Friday, December 30, 2011

Dispatches from Lindy Focus (4 of ?)

After Kevin's Movement Training class this morning, which was pretty much all spin drills, (quarter, half, full, double, right foot going right, left foot going left, right foot going left, left foot going right, why are my backwards doubles more stable than the forwards ones?).... my foot feels much better.  I guess it partially just needed stretched out.

Onward to more dancing!

Dispatches from Lindy Focus (3 of ?)

So night before last, I did some dancing in my socks for a while at the late night, because my shoes weren't very fast and my knee and leg were beginning to protest.

And my feet have been hurting pretty bad since.  Ok, that's not true.  Mostly only just my right foot, because apparently I strike the ground with my foot with unnecessary force when I spin? Or, more nuanced... I am not flexible enough in my ankles and knees and hips when I'm stepping through spins, and so the force that I am using is absorbed almost entirely in the ball of my foot when I spin, and thus it hurts.  Also, I really like to do single-foot spins, and should probably be more amenable to stepping through my turns.....

Anyway, lesson for Christina from Lindy Focus, gratis, via sore feet.  A reinforcement of things I have already been told, but now I know.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Dispatches from Lindy Focus (2 of ?)

Dear Men of Lindy Hop:

I now understand why you wear sweater vests.

Tonight I peeled off my sweater vest, and the shirt underneath was soaked, but the outside of the wool vest was dry!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Lindy Focus! (1 of ?)

I'm so excited for Lindy Focus that I tremble like a little Chihuahua puppy when I think about it. That is all for now.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Declining a dance (a thing that you, Yes, You! are allowed to do.)

So a friend of mine was recently co-teaching a drop-in beginner lesson before a night of dancing; I was watching the door and listening. To conclude the lesson, he said that there were only two rules for swing dancing. Following the obligatory Fight Club joke, he stated that the first rule, was the leads had to ask some follows to dance at some point tonight (and that it would be sad to leave all the lovely ladies waiting). Second, he stated that if someone asked you to dance, you had to say yes.

And then I threw up in my mouth a little.

Can I deconstruct that response for y'all a bit? Why that made me sick even though my personal philosophy still leads to basically same result-- I will virtually never say "no" to getting asked to dance.* I swear to god that I am aware that there will be people who think I'm more than a little "Stop the penis party" with this, but hey, this is my blog and my opinion and you don't have to read any of it that you don't want to.

Friday, December 16, 2011

I am the craft-masta! (in which I glue leather to shoes.)

Fun with craftyness time!
Wednesday morning, much to my frustration, I was shot down at the shoe repair store when I asked if they'd glue leather soles onto my sneakers.  Also I was given funny looks.

So yesterday evening, I took myself over to the craft store to buy:

 1) pretty ribbons to lace my sneakers up with in pretty colors.  :)

 2). Suede and glue to fixie my shoeses.

The process...

Thursday, December 15, 2011

blues practice challenge

So, I am so in love with dancing, especially blues, right about now.

But there's not a ton of blues dancing in my home scene.  Related to this, I am pretty stinkin' excited that a friend of mine who I love dancing with has agreed to make a short trip down to visit in January (when neither of us are traveling much) to work on some blues stuff with me.  I would be excited to work with him anyway, but I'm especially excited because, due to the lack of blues around here, I don't get to practice as much as I'd like.

I expressed this sentiment to him this morning on fb chat, and he totally called my shit.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

"No. We cannot put leather soles on those shoes."

These ones. Would be cuter with a red stripe,
but I was in a time crunch.
Picked up a pair of sweet white converse sneakers a few weeks ago, with an adorable little star cutout in the side and everything.  Hurriedly slapped some moleskin on the bottoms for the weekend, and started dancing with them.  I especially like them because they lace all the way up, very close to my ankle (unlike Keds or Ked knockoffs), which actually keeps the shoes ON my narrow, very low-volume feet.

[Keds, Aris Allens, almost every tennis shoe or approach shoe I've ever had, including the ones with the marathon-loop holes laced all the way up- I can still slide my foot out of almost every shoe I've ever worn, without untying it.  These Converses stay. on.]

