)

4:00 - 4:30 - Am J&J Final
4:30 - 5:00 - Adv J&J Final
5:00 - 5:30 - Am Lindy Final
6:00 - Awards
During Sunday night dance: Intergenerational Jitterbug Contest

The Winterlit Charleston Underground

I don't know any of these performers, but eff it. Just dance wherever you can. There are no excuses.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Jazz Jam

Alice has been talking about doing a solo jazz class for a while. Seems like a great idea. Here's a great clip of examples. Watching this, I'd recommend focusing on one dancer and viewing it three times.

The clip features Jo Hoffberg, Juan Ignacio Villafane and Bobby Bonsey. The winner was Juan Ignacio Villafane, who I believe was wearing the black t-shirt.


Sunday, July 19, 2009

All the Cats Join in!

We've spent the last few weeks going over basics in the Lindy Hop. Last week we took some time to address the mechanics used in tuck turns. This week I'd like to return to faster swingout technique and the fall whip.

In the meantime, here's a classic clip from the Disney film Make Mine Music. Aren't you lucky you don't have to dig these clips from the archives of random video stores?

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Wednesday, July 8, 2009


Before class last week, I was considering the standards for considering oneself able to dance Lindy Hop at a proficient level. When we understand these elements, we should be able to improve upon them.

Perhaps being able to do a number of swingouts in a row might be a good marker. It takes solid technique to repeat 4-8 swingouts in succession. To me, this sounds like more of a measuring stick than an actual standard.

However, it's more than just doing swingouts.
Connection: There's too much to say about connection in the time that I have. At least one should consider how much they are connecting with their partners in the most mechanical and efficient way possible. Keep in mind the pain factor: if you cannot tell whether your partner is feeling pain, you might want to take a look. That's a really great yardstick.

Timing: If the swingouts are off-timed, not keeping up with or racing ahead of the music then you've got a problem. At the most basic level, one should be able to keep those eight-counts happening every 8 counts. When one becomes more proficient, varying tempos should be no problem.

Stamina: How much can you keep up with the faster songs?

These notes are pretty general. I'm sure you can come up with more. Any ideas?

Monday, June 29, 2009


I'm incredibly burned out on a certain current event. This is as close to the topic as I feel like getting. It's actually nothing to do with Michael Jackson and is a compilation of some really great movement. For me, it would be enough to listen to this clip with the sound turned down. The music in the clip hasn't anything to do with the dancing. Slow it down and see if you can make this happen.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Camp Jitterbug Jack and Jill Finals

Thanks to Alice for sending the link!

Deese Knees

Here's a compilation of the knee care advice that I've been able to collect over the last few weeks. To recap the comments I received from the previous knee care blog:

Orin suggested:
-Ice your knees for at least 20 minutes after dancing.
-Stretch before dancing

To which my response was:
With regard to the stretching, that's something that everyone should consider. What stretches would you recommend? It has been a while since I regularly stretched before dancing and to be honest, I feel that my best dancing came when I took the time to get my body ready.

Emily Falcon suggested via Facebook:
"suede or leather shoes, keep your knees bent and don't dance on concrete."

To which my response was:
I'd like to expand on that a bit. Of course, bending the knees is the best way to facilitate shock absorption. In the same vein it is advisable to keep your heels off the ground so that the ankles can aid in this.

With regard to the advice about leather shoes, it appears to have to do with reducing the friction between the dancer and the floor. If you have only danced on rubber soles this might take some adjusting, but it is worth taking care. Almost exclusively, I dance on hard leather.

I later added that keeping your knee aligned with the direction of your feet would be helpful.

Recently, Kirsten Welge commented on the same thread:
More details on the "keep knee in line with foot direction" bit - this doesn't just go for dancing.

If you notice this issue in dancing, you are likely doing this in all walks of your life. I sure was!

What helped me:
-Pay attention when you're walking around, DDR-ing, stretching, or doing other activities.
-When you catch yourself, correct yourself and feel the difference.
-It also helped me to do a few lunges right after the catch and correction - another opportunity to really focus on alignment and pay attention to what the 'correct' feel is.

I echo the dancing in suede-sole shoes. I picked up a pair of 'real' dance shoes when I started lindy hop after 6 months of dancing WCS in rubber soled sandals and sneakers. HUGE difference in feel, and my knees/ankles felt better... though I'm sure part of that was also the floating dance floor for lindy vs. linoleum over concrete for WCS.

I also strongly recommend doing lunges, daily if you can. Work 'em in when you're walking the dog or cooking, when you find yourself with nothing to do. Stronger knee muscles = less pain.

One other thing I'm planning is starting up kneee exercises recommended by MDs for weak knees/cheerleader's knee. Eg sit on a chair, raise your foot, lower foot, repeat ~12x per foot, three sets each. Add weight to increase resistance as this becomes easy.

The 200 squats program (google it) might also be another way to prevent knee issues and strengthen legs. Have not tried this but when I do, I'll report back.

