It has been quite awhile since we’ve posted something new, the results of being stretched too thin and getting burned out. Susanne and I both pulled back on our activities to seek more balance in our life. Lately, though, I’ve been feeling the urge to write and share more thoughts and discoveries about dancing.
Tonight, I went to a local blues dance, the first one I’ve been to in about a year or so. There was nothing particularly remarkable about it. Some good music, a decent crowd, good atmosphere for the night. I had a few good dances, and met some of the new people that I’ve never seen since I’ve been MIA. As I drove home, a sense of peace came over me, and I thought about the following:
This past year, I’ve taken up running as a way to get myself into shape and to help regulate my emotional well-being. In addition, there’s something about the repetitive nature of the activity that causes me to stay focused, to clear my mind, and to deal with all those nagging thoughts that I so often ignore. On my longer runs, time starts to blur into passing bricks and buildings as those pesky thoughts fade and my focus improves. Running exposes me to the vastness of time, and my relative insignificance in all of it.
But dancing is a different kind of magic. A dance is three minutes, maybe five. Concentrated goodness. A short burst of time to express something incredibly fleeting. Each dance is a shared experience of expression that connects me to something more than I am by myself, the threads of the music, of my partner, the other dancers in the room, the history to which these dancers are all connected, and the future we are building together.
While running processes my thoughts, dancing processes my emotions. While running confronts me with my insignificance, dancing connects me with my humanity. And so, with these words, the silence is ended. Its time to put myself back out into the world.
I am a firm believer that pulse is one of the core elements to all social dancing. I can’t claim to have an expert opinion on the matter because I lack knowledge in ballroom/latin/tango. . .basically, anything that isn’t swing. From what I’ve seen though, every dance has its own means of pulse. When we are teaching, Susanne and I emphasize that the pulse is the primary means of communicating rhythm with your partner.
That pulse is most apparent in Charleston, where there’s a pulse downward on every beat. I like starting beginners off with Charleston for just this reason. They can focus on getting pulse into their bodies, and feeling and communicating rhythms. Then, we can build up by adding weight changes moving forward and backward. Continue reading
Confession: I didn’t get my ticket to ILHC, and ended up hunkering down with my wife and the kitties while everyone else basked in the dance awesomeness. But like many other dancers, I’ve been soaking in videos, and decompressing with friends about the event. I want to give a shout out to Max Desens who made the finals of the open Jack and Jill. A year and a half ago, the boy couldn’t even do a swing out, and now he’s turned into a rockstar. His work ethic around dancing has been amazing, and its been a joy and a privilege to teach him.
Watching competition videos, a few have stood out to me. It seems like Max and Annie are owning the showcase division, and everyone else is fighting for second. Their use of storytelling was interesting, and reminded me a lot of Ben and Jen’s winning routine at ALHC in 2006. I think that Ben got it from working with Natalie and Yuval. The real curiosity to me is how far the dancers will take it, and at what point does “the show” overshadow the showcasing of phenomenal dancing? Continue reading
This past weekend was insanely busy for us, packed full of dancing. Saturday, we went to the annual croquet match between St. Johns College and the Naval Academy. Everyone was all dandied up in their finest vintage inspired threads. There was some croquet there, but to be honest the game seemed secondary to hanging out, dancing, eating, drinking, and general all around merriment. We had an amazing time. Continue reading
Earlier this year, I was laid off from my job. In the immediate aftermath, I was worried, fearful, and scared. But the sky didn’t fall. We moved on. I applied for positions, went on interviews, sent out resumes, and consulted mentors. The unexpected blessing of unemployment was time step back and consider what I wanted out of life. Also, I get the pleasure of small things, like hearing Craig practice.
Today is Good Friday. Easter has long been my favorite holiday. I love the themes of rebirth and forgiveness. When I met Craig, he was working as a church music director and Easter was the first time I visited his church. He also initially proposed to me on Easter Sunday. It holds a special spot in my heart for many reasons. Continue reading
When Susanne and I first started hosting dances in the Annapolis area, we would always get a few midshipmen from the Naval Academy at our events. They would always go in to the jams, and I would hold my breath (and sometimes my tongue). The guys at the academy are all pretty muscular, and the girls are very athletic as well. Without any sense of technique, the guys would throw the girls through some aerials and lifts, set her down, and then continue with some awful basic six-count, arms flailing.
That was then, and this is now. About a year ago, I started working with the midshipmen, mentoring Max Desens who taught beginner classes at the academy this past fall. Since January, I’ve been working with the mids on a routine for the International Ball which was this past Saturday. When I think back to the dearth of knowledge and skill a year ago, I am astounded by how far these kids have come. Continue reading
Last night, I was teaching intro to blues for the Towson University Ballroom Dance Club, and we touched upon the issue of self-consciousness in dancing. I firmly believe that to be a great dancer, you must leave your shame behind every time you step on the dance floor. You have to take risks with your body, make weird shapes, feel awkward, and be completely willing to make a fool of yourself. As my students will attest, making a fool of myself is something at which I excel.
It’s not that the goal is to make a fool of yourself. The goal is to free yourself from the critical, judgement centers of the brain to free your body to be expressive. The goal is to give yourself the permission to dance with wild abandon, with no reservations and no hesitations. Yes, you might end up looking ridiculous, but the path to looking ridiculous is strangely the same path to looking phenomenal. Continue reading