Minus some minor edge peeling of the moleskin which I fixed with a spot of superglue, they've been fine, but the edges are slowly eroding, losing one thread at a time.

So I decided it'd be a good idea to get some real leather soles put on them. So I go down to my local, friendly shoe-repair store.

I walk in holding the sneakers, and I ask if they can put leather soles on them.


Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Trust is a complicated thing. (Bambloozled class and current dance ruminations. Also... words are hard.)

So yeah. Trust.  It's a thing you need to have with someone you're dancing with... only sometimes you don't have it.

It's a thing you have to have with yourself to dance with, only sometimes you don't have it.

There are a few emotional/meta themes that I have been chewing on in my brain for a while now (my brain chews, apparently? yes, it does.), as they relate to my dancing.  One of them (obviously from the opening of this post) is trust.  Another could be called "confidence."  This post is going to be some of my thoughts, as best as I can articulate them, about trust in partnership and connection, and manifestations of that, physically, with respect to attitude and posture and counterbalance.

I'm going to start by attempting to describe some things about the classes last weekend at Bambloozled, especially picking out the things that I really want to dig into, and circle back around with some things that I have been working on in my lindy, both long-term and more recently.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

My (It's not) Bambloozled 2011 (anymore) Blues..

So I walk into our weekly swing dance Wednesday night this week, and catch a dance with one of my favorite leads.  The dance is playful and stretchy and full of confidence, call and response, jazz, and smiles.

Kara and Paul, open Jack and Jill Finals.
Josh Wisely Photos
At the end of the dance, he stops and looks at me with some surprise/admiration and says, "You should go to blues events more often."

Because I’m listening, and relaxed, and, yes, more confident. 

The event in question that I just got back from is BamBLOOZled in Washington, DC.  This was my second year in a row for this event, and it’s one I will make every effort to get back to next year.  It’s workshop weekend, in that there are classes all day Saturday and Sunday, but it also boasts a full schedule of social dancing all night Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, so you can make whatever you want out of the weekend.

What I made out of the weekend was something of a hybrid; I danced all night Friday, went to morning classes on Saturday and napped through the afternoon ones, danced all night, skipped morning classes on Sunday and went to the afternoon ones, and then danced/partied all night.  I actually got to meet and hang out with some really cool women this weekend as well, which is something I don't always get to do.  Overall, it was simply awesome.

For the slightly longer version...

Friday, December 9, 2011

Oh no they didn't....

So I work in an academic research lab.  We just moved the lab into new digs.... well, back into our old digs after renovations.

And they put a big fat floor to ceiling mirror in the now-much-bigger ladies bathroom.

I think the designers vastly underestimated my desire to do solo jazz steps in front of a mirror instead of promptly returning to work after I wash my hands.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Mechanism of beauty accumulation at high skill levels in partner dancing communities by marginal selective advantage among new dancers*.

Bugs Question of the Day post again!  I feel like it's sort of inappropriate for me to post many-multi-paragraph responses to the QOTD (or my new favorite abbreviation that I just saw on the page, "?/day", when I have my own personal blog for that sort of thing. So since this is my own space, here is my really long answer to today's ?/day.  

First, the question:
@gregory Dyke asks: "A tongue in-cheek question to balance out the overly serious nature of the past few discussions. Is the theory set forward in @1.30 correct? Beauty and good dancing in women are linked because men do the asking, are shallow and therefore invite the beautiful women, thus affording them more opportunity to dance and become good?"
And here is my initial response:
Holy long response that I just typed out and have decided would be a better blog post. Short answer: as an evolutionary biologist, this theory (as in, prettier girls have more OPPORTUNITY to become better dancers because they'll get asked more often at the beginning) is totally plausible and would not require a large bias at all. A very small (or unconscious bias) would be plenty sufficient. As a follow whose default look is butch and scruffy but who can clean up to what might be described as glamour tomboy, I can say that when I make more effort to look more attractive, I get more dances, hands down.

But here is my slightly more complete response....

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Being a leader is hard...

at Laflx 2010, my very first exchange. Photo by Bret Langham

I'm going back to DC this weekend for Bambloozled.  I have been to DC 4 times in the last year, if you count last year's Bambloozled,  (bblzld, dclx, red hot blues ad bbq, ILHC) and it has been a fantastic experience every time.  DC really knows how to organize an event and throw a party.  DC also knows how to draw in some good dancers.  I always go home from DC on a cloud from both the absolute number as well as the percentage of dances that I've had that are just phenomenal.

Which sort of brings me to a funny story.  "A funny thing happened on the way to ILHC," as it were.  

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

NEVERMORE! Jazz ball 2011 (ever, ever more.)

This photo is going to get used on every blog of this event, because it's awesome. Photo courtesy of Elisa Peterson

November 4-6th, me and a merry band of Columbus, OH, dancers made our way to St. Louis for the weekend-long spree of awesomeness that was the Nevermore Jazz Ball.  Our merry band was actually two whole cars full of dancers, 8 people willing to travel 7 hours for some St. Louis goodness.

 You may not know this, but the S in Hunter S stands for Stanley.
photo courtesy of Travis Hartman
The weekend began for me on Friday around noon, when my travel buddies showed up at my house to stash their cars in the lot and their bags in my CRV.  My OCD kicked in just a little at the start, and I took over packing the car, haha.  But! As a result! We got 4 people's worth of stuff for the weekend in the back, and I could still see out the back window.  Win.  

The trip down was relatively uneventful: get on I-70 W, drive until you hit STL.  We found a great Vietnamese restaurant right near the venue, and found the venue with no problem.  When we got there, there was a dedicated parking lot for the dancers, with a guard.  Brilliant! I love it when events go out of their way to solve parking problems.  Just takes a stressor out of the weekend.

We quickly got changed and dove into the dancing. The floor at the Casa Loma is really fantastic- both quick and beautiful.  That night we danced to two local bands, the Sidemen and Miss Jubilee's Hot 5.    Both bands were swinging deliciously.  We settled into the groove of hugging on and dancing with old friends, and quickly started making new ones.

Shannon, ever smiling.
Photo courtesy of Travis Hartman
Someday, maybe, you'll get to see Danny be
really excited.  photo courtesy Travis Hartman.

It wasn't all just hugs and relaxations, though.  Friday night was also the Jack and Jill competition, which everybody in my car/party had entered.  We even got B to enter.   :)

Binaebi and Jeremy in the Jack and Jill.
Photo courtesy Travis Hartman

Plus,  all the contests for the weekend were MC'd by the ever-ineffable Jon Tigert.

The Jack and Jill has great compliment of competitors, and Columbus's own Shannon Varner took first, with John Holmstrom.  Aaron Raiff and Hannah Burgess took second, and Michael Bradford with Emily Schuhmann placed third.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Veteran's Day

So, my fb status for today:
Right before I parked my car this morning, there was a country song on the radio with the line, "where I come from/ there's an old flyboy out turning up dirt," which (I'm such a sap, y'all) had me fighting tears all the way from my car to my building. From the old WWII vets who watched us swing dance with tears in their eyes to the music that reminded them of home during the war (last year at Pittstop), to my close family and dear friends and high school classmates that have served more recently and in the more recent wars... thanks. And Happy Veterans day.
By "fighting tears," what I really meant was crying, but fighting sobs.  I leaked tears all the

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

In which I wonder what side-track I should be in for Lindy Focus...

So when I signed up for Lindy Focus in June, I selected the "Advanced Aerials" side track.  Mid-July, I had a conversation with a friend of mine about taking it with me, and he said he was down.  But I never bothered to correct the TBD on my Focus registration.

So I get an email a few days ago from one of the organizers, just giving me a heads up that I still don't have a partner listed, and I should get that straightened out or I should switch to another track before they all close.  I dropped my friend an email to say Hey whats up, are we still doing the aerials class? and he informs me that he's not going to Focus at all.  He's shifted primarily into blues gear, which is why I haven't seen him recently.  whoops.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

"Parrot Cat"

So the name of the blog...