1 oz prevention >> 1 lb cure!

I was directed to a Facebook blog by David Stockin, focusing on joint related supplements:
While learning to dance has certainly been one of the single best things I have ever done in my life, there are some down-sides to the sport as well; an insane amount of mileage to the odometer on my car, a collection of Tommy Bahamas shirts large enough to open my own store with, and the occasional joint pain. I know what you’re saying, it could be old-age… but I’m going to completely rule that possibility out and place 100% of the blame for my aching knee squarely on dancing!

So last week when my knee starting hurting, a deluge of advice came in from all quarters; braces of all sorts, magnets, titanium patches, orthotic shoes, stop dancing for a month, walk in a straight line for hours, say my prayers (that person REALLY didn’t know me very well at all)… but when a Doctor told me about Glucosamine, I listened up.

Having never heard of Glucosamine, and being a perpetual skeptic, I decided to put my crack team of research analysts on the job (I call them the Google) and poured through a mountain of info. Most of it was mixed. Turns out, that many studies have been done regarding the efficacy of Glucosamine for improving joint performance, half of the studies show positive results, the other half show no improvement over a placebo. I was quite puzzled over this, especially considering that Europe had approved Glucosamine for use in joint pain. Many people don’t know this but in the US, drugs only need to be safe to get approval; they don’t actually have to work (in fairness they do need to show some small level of benefit). On the other hand, drug manufacturers in Europe have to prove both safeness and effectiveness.

It wasn’t until I ran into a Mayo Clinic document that the whole Glucosamine puzzle became clear. There are two (2) types of Glucosamine:

1. Glucosamine Hydrochloride - This one doesn’t work
2. Glucosamine Sulfate – This one DOES work

Some other common additives that seem to help include Methyl-Sulfonyl-Methane (MSM) and Chondroitin Sulfate. You can typically find a pill with all three (3) of the above included. Typical dosage is 1500 mg a day, with positive joint improvement measurable via X-ray measurements in 6-weeks. All of the studies showed that both varieties of Glucosamine are safe.

I pass this information on, so that my fellow dancers will not waste their time, money and pain, on the wrong kind of Glucosamine. I found the supplement that I am currently using at Trader Joes, but I am sure there are many sources for Glucosamine Sulfate. Good luck!

Here are some responses to David's post:

Forrest Walsh:
What if the body can heal itself? But we need to allow it. By deep pranayama, kundalini or tantric breathing allowing flow of energy or life force, perhaps even guiding it. Or just chilling enough so that stress is eased so the body can do its thing.

I would love to see Forrest expand upon this.

Barry Chin:
after 30 years of volleyball - i have learned the value of stretching - and proper mechanics. if you are doing some sort of repetitive motion that actually is causing damage, better to address that IMO. and forrest is correct - a consequence of any sort of stress that provokes the fight or flight physiological response is the shutting down of the body's healing mechanisms. constant stress does contribute to the body breaking down more easily.

Alright everyone, now it's time to share!

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Are You All Reet?

In preparation for this week's class, here's a recording of Cab Calloway's classic tune Are You All Reet?

We'll be exploring the feel of music and offering examples of how to tune in.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Just say "thank you."

I have a catalog of compliments that I update from time to time. I'd love to read a list of nice things that other folks have said directly to you. That's already a homework assignment, but I still want to see more.

A couple of key compliments that I remember:
The late Leonard Reed, inventor of the Shim Sham Shimmy, mentioned to me in passing at the Argyle that "you are a beautiful dancer."
The late Big Jim Overton, the drummer for Indigo Swing, told me that he could "see the chi in [my] dancing."

A couple from last night:
One prominent dancer used me as an example of timing to two students: "He's never off time."
A young dancer reminded me of my old reputation: "a girl could get better dancing with you."

Today's lesson on the blog: accept the compliment. It's the easiest thing to do. Just say "thank you." It's less funny than deflecting, but much healthier. It could be as simple as mentioning how much you've improved, or that your partner appreciated something that you did. Say thank you whether you want to or not. If you're blushing, that's part of the thrill.

So now it's time for you to update me on the compliments you have received recently.

Tomorrow's class will focus on styling, with Alice P. coming in to share her take on swivels.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Camp Jitterbug Jack and Jill

Here's footage from the recent Camp Jitterbug Jack and Jill. This clip features Shaheed Qaasim (in the tie) and Kristi Clark (in the skirt ;) ). They dance a lot together, but I imagine that this draw was random as that is the way of the Jack and Jill.

Most of the Jack and Jills I've seen have given about half this time per heat, meaning that the judges get half the time to look at the dancers. I think it's cool that the contest coordinator chose to give use to whole songs. It's harder work for the dancers, but the judges get to actually see something.

If you're considering entering the world of competition, Jack and Jills are a great place to get your feet wet. If I were to guess, I'd say this was from an amateur level competition. I could be wrong there. Divisions are pretty muddy in the Lindy Hop world.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Survey: knee care for Lindy Hoppers

The Bees' Knees

Folks, I'd like to compile some helpful tips for taking care of one's knees. Please respond with your advice.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Zero = Infinity

Here's a weird piece of my personal dance philosophy. This seems like shoe-gazing to me. Pardon me while I stare at my toes for a few minutes.

Back when I was new to Lindy Hop (well, when I was new to East Coast Swing, back in the heyday of the Derby) I remember seeing a friend of a friend who had written down a list of perhaps twenty moves that he had learned. My immediate reaction to this was dismissive. I didn't say it out loud, but I remember later calling out this behavior in classes that I taught. "Do you really want to be the guy who dances from a list of moves?" I asked. Of course, when asked that way, it's really easy to want to say no.

My thinking on the subject at the time was that dancing should be completely fresh and that list-making would only serve to stifle creativity. To a certain extent I have always felt this way, still do feel this way. When I dance with a partner, I'm more focused on having fun than on performing steps. There are a lot of levels to this upon which I won't elaborate now.

Suffice it to say that I never think of "dance moves" when I am dancing. The reasoning behind this is that if I have no moves, then all moves become available. Just like the title says, zero equals infinity. More or less, this works for me. Perhaps that's because I've been at it for long enough.

It comes with its drawbacks, surely enough. It might be easy to repeat the same moves over and over if one is not paying attention. Perhaps if I've repeated the same motion enough that I notice it, it's time to increase the variety. Last night I noticed myself making the same kick again and again. Time for a new way to approach that moment.

Thinking ain't dancing, I always say. The action of making lists seems to be one example of over-thinking the dance. On the other hand, perhaps I have been wrong with regard to making lists. In some ways I wonder if not having organized the steps has been a different kind of limitation.

At some level I'd like to re-imagine this idea of list-making. The notion of a completely memorized by rote routine, like the ones that are most often taught in swing classes, still seem problematic to me. Speaking to another teacher, she felt that more often than not classes don't teach essential skills like leading and following. I still agree with this. However I imagine there's a good way to use a list to set one's self free.

If instead of seeing the catalog of moves as the goal we use it as a tool, the creative impulses might not be clogged. Once a dancer has mastered move on their list, it might be time to take that move somewhere else, to find a new challenge with it.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Global Shim Sham

In honor of the late Frankie Manning, the organizers of the Frankie95 event planned for folks around the world to record and share the Shim Sham to compile into one short video. Here are the results:

Monday, May 25, 2009

The Joy of Paradigm Shifting

Here's a thought that occurred to me while I was in New York last weekend for Frankie95. It puts me in mind of a conversation I had with Eugene (who was within a month of learning his first Lindy Hop steps) a couple of weeks back during which he complained about follows who didn't completely give in to his lead. A little bit of prefacing may be necessary.

About a decade back, I had visited Manhattan for a week or so. I remember attending what might have been the last night of the Louisiana Bar and Grille, which was one of the popular venues of the time. I remember getting kicked a lot on the dance floor and believing that it was more than I would have been kicked on a similarly crowded dance floor at home in Los Angeles. I theorized that Manhattanites, due to living in such crowded conditions, were very unlikely to put a premium on personal space. Residents of the Big Apple regularly spend their time in very tight spaces - subway cars, elevators, even sometimes the outdoors seems crowded to me. As this is apparently the case, it makes a lot of sense that the Lindy Hoppers of New York deal with their dance space in exactly the same way.

Now for a person like me, who gets kind of itchy when I'm around big crowds, this can be a big issue. I've always put a premium on good floorcraft, the notion that dancers should be aware enough about their surroundings that they don't bump into other dancers. It was something that seemed important to me from very early in my career. I consider myself more than adept at the basic skills of floorcraft. At the very least, I apologize to a dancer if I kick or step on them. I help them if I have injured them in some way. More often than not, unless I'm really off, I'm pretty good at avoiding collision. It's important to me on a primal level.

The two paragraphs above appear to be examples of two opposing paradigms. Paradigms are ways of viewing the world. In the first view, dancers take up their space and pay little to no attention to the dancers around them, expecting the same from those around them. In the second, dancers are responsible for their own safety and the comfort of those around them.

What happened at the Frankie event, was that I spent Friday night incredibly tense. Gritting my teeth and squeezing through the crowd was about all I could manage. I got kicked a lot, and I heard at least a few other visiting dancers complaining of the same. As it stood on Friday, I was getting dances, but on my part they leaned to the side of paranoia. It happens a bit with me when I'm in very crowded spaces. Even just walking through the ballroom was difficult and it made those initial exchanges, the asking strangers to dance bits, harder to do.

Mind of course that there were many dancers at the event that were not from Manhattan, so please take the blanket statements with several grains of salt.

On Saturday, it was even more crowded. How was I going to get any dancing done in that mass?

