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One2Swing Daily
Thursday, January 06, 2005

Working On the Lindy Basic (Leads)

Happy 2005! Woo Hoo!

Originally I wanted to write some sort of list of New Year's resolutions ... things like:

"I resolve to bring at least three extra shirts when I go dancing."
"I resolve to not look at the ground so much."
"I resolve to only throw in three slides per song."

And basically I realized I was not in a very humor-writing mood. Heck I couldn't even think of a fourth example in the above list, and the first three are not even that funny.

I guess when the inspiration strikes, it strikes, and I'm inspired to write more about dancing. Especially after some positive comments (well .. two to be exact. And thanks the two of you!) on my 'Thoughts On Connection' article.

So here it is: "Working On the Lindy Basic"
(a.k.a. Online Lindy Lessons from One2Swing)
(a.k.a. Ben wants to play with paintshop)

Anyhow... this will focus on the Leads for now. Follows will ..well.. be in a "following" article .. so to speak.

*ha ha*

Okay, since Sheri and I have been teaching a large variety of different levels lately we've noticed we teach the basic a tad different depending on each level. So we'll just tackle it that way. Here is what I recommend you work on for your Lindy Basic starting with beginner level and working our way to the advanced level.

Beginning Lindy Hop Basic

a.k.a. getting the rhythm and the pulse

Naturally, the most important part is actually getting the steps right. It helps you get the rhythm and timing of swing. There's really no way around it. Though Sheri and I cover technique in our beginning classes, realize that technique is hard to grasp when you aren't even sure where you're supposed to be or what foot you should be on, not to mention on what count you should be doing all this. So know the steps. In fact it almost seems like the Lindy Hop Basic steps, when properly done, were designed in such a way to force you to "feel" the pulse of the Swing Music when properly done.

Below is a little online lesson for doing the Lindy Hop basic for the leads. Just click the "Play" button.

Lindy Hop Online Basic Lesson Leads

(press only once. may take time to load)

A few key points:

1. The steps stay relatively small
You are acting as an anchor for the lady. Beginners often tend to step big to make sure they don't run into the follow and they give the follow a lot of room. While the gentlemanly thoughts are appreciated, to get a nice swingout you need to anchor more. And while that is a technique discussion, just know that you shouldn't really have to move to far, and the steps you take will not change size that much, just direction.

2. Counts ONE and FIVE are the most important
Thus the counts are in red. Those are the steps you LEAD the follow in the direction you want to her to go. On a swingout, on count ONE you go back (and the follow come forward). On count FIVE out of close position you step back to send the follow back on her way.

3. Count FIVE is usually the most challenging
Just from experience it seems the Count FIVE is the hardest. Notice first it is on the right foot. Because on Count ONE leads step back on the left, it seems that they want to do this again on Count FIVE. If you do the step-step, triple-step, your weight will be on your left on Count FOUR. Thus the next step (Count FIVE) should be on your right.

Notice I also pretty much make a right angle step to my right. Many leads will take a much larger step (probably to make sure the follow has enough room to pass ... again, very gentlemanly but don't do it) but it's not required. In all the basic Lindy variations my Count FIVE on my right is always the same.

4. The triple steps are not evenly spaced
It's not tri-ple-step. It's Triiiiiiiii-ple Step. The first step of the triple is on count THREE and is twice as long as the second step which is on count AND, the third step is on count FOUR and equals the sum of count THREE and count AND to give us the basic: ONE,TWO,THREE-AND-FOUR,FIVE,SIX,SEVEN-AND-EIGHT.

To use a math equation, you could almost roughly say:


*hee hee .. math*

Intermediate Lindy Hop Basic

a.k.a. getting the body lead down

This is where you start to really focus on the "leading" and "following" portion of it.

Okay strike that. Actually this is where most people tend to really focus on all the cool and tricky moves. The double turns, apache quick stop, swivels, earthquaker shaker, sexophonic, chocolate thunder flying robinzin crying, etc.

Also, at this level, when people work on improving their basic, their connection, and their technique, that's when we start to see the "lead" and "follow" with the body rather then the steps, and the basic footwork starts to become more a styling than a necessity.

Now this topic could actually be covered in a series of essays, or even a series of workshops and lessons, but I'll point out a few things I think are important. Check the following diagram of our two leads: Johnny Be GoodLead and Grumpy McGrumpster on count ONE of the Lindy basic.

Good and Bad Lindy Hop Technique

Johnny Be GoodLead is doing a number of admirable things:

A. He is leading with his body
His body has moved backwards which allows him to lead his follow in (by being connected at the arm). You'll notice his feet stay under him and keep him balanced. The reason his left foot moves back is because his body has moved back and his left foot moves back so that he will not fall. With this clear body lead a well-connected dance pair will find the follow coming forward with ease.

B. He is smiling
Probably because he has a nice clean lead and it feels simply gorgeous!

C. Dean Collins Arm
Not to push one styling over another but just wanted you all to notice that I put that in the diagram.

D. Note his feet.
The reason his left foot stepped back on the basic is NOT because he stepped back, but because his body (see A) moved back and for his feet to stay under him as a consequence his left foot moved back. It's important enough that I point it out twice.

On the other hand, take a look at Grumpy McGrumpster

E. He is not leading with his body
Note that his left leg is stepping back on its own. If you just step back your body may not move back with your leg and that does not send a sign to your follow to come in. A well-connected follow will simply feel no lead and stay in place.

F. He is not smiling
Probably because it doesn't feel so smooth. But even if it doesn't, he should still smile and have fun. No reason to be a grump. Even though he got some mad angry monobrow (sorry, I'm not the best artist).

G. Note the overdeveloped left bicep
As a result of not "leading" the follow in with the body, to get the follow to actually come in Grumpy McGrumpster has been compensating by pulling with his left arm. As beginners become intermediates this is the one thing to be on the lookout for with your basic: the step back followed by a latent bicep pull. It's very common and once understood why this is happening and how to correct it, the intermediate lead can develop.

H. Note his feet
He's wearing steel-toed boots. That's a no-no. And yes, there are people who have worn steel-toed boots when swing dancing ... (errhmm..*sheepish grin*)

Here is our second illustration with our two leads. This is count FOUR of the Lindy Basic (but the principles apply to all the counts).

Good and Bad Lindy Hop Technique

Johnny Be GoodLead is doing wonderfully!

A. Notice his body is upright
First, this usually means he is leading with his body. He is not pitched forward or pitched back (when you see that, it usually means the feet go first and the body tries to catch up. Note that instead he is fairly upright).

Second, for count FOUR specifically it's very important to stay upright, almost like you're going to sit in a chair (the dashed grey line). The strongest force on a surface is that which is perpindicular to the surface. In this case, since Johnny Be GoodLead is mostly vertical, that allows the strongest force (green arrows) a.k.a. the connection to be horizontal which is great because that's PARALLEL TO THE DANCE FLOOR! This provides optimum connection for his follow. Go Johnny Go!

B. He's smiling!
Correct or incorrect technique, or learning, or experimenting, or whatever, his joyous smile is contagious and makes the dance fun

Uh oh...now look at Grumpy McGrumpster

E. His body is leaning (not upright).
First, on any count, that is a typical sign of leading feet first. Always a bad lead technique.

Though it is important to mention that the OTHER reason you might see this is if the lead is actually LEADING with his body and it's just a matter of his feet not being able to catch up with his body yet. In this case this is good because he has the right idea and he's just in the awkward stage of his feet getting used to it. As an example this could have been what Johnny Be GoodLead looked like a few months ago.

Anyhow, in the case of Grumpy, with count FOUR his leaning back is somewhat common with beginners that are not comfortable yet placing part of the balance on their follow. This is what happens when you sit ... you are counting on the follow to counter-balance you so neither of you fall. So the lead not comfortable with that yet will arch his back (similar to leaning backwards). What this does is give an unclear signal to your partner. As the strongest force is that perpindicular to the surface, we see that his body is at an angle. So the strongest force/connection his partner will feel is either a lifting up into the air or a driving down into the ground (red arrows). If this continues with reckless abandon both partners may fall off balance or get injured by having their shoulders "wookie-ized" in an effort to protect themselves from falling.

F. And he's grumpy
What's wrong with him anyhow?

So to sum up... lead with your body and let your feet do what it needs to do. And don't lean backwards. Pitching forward slightly is fine, or staying mostly upright, but don't lean back. Sit in the chair (Johnny Be GoodLead's dotted gray line), do not go down the slide (Grumpy McGrumpster's dotted gray line). Incindentally, when you hear gals saying "yeah I don't like it when the guys do slides" ..this is what they're talking about ..the guy sliding down a slide instead of sitting in the chair ..

Advanced Lindy Hop Basic

a.k.a. adding the spice!

I can't speak for every advanced dancer, but not surprisingly what Sheri and I and numerous other advanced dancers work on are perfecting all of the above. Perfecting the Beginning Lindy Hop Basic with timing, pulse, and rhythm. Perfecting the Intermediate Lindy Hop Basic with moving with our bodies and being aware of our connection and frame.

The neat thing is that once you can provide really good stable connection, you can do so many other things ... yes, even leaning backwards. What is more exciting is that a good body connection allows your extremeties (feet, hands) to do some major styling.

In one example, this means that the Lindy basic footwork is a styling and not a necessity. That also means it can be abandoned for other footwork and variations during a Lindy Basic. I have outlined an example below of a variation on the basic which I commonly do.

Lindy Hop Online Basic Lesson Leads

(press only once. may take time to load)

Hope this was helpful!
p.s. I love visual aides!

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