So I’m going to do something a little different. This past weekend I went to one of the top recommended swing dance events in the United States: Stompology in Rochester, NY. It was such an inspiring weekend and I took a LOT of notes. So I thought that the best way to talk about the weekend would be to transcribe those notes, add in stuff that I thought about later, and then my thoughts on what happened. This isn’t going to be following any type of story format of “First… then… and… then…”, but hopefully still coherent and informative and thoughtful.
Also, before I begin, all photos are credited to Devon Rowland Photography. I had the distinct pleasure of being housed with this lovely lady and let me tell you: she is as beautiful as her pictures. Please go; check her page out; like it; support the arts!
How it’s going to work:
Notes taken during the workshop will be in bold.
Anything additional to the notes in a constructive way will be in italics.
Any extra thoughts/opinions will be in plain typeface.
Got it? Got it.
Andrew Nemr – Tap 1
Tap warm up:
Heel (Drop) LRLR…,
Repeat Double on all feet.
I wrote this down for future reference.
Body Awareness w/ Evita Arce & Andrew Nemr
The Center of the Body = Center of Motion Basically, all movement should come from your core. I’ve been told repeatedly to move “into” the ground. It wasn’t until last summer (2013), with Ryan Francois, where I realized how difficult it was to move across the floor. (Not difficult, but I definitely couldn’t skate across the floor in a short amount of time.) The idea that movement comes through the center was a visualization that blew my mind. It also reminded me of what Evita once said to me: That tap dancers only strike the ground when they want to make a sound.
Be aware of which foot you favor when: you stand still; walk up the stairs; walk down the stairs; walk; run; etc. I’m pretty sure I go from right to left easily due to always starting on my left for marching band, but just naturally being right handed as well.
PRACTICE BALANCING – this is underlined twice, I guess as a reminder for me – be aware of ankle/knee/core/shoulders.
Spread out the toes when balancing on the ball of the foot. This increases surface area, making it easy to balance.
Bend knee and lean forward.
Exercise: drop down without jumping up. (Remove the feet out from under you.) Hold tummy/glutes.
EVITA SAYS HONOR THE BEAT! (This was a theme for the weekend.)
Counterbalancing: using your arms and upper body to move the legs; always counterbalance with the opposite extremity. Remember the Vitruvian Man.
Exercise: rock step from shoulder to core to foot. (Core connected vs. disconnected.)
Jazz Blue Print with Juan Villafane
Jockey – Rock forward, back. Usually step-pulse. TRY pulse-step.
Charleston variation – kick, triple, step, kick. Kick-ball-change, triple step. (side to side – like crossover)
Tri (Back)-ple (Back)-Step (Forward) – Siska-boom-bah – Triple Step Hop Hop.
Knowing the basics (rock step, jockey) you can do anything.
From Laura Glaess –
Memorizing the “sound” of the choreography (scatting). The song tells you what to do.
Slow Dancing (Solo) with Falty & Evita
Engage everything from core to finger tips. Falty said that he sweats more from slow solo dancing than fast because it requires more control. Find movement in every day life. (Putting on a coat; going shopping; etc.) Do a daily routine via blues solo for Falty!
Turning: keep shoulders parallel to the ground for balance. “Push” hands out through honey.
On Teaching Beginners
It’s important to acknowledge where the dance comes from. I completely agree with this. Learning the history of the swing era dances not only fills me with mad respect for the dance that I love so much, it also helps me think about why we move our bodies the way we do. These dances are really unique when compared to other forms of dance, and the history highlights so many whys.
EXAMPLE: Truckin’. This step originated in the ballrooms by African American waiters, holding their tray, who would dance for tips. Thinking about that, try and do the step and imagining your balancing a tray on one hand and have a small towel draped over your other. You move differently right?
Show that the basics are what all other steps are built off of. (re: Juan’s Blue Print class)
Scat the choreography/song. It’s important to know the numbers as the teacher, but train them early not to rely on numbers to know the steps.
Ten Must-Know Routines
Shim Sham (Regular/Al Minns/Dean Collins)
Stops (I & II)
Tranky Doo (both versions: Pepsi Bethel & Frankie Manning)
Doing the Jive
Continuing to Grow as a Dancer
Don’t loose yourself & what got you into the dance in the first place. I’ve so been here. And I think it’s important to know when to take breaks, know your limits, etc.
Learn how to make a choice (in the dance).
Enjoy the plateaus. Falty made an excellent point that the more you grow as a dancer, the longer the plateaus get. And these are where we can see the most frustration in ourselves as dancers. Because at first, it’s exciting and fun and you’re improving in leaps and bounds. All of a sudden, the improving stops and it feels like you’re circling the same problems over and over. I’ve so been here so many times and it’s a little harrowing to know even longer plateaus are before me. Falty, however, encouraged us to enjoy these times of seemingly static.
Don’t let excitement distract from learning. Ramona’s piece of advice, and something that I can definitely relate to.
LIVE IT! Said by so many teachers. Incorporate dance every where and you are always practicing.
Practice in the morning. Another thought from Mona, it’s basically a “know when you’re at your best to absorb”. For her, it’s the morning. Basically: work it into your daily schedule. Because as Falty says, 10 minutes a day is better than 70 minutes one day a week. Because you’ll spend the first part of that practice to remember where you were last time.
Watch clips. I already do this and it’s why I have a tumblr dedicated to organizing all those clips for future reference.
Practice what you’re bad at. Repetition in weakness. Social dance. ‘Nuff said.
Have advanced dancers teach beginner dancers. This encourages scene interaction and discourages “level cliques”, an evil that most scenes will deal with at one time or another.
Social dance with beginners. Makes sure they stick around past the first thirty minutes of the social dance. Dance with them. Talk to them. Engage them.
GAH! I wish I took more notes. Juan specifically had great observations. Basically the only thing I have concretely written down is: Being serious does not stop people from having fun. I would expand, but I plan on a whole entry dedicated to my thoughts and feelings on the matter.
And that’s it! That is the whole of my notes on Stompology. I still haven’t decided if I like this format or not, but here it is, nonetheless.