I'm not really sure how it happened, but at some point I accepted that the rules were different in this place. People would bump into me from time to time and I'd just have to deal with it. There were more important things to focus on, for instance my partners and their fun and safety. When I made that switch, I smiled a lot more and found it easier to ask people to dance and to make slightly better first impressions than on my tension-filled Friday night. I had an incredible night, even after one of my shoes finally gave in to months of abuse.

Which brings me back to my conversation with Eugene. He had complained of follows who just wouldn't follow the way he had intended. My response to him was that no one can expect that the person they're dancing with has the same rules and technique that he has. Part of the joy of Lindy Hop is bridging the gap between those varying points of view.

Sometimes you just have to go outside of your comfort zone to learn how to be comfortable.

Hellzapoppin' finals!

Here's a contest finals from the Frankie95, the Memorial event dedicated to the memory of Frankie Manning. Held in Manhattan, this was easily one of the most moving and important dance events I can recall attending. If you weren't there, you missed something special, but at least you can check out the clips that will be popping up soon.

Hellzapoppin' finals

Part 2:

Friday, May 22, 2009

Frankie95 footage

I'll be attending Frankie Manning's Memorial service this morning, but thought it would be good to post some footage from last night's party. I wasn't there, but it looks like it will be fun tonight.

Here's the first jam circle of the weekend.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Shaking like a leaf...

If anyone ever tells you that blues requires less technique than Lindy Hop, it's only because they don't know better. Here's Joe and Nelle performing at BluesSHOUT!

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Frankie Manning - get well soon!

Lindy Hop legend Frankie Manning has been hospitalized. Frankie can be viewed elsewhere in this blog in the dance clip from Hellzapoppin', in which he danced one of the most memorable and influential routines of all time.

Here is a re-post of an email sent by the organizers of the upcoming Frankie 95 event. That's the event celebrating Frankie's 95th birthday later this month.

Dear Friends of Frankie,

As you might have heard, Frankie entered the hospital a week and a half ago, due to problems with his medication. Then on Friday, he was taken into the intensive care unit after he developed pneumonia. It is a very serious situation.

Although he cannot talk or move his limbs, he recognizes people and responds to their messages of caring and love. Throughout all of this, his spirit remains strong and his family and close friends are with him.

Please take some time during your day to send Frankie healing energy, prayers and love, and tell everyone you know to do the same. You can also send him a personal note of encouragement here:

Frankie Manning, PO Box 737648 , Elmhurst NY 11373

Frankie needs our support!

Of course, we will keep you all updated as his condition changes.

The Frankie 95 Team

Sunday, April 12, 2009

The Legion of Extraordinary Dancers

I'm really looking forward to John M. Chu's new project.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Up Close and Personal

Here's an unusual clip featuring Carla Heiney and Nick Williams.

Any thoughts?

The full Time Warp episode, entitled Blades and Volts, aired yesterday on Discovery. If you set your DVRs, you might be able to record the whole thing soon.

edit: at least for a time, the full clip is available for watching here.

Sunday, April 5, 2009


During a private lesson the other day, I quipped "Lindy Hop is the dance of Freedom!" It was funny if you were there. It's also true.

When dancers are just beginning Lindy Hop, it's easiest to think that the Lead is the boss and that the Follow is the subject. Stated another way, the leader has control over the follow. While this may be true in a rudimentary way, it seems to me to lack a certain dynamic.

Here's a thought that occurred to me the other day, mostly unedited:

"I've always rejected the notion of control in dance, especially with leading and following. It is often suggested that the Lead is in charge of the dance. While there are good reasons to suggest this (to beginners for instance - ed) I prefer to consider that the partners are cooperating, collaborating, synthesizing."

Why don't I like the word 'control'? It has too many nasty connotations. Also, there are better words in almost every case. If someone uses the word controlled with regard to their own movement, there are words like precise, balanced, dextrous and a host of others.

I often have used the phrase "leads, you're driving the bus." While it is a bit more romantic to suggest a carriage, the reason I go with the bus image is that there's something very physical in that image for me. I imagine a bus driver really using their body in a way that a carriage driver wouldn't. Maybe it's a tour bus driver, since they're also in charge of showing their passengers a good time.

This is also a really over-simplified view. I think later it becomes more like a bicycle for two, where one person is responsible for steering and both need to be engaged or fall.

I think both of these metaphors fall short of the potential of the dance. After you get past the driving metaphors, then it might be time to consider the dance as a conversation. That, however, is a much longer discussion which will be taken up elsewhere.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

ILHC video

This is the Jack and Jill from the International Lindy Hop Championships. Check it out!

Monday, March 16, 2009

The Highlight Reel

This is fifteen minutes worth checking out. It features a lot of folks worth checking out. This is what dancing in Los Angeles was like before LindyGroove.

Lindy Hop: SoCal style - A Year in Review

There's a new homework assignment coming this week. Class this Thursday is called Let's Play!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Johnny talks to J. P.

I didn't expect the interviews to be full-blown, but Johnny Wu has done a great job of getting some good questions in there. He interviewed a dancer named J. P. (I would guess that it's J.P. Babiera?) and got probably a good minute's worth of conversation down. This is a great example of how just a few simple questions can turn into a decent amount of information.

Great work, Johnny! Hopefully this has given you some food for thought.

You might not have a digital recorder on you, but just get some thoughts on paper. That's all that's required for this assignment.

Dancer: J.P (Last name unknown)

Johnny: You've got some smooth chops on that dance floor.
J.P: Thanks man!
Johnny: How long have you been swing dancing?
J.P: About 10 years
Johnny: I see. Did you start from scratch doing the Lindy or did you do other kind of dancing before that?
J.P: Well, I pretty much started from scratch, right to Lindy Hop swing with no prior dance experience.
Johnny: I see. You must really love it.
J.P: Totally. Oh yeah. Lindy Hop is so much fun!
Johnny: Very cool. How long did it take your to realize that you are a good dancer?
J.P.: I haven't realized that. LOL! Probably about 3-years, after I won a Jack and Jill contest
Johnny: Nice! I'm still trying to learn my basic steps while fine tuning my techniques.
What advice do you have for a novice like me?
J.P: Go social dancing as much as possible and just practice, practice, and practice, there is no other way around it. Try take classes and learn some cool routines if you can.
Johnny: I am, and have been. But I still have to think about all the moves before I do them. I would like to pull them off naturally, without having to think about it you know.
J.P: Don't worry, that is totally normal. It's part of the phase that you can get out of it eventually. What helps me is to somewhat visualize what moves you're planning to use in this dance in the beginning of the song, so you don't have to pull something out in the last second.
Johnny: Hmmm...,that is a great advice!
J.P: Having said that, don't forget to relax your muscles and feel the music. Don't get overly hung up on doing "the moves". ALWAYS AIM TO BE SMOOTH for your follows--not FLASHY!!
Johnny: Make sense. I've always felt that I need to impress my follow with some fresh moves and not bore her with the same, generic moves like the lead before her, guess I was wrong to think like that?Bold
J.P: Well, perhaps some follows will like the flashy moves BUT ONLY IF YOU CAN PULL THEM OFF CORRECTLY, otherwise, I'd say just stick with basic moves but be smooth. You can almost never go wrong with that unless you smell bad, hahah! I think most follow would prefer the simpler stuff more.
Johnny: Hahah, I hear ya!
That's why I always make sure to wear my "Brut".....hahah!!
Johnny: Hey thanks again for the input, J.P.
J.P: No problem--anytime

Friday, February 20, 2009

Charleston - Minns and James style

There's so much to Charleston, man.

Here's a clip of legends Al Minns and Leon James doing a bunch of Charleston variations. At the end of the clip, they do a short bit of The Itch.

Your homework this week, as I mentioned in class:
1) Write the work that you will do to achieve the goals you noted for the first assignment.
2) Footwork and movement drills. If you don't remember them, make something up - KEEP WORKING on this!
3) Interviews - I'd like to see something on paper for next week's Touchstone class.
4) Re-watch Groovie Movie and check the body isolation that those dancers were using. Challenge yourself.

I didn't mention this last night, but we'll need video cameras for next Thursday's class. If you can bring one, it would be really helpful.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Improvisation and movement

I was surprised to see Chester Whitmore in this clip and not as a performer! I don't really see this as an improvisation, but I found it really amusing. I mean they obviously had learned lines and stuff. Still, being able to deal with an audience that isn't prepared is certainly improvisational.

This week I'll make sure to include the drills that I didn't get to show last week. In fact, I may shorten the improvisation content of class to focus more on movement. I will probably start the class with Passing the Itch, though because it is both movement and improvisation-related. I'd rather get you guys practicing stuff at home. So this week I'll focus on drills, I think; footwork and torso isolation, I'll guess in advance.

Re-reading this entry on Lindy Hop and improvisation, I was left non-plussed. It was fairly thin as an entry, and didn't seem to really have anything important to say. I think I will do my first Wikipedia edit soon.

So here are the things I would consider when it comes to improvisation and Lindy Hop:
Call and Response - This is one of the most important structures in Jazz and Blues. There will be more to say about this when we get to it. It's in the music and it's in the dance.
Shining - I think a huge element of making yourself stand out is a kind of fearlessness. Becoming comfortable with improvisation is a step in the right direction.
Saying "YES!" - All improvisation breaks down when one partner says no. It doesn't work if both partners aren't engaged and ready to go toe-to-toe. In the long run, I'd hope this means expanding your comfort zone. However this also means that each dancer must gauge and acknowledge their partner and the circumstances of the room around them.

There's plenty more to consider when it comes to improvisation and movement. We'll get to that when we get to it. In the long run, just have fun.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Your OTHER Left Foot

You ever wonder where the expression "I've got two left feet" came from? I'm pretty sure it was a response to some student pick up their right foot when a teacher (friend or whoever) asked them to pick up their left foot: "No, your other left foot."

"I've got two left feet."

The topic is footwork in Lindy Hop and it is immense. Let's start with some basic ideas!

