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: