Category Archives: Sweet Moves Your Grandma Can’t Do

The Lindy Hop Mating Call: The Story Behind The Silly Sound

So, I’ll just go ahead and make my shameless plug now to get it out of the way. If you haven’t signed up 505 Stomp yet, you should. Seriously, it’s going to be really awesome. I’m super excited about it, I know the instructors are really excited about it, and you should be too.

Today I’m telling you the story that led up to this:

It all started about a year ago when I was hanging out with some friends, when Dani Easley and I created this noise randomly to annoy Kevin Clark. It succeeded gloriously. It rapidly began to be used for other situations too, like cheering Brett Dahlenburg up when he was being a grouchy pants, or making each other laugh by seeing how loud we could make the noise.

It wasn’t until we had a lindy bomb in the early spring and made the noise that someone said that it sounds like a mating call for lindyhoppers. And so that’s what we called it. The point of the mating call is to make the noise when you don’t have anyone to dance with, and someone will be attracted to you and immediately run up and start dancing with you. In non-dancing environments, it can also be used as a call of distress or to find others in large crowds. We swore at that moment we’d make a video of it. Someday. Somehow.

Fast forward to July, we’re at The Rhythm Is Jumpin’, and after a few people hear this noise, I promise them I’d do it during the finals of a contest. And thus I did at about 1:09:

I’m pretty sure one of the judges broke his clipboard from pounding it on the ground from laughing so hard.

Fast forward to September. I had no idea about this until yesterday, actually, but Sarah Carney created this in inspiration of TRIJ 2011.

It’s spreading. And before you know you’ll be making the noise too. It’ll start in your home, by yourself as to not embarass yourself. You’ll tell your friends about it, make the noise for them. They’ll make it too. See how fast it spreads? It’ll be a thing. Just wait.

Oh, and don’t forget. 505 Stomp. The whole reason that video was made.


Let’s Get Our Walk On

I’m finally back from my hiatus, which was mostly due to writer’s block and being too busy to sit down to think about something worthwhile to talk about.

But let’s be honest here: I’m a human, who’s constantly thinking of ideas and concepts and hypotheticals just like everyone else. I’ve spent plenty of time thinking, and I was probably sitting at some point of that too.

And then I finally realized what I wanted to talk about. Walking. Walking is kinda cool.

THE END

But seriously, have you ever thought about how you walk? If I’m not mistaken, humans and Bigfoot are the only creatures that walk upright all the time. And think about how you walk. You usually roll through your foot, into the ball and off the toes. You don’t even have to think about it when you do it. It’s so natural. And before you even take your first step to walk somewhere, you body moves first to give you the momentum to move forward or backward.

And have you ever thought about how often you spend your life standing on just one foot? Rarely are both of your feet even on the ground as you walk. Our bodies are built to have strong balance.

Finally, when you walk you constantly are keeping a pace and a rhythm. Boom.

As swing dancers, we often times don’t take advantage of what our bodies can do. Someone can not think about walking all their life, and suddenly they’re on the dance floor not knowing how to even move their arms or legs. And sometimes, if you’re not careful, you might end up like this guy.

So how do you translate the techniques of running into dancing?

1. Use the ball of the foot. It gives you more agility and more stability than your entire foot or the heel. Plus, it’s a lot easier to get momentum pushing off the ball of the foot rather than the heel.

2. Committing your weight to every single step you take. I’ve been watcing a lot of beginning and intermediate dancers lately, and the biggest issue I’ve noticed in their dancing is they don’t commit their weight, especially during a triple step. There’s a lot of tapping going on. But if you just put your weight into your foot, you’re suddenly making yourself more balanced, more grounded, and you’re completed each move more, which will make your dancing overall feel a lot better.

3. Maintain a pace and a rhythm. As a dancer, your basic pace and rhythm is given to you by the song you’re dancing to. Just keep it consistent.

Watch how this guy runs. You can probably skip the first minute or so, but his body stays directly over his feet all the time. If you skip to about 1:50, you can watch him run in slow motion.

