Friday, February 6, 2009

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:


  1. From Johnny Wu

    Goals: (month)
    1) Figure out how to get into & out of tandem charleston
    Action: Do lots of multi-directional charleston kicks whenever I can (or when no one is looking...) and program my legs to remember the counts, so that when I do get a chance to partner up and practice tandem charleston I can just on my upper torso and arm movements

    2) Be able to mix 8-count moves with 6-count moves
    Action: Practice basic swing-outs and basic tuck-turns

    3) Be able to do some free spins with ease
    Action: Do a few free spins in morning during the weekends.

    4) Be able to make smooth transitions between lindy, bal, and charleston moves
    Action: Go to Lindy Groove's dance floor and practice, practice, practice with various partners

    5) Be able to do a dip on beat:
    Action: Listen to more swing music and try to familiarize myself with more songs so that I know when the ending will happen before it ends.

    Goals: (year)
    1) Become a more consistent lead
    Action: Go out and practice all the moves and techniques through constant social dancing

    2) Be able to pull off some aerials
    Action: Not sure yet!
    Find a partner who's daring enough to get tossed by me. Until then...might just order a heavy mannequin and practice tossing it around for few minutes a day. Hmmm....

    3) Be able to handle fast songs
    Action: Practice fast swing outs

    4) Become more flexible physically
    Action: Do yoga in the morning once or twice a week

    5) Keep motivated in learning swing dancing
    Action: Find and watch various swing dance clips from youtube and get pumped up to imitate cool the moves

  2. >>Find a partner with whom to work for competition.

    If only I lived in your area! (: