As per the request of one of the DanceNet readers, here are copies of the past ramblings of the DanceNet Webmaster.
I'm pleased to announce the addition of Vintage Dance Images to the list of DanceNet/Havetodance.com sponsors. Kristine Hansen has travelled as far as Buenos Aires to search high and low for old and vintage dance posters and cards to reproduce them for sale. She's a dancer who managed to turn a hobby into a business that has customers from around the world.
So it's official: Joni is retiring as a dance teacher in September. Christine Nunziato and Kevin Ring will be taking over her classes in the fall. She'd like to have a retirement party, but she needs some motivation to plan it. :^)
Okay, the issue has reached critical mass and at the risk of repeating myself, I wanted to talk about something that's been bothering some followers out there.
The other week I had mentioned that a certain woman had complained about guys who swing dance with their hand on the woman's waist. I just got one teacher who complained about the same thing. Marie Lawlor of Dancing Feats Studio indicated that it felt "weird" and the guy's hand is just *TOO* close to the woman's rear end, particularly if the woman is small and the guy has large hands. This happens when the guys/leaders put their hand below the waiston the small of the woman's back (lower lumbar area). Marie said:
The woman's center of gravity may be her hips, but that's not the same as her "center" of movement, the "center" from which the movement emanates. I don't move hips first, top later. Natural efficient body movement (whether you're walking, running, or dancing) comes from one's center, more the diagphram area, for both men and women. That way the body moves as a unit: your center (diaphram area) moves forward first, pushing off the weight bearing foot; the lower body & legs land where they need to to hold the body up, alligned and balanced. You don't walk by placing your hips and legs ahead, then pulling your torso over them!
The more important issue is that women bend at the waist. If the guy puts his hand on her waist and then tries to lead, the woman's body will bend or she will tense up the back muscles as a reflex before she starts moving. What is the result? At best, the woman's body will react later to the lead; at worse, the woman ends up with a bad back at the end of the evening. A friend of mine had a aching back at the end of an evening of dancing and right away, I told her that it was probably because of where the leader put his hand. She was shocked that I knew what the problem was before she could explain. She now pays attention to that with every guy with whom she dances and has confirmed my diagnosis.
When the guy leads with his hand on her shoulder blade (actually, just *slightly* lower), the follower will feel the lead instantly and react accordingly. There is no delay in the reaction to the lead because the follower can't bend at the shoulder blade; she will move on time. However, the important issue is that the leaders can prevent the back injuries to the follower by making sure the leading hand (the right one) is positioned properly on her shoulder blade.
Regardless of the style of dance (Swing, Lindy, West Coast Swing, etc), if the follower is hurting at the end of the dance, you're doing it wrong.
I went to Maironis Park this past Saturday to check out Dom V and the Swing Out Big Band at their monthly gig there. There was a decent crowd there. I was surprised that it was a wall-to-wall parquet floor. There was plenty of room to dance and the band was good. Dom is always interested in trying new talent and he pointed out that one of the guys doing a solo on a couple of songs was a high school sax player! With the amount of dance space available, compared to a lot of Boston venues, this is one place to consider checking out.
Next week? I've a bone to pick about ballroom dancers.
Space...the final frontier...these are the voyages of the...
Ooops. Wrong channel.
As many people have been complaining about it, space is a vanishing commodity at dances, even as the Swing fad winds down. While the swing wannabees are leaving the scene, there are still plenty of dancers to fill up any floor space, leaving people to jockey for turf on the dance floor (I yelled at someone for throwing his partner into me at Ken's Place this past Tuesday).
My chief complaint this week are the teachers who train their students to pretend that they're always dancing in a competition and that they must take up as much space as possible with silly arm flourishes. These fancy embellishments have no place on the social dance floor, particularly if they interfere with other dancers.
The other week at Fanueil Hall, I was dancing with a particular woman who was obviously ballroom-trained. The song in play was popular and high-energy so the so-called dance floor was packed. At some point, we were doing a figure called "Circle Swivels" (right-to-right handhold and pivoting on the right foot to touch the other's left shoulder). Those of you familiar with competitive ballroom will understand what I meant when I say that this woman went for full entension with her free hand during this move. This particular woman managed to bop a girl right on her head (right on her earring. Ouch!) and then pretended that it never happened. During the same song and another circle swivel, this woman went for the extension while pivoting backwards and almost hit me in the face. Of course, to add insult to injury, she blamed me for the fact that she hit someone in the head with her hand.
The ballroom teachers need to teach their students that social dancing is not the same as competitive dancing. The social dancers do not own the dance floor and must share that dance space with many others. Swing dancing doesn't move around the dance floor much. However, it is popular so the dance floor is typically crowded. Dancers, whether ballroom or swing or any other dance, do not have a right to interfere with other couples' dancing. They must curb their dancing to the space over their feet, particularly in Swing dancing. There is no reason (or excuse) the hand should intrude into someone else's dance space and no excuse for hitting someone else in the head (as a friend of mine got bopped in the mouth by some guy this week at Faneuil Hall).
We've been lucky so far. We haven't encountered any "dance rage" yet. Let's dance safe and keep it that way.
A couple of weeks ago, I was dancing with a friend, B., during a bluesy song by Eight To The Bar at Fanueil Hall. Since we usually dance the appropriate dance for the music, we danced West Coast Swing, even though I knew about 5 (okay, maybe 7) moves in West Coast Swing.
Later on, B told me that some guy (a non-dancer?) asked her if she and I were "dating". He said that with the way we were dancing, we had to have been dating. She and I both got a giggle out of that one since we've always known that non-dancers will often assume that a couple that dances well together must be dating. I wanted to point out two conclusions from this incident:
1. Dances like West Coast Swing are so different from Swing/Lindy Hop, yet so similar (some moves are the same!), that it is worthwhile to learn them so they can be danced appropriately when the music dictates it. Blues and R&B is much slower and West Coast Swing is good for taking up the wide spaces between the beats. Dancing a "hoppity" Lindy Hop at 119 beats per minute doesn't look very interesting. I like the way West Coast Swing is good for focusing on moving the body instead of the feet. A good West Coast Swing to slow music will draw as much attention as a good Lindy Hop to fast music. You should check out national champions Maxwell Ho or Bill & Blake for excellent examples of WCS.
2. Knowing a bazillion moves is not what impresses. Doing a few moves well is a lot better than doing a lot of moves poorly. I look forward to attending wedding receptions because I could get out on the dance floor and impress my friends with even the few moves I knew. I have a friend who admires the way I do a particular move, even though we get into an argument about the way I do the move technically. I've had a few dance partners who were happy that I didn't do more moves because it left them free to "do their dance" after I led a move. The real goal is to make the moves you do know count. Dancing, including swing dancing, means moving well with a partner, not doing every single move you've ever learned in class.
"It's not what'cha do; it's the way that you do it"
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