RSS Feed

Category Archives: Workshop

The Lindy Focus Saga Episode Two: The Choosing

Posted on

In the midst of the scramble to register, there is one other super-duper important thing to think about; your roommates.


You might not believe me, but it’s true.  Roommates can make or break an event like this. A week in a hotel is a long time when you’re stuck with someone you don’t like.

166996_1585411400944_2764739_nBut fear not!  I’m here to give you a few things to think about before you go choosing roommates all willy-nilly.

The first you’ve got to know about Lindy Focus is that your hotel room is basically just a place for you to store you stuff and sleep.  You won’t be spending a ton of time there, there are simply too many other things to do.  So, bearing that in mind, you don’t necessarily need to fill the room with your best friends.

The first step in the roommate-selection process is knowing what you want.  There are going to be things that you are willing to compromise on and things that you absolutely have to have (or not have).  What are they?  Do you like the room cold when you sleep?  Are you a light sleeper?  Do you like to stay up late?

Things you shouldn’t have to (or can’t) compromise on: 1) the gender of the people in your room, some times people are downright uncomfortable sleeping in a room with the opposite sex. 2)  Perfume.  If you’re like me, you can have a hard time handling things like body spray and perfume.  My nose goes haywire and starts sneezing and that makes for a crappy day.  So I make sure I don’t stay with any middle school boys and their Axe.  3) how you sleep.  It’s nigh impossible to control where you move while you sleep, so if you’re prone to “lobserting” or the flailing of arms and legs during sleep, then you either need to find someone who’s ok with having your body parts in their personal space or volunteer to sleep on the floor.  It sucks for two people to get no sleep.

The absolute key to getting along with  your roommates no matter what is just to be courteous.  If you wouldn’t want someone traipsing around at 6am throwing clothes out of their suitcase while you’re trying to sleep, then don’t do it to someone else.

This is what I find important roommate-wise, but I’m sure there some stuff that I’m missing.  So, what is most important to you in a roommate?  What makes for an ideal stay?


The Lindy Focus Saga Episode One: Acceptance

Posted on
There are two words in the swing-dom that can send a shiver of excitement through a room: Lindy Focus.  And there’s good news for those of you who know what those two words mean.  Registration is open.  That’s right.  Go sign up now!

But for some of you who are new to the world of swing, you might be wondering what this is and why it’s such a big deal.

Jam circle

Let me try to explain.  Have you ever dreamed about what it would be like to be on a movie set with Chris Hemsworth, George Clooney, Jennifer Lawrence and Emma Stone all at the same time and they all tell you they want to be your best friend and you get the starring role in the film and the film is being talked about in the Oscar pool… Ok you get the idea, basically it’s a dream come true.

Lindy Focus is a lot like that.  Basically, it’s a week of intensive workshops with some of the best swing and blues dance instructors in the world.  But it’s much more than that.  Let me start at the beginning.

So, you’ve organized a carpool and you’ve got your roommates and you’re feeling like a kid on Christmas.  Literally.  Because Lindy Focus starts the day after Christmas. Best. Christmas present. Ever.

After the hours long car ride to beautiful Asheville, North Carolina, you come up the final hill and the sprawling Crowne Plaza hotel opens its arms to greet you.  You check in and dump your stuff in your room and run off to go explore.  As you whittle away the hours until the first bit of dancing,  you marvel at how big the swing dance community is.  It’s really a worldwide phenomenon.

Then the dancing starts.  You dance song after song and not one of them is awkward.  Everyone you dance with is wonderful.  You’re up until the last of the bluesers at the late night trickle off.  You finally make your way back to your room and fall into bed, completely exhausted but at peace with the world.  You could die happy now.

Happy Birthday, Maggie!

But wait! There’s more….

The next morning you audition for placement in your Lindy Hop track.  Levels 3-9 require an audition.  But don’t fret.  It’s not this terrible fiery ordeal and the judges are normal people, just like you and me.  So breathe and just dance.  Waiting for your results has you quivering with antici………………….pation.

Finally, you get your level and you can settle in.  Or you can appeal and try to get a higher level, that’s cool too.  But for the most part, the judges are pretty dead on.

For the next week, the best of the best fill you with their vast and mighty knowledge of all things jazz, swing and dance.  It’s a lot to take in, so I definitely recommend bringing a notebook to take notes in.  A sad mistake I made last year was not having one and it made practicing rather difficult.

Live music at Lindy Focus

At the first official evening dance, you get to hear the first strains of the live music.  Last year’s choices included Ben Polcer and Paul Constentino of Boilermakers fame.

But holy goodness, the best is still yet to come: Instructor Showcase.

Let me tell you, I don’t think I have ever nerded so hard about dancing in my life.  By the time all of them were done dancing, I was pretty much in a puddle on the floor because of so much awesome.   And don’t even get me started on the competitions.  It’s just too much for words.

There was one thing I wish I had known about when I went to LF last year.  No one told there was going to be a New Year’s Even Show.  Although, maybe it was a good thing I didn’t know about it.  I might have actually exploded with impatience.

From “New Orleans Bump” Lindy Focus XI New Years Eve Show

Well, I don’t want to spoil all of the surprises that await in Lindy Focus Land, so I’ll stop here.  But you should all know that this is such an exciting event and there is so much to look forward to.

This is only the very tippy top of a ginormous iceberg

For those of you have already been to LF, what was your favourite part?  And for those of you who haven’t been yet, what is it you’re most looking forward to?

The Dance Practice Blueprint — Dance World Takeover by Rebecca Brightly

Posted on

This is definitely worth a look!

The Dance Practice Blueprint — Dance World Takeover by Rebecca Brightly.

Masquerade in Blues III

Posted on

Pardon the absence.  Planning events can get a little crazy.  But I’m back now and I’m going to tell you aaaaalllll about planning this event.

First off, you should all know that this was not my first event.  The Jitterbug Club did Lindy Hop Drop Out earlier this school year.

But this time we added an intermediate blues workshop with the wonderful Jamie Lynn Figure.  And the magnificent Jared Clemens taught the beginner workshop.  And just so both of you know, I heard some rave reviews about your lessons.  You guys rock!

We brought in a new band for this dance, too.  The Blue Rails, a blues band out of Columbus, graced us with their rocking tunes.  Thanks a ton for playing for us!

This event brought in some new challenges.  This was my first time working with a band, so planning the logistics there was interesting.

We also had some difficulties with the sound at the Saturday night dance.  I know that stinks, and I’m sorry for it.  But I hope you all understand!

On that note, what do you do when you have technical issues?  How do you suggest handling that?

Also, I’ll post pictures as they become available!

Time Warp Swing!

Posted on

It’s take two for Time Warp Swing at the Ohio State University.  Kerry Dibble and her fabulous helpers pulled it off yet again and we danced through the decades and the clocks jumped back.

Chris Shoenfelder and Liz Thatcher showed us the evolution of swing dance, from 1920s Charleston to modern Lindy and Blues.  We even got a taste of genuine Frankie Manning with several of the moves these two taught us.

Chris and Liz did a fantastic job of getting us to understand the concepts they were trying to convey.  The whole workshop felt like a team effort and not just being talked at.

After battling game day traffic, I finally got to evening dance.  It was my second time DJing outside my own scene.  And this particular dance presented quite a challenge.  All of the music for my set had to come from the 1920s and ’30s.  It was interesting to see how many songs I could come up with from that time period.  Within that small 20 year span I could see the evolution from something that is barely recognizable as jazz into the very thing we dance to today.    Kristen Marks, Rob Kapaku and Andry Rakotamalala took us right up to the present day with some of the best music ever made.

Later that evening, I competed in my second ever Jack n Jill and made the finals for the first time ever!  And congratulations to all those who made it that far, and especially Rob and Claire for taking first place.  You guys were fantastic!

Once again, mass kudos to all those who had a hand in organizing this event.  You all did a fantastic job and I can’t wait for next year!


Recently asked: Wouldn’t it be great to do an article on how to train modern Jazz bands to play better for dancers?

Indeed. I think such an article, if done right, would require me interviewing quite a few musicians and dancers and researching the thoughts of the original big band musicians and jazz philosophers. Until I can do so, I had a few quick notes on the subject.

First off, I’ve asked this question in some way to every band leader I’ve interviewed. Check out their responses below.

In addition to what those guys say, a few tips I think help a group get started:


Short songs, around three minutes or under. Even the greatest swing bands in the world would tire a dance floor out with five minute songs where every band member gets a few solo choruses per song. (Concerning local bands beginning to play for dancers…

View original post 1,242 more words

Hawkeye Swing Festival 2012

Posted on

A friend of mine (the ever-wonderful Andry Rakotomalala) wrote this review of this year’s Hawkeye Swing Festival, in Iowa City.  You should all read it because a) he’s awesome, b) if you were there, you can gush over how great this event was, too; or c) if you weren’t there you can live vicariously though this.  Whatever your reason, you should read it and be amazed (literally, I drooled reading this and this list of big-time instructors on the bill (and that’s not all of them!))

This event was pretty amazing! By far one of the biggest event I’ve ever been to, but that’s not surprising seeing as I haven’t gone to many big workshops like Beantown, Lindy Focus, or bluesSHOUT before! This was definitely my first BIG event.

What I liked about the event was how big it was, first off; and the completely different swing culture in Iowa. A friend of mine (from Illinois who goes to school in Iowa) said that they love their fast lindy in Iowa, whereas in Illinois, blues was very appropriate later on in the night. Just the excitement of having over 200 people at the event made it so much more fun and the energy in the room was just beaming! These were during social dances! You could tell that everyone was having a blast! The instructors were having an awesome time too!

The big name instructors who were there were Michael Jagger and Evita Acre, Andy Ried and Nina Gilkenson, Mikey Pedroza, Andrew Thigpin and Karen Turman, Damon Stone, Bobby Bonsey, Jamin Jackson, Brian Eley, and Delilah Williams just to name a few. I got a chance to talk to Evita, Michael, Jamin, Damon, and Bobby during social dances and other times throughout the weekend and all of them were very personable.  However, my favorite instructors (apart from Michael and Evita because they’re just amazing) were Bobby and Delilah.  But… more on that after the explanation of the lessons.

The class levels were Elite, Advanced, Intermediate/Advanced, Intermediate, and Fundamentals. I had made the Advanced with some other friends and we had a class with Bobby and Delilah. If you don’t know, both characters are CRAZY fun! They just love having fun and playing around when they dance. During their class they spoke about conversation. Literally all we did were Susi Qs and on every other 8 one of us would do something and the partner would have to take that, copy it or make it their own. And we did that back and forth.  I had some of my best dances with some of the follows there that in class! It just opened my mind that dancing shouldn’t just be step, step, triple step, step, step, triple step with moves! You can still keep the count but DO something fun with it! That lesson changed my dancing for sure! Now I’m confident with every one of my movements and I have a lot of fun with my partner as we dance to the music! I guess their main concept was to have fun while you dance and be confident. This makes the social dance so much more enjoyable for the both parties.  It also helps them communicate and have a true conversation. Plus, Delilah and Bobby are also both very energetic, wild, crazy fun people in general just like me so we connected very well!

Speaking of connection, another fun class that wasn’t just “Do this. Do that. Now move like this, now move like that” was the improve blues lesson with Damon Stone. Apparently the instructor who was supposed to come didn’t show so Damon came in and taught us REAL blues. He stressed connection and the point that stuck out to me was: focus on your own dancing and you’ll be surprised at how well your follow reads your movements and works with it.  He had said this after saying we had no need to tense up our right arm when it’s around the follow.  We don’t even have to hold her.  As long as our forearms are on her back and she’s seeking that connection, every movement I make as a lead should be transmitted to her right away. After some of the class still tensed up, he turned off the light and made us dance with our partner without connecting. This was the fun part! We were just grooving like it was a house party! It was a serious blast but he did all that to explain that our own personal movements in blues are essential because if we don’t know how our own body moves, how do we know how to suggest our follows to do a movement as well? The lesson just stressed confidence again and connection.

Michael and Evita’s lesson taught us some crazy 10 count move.  I love their style of teaching, being funny while not distracting from the point of the class.  And the fluid movements were just really captivating.

There were some things I didn’t like, but that didn’t ruin my weekend. The building we were in was HUGE and the signs to get to the different rooms were confusing. It would have been helpful if the organizers had put up signs saying “Advanced Class this way —>” or something. I wrote a sign on our class door because the intermediate and advanced class room locations were switched! A lot of people were confused and that would have been helpful. Apart from that, everything else was just awesome!

MUSIC! Like I said before, there was a lot of fast Lindy, but as the night went on the music turned into blues. My favorite was probably Solomon Douglas and his band. They played just the right music at the right time.  Around midnight, the lights dimmed and we had some slow blues but there was still some Lindy here and there.

The DJs were fabulous! A lot of them realized how fast the songs were so they slowed it down a lot. My favorite set was probably Mike “the girl” Leggett because she had such a huge variety of tempos and it was a refreshing break from the band for a bit.

Finally, would I go back? Yes. I would definitely go back! If not for the instructors, then for the completely different swing culture.


Thanks for reading!  Be sure to comment and tell Andry how much you liked his review!

Scramble Light Blues 2012

Posted on

Sorry for the delay, guys and gals, I had a crazy patch there for a few weeks, but I have something new and shiny for you now!

For the first weekend of Spring Quarter, I took an adventure out to Ball State Swing Society for their second annual blues workshop, Scramble Light Blues.  It was a one day workshop, but it’s been a long time since I’ve come home sore from a weekend of dancing.

This year, the Scramble Light organizers brought in the always fabulous Mike “the girl” Legget and Dan Rosenthal to teach lessons about every aspect of blues dancing, from the basics to the lesser contemplated fast blues.

While the classes covered a range of material (which you can find here), my favourite class of the day covered technique.  This class covered all the little technique bits that just don’t fit in the with any particular move or the basics or anything else, really.  It was all the stuff that you want to ask questions about but don’t know quite what to ask.  It was full of tidbits about posture, tension, compression, tone and a ton of other really cool, useful things.

After the lessons were over for the day, we had a dinner break (during which I discovered the word “scoodlypoop”) and reconvened in the campus art museum to blues the night away.  Due to some unforeseen circumstances, the band booked for the weekend, T Bone Craig, had to cancel, but even with out the band, the weekend still rocked.  It opened up the floor for some fabulous DJs to give the weekend a personal touch.

The best part of the dance that evening was the chance to use what we learned during the workshop, specifically the fast blues techniques we had talked about.  The DJs made sure to play an ample amount of faster blues tunes in the evening so we had plenty of practice.  I also liked this a lot because it made the late night feel more like a late night.

The blues continued at Cole Academy of Dance, just off campus.  The joint may have been a little tight, but that gave dancers a chance to practice the jukin’ blues we learned.  (They say practice makes perfect!)

What made this weekend stand out from all the other blues workshops was the DJ workshop on Sunday afternoon.  Despite the small number if attendees, Jeff Mundinger left no topic undiscussed as he talked about his style of DJing.  He touched on everything from the  equipment you’ll need for serious DJing to how to structure your set to how to read the dance floor.  If you want more information, I suggest asking him yourself, the next time you see him around.  I can’t spoil all his secrets and besides, it’s more helpful if you get the information first hand, anyway.

Props to all of the organizers for this year’s Scramble Light, you all did a magnificent job!  And from what I heard, attendance skyrocketed from last  year, so you guys are awesome!

Thank you to the wonderful Lydia Kilmer for hosting me, you rock!

I had a great time this weekend but there is one thing that’s still bothering me…Just what exactly is the scramble light?  I will definitely be back next year to find out.

%d bloggers like this: