Wednesday, January 25, 2006
Dancing With Music (it's not just about the moves!)
From the title of this article you can pretty much guess where I'm going with this. However, I thought I'd really get into some detail here (VISUAL AIDS VISUAL AIDS) to illustrate this.
This came about when I had showed the Swingin New England "Invitational Lindy" clip of us to our class. Even though this was in a contest, what it is to me is a very captivating social dance - something that everyone can enjoy being a part of (you can hear people laughing in the background and you can see people smiling as they watch us) And for me what makes it captivating is that we had a lot of fun and we made our dance very much a part of the music.
The question from a student (lead) was how to start practicing dancing with music and having fun in that way.
The two main things to keep in mind:
1) have a lot of fun.
2) hear the music and react to it.
To achieve both, you need to dedicate some "brain power" to the task. This means thinking less about moves so you can relax more (have fun) and also spend more brain resources on hearing the music. You can go a long way to achieving both by reducing the number of moves you do to the ones you know by muscle memory (usually 10 to 15 percent of what you know). Since they are in muscle memory, your dancing will require less thought and you can ease the pressure of your brain.
The Five Move Dance Formula
You can have a really nifty dance by doing just "five moves". Okay, in reality it's not five moves, but five categories of moves. If you happen to know only one move in each category, then it's five moves.
Oh, and four of the categories are what I would call "formations" or moves. There is one category: mess around which is not really formation or move based. It is freestyle based. So for some of you that are less inhibited you have unlimited moves here. For the more shy and inhibited, you may have zero moves at the ready. More on this later.
Since this article really applies more to the intermediate dancer and above, you should already have a good vocabulary of patterns in each category (except possibly the mess around category). So having one or two moves in each category in your muscle memory should not be much of a stretch.
Okay, so here are the five categories along with a flash demo so you can see what I'm talking about. (YAY VISUAL AIDES!) The categories are color-coded to go with one of the visual aids later in this article. The order of the categories is also based on the visual aids later in this article.
Mess around is freestyle dancing which is either the hardest or easiest thing for people to do. No strict formations or steps required though they are helpful for the more advanced stylings such as the "lollie" variation I do in the demo clip before Sheri goes into her fancy footwork. If you have challenges with this one, I'd just try tip-toeing in place for the entire mess around period. Or possibly hopping on one foot. Or walking like a Jurassic Park dinosaur. Do you think I kid you on all these?
Also try different positions for messing around such as open position, closed position, and side-by-side position.
And by the way, I would loosely categorize side by side Charleston into the mess around category.
Make it more advanced: work on getting an advanced level connection (lead/follow). Then when you mess around she can feel your rhythm through the connection and mess around with you. Such as doing lollies, charleston, etc. Also learning jazz dances REALLY helps here such as Dean Collins Shim Sham and The Big Apple. So instead of tip-toeing through it you can do fishtails, shorty georges, apple jacks, etc.
Send outs basically means from closed to open. Most sendouts you see in Lindy land are the eight count send out. I prefer six count send outs ala the "East Coast Swing" outside push turn (which I do in the demo). Basically any way you go from closed to open I would classify here.
Make it more advanced: Practice your connection and timing on turns. Ladies practice balance and centering for turns. In the demo, my basic six-count sendout is an outside push turn. A more advanced sendout would be the pop turn (or inside turn). From there you have a lot of variations such as pop turn free spin, pop turn left hand, pop turn right hand, pop turn reverse turn a.k.a pop turn push turn, shrimp kabobs, shrimp creole, shrimp burger, shrimp sandwich... that's, that's about it.
Eight count is a basic swing out. And in this category go all the eight count swing out variations like inside turn, outside turn, apache a.k.a. texas tommy, etc.
Make it more advanced: Practice your extension and patience. Your counts "one" and "five" should be prepped by the counts before (eight and four) to make your swingout feel "yummy". Your patience comes in when you let yourself extend all the way out before leading (or being lead) back in. Both of these elements you can see in the demo clip.
Bring to close is what it sounds like ..going from open position to closed position. (It's the reverse of a send out which is going from close to open). So any way which you go from open to close I would classify here. Many people do this with a Lindy Circle (eight count). I again do most of my bring to close in six counts.
I like the bring to close because it sets up the side-by-side mess around.
Make it more advanced: practice doing it in four counts, six counts, eight counts, ten counts, etc. So no matter when you start it, you can add or subtract counts so that when you start your next move (such as a mess around) it will start on count one.
Pull across is also what it sounds like it should be. Basically any move that gets her from one side of you to the other side of you I call a pull across. The most common is a six count underarm turn (like the demo). I also call this a Watch the TV type move. Imagine you're watching a television set and your follow keeps walking in front of you distracting you from what's on television.
Make it more advanced: Use different hands. Add a turn. Have her pass by the back instead of the front. You have a lot of variations you can do here. Right off the bat if you just switch hands you have four variations: (lead's left/follow's right, lead's left/follow's left, lead's right/follow's right, lead's right/follow's left). Practicing good connection in both arms is sufficient. Being ambidextrous helps too!
And that's it!
Those are my five categories.
Now when you dance I don't expect you to try to go through all five moves and think to yourself "okay I've done moves one and three, not a lot of four and five lately so I got to throw those in." If you do that, you go back to thinking too much. The point is more that you don't need a lot of complicated moves to have a really good social dance. It's about having fun and dancing with the music. For me when I'm having fun dancing I tend to need to simplify things so that I can hear the music.
With that in mind, here is the Swingin New England Invitational Lindy clip. I have three versions up here.
The first version is the clip itself. Watch it and see if you can see the five moves/categories in there. Actually, just watch it first like a normal clip and just enjoy it and note how attractive it looks and how handsome I am ... ermm .. or I suppose rather how cute Sheri is. Then watch it again and see if you can see the move categories.
The second version is the clip with a number on the screen letting you know which category I am executing on the screen. So this is here to help you organize your thoughts as to what move I'm doing on screen and what category I'd put it into.
The third version is the clip with a number and subtitle of me telling you outright what category I'd put the move in. Sorry if the captions aren't too readable. I will work on increasing the quality of that and putting up a new version soon.
And as a reminder, here are the five moves/categories:
First Version: Clip only
Second Version: Clip with Category Number
Third Version: Clip with Category Number and Description
In closing what I wanted to illustrate was these steps to improving your dancing with musicality and styling
1) Simplify. We have the five categories of moves here and you need one move in the five "move" categories. Thus the "five move dance" theory.
2) Listen to music. You have brainpower to spare now with your 15% move utilization. Use it to listen to music.
3) Slowly increase your move vocab back up. As you start learning to listen to music, start throwing more moves back in. Also start taking other dances (hip hop or tap) to increase body movement vocabulary. And learn The Big Apple or Dean Collins Shim Sham (or both!) since both dances are chock full of great jazz steps and movements to increase your mess around vocabulary.
4) Have Fun Dance freely. This is also a part of step 3) since dancing freely helps increase your mess around vocabulary. But moreso, this is what I think makes for an inspiring, attractive, and captivating dance. Not just the great technique or moves but that you can visually see a couple in tune with each other and the music. Of course if you think the original clip actually was not that attractive, then maybe this all doesn't apply to you but you still read through the whole article now didn't you?
5) Seriously, have fun! And this needs to be repeated. Also I didn't want to end on the number "four".
Have fun and good luck!
Your Comments And Questions: