Ninjammerz photo shoot at beach.
(Well, @muchmadnessisdivinestsense posted Sarah Breck’s great post about women and heels in Lindy hop, so I figured I should post Dax Hock’s response post about men and heels. And other things such as shoe material. My girlfriend/partner and I have been talking about these two posts all summer long, especially since we’re currently trying to figure out the best shoes to dance with in each venue we normally attend).
This post is is related to Sarah’s post on why ladies should conquer wearing heels. I would like to elaborate based on my personal experience why I believe learning to dance in Hard Leather Dress shoes dramatically enhanced both my dance technique, leading technique, style, range of variations and best of all….how I looked in a suit.
I used to be ANTI-slick shoes. Of course I was; I couldn’t slide for sh*t and doing a swing out felt darn near impossible without slipping around like Bambi. Seriously, what lead wants to look like Bambi? Exactly. The immediate disappointment always kept the good ol’ slick shoes in hibernation. Not to mention, I had subtlety convinced myself that dancing in street shoes or moreover “stickier” shoes was the cool thing to do. Obviously, for me, those days are long gone, but if you are finding yourself in “similar shoes” then I insist you read on and hopefully get the motivation to eventually conquer the slick’s.
I now dance 95% of the time in my Hard Leather Dress Shoes. The remaining 5% I use hard rubber Dress shoes, when I need extreme control and power with no room for error. An example would be doing a routine like “Jitters” where we are dancing full stretched Swing Outs at over 300 bpm. Here we are all in hard rubber shoes. The girls are also not in Heels. This is an example of that remaining 5%, at least for me personally.
Full article at Dax & Sarah’s awesome website.
Full article at Dax & Sarah’s awesome website.
“Growing up in the Lindy scene I have heard so many times how women should wear heels because that’s what women are suppose to do. We are women and women wear heels. Now I loved that traditional ideal but I never could get past the FEELING that being in heels gave me. Every attempt I had made to…
Dax Hock & Sarah Breck, US Open Swing Dance Championships Cabaret (2010)
Because I pretty much am in love with them, here’s a slightly off-topic video of Dax & Sarah from US Open Swing doing a wonderful tap routine to one of my favorite songs ever from one of my favorite movies ever. Stuff like this reminds me that sometimes, in order to get better in one thing, you gotta do something else completely different. Tap and swing are usually, at best, tangentially related. You get several tap-style moves in the Shim Sham routine (and its variations), but to be a Lindy hopper or Charleston dancer, you’re not exactly required to nail down tap technique.
This performance is particularly entertaining because of just how faithful it is to the original version by Gene Kelly and Donald O’Connor, but also because of how they’ve adapted it in lieu of having a third person, a set, a table, chairs, etc. Here’s the original for reference: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p3YWWfnWBJM
West Coast Wednesday: Pete Green & Sarah Breck, US Open Swing Dance Championships 2009
The level of auto-tune in the song they choose is absolutely ridiculous. It’s fun to listen to nonetheless.
If I have any issue with this video, it’s not the choreography or the costumes or the attitude. It’s the fact that you can’t hear the audience reaction and instead only hear the music. I really, really wish I could hear the audience cheering during the “FREEZE!” segments, because those seem like moves that could bring down the house, especially the first time they do it. Or I could be wrong and there was no audience cheering. In which case, what the hell, audience!? (Perhaps they’ve edited clips from the 2010 championships to reflect audience approval, though).
Anyway. I love Sarah Breck. Sarah looks like she’d been born to do the Lindy hop, though—this video includes an aerial straight out of Hellzapoppin’ towards the beginning. When we were hanging out in Montreal, she told me that she initially started doing Lindy hop as a teenager, but at the time, she didn’t really know of the big stars in the field and it was still largely based in old school moves. She found more of an affinity to West Coast Swing instead and pursued that for several years before getting back into the Lindy scene during its present new school resurgence.
WCS gets a lot of hate from the Lindy community for some reason. Whether it’s the aesthetics or its choice of music or its breaks from even Hollywood-style Lindy hop, people do leverage legitimate criticisms of the genre. Nonetheless, I actually do love it and wouldn’t mind picking up a little bit more of the dance to add to my overall vernacular. Priorities, first though. Dean Collins Hollywood-style Lindy moves, here I come! (Fast Lindy workshop with Jeremy & Laura tonight!)
Me: “You don’t mind if I stay up late watching videos of you two dancing, do you?”
So Dax & Sarah are crashing at my place. It’s awesome. My girlfriend and I took them out to dinner and we spent the whole evening talking Lindy Hop theory. The two (and the Ninjammerz crew in general) share a certain philosophy that I’d been thinking about but never actually really formed words about.
Dancers come into the Lindy Hop scene wanting to replicate so many of these moves, some of them classic, some of them new school, most of them incredibly flashy. From my own personal experience, I learned the same way most newbies learn: here’s the basic step pattern. Here’s where your arms go. Here’s how you lead the move. Here’s how you follow. Now, do it on the social floor!
It’s a flawed system, but effective. But it also prioritizes the flash before the technique: in fact, I’ve only just begun to concentrate on what it really means to lead from the body. And it feels like I’m starting all over again.
A lot of conversation in Lindy Hop circles is about connection being “strong” or “light.” The opinion I was forming before talking with Dax and Sarah tonight was that I shouldn’t care whether I’m being either—what matters is that the connection is clear. The descriptors “strong” and “light” refer to expectations that you have but what your partner might not: my idea of a strong lead might be considered light by a follower. But if your connection is clear, if you’re truly dancing as two connected bodies rather than as a mere leader and follower couple, so many things happen.
The video above is a performance, yes, but several of these moves can be led socially, given clear communication between the dancers. So much goes into understanding how to control your own movements and how to respond appropriately so that you send the right signals and eradicate superfluous or confusing ones.
Interestingly, Dax said that (as opposed to what I said earlier in this tumblr), the way to mastery isn’t through instruction but from love and practice: the best dancers don’t get where they are because they take a certain number of classes, decide they’re ready, and then step out onto the international scene. They get there because they take what they’ve learned and then, with their partners, take it to a whole new level by discovering just how their bodies really move and work.
I need to get back out on the dance floor. Right now.