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I Feel Like Dancing

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Hello, everyone, I’m back!  I know it’s been a while, and I’m sorry for that.

Truth be told, I fell into a but of a dance slump.  I didn’t feel like going out, I didn’t have the motivation to get out and just do it.  I’m going to place part of the blame on the fact that it takes so much effort for me to just get to the dancing.  45 minutes one way is kind of a hike.  Plus another 45 minutes to get home; all on a night when I have to be up early for work the next morning.  I know, I know, woe is me.  But it really takes some effort and makes waking up the next morning difficult, and I had reached a point where I didn’t want to make that sacrifice of time and effort.

I also graduate college, moved across the state, started a new job, quit said job, started another new job and am preparing to move again.  That’s quite a lot to happen in a very short span of time.  And on top that, I left the only dance scene I had really ever know.  Sure, when people ask, I tell them I’m from Cincinnati, but I have never spent any real time dancing here.  Athens has been my dance home since I first set foot on a dance floor.

If I sound like I’m complaining, I’m don’t mean to.  I only want to give you some context as to why I dropped of the face of dancing earth.music

But I have had one seriously exciting development that has sparked a fire in me.  I joined a choir.  For those of you who know me, that is less than surprising.  But for those of you who don’t know me, just know that I love to sing.  I do it in the shower, in the car, when I’m home alone (even when I’m not, I don’t really care).

How does this relate to my dancing, you ask?  Well, I’ll tell you.

The long and short of it is: I love music.  I love being involved in every part of it; from making it to moving to it.  I’ve even written it (Once.  In high school.  It was awful.  Don’t ask.).  But joining this choir has put me back in the position of being immersed in music from all angles.

I see it like constructing a house.  At the foundation are the notes on the staff, the time signatures, the key.  You know, the real nitty-gritty of it all. The structure is the song you get, the sound you make when you tie all of those things together.  It’s belting it out Broadway style or getting in the groove with a saxophone, the part everyone sees and what they tend to remember most.  But what really polishes it all off and makes it something remarkable is dance.  It’s the paint on the walls and decorations you choose.  This is what makes my music my own.  It turns a house into a home.

Without any one of these things, I’m not complete.  There is something so powerful about owning something so fully.  The music I make is something that is truly mine and something that no one can take away.

The moral of the story is, I found the spark I needed to rekindle my passion to dance.

So while I’m still living 45 minutes away, working even further away, and I’m exhausted the next morning, I’m going to dance more.  I mean it. I’m back.

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The Lindy Focus Saga Episode One: Acceptance

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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?

Oh, You Two Make Such a Cute Couple

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First, I apologize for the long absence, I had some crazy things going on..like graduation.  Oh, yeah, hey guys, I GRADUATED COLLEGE!  Guess what that means?  No more homework!  EVER!  But, yeah, I’m sorry I’ve been MIA for a while, but I promise I’ll  be better about posting things!

Anyway, on to the important things.

So, I was watching an interview with Jaleel White, a.k.a. Steve Urkel, the other day and the topic of his stint with Dancing With The Stars came up.  Now, I know Katie Couric isn’t exactly clued in on the dance world, but she said something that made me pause.  “It’s amazing there aren’t more relationships between dance partners,” she said.

And she got me thinking.  As someone who has never had a steady dance partner, I don’t know much about this topic.  I do know, however, that dancing can be a very intimate experience.  For three minutes, there is nothing but you, your partner and the music. It can lead to some intense feelings, even for just the duration of the song.

Working together, day after day, working on a dance routine or lesson plan, you and your partner would get to know each other very well.  You would have to know how each other thinks, the best way for each of you to present information, what each of you is physically capable of, how the other moves.  If you throw in the added bonus of performing aerials, that takes a certain level of trust.  And then you would get to share all of the ups and downs in each other’s lives.  I imagine this would create a close connection between you.