So this is the natural state of my cat, perched on my shoulder:

It's just her thing, wallowing all over me.  I can't imagine a cat that did not so this to me. What would be the point? 

Nothing after the jump but more pictures of my cat.  But, on the plus side, more adorable pictures of my cat! 

Friday, October 14, 2011

Epic, photo-laden Rocktober 2011 "Trip" Report

Hey y'all, this one isn't a "trip" report, because I didn't have to travel out of my own cozy homedown to go to it. But it was a "trip", in that I felt like I sort of went on a journey, mentally.  So here goes:

Columbus, OH, hosts two major events a year- CBUS, which is an exchange and is social dancing only, and for the last few years, Rocktober, which has classes.

Rocktober happens (You guessed it!) in October, it happened this past weekend, Oct 7-9th.  Last year, it was a big, multi-track extravaganza, with three tracks in the convention center and a big Showcase competition for couples' choreography and the whole 9 yards.  This year was a little different.

This year, while there were still dances to live music on Friday and Saturday nights (And DJ'd late nights) to which everyone, the whole community, was invited, as well as a J&J competition, there was no big, multi-track workshop.  What we decided to do instead (disclosure: I was one of the organizers for this) was to host the kind of intensive workshop with small classes and top level instructors that dancers in our region rarely get to participate in. That dancers, period, rarely get to participate in: a very small class with world class instructors that lasts the whole weekend. What a great opportunity, we thought, (disguised as being unable to find a venue for a huge workshop), to give dancers in our region the opportunity to give their dancing a kick in the pants.  And in the process, bring up the level of dancing in our region as a whole.

We filled the class with a combination of video auditions, which were open to anyone, and personal invitations to regional dancers.  The latter we hadn't really planned on initially, but we realized that very many people were intimidated or confused by the video audition requirement. Consequently, they hadn't sent in a tape because they didn't think they'd make it, when in fact they were our target audience.  So what we got in the end was a class populated entirely by people who were highly motivated to learn. 

Our instructors were Kevin St. Laurent and Jo Hoffberg.  This was the class:
all photos courtesy of Jenna Menchhofer

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Target Weight

Went to the doctor today for sinus shit.  Was told in no uncertain terms to not lose any more weight.  Gonna call that "hitting my target weight."  Is that sick?

[I wasn't planning on losing any more weight anyway.  I actually already hit my target weight about a week ago, ending the weight loss goal I've had for a little less than a year of dropping from 128 back to 110, which is what I weighed in college at my fittest.  Done through food journaling but not really calorie restricting, just trying to eat less junk, and working out (climbing, hiking, dancing, pullups/pushups/leg lifts/ hangboard stuff.)]

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

ULHS class

There were classes Saturday morning at Showdown, but they started at 10am, and I was not awake at that time, so I did not go. There were also classes Sunday afternoon.  

Due to my indulgence very late Saturday night, and the corresponding amount of sleep that I got, I felt awesome by the time I got up on Sunday afternoon, and, consequently, the only class I made it to all weekend was the final one, Chance Bushman and Bobby Bonsey’s Collaboration and Competition in Solo Jazz Contests It started at 6pm, and I actually just listened and watched rather than participated. 

(I was kinda really bummed, because I heard that Evita’s Solo Blues class was really good, but after me and my roomies got up and got lunch… we fell back asleep.)

So the first thing that Chance and Bobby talked about 

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Dear dance photographers, re: horrible faces.

If I am really the only one in the picture (not even my dance partner is in the shot), and I am making a horrible face, why would you select that picture for the album you post to faceobook for the event?

PS, yes, I untagged myself from that photo.

PPS- I didn't mention this to you personally because it's not that big of a deal. I just think I look horrible, and I'm embarrassed that I make faces like that in public.

ULHS 2011 trip report

I recently returned from a weekend+ spent down in at the New Orleans Swing Dance Festival and Ultimate Lindy Hop Showdown, which is both a weekend of social dancing to live music and a weekend of competitions to live music.  There is a theme, is what I’m saying, and the theme is live music.  All of which was fantastic.

So the weekend for me in a way began on Wednesday afternoon, when I dyed my hair purple.  I worked all day, then I got my hair dyed purple, then I hit Swingin’ Wednesday, so I didn’t start packing until 11pm.  So the weekend began on Wednesday also in the sense that I got to “practice” staying up late.  Easing myself into it, as it were. 

I did technically go to work on Thursday morning, though I can’t say I accomplished much in my jittery anticipation of finally going down to the Big Easy.  I signed up for the event back in June, after I attended Stompology and everyone was already talking about “Are you going to Showdown?!”  Finally, Thursday evening, I landed in the city, caught a bus to the French quarter, and walked down to the hotel just as it was getting dark. (By myself! On a bus! I win.) Dancing began at 11pm. 

The weekend was pretty much nuts from the word go.  One of the things about Showdown is that it was a cultural experience as much as strictly dancing.  A lot of this stemmed from the immersive nature of walking through the city to all of the venues. The venues were all a pretty easy walk from the hotel, scattered around the French Quarter, and so you arrived and departed at things as you pleased, and it was at once very communal and very autonomous, which I liked a lot. I’m a shut-down-the-venue kind of girl, and some of my roomates were the kind of people who “need” “sleep.”  But enough dancers were staying at the same hotel that I never had any problem finding someone to walk me back through the French Quarter at 4 or 6 or whatever in the morning.  This was particularly noticeable to me, because in contrast, the last event I attended was ILHC, in which all the events happen within a hotel, and it’s like going to another planet.  It is a fantastic planet; I’d board a colony transport ship in a heartbeat.  But it’s not like being in a city. 

Friday, October 7, 2011

"Do they suck or do I suck?"

So I'm a big fan of the fb page Bugs Question of the Day.  Recently, there was a question sent in by an anonymous dancer that goes like this: 
"There are several dancers I have danced with repeatedly with whom dancing just doesn't work (the basics of what I understand to be leading and following are not working out for us). They are dancers who appear to be very good (and think quite a bit of their own ability) and some other dancers certainly appear to be making it work with them. I am just moving out of complete beginner stage and seem to be able to make everything work at a basic level with the majority of people (including in privates with A-list instructors). Which of the following apply?
a) Everyone has people with whom it doesn't click
b) These dancers aren't as good as they think they are but no-one has ever told them (barring their extreme confidence and the willingness of other good dancers to dance with them, I would assume that they were missing something fundamental)
c) There are other approaches to leading and following
d) I need to suck it up and learn to dance"
My original response to this question...

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Necessary and Sufficient

Hey, y'all... welcome to my new blog. To kick things off, I'm going to repost an essay that I wrote this summer (July 2011), after I attended Stompology in Rochester, NY.  "Repost," because this essay originally appear on my friends' blog, All the Cats Join In.  

I am planning on posting a ULHS trip report soon! but I decided that it would be the impetus for just setting up a blog already, and I wanted to put this out there, since it's something I've very glad I wrote, and benefit from rereading and reminding myself of, occasionally. 

My greatest flaw as a dancer is probably my tendency to let my social anxiety strangle me.

My fear of screwing up on the dance floor manifests in frequent "thinking face" when I'm being led, even by familiar leads, through new or complex patterns, and in my tendency to choke when I ask a ‘high-status’ leader for a dance. My favorite definition of "choke" is from the book Deep Survival: a reversion to the state of being a beginner, wherein you consciously think about what you're doing, as opposed to the more advanced state of performance where "muscle memory" largely controls the specifics of movement. To choke is to lose one's flow.  The mechanics of this for me personally usually looks like bad posture and too much tension in my arms and body, which hinders my ability to follow sensitively. In either case, the process is too much thinking and the product is less than sublime dancing.

Which is a shame, because my favorite part of dancing, the high that I am always chasing that keeps me coming back, is found in the moments when I am not in my head but in my body, fully with the music and my partner.  There is a thrilling physicality to just letting go and dancing.