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Notes to self 9 – Momentum issues

What’s the problem?

To make certain (Balboa) moves work I need to spin out of a move on an arc but I am coming out of the move in a straight line which means I end up slightly in the wrong place.

Why am I coming out straight?

Because I am using my own momentum to make the turns work. If I used only the momentum I was given I would slow down. If I slowed down as I turned I would come out on a curve.

Why I am using my own momentum?

Because I am making moves work by building up the tension within my own body to create a spring to rather than using my partner and creating the tension together. I start the move by myself and kind of keep on going by myself.

What am I doing that?
Many reasons:

  • Most leaders are so used to followers doing what I do (i.e. faking the move) that they don’t need to lead the move properly to make it work in class and we’re all stuck in a vicious circle.
  • Previous feedback (in different contexts) has included:
    * Followers should always keep going as if on frictionless ball bearings
    * When doing multiple turns you need to keep turning down the line and not wander off
    * I am slowing down whilst doing multiple turns
    * When doing multiple turns you need to keep stepping on the beat and keep the timing even
  • No doubt all of those bits of feedback were relevant at the time/for the move being taught but they got stored somewhere and now they are subconsciously influencing my dance in ways that aren’t always helpful.

How am I going to fix it?

Hmmm…. it’s proving to be one hell of a difficult habit to break and it’s going to take a lot of work to undo.

Do I really want to fix the problem?

Fixing me means I need to practice, which means that I have to stop being nice and I need to ‘break’ a lot of partner’s moves in class. If I really follow what the leader is doing then I’m not going to be going anywhere half the time and their leading skills are going to need to dramatically improve.

This should be a win/win situation but then classes are on a Friday night, perfecting one’s dance technique is only a small part of what people are there for….  ‘difficult’ follows don’t get dances…


Notes to self – 8

  • Wait, wait, wait and then wait some more…. omg I am rushing my following at the moment.
  • If you are feeling tired don’t dance, yes dancing is a good way to relax and it’s nice to meet up with friends but if you’ve had a long day at work going home might be a better option than going to a dance feeling tired, dancing badly, getting frustrated and then ending up even more tired from the late night
  • Work on matching frame and picking up when a leader is giving you more or less frame and respond correctly.
  • Tune out the music more and follow the lead more, don’t kill the momentum on a turn even if the music is screaming ‘slow’ when a lead has given you a quick, quick, quick type lead.
  • Think long term, I am going to busy at work until the mid to late summer and I need to focus on that… then I will have more time to spend dancing (hopefully).

Notes to self – 7 – Girl Jam


Solo dancing – never really enjoyed it, choreography – I can never remember it, women only events – lost their appeal after I left the Girl Guides. However, I signed up for Girl Jam 2013 knowing that it would be good for me and…. I really enjoyed it! Notes to self below:

Things I want to follow up on:

  • Pulse/bounce from the bottom
  • Shorty George – it’s about the knees, really move the knees side to side
  • Think arms or legs but not both. Where should people focus when you are doing a move?
  • Free style dancing to Charleston music is a lot easier when you string together a number of moves and memorise those rather than continually having to think about what to do next

General comments

  • Laura Glaess’s body moves like a spring and it’s a joy to watch her dance. I don’t think you can really appreciate just how wonderfully her body moves watching YouTube clips of her dance

  • It was nice to be taught by youngsters and to see just how dynamic and athletic their body  movements are
  • Professional dancers are incredibly ‘straight’ compared to the rest of us who spend our days sitting at a desk and end up a little rounded in the shoulders and back
  • Great dancing and great teaching really aren’t the same thing. I’ve never really liked the way one our local teachers looks when she dances but but this workshop reminded me what a great teacher she is. People not getting the routine – break it down further, people still not getting it, break it down further still and drill it until people get it. Felt good to be in a class with a teacher that was really in tune with the class and their needs
  • If I want to continue to do more solo dancing (other than beginner classes) I need to learn all the routines. Once you get above beginner level it seems to be assumed that you know the Tranky do, Jitterbug stroll, big apple, etc.

Things I learnt about myself:

  • My life is pretty busy at the moment, I social dance but rarely have time go to classes or think about my dancing. It is intimidating to go back into a classroom environment!
  • Step, step, triple step, step, step, triple step… I am really rusty on moving my feet to a lindy Hop rhythm. Too much Bal, too much rock and roll, too much not paying attention to what I am doing. I really need to practise this pattern, moving the steps in different directions and getting the rhythm back into my body.
  • I still rock step automatically most of the time when partner dancing but left to my own devices I can now start on either my right and left foot without a second thought and needed to consciously remember which foot to start the routines on
  • Swivels, my timing is slightly off (and always has been). I need to work on the rhythm of swivelling and doing it without a partner
  •  I look old and stiff and slow when I dance (the tyranny of dance studio mirrors…) which is pretty much how my body feels half the time. On the plus side I was a lot fitter than many of the younger women there.
  • I have the memory of a goldfish when it comes to remembering routines
  • I found it really hard to let go on the prep for turns. Taking a short swig of water during class I noticed that I wasn’t alone,  perhaps it’s a British thing 🙂
  • Counting, I am not naturally a counter and because I don’t teach/am not particularly OCD about my dancing, I have to think long and hard which bit of the Charleston happens on the ‘3’ or on the ‘4’. I think I just need to teach myself these things.

2 dance goals for next year…

2 dance goals for next year…

1: Get over my counterbalance phobia and learn how to dance with a lot of counterbalance

2: Learn how to dance Hollywood style (as taught locally) and nail the styling

Negativity – trying to stuff the genie back into its bottle

Most of the time I am reasonably accepting of where I am with my dancing and I don’t usually compare myself to the person next to me in class or worry about what I can do now compared to what I think I should be able to do.  However, when I register for a workshop or camp and I have to pick a level suddenly there’s a voice in my head saying,

Why aren’t I better than I am?  How come X who has only been dancing two years can confidently place themselves in the super advanced level whilst I am 3 levels below them? Why am I still stuck in the lower levels with my fast tempo and connection issues? Why I am in the same workshop level I did 3 years ago? Why does my dancing look so bad? Why can’t I pick things up more quickly?

I get lost in the negative and start beating myself up and forget the reasons why I dance… The ego is a difficult genie to stuff back into its bottle!

Dancing highlight of 2011 and dancing aims for 2012

Like pretty much everyone else I wrote an end of year review but it was so negative (2011 was a difficult dancing year for me) that I decided to ditch the post and start the year with something more positive.

Highlight of 2011

My highlight of 2011 was attending Bobby and Kate’s Balboa dance at Glen Echo Park. It was such a great experience, the dancers were friendly and happy to dance with a stranger and Bobby went out of his way to make me feel welcome. I wish I could say my dances with Bobby were heavenly but I was so nervous I hardly remember them! Sharing a cab back into town with some random chap who stopped his taxi to see if I was ok trying whilst trying to find a bus stop in the dark reminded me how friendly and different Americans can be from the English. It’s a memory I will cherish.

2012 aims

I don’t do New Year’s resolutions and my working life is so full of targets, project plans and SMART objectives that I shy away from them in my non-work life but I do have some dancing related aims for 2012:

  1. Take more classes or a workshop as a beginner lead and start socially dancing as a leader because I am fed up of not being able to lead
  2. Go to some more Feldenkrais group sessions to explore movement in my injured, but now mostly healed, but very inflexible right shoulder
  3. Take a tap dancing taster lesson because I fancy having a go at tap dancing just the once
  4. Continue with my Alexander Technique lessons because until I can feel balance and poise in my own body I am going to dislike how my dancing feels and how my poor posture makes me look
  5. Try dancing at some new venues because my usual dancing spots are feeling a little bit stale and I think a change will do me good
  6. Continue with my yoga classes because I love the freedom of movement I feel dancing after I have been to a yoga class
  7. Learn more about the history of jazz dancing in the UK because I want a better understanding of the people who danced, the music they listened to and where their inspiration came from. I’m interested in the ballroom dancing that was done to jazz music in the 20s and 30s, the swing dancing that American soldiers brought over, the 50s Trad Jazz scene, the original rock and roll dancers and so on
  8. Find a way to make Lindy Hop dancing fun for me again!

Notes to self: the missing step

I couldn’t work out what I was doing wrong in class the other night – I knew I was ending up on the wrong foot at the end of the variation most of the time but it has taken me forever to work this out.

“Hold ball change”
is really quite different (in my mind at least) to “Hold, step down, then ball change”!

Sounds strange but when the teacher wasn’t saying anything and I could follow their feet I got the variation, as soon as they vocalized the steps I was totally lost and for once I wasn’t the only one!

I am really quite shocked at how long it took me to work this out!

Notes to self- 6 – arms

Keep your arms available! It’s quite simple; a lead can’t spin you back if you keep whipping your arms out of the way.

Oh and…

keep arms in front and down a bit, natural like…

and don’t worry about your partner and not having enough space…

and that holding towel over your chest thing that you learnt isn’t helpful in getting you to have your arms in the right place…

and don’t grab for the leader…


and wait a bit more…

and wait a bit more until you are lead into a move….

and remember to keep your bleedin’ arms available!


It’s simple:


Mojo starting to return – the dance floor ain’t nothing without ya girl

Thanks everyone for your comments on my previous post, the dancing mojo is slowly starting to return although I still don’t have my lindy hop mojo back.

I think I needed a confidence boost more than anything and, bizarrely, I found it in a hip hop drop-in dance class. I have no idea who Usher or Gucci Mane are but an hour spent with them solo dancing, in a dance studio, in front of mirrors, following complex choreography, where I was at least 10 years older than everyone else and twice the size of the most of the women (i.e. about as far out of my comfort zone as it possible to get) reminded me of just how enjoyable dance can be.

Lindy Hoppers and Balboa teachers are passionate about what they do, the teachers really want you to get it ‘right’ and the correct/preferred technique is explained in minute detail and mistakes are corrected*. All well and good but sometimes, for me at least, it sucks all the joy out of dancing. I end up focusing on everything that is wrong with my dancing and cease to enjoy actually dancing.

Contrast this with my hip hop class. Certain technique points were briefly explained but then it was really just a case of repetition, teacher demo, more repetition, teacher demo and then a bit more repetition. Each time we repeated a sequence I saw a little bit more and understood the choreography a little better and noticed the subtlety of movements that I had missed before. Hardly anything was said during the class and I completely lost myself focusing on the movement. If a dancer needed help the teacher came over and did a demo in slow motion with them until they picked it up but almost nothing was said it was a really interesting learning experience for me.

Towards the end of the class, when everyone had the basics of the choreography and had just about go the timing, the teacher made a point of singling us out during the chorus, pointing at the spotlights in the room and then pointing at us and non-verbally indicating to us to give it our all:

“Cause the spolight ain’t nothin without ya girl
And the dance floor ain’t nothing without ya girl
You a show stopper ohhhhhh
Let’s get it poppin”

It was a special class and I felt incredibly inspired and privileged to be learning from a teacher who could make me feel 100%, make me dance with spirit and appreciate the effort I was making without criticism – even when a quick glance in the mirror revealed just how far away I was from what I was supposed to be doing!

* I know I am not alone in having had some very bad Lindy Hop learning experiences. Some people might be motivated by being told they will never get something, that they are useless, that all the women in the class need to lose weight because we sound like elephants, or being singled out because you are doing it wrong but I am not one of them. I’ve also had some amazing Lindy Hop teachers who have a very special place in my heart because of the support they have given me and their belief that I would get ‘it’ eventually.

Look at your partner

Look at your partner…  Look at your partner…  Look at your partner…

How many times do I have to be told this?

What is it about Balboa pop turns that mean I do not end up looking not looking about my partner…

Look at your partner… Look at your partner…  Look at your partner…