Being dance partners requires you spending a lot of time together, and as such, would put a strain on relationships with significant others, especially if your significant other is not a dancer.  Non dancers sometimes don’t understand the passion we have for dancing and might have a hard time dealing with the fact that you want to spend so much time with someone who you’re not dating.

So from those of you who do have steady dance partners, are  you a couple?  Would you consider being a couple?  How do you deal with feeling that might develop between you and your partner?  How does your significant other feel about the relationship you have with your dance partner?  And how do you deal with a significant other who might have issues with how close you are to your partner?

Top 10 Reasons Every Nerdy Person Should Learn to Dance

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Top 10 Reasons Every Nerdy Person Should Learn to Dance

Rebecca Brightly, with another fabulous post that speaks straight to my soul.

Where did all the good dancing go?

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What do you do when you can’t dance?

It’s the worst question ever asked, but as a senior in college with limited financial means, sometimes it’s a possibility.  Life gets busy, homework gets out of hand, job applications pile up and two weeks at the part-time job on campus barely pays for one exchange.

So what do you do when you can’t travel?  How do you get your dance fix? WHAT DO YOU DO TO KEEP FROM GOING CRAZY?! (Sorry, a bit too long without dancing…*twitch*)

Any and all suggestions are welcome.  If you don’t help soon, I’m going to start experiencing withdraw symptoms.

Hawkeye Swing Festival 2012

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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!

My Favourite Colour…Part Deux

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If you haven’t already realized that this is a second installment, you may want to go back and read the first part, which you can find….here!

I left off with the emergence of electric blues and Chuck Berry and Bo Diddley.  A rather infamous Muddy Waters tour in England, during which he played loud, crass Chicago style blues, is said to have influenced artists like Cyril Davies and sparking the British Invasion a few years later.Bo Diddley, blues great.

In the late ’50s Chicago’s West Side Sound style blues developed simultaneously with Swamp Blues in Baton Rouge.

During the 1960s and ’70s Rock and Roll and Rhythm and Soul were all the rage and the traditional blues singers needed to find new ways to stay on the charts.  B.B. King does this with his song “To Know You is to Love You”.

Jimi Hendrix, guitaristAround this time a few names start emerging that we would usually attribute to rock music.  Do Jimi Hendrix and Carlos Santana ring any bells?  Jimi Hendrix  made amazing use of distortion in his music and his psychedelic rock branched out into more unorthodox styles of blues.  Carlos Santana lent a Latin flair to his blues, again creating a unique twist on the blues genre.

When the (in)famous Led Zeppelin was breaking into the main stream, during the early 1960s, many of their hits were covers of traditional blues songs like, “In My Time of Dying”

The fusion of blues, country and jazz, known as Tulsa Sound, was popularized in the 1970s by artists such as J.J. Cale.    With a similar sound and structure, Texas rock-blues was carried into the spot light by artists such as Stevie Ray Vaughan, The Fabulous Thunderbirds and ZZ Top in the 1980s.

Beginning in the 1990s and up through the present, there have been multitudes of experiments with the genre, bending, twisting and transforming it in ways never before thought of.  In recent years, there has been a trend toward a more classic style of blues, rather than the flashier styles of ZZ Top and Led Zeppelin.  Grady Champion and Susan Tedeschi are excellent examples of this.

There has also been a resurgence of venues dedicated to all that is blues and jazz.  Cincinnati has its very own jazz club called The Blue Wisp.  Classy sounding, huh?  And there are a multitude of blues festivals all over the world.  A notable one in this region is the Chicago Underground Blues Experience.

In all of this research, the one thing that I have learned is that there is no one definition of blues.  It is something different to everyone who plays and hears it.  To me, blues is a slow, burning rhythm that makes me move.  To others, it may be a fast song that expresses anger or hurt about some life situation.  But the one overarching theme is perhaps the simplest of all; that of music.  No matter the style, rhythm or genre, music is the one thing that every human being on Earth has in common.  It is a common thread that binds us all.  And whether you like rap, blue grass or soul, you are never alone.

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