One of the exercises that we've spent a lot of time on is a balance exercise and hopefully that will be implicit in all the work we do. If we have one leg standing on the floor then we should have enough support to do stuff with the other leg, right? That assumes that our weight isn't up in the air somewhere, like in a jump. Most of the things that I can think about to do with my feet revolve around the transitions between switching the weight from one leg to the other.

For example, I'm dancing on my left leg and my right leg is free to dance in the air the air, then with a hop, my center lifts and both legs are in off the ground, and then my right leg lands and my left leg is free to do whatever it wills. You have done this before. It's called running.

It's really easy to over-think this stuff, so most students learn better from observation and repetition. If you're confused about the paragraphs above, work a little bit to figure out what it means and then let it go. Trust the drills.

The other notion that makes Lindy Hop footwork a bit different from Tap or other solo dancing is that we have a partner, and we have to interact with their weight. Leads, it should be assumed that you are comfortable with placing your partner's weight. Follows, it should be assumed that you are comfortable being placed. But you're students, so let's assume you should probably still work on that a lot.

There's a lot more give and take to the interplay between lead and follow, but for now let's work from the assumption that when the lead places the follow, the follow is supported on one leg and has the other free, more or less.

Needless to say, the best way to improve on this stuff is W.O.R.K.
Only this time, with feet.

Thanks to Mary Freitag, who'll stop by today with tips on follow styling.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Clipped again - featuring Hal Takier

Hal Takier is celebrating his birthday this Sunday in Long Beach at the Golden Sails. You should consider attending. He used to hold court at the late, lamented Bobby McGee's in Brea and his birthday parties were some of the most popular nights. The way that my generation of swing dancers learned was to go here and get schooled by the masters. Hal certainly is one of those, and I'm sure that you'll run into more of them if you show up!

Hal and Betty in Maharajah

Twice Blessed - this film has the same plot as The Parent Trap, though it pre-dates it by a decade or so. Hal is in the second clip, with the twin who can't dance. Even still, both the clips are hecka cool.

Dance Party - features so many of the key Southern California swing dancers, including Dean Collins, Willie Desatoff and Hal Takier.

What You Want! Baby I Got It!

Here are the first round of goals, sorted into categories. As you may notice, many of you have similar goals. Alternately, you may see some goals that you might not have previously realized were important to you, or that bring focus to goals that you already have. I hope you'll feel comfortable looking in on each other in class.

If you have any questions, comments or suggestions, please feel free to email them to me or to post them here.

The next part of this assignment is to generate a list of steps that you can take to achieve your own goals. For instance if one of your goals is to improve your Charleston, you might list:
  1. Create a short Charleston drill
  2. Perform Charleston drill every Monday, Wednesday and Friday morning
Or if you have an issue with staring at the floor:
  1. Note when I am staring at the floor.
  2. Find something interesting to pay attention to, i.e. my partner or the people nearby.
Some of your steps might work best when done off the dance-floor, at home for instance. Other plans might be intended specifically for the floor.

The next part of the assignment is obviously to implement the plan. This might work a little bit without actually doing more than making a list, but it is much more effective to work on a problem than it is to ruminate on it.

After a while, you might feel like these guys:

Lindy Hop/Assorted swing fundamentals

  • Practice Charleston – Mike
  • Dancing to fast song - Jorge
  • Retrain my muscle memory so that I fix lingering problems with my swing out, lindy circle, and sugar push – Frank
  • Get through a song without messing up shag footwork –Frank
  • Learn more Charleston, Balboa, Shag moves so that I can dance a whole song in any of those genres – Frank
  • To be able to dance comfortably to faster songs – Frank
  • Get tuck turns down – Allan
  • Become a better social dancer – Allan
  • Finally learn how to do that kick-around Charleston – Corrie
  • Be consistently able to follow the Shadow Charleston – Corrie
  • Figure out how to get into & out of tandem Charleston – Johnny
  • Be able to mix 8-count moves with 6-count moves – Johnny
  • Be able to make smooth transitions between lindy, bal, and charleston moves – Johnny
By far the most repeated goals here are related to faster dancing and Charleston. Of course, those two are vitally related to each other. So for those of you who want to work on dancing at higher tempos, I would highly recommend some kind of Charleston work.

Frank, I might not be focusing very much on Balboa or Shag, but if you have any questions about those, I'll be happy to consider them. Johnny, the important thing to consider in the transitions between those dances is an understanding of the core/weight change relationship between the partners.

Allan, you mention it elsewhere, but the best way to become a social dancer is to dance socially. There really isn't anything else for it.

Physical conditioning

  • Strengthen knees through stretching to avoid pain! - Kirsten
  • Good swivels without knee pain - Kirsten
  • Build up my endurance – Jorge
  • Improve stamina - Allan
  • Become more flexible physically - Johnny
This is also related to the fast-dancing mentioned above. For my own endurance program, I have added running the block each morning with my dog. Anyone have any good links to stretching programs?


