DallasLindy part 3: Who walks out?

I attended a total of 9 workshop sessions at DallasLindy, with each session being 1 hour.

Most of them were taught by the heavily inked Todd or Faulty and their respective follows, Casey and Pamela. (realizing this fact, I questioned whether or not getting tattoos would make me a better dancer)

In lieu if boring everyone to death with my exact minute thoughts for each and every workshop, I will limit myself to one sentence to summarize the overall message of each session and one sentence to summarize my impression of the session.

Let’s go!

My 1st session (Day 2) — Faulty & Casey: Building a Dance

What’s it about? A session about listening to music and creating different “characters” to match the energy of that part of music (building up the energy of a dance.)
What did I think? Walking out of this session, I was really only thinking about the fact that Faulty had all the leads lead head nods and bounces for the first 2 phrases of a dance, no rock-steps even. Clever.

My 2nd session — Faulty & Casey: Call & Answer

What’s it about? Faulty taught the dynamics of call and answer lead-following, even teaching us how to lead a call-and-answer session from scratch.
What did I think? I think I had the MOST fun in this session; There is a certain simplistic joy present in imitating your follow’s variation.

My 3rd session — Josh & Shannon: Fun With Lindy

What’s it about? Josh & Shannon taught the group 2 quite performy combinations that I will likely never whip out on the social floor.
What did I think? Honestly, when I walked out of that session, the ONLY thing in my mind was the fact that I can’t walk under my own arm because of how huge my head is…

My 4th session — Todd & Pamela: Fascinating Rhythym (note, it is pam-EL-a, not PAM-el-a)

What’s it about? Todd (with his fabulously tattooed arms) gave us a few of his favorite tap-based variations, and Pamela (who apparently has jelly legs when doing variations) taught the girls some of her favorite variations.
What did I think? I actually quite liked Pamela’s variations, which involve twisting stomps, but Todd’s variations are less my style, since they are based on stationary tap.

My 5th session — Todd & Pamela: St. Louis Shag

What’s it about? The pair taught us the basic of the St. Louis Shag (triple-step, double kick, step- stomp, hangman) along with a few of the simpler combinations.
What did I think? St. Louis Shag is a fun dance, but it is SO TIRING. Done. Next.

My 6th session (Day 3) — Brad & Jessica: Hitting that Note

What’s it about? These local instructors gave us a few of their favorite 32 count combinations to use while not connected with our partners, particularly for use in competition.
What did I think? It was nice to walk out knowing these sequences, but I honestly forgot them immediately after the session ended.

My 7th session — Faulty & Casey: Alternatives to Lindy

What’s it about? Faulty and Casey taught us a few other basic steps, including 2-step, snake, 20’s foxtrot, and others that I forgot the names of.
What did I think? I am so upset with myself for forgetting my favorite basic that they taught (It was a faster, almost West Coasty step… It was even the last one we learned!)

My 8th session — Faulty & Casey: Practicing and Your Own Variations

What’s it about? Faulty and Casey discussed the importance of individual practice and had us create our own variations, then teach someone else that variation.
What did I think? I think this was the most beneficial session as a whole for everyone; having us teach one another our variations was a nice touch.

My 9th session — Todd & Pamela: Momentum and Hadoukens

What’s it about? Todd taught the guys one of his favorite combinations to exit a Hammerlock – a move he calls the “Hadouken” because of the fireball-like nature of the move.
What did I think? It’s always nice to incorporate video games into my dancing. Thanks to Todd for that one.

Thanks for reading my silly summary, Internet. More later.

DallasLindy Part2: I walk in!

So, apparently I am considered advanced.

After dancing a few songs, I was one of 7 leads who was given a pink wristband, forever identifying me to all as an advanced level Lindy Hopper.

I was given the band and sat down, watching the other dancers who didn’t receive a wristband, many of whom were measurably more experienced than I.

I understand that only a limited number of people can take the advanced class, otherwise the intermediate class would be empty. Also, there were like…. Twice as many follows, which is ridiculous.

Anyways, just wanted to update you, readers, because…. It’s kind of cool.

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DallasLindy: Who walks in?

Salutations Internet!

This weekend, I will be attending the Dallas Swing Dance Society’s annual Lindy Hop conference, DallasLindy.

I have only been to one other dance conference, Lindyfest, but that experience definitely differs from my expectations for DallasLindy.

At Lindyfest, I participated in the beginner’s track — an all-day workshop designed for complete newbies to Lindy Hop.

The memories I associate with LindyFest are of grandeur, of naïveté.

This time, after a four hour drive to the Dallas Opera Rehearsal Center, I entered the small lobby that reminded me of my years in high school choir.

Walking past the repurposed music practice rooms — now heavily decorated and labeled with Advanced, Intermediate, or Beginner — I looked at the purple wristband that designated me as an intermediate dancer.

I wrapped the band around my arm (albeit too tight) and affixed the paper strip on my wrist before walking into the “Intermediate” room. The room, filled with dozens of dancers also wearing purple wristbands, was for tryouts to place out of the intermediate classes and into the advanced ones.

Judges walked around the dance floor under the harsh fluorescent lights of the repurposed band practice room as they tightly held the coveted pink wristbands.

They eyed the dancing couples, silently deciding who had enough skill to be considered advanced and handing them the bands.

Watching the wide eyed auditionees dance their hearts our for a pink piece of paper, I was reminded of the purple(violet?) wristband that tightly hugged my right wrist.

For me, being allowed to wear this accessory was simply a matter of checking the box on the registration form that asked “Dance level? Beginner, Intermediate, Advanced (tryouts required)”

Having danced Lindy for only three months, I know that I am far from being considered truly intermediate or even anywhere near advanced, but calling myself just a beginner eats at my overly competitive pride.

On the other hand, calling myself intermediate is definitely a stretch, even a bit pretentious on my part.

Nonetheless, DallasLindy will hold a second round of Advanced class auditions, at which you will find me — wide eyed and dancing my heart out for a simple strip of paper.

Semester finished: Endless lead/following begins

Photo by the lovely Robin Carlson of Dance Force Productions (http://www.danceforceproductions.com/Home.html) — Picture of me(Jay Nguyen) and Clara(not my partner, but an awesome dancer)

I danced again for the first time in a few weeks.

Now that finals are over for the semester, I have much more time to devote to updating this blog!

Amid the confusion and stress of finals week (technically a week and a half) I was forced to miss a practice of Hepcats/Prepcats. Despite the fact that it was just one rehearsal, I found myself lost the next day at the following practice.

We rehearsed the routines that we are performing on Saturday and addressed the difference between tension and counterbalance.

It was also the first day that I danced with my assigned follow in a few weeks.

As I tried to focus on Justin M’s illustration of the paradigm of Lindy known as tension, my mind wandered to the synergy and cohesion that he had with his partner, Alexis.

They seemed to have a balance and energy present in siblings for best friends, but I wondered if Ashley and I would ever develop that.

I sit here in the lobby of Chocolate Bar, next to my partner and watch the dozen-or-so people dance to a swing rendition of “Joshua Fit the Battle,” all the while musing about our future in dance.

Though the experience and maturity of Justin M’s and Alexis’ lead/follow relationship are far from my current reach, my and Ashley’s first few weeks as a Lindy Team have been promising.

Fingers crossed for a good year with Ashley (to whom this post is dedicated.)

For dancers only: Why do I dance?

My major is Music Theory and Composition. Two years into my undergraduate degree, I’ve performed in dozens of concerts and memorized hundreds of songs.

This comes up after watching the SwingNation podcast at Yehoodi.com, where the hosts had a short discussion about why dancers dance (do they choreograph dances for the general public? or do they do it “for dancers only”)

My musings regarding this was exacerbated when I heard a feature on NPR that focused on a potential scam involving a man amassing art in his autistic son’s stead. The man contacted artists and told them that his son connected with the art by the artist; he often would eventually convince the artists to send him pieces of art.

The reporter discovered that many artists still sent art, despite their reserves about the legitimacy of the situation.

The reporter ended the report with a few simple words that rang in my mind for the last minutes before pulling up in front of my house:

If you want to buy my art, great. If you love my art, even better.

I feel like this pretty much summarizes my experience and thoughts behind any kind of performance I do. Sure, it’s awesome if you want to pay to see me sing or act or dance, but if my performance touches you in some way, I know that I have succeeded as an artist.

 

(Apologies for the late post. It’s finals week and I got lost in the mess of essays and tests.)

Who am I?: (I’m not Jean Valjean)

So, I’ve been thinking a lot lately about where I fit into Lindy Hop.

Many of my non-dancer friends are really interested in what I do with Lindy (they consider me really good.) They have asked me to teach them some basics, which I do to my best ability since I believe dance should be shared with everyone.

Anyways, I decided to mix things up a bit from my regular novel posts and write a rhyme (not a poem, just thoughts in rhyme form)

I like to dance and like to sing

and act and write and other things,

but “Who am I?” I like to ask

to know who I am seems a hard task.

I’ve only danced for months on end

but I love the hop and love the friends.

I’ve sang for many, many years,

singing wrong notes — I have no fear.

My life belongs upon the stage,

to stop seems odd, unruly, strange.

My job is writing (writing news)

something I don’t want to lose.

The question, still, is Who I am.

What defines me as a Man?

Though I have no answer now,

I fake an answer with this short vow:

“Who cares about who I am at this point in time?

I’m having fun, hooray, no rhyme.”

#Lindyhop: Considering Lindy at a journalism symposium

Today, I am at the International Symposium on Online Journalism, an event in Austin that concerns journalism in a rapidly online world (surprise surprise).

The majority of the conference centered on social media, along with its evolution and involvement in different events. So, I thought to myself,

How has social media interacted with Lindy?

I searched the hash tag #lindyfest, which revealed surprisingly few tweets. The swing dancing subreddit on reddit has only a few thousand subscribers total.

One if our goals for this year as Prepcats and Hepcats is expanding and spreading the Lindy Hop scene as a whole.

If one of those methods is through social media, then more power to us. I’ll likely bring up how we are using social media at our next meeting. (There were literally two tweets about LindyFest, an event that had easily over a hundred attendees)

While sitting in the crowded auditorium with hundreds of journalists and professionals from around the world, their iPads and laptops illuminating their faces as a panel of five discussed the importance of responsiveness, I thought about how “responsive” we are making Lindy Hop.

Though responsiveness for websites refers to how easily they ‘respond’ to access via different platforms (such as via a phone or tablet instead of a regular computer), I considered this so-called “dance responsiveness” a quality of Lindy that describes how easy it is for others to grasp.

I’m not referring to the effectiveness of teachers or how easy the dance is to learn itself – everyone learns at a different rate. What I’m trying to say is:

How accessible are we, as Lindy Hoppers, making Lindy?

This thought was galvanized by the memory of last Sundy at the regular social dance that I attend each week. By the end of the fifth or six song that night, all the fresh, eager eyes crowding the beginner classes have all but vanished.

When I looked around the curiously barren dance floor at 9:30 p.m., a short hour after the start of social dance, each and every face is one that is characterized by experience and dedication.

All the beginners are gone.

This is echoed in my beginner classes that I took in March, which began with well over 20 each week and dwindled down to a measley 8 couples by the end of the month.

The biggest discussion on my mind for the next meeting with my fellow dancers will be one that parallels a major theme of one of the presentations at the symposium today.

1. How do we engage the participants(readers) and encourage them to continue dancing(return to the site) and
2. Do we measure the success of the dance scene (website) in number of new faces(unique visits) or in number of dedicated dancers(engaged users)?