He’s got a constant rhythm and pace going through his body; he rolls through his foot and pushes off the ball of the foot. And he’s ALWAYS on one foot, but his balance isn’t an issue because he’s committing his weight to every step. His body is also moving collectively; there’s no white noise, he doesn’t have a crazy leg shaking while the other one is still running.

Now check out Skye and Frida from ILHC 2009. This is a great video to watch how they commit their weight to each step.

How Skye and Frida are moving isn’t much different from the runner. Their bodies are still directly over their feet, they roll through their feet and push off with the ball of the foot. Their entire body moves as one unit. And they’re constantly letting the rhythm and pace of their bodies (and the song) carry them through the dance.

Swing dancing is just like walking, only fancier. And to music. Just think about it.


Lindy Focus: In The Classroom

So, back to Lindy Focus. I thought one of Focus’ strengths was the classes and they were well done for many reasons. One, everyone wore their spiffy name tags, so it made it easier to remember people, and on the back of each name tag was your class schedule, so you didn’t have to carry a booklet around with you all day long. Two, the classes all seemed really well structured. While I only took about half of the classes in my own track, I sat in on several other classes, and all the instructors had really great material they were teaching.

My favorite class of the week was with Kevin St. Laurent and Jo Hoffberg. The only thing we really did in their class was work on counter balance. We’ve all heard this term before and know we’re supposed to have it with our partners, but after taking this class I realized myself how little I was actually using it.

Their whole premise was to create stretch through using counter balance, instead of whatever the rest of us were doing. Many of the leads realized they were physically pushing their follows away with their arms in attempt to create stretch, or they weren’t using their entire body to create the counter balance. Many follows weren’t equalling the counter balance that their leads were asking from them.

One of the most important points for me was something Jo said specifically to the follows, which was to work on keeping your shoulders down and your lats engaged. This will do a couple of things for you. First, it keeps your shoulder from rolling forward, which maintains the integrity of your stretch, and second, it causes you to have better posture. It also causes you to engage your abs slightly. She also mentioned keeping your arm at (I’ll just be frank about it) boob level instead of allowing your arm to slide upwards. This also helps maintain the integrity of your stretch.

Here’s a video of Nina Gilkenson. If you watch her right shoulder, it really stays in line with the rest of her body.

These few things instantly changed everyone’s dancing in class. Suddenly, I had so much more momentum with my partners, and I could feel them move so much more clearly, which helped me be a better follow. The other thing that changed that I wasn’t really expecting, was that it became so much easier to twist my hips. They felt so much more disjointed and I could twist further each way on 7 and 8 without putting in any additional effort.

It definitely takes so time getting used to this change in posture, especially since almost everyone slouches when they’re just standing around, but try it out. The class was a miracle worker for me.


Where’s the Inspiration?

This is my fourth time around today trying to talk about inspiration. My premise was going to be talking about how to get inspired when you’re in a dance slump. But everything was sounding so…stupid. I was trying to make lists of things to do to feel inspired, I was trying to chalk up my own experiences to talk about, but it was just all blech.

So I took a break. I went out for a few hours and cleared my head for a while. I came back and remembered my goal for today and sat back down and, well, here I am, blabbing.

How do you talk about inspiration? Where does it come from? What inspires YOU to dance?

(And, isn’t it just so ironic that the post in which I wanted to talk about inspiration, I couldn’t write anything because I didn’t have any inspiration to do so?)

And while I sit here trying to think about what to say, there’s only one thing I keep thinking about. It’s a clip I watch whenever I need some inspiration.

This is the Silver Shadows performing their tribute to Frankie Manning at Frankie 95. I think this is the Shadows’ best routine yet. It’s absolutely seamless, and the choreography is simply brilliant. The first time I saw this routine was at Frankie 95, just a month after Frankie passed. The energy in the room while they were performing was overwhelming; it was…emotional. And the video still shows a good representation of the energy in the room. The Shadows were exuding so much energy. You can see them putting their hearts out on the floor with all they’ve got. Their routine touched me on such a deep emotional level when they performed it that sometimes I still come to tears when I watch it.

I hope you guys enjoy it too.

“The truest expression of a people is in its dance and in its music. Bodies never lie.”- Agnes de Mille