  • Be able to teach beginners without messing them up – Jorge
  • Learn the shim sham at a decent level – Mike
  • Master the Shim Sham – Corrie
  • Clean up and master my shim sham – Jamie
Some of the students have started to pick up their Shim Sham work to a decent level, to a level at which it is not necessary to watch someone do the steps to remember them. I'd hold each of you to this standard. As I have mentioned elsewhere, there are plenty of secrets in this dance which will help you grow as a dancer, and which I will call upon from time to time in class.

In stages, the first thing to learn is to count. Counting makes this routine so much easier to learn, not to mention all other dancing.

Once the steps are in place, the next thing to learn is how to dance them. Last night I asked Allan, who does seem to have the steps in the right places at the right times, to start using his arms a bit more. This is part of the plan. Just go with it.

Thirdly, it will be crucial in class to understand this routine musically. It is not merely a list of steps to repeat, but a key to understanding songs, to finding interesting bits in those songs and putting them to work.

Jorge, the more vocabulary and practical understanding you have, the better your instruction will become. Luckily this is a long term goal.


  • Improve balance – Kirsten
  • Consistently show solid balance with engaged core - Kirsten
  • Get the core better – Jorge
  • Improve in control and centeredness - Mike
  • Improve balance – Allan
  • Better balance – Jamie
  • Be able to do some free spins with ease - Johnny
We've done a few balance exercises, and I'm sure we can find more. The breathing exercise is only a beginning to a deeper understanding of balance and dance. Should I suggest doing these exercises on a regular basis, rather than only when I ask for these to be done during class?

  • Improve sensitivity to leads – Kirsten
  • Be able to establish connection with leads faster and follow more readily - Kirsten
  • Learn to follow – Jorge
  • Have core, absorption and connection down better – Jorge
  • Learn to communicate with inexperienced or difficult dancers – Mike
  • Learn to lead well enough that I don’t lose flow of the dance during a song – Frank
  • Be able to read my partner better – Allan
  • Become a really fun lead so that the advanced leads will be happy when I ask them to dance! - Corrie (see also psyching up/creativity and style)
  • Better connection – Jamie
  • Be a great follow – Jamie
  • Have a supportive frame – Jamie
  • Become a more consistent lead – Johnny
As I mentioned last night, trust is the major issue that interferes with leading and following; that goes for both leads and follows. Following closely after that are the habits that we learned from our teachers, the ones they didn't notice were being taught. Some of this is just going to be up to our own work.

With regard to core, frame (sic) connection and absorption/compression as Jorge mentions, the rope exercises will be very important. Exercising in relation to balance, mindful of engaging the proper musculature is vital.

As for the habits, it's a bit harder to recommend here as there are so many to deal with. The easiest way to beat a habit is to find a superior technique and then to become comfortable with it. For instance, it doesn't usually work to say "I'm going to stop looking at the floor" but it might work to say "when I notice that I'm looking at the floor, I will choose to look at my partner instead."


  • Improve technique, starting with "perfecting swing out" not just having a working one - Jorge
  • Learn to relax my back to improve connection - Kirsten
  • Remember to relax and have fun! - Corrie
  • Learn how to breathe - Corrie
This is going to become more and more important as we progress. Beside the breathing exercises, it is recommendable to note the moments of tension or over-thinking and to add the step: take a deep breath.
  • Be able to hit breaks in music more consistently/effectively - Frank
  • Improve Rhythm - Frank
  • Learn to express the dance in a musical way with my body - Corrie
  • Have a good sense of musicality - Jamie
We have done a bit in this class already dealing with music and rhythm. I'll save those comments for a later post. In the meantime, the best way to get better at this is to listen to music. Let me know if you would like any recommendations in this arena.


  • Fix the turnout issue I have (don't over-rotate away from lead)
  • Losing my "salsa" hips – Joelle
  • Drop my arm when not using it – Mike
  • Reduce extraneous movement - Mike
As I mentioned above, breaking a habit can be tough to do. Repetition is the main thing here, but a question might be asked about what is worth repeating. Find those things that feel good (as opposed to feel normal or feel familiar) and repeat those things.

Mike, I'm going to add "remember to face my partner and pay attention to them" to your list. That's related to your reduce extraneous movement goal. With regard to arm movement, I think more students need to add this to their lists. Rather than "drop my arm when I'm not using it," perhaps "engage my arms and bodies in the dance." I don't really feel there is a point at which I'm not using any part of my body, though I've been known to go through the motions from time to time.

Psyching up!

  • Become a bolder, less self-conscious dancer - Kirsten
  • Dance with a person without having to warn them that "I'm still learning, please have patience with me" - Joelle
  • Trying not to be so nervous – Joelle
  • Getting rid of that "I'm not ready" feeling (this might take more than a month) – Joelle
  • Jam circle ready (without aerials) – Jorge (see also performance technique)
  • Be less cerebral – Mike
  • Gain confidence as a dancer – Mike
  • Become less afraid of talented dancers – Mike
  • Succeed in Neil’s Beginning Intensive class – Frank
  • Spend more time social dancing – Allan
  • Dance with more experienced people – Allan
  • Get the courage to ask the advanced leads to dance more often – Corrie
  • Keep having fun and never lose the sheer enjoyment of dancing! - Corrie
  • Keep having fun!!! - Frank!!!
  • Keep motivated in learning swing dancing - Johnny
Obvious steps in this category: ask unfamiliar/talented dancers to dance. The worst they can do is say no, and if so, screw 'em. Easy breathing can help with anxiety and repetition is another great route to confidence.


  • Figure out meaningful, interesting options to occupy my left arm/hand – Kirsten
  • Break the habit of looking down – Joelle (see also Psyching up/habits/)
  • Look less lame (stance and general body movement, even when not dancing Like getting a glass of water or walking or simple Charleston) – Jorge
  • Have better footwork so i don't have to do jumping jacks when playing with the music – Jorge
  • Look not only less lame, but cool in my stance and in my dance – Jorge
  • Fix my exit move from washers/up-downs/duck walk – Frank
  • Improve shine – Allan
  • Learn styling – Corrie
  • More styling – Jamie
  • More creativity – Jamie (see also psyching up)
If you are interested in growing your style, it would behoove you to watch dancers whom you enjoy. Also, if you haven't heard it before, it's worthwhile to pick those dancers with whom you share some body traits. For instance, I should not imagine that I will look like a dancer who is 6+ feet tall with a long reach. That said, there are things that you might learn from these dancers, so it is always worth a look.

You will all benefit from watching yourself either in mirrors or on camera. Some dancers like to consider that any moment of dancing caught in a snapshot should look endlessly cool. I'll leave you to your own devices on how strict you'll be with yourself in your own regard.

Jorge, the main thing you can do is watch yourself on video and work to improve. However some of your issues stem from that bouncing ball thing you mentioned. Thank Laura Keat for that by the way. It's going to be very important for you.

Kirsten, I like that goal.

Frank, I'm not sure of the specific steps by name. Feel free to show them to me and I'll offer any advice I have.

  • Impress people at my friend’s wedding in May – Mike
  • Re-learn some moves off the Camp Hollywood DVD
  • Visit some Swing dancing clubs that I haven’t been to before – Frank
  • Do some performances (for example, the Big Apple, Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy) – Frank
  • Get back into shape for the air raid – Allan (see also conditioning)
  • Learn some aerials (they look so fun!) - Corrie
  • Be able to compete – Jamie
  • Be able to pull off some aerials - Johnny
Some of these are obvious: Frank, there are plenty of clubs around town that feature good dancing. Since I don't know where you normally visit, I'll recommend Paladino's and Strutter's Ball. Also you might consider doing some traveling to find out what dancing is like in other areas. Some folks prefer Lindy Exchanges, but I like going to a town when nothing special is going on. It's an eye-opener, for sure.

Mike, you might want to consider bringing someone to the wedding with whom you can dance. Having a decent dance partner never hurts in those odd situations.

For those of you interested in competing or learning aerials, I'd recommend highly to check out Kim and David from Ventura. They run Paladino's every month and are very popular teachers at Camp Hollywood every year. The other side of competing though, is looking cool/pretty/exciting. Watch clips and find a style you like and then go for it!
Lastly, while chatting with Kirsten last night, it occurred to me that I could post my own goals for the class to see and to perform my own assignment. Here goes!

Short term goals
  • Improve my stamina and core strength (added running with my dog; will start Two Hundred Sit-Ups program this afternoon. Will also add push-ups and other strengthening exercises to the program)
  • Learn new tap steps (it has been a while for me, but I will go back to The Tap Dictionary for some steps to practice, and if I can't find that, then YouTube)
  • Get past my occasional ruts.
  • Find a partner with whom to work for competition. (I have a prospect or two here. This has always been tough for me.)
  • Learn some new moves. (they're worth exploring, ya know!)
Long term/Ongoing goals
  • Learn some good performance aerials (You students are not alone. I'm waaay behind the curve of my generation. However having a partner will help here.)
  • Improve my competition performance. (in case you were unaware, I compete every once in a while, but being so behind the curve in aerials and partnerless doesn't help in this regard, I still make it to finals from time to time, but weekend-long stamina could help here too.)
  • Earn a buck or two. (I'm pretty generous with my info, but if you know anyone who would be interested in private lessons, I'd be willing to take their money for instruction. Email or call me for rate questions)
  • Teach at more workshops. (for as long as I've been teaching, breaking in to the workshops has been difficult. As I am not a popular contest champion, putting my name on a flyer does little to help event organizers with their fears about generating attendance. However, every workshop that I've held has been illuminating and requested again, but for reasons outside of our control don't happen often enough)
  • Choreograph a team routine. (I started one a while back, stopping for my own injury. I'd like to get back to this at some point.)
On the other hand, you could pay someone else to do the work for you: