Tuesday, February 9, 2010

The Rantings of a Lindy Hopper + The No Account Count

Here's a link to Alice P's Lindy-centric blog: The Rantings of a Lindy Hopper. Alice has been one of my assistants in class for the last several months.

We had a lot of new students in class last week. We took it back to basics, did a few leading and following exercises. It seemed mostly that people needed to iron out the swingout more than anything else. I admit that the class feels like it is taught by committee. Alice, Charlotte and I have pretty distinct points of view. Alice and Charlotte have both been recently excited by a recent workshop with Dax and Sarah. I'm typically skeptical.

After class Charlotte and I had a brief conversation about counting the basic. When she was learning from Dax several years ago, he did not use any counting, but rather the scat-rhythms like those that were popularized by Stephen Mitchell and others during the 90s. So rather than "one two three&four five six seven&eight" teachers might use a rhythm like this "boop doo doop-dah-doo, boop doo doop-dah-doo" or some such. Charlotte suggested that she would love to compare a theoretical Lindy Hop culture that never learned counting to another that learned from the numbers.

The thought of removing the numbers doesn't really bother me, but it does remind me of this sort of hostility toward math that many folks have. I tend to blame this sentiment more on teachers than anything else. I certainly agree that learning numbers changes the way one thinks (in the dance and in the world), however, I also believe that one can learn one paradigm and then transcend it. You can learn how to count and then learn to abandon the count. You can always keep the numbers in mind for a rainy day.

So I put it up for debate: what are the strengths of beginners counting and of beginners not counting? What is to be gained by either approach? Is one way superior to the other? Can't we all just get along?

By the way, I don't mean to criticize Dax & Sarah or Charlotte at all. I'm mostly hoping to open up and interesting conversation.

This week I plan to teach a class about balance. Feel free to click on the balance tag and see the previous posts on the subject.


  1. As a teacher you need to be able to explain to your students' best learning ability.

    The different methods when teaching dance boil down as follows:
    1.there is the implicit scat vocalese explanation of timing a la "boop bop boop-ee-doo" which, by the way, predates Steven Mitchell - That was the only way Frankie knew how to explain what he was doing when he started teaching. I'd really even put saying "Rock Step Tri-ple-step" into this category, though that's a little more explicit.
    2.there is the kinesthetic ["left right leftrightleft"], which some folx feel they need.
    3.there is the musical metric [uh1 uh2and 3LaLee4], which works great for students with more formal musical/dance training/backgrounds.
    4.and finally there is the Slow-Slow-QuickQuick that we make fun of ballroom for, but it combines 1 and 3 I've noted above.

    A couple of more obscure ways of teaching:
    5.Pure Kinesthetic - you move the person's body for them. Some folks just need to be placed "into position".
    6.The weird Skippy Blair visual cue-card system [I'm not even gonna get into that, but it's a bunch of picture cards that you can rearrange with circles that represent the beats].
    7.Ya know those old black and white Arthur Murray step-here, step there follow the arrows dotted line diagrams? nuff said.

    Of course, the physical visual of your students WATCHING YOU DO IT, teaches some people all they need to know, and as teachers in group classes this is the primary teaching method [don't do as I say, do as I do]

  2. Hey Neil, its Andrew.

    I have taken workshop classes from Dax before so I am familar with the scatting teaching you have described (and occasionally use it myself in my college swing dance classes).

    Personally the big strength of that method is at least for me it helped build up my musicality tremendously. If I think of my movements in terms of noise and I hear that in a song, it becomes easier to match it upconsciously and unconsciously.

    When I teach I use numbers, I use words and I use noises. In addition I try to rotate through each. My reasoning is this, every person most effectively in different ways. Personally I am a noises and monkey-see monkey do type of person. But I know some people learn better with numbers and having everything broken down slowly.