Author Archive

I Have Two Left Feet

Monday, February 23rd, 2009

If you really have two left feet then I recommend you see prosthetician. He may need to amputate the extra left foot and replace it with the right foot. But please check with your medical doctor.

In dance people often use this phrase to refer to pedis confusio. Literally this means “feet confusion”. This disease is the result of an underdeveloped coordination of the mind and feet. Don’t worry, Dr. Swing can help with this problem. The problem manifests itself as an in ability to step with the desired foot, especially while the dance instructor is shouting “right, now left”. This can cause marital difficulties, too, if your partner is also your spouse. As such, you can imagine that this is a very important disease to treat.

Treatment usually consists of the patient spending time alone practicing stepping with their right foot then their left foot… over and over. Do this for 10-15 minutes at a time, a couple times a day. After a week or so, practice this exercise to music. Try to step with the music… if you have problems stepping with the music you may have another related disease: nullus audio rhythmos (can’t hear the rhythm), which is the subject for another day.

After mastery of this simple exercise the patient must practice stepping in different directions, preferably in time with the music. Try stepping across the front of your body (e.g., with your right foot step to the left of your body, crossing over your left foot). Step to the right, left, backwards, forwards, etc.. Step in as many directions as possible, be creative.

Through these exercises and persistance, you will develope the ability to step with the desired foot and the disease will be cured.

Good luck! Don’t hesitate to call if you need professional assistance. The Doctor is always available. In case of emergency, dial 911.

What’s in a Move? A bunch of Phonemes!

Thursday, February 12th, 2009

Ella Fitzgerald scats Smooth Sailing with a few words but mostly meaningless sounds. Put those meaningless sounds together in one way and you have words. Put them together in another way and you have scat… with no meaning, and still no words. But! impressive and fun to listen to… perhaps even more so than words could ever say.

Dance a move. There’s a bunch of meaningless motions that make the move… put them together in one way, and you have an outside turn. Put them together in another way, and you have an inside turn. Or a belt turn. Or a tuck turn, or a bridge…

Can you scat your dances? Can you put together a bunch of meaningless motion… little bits of motion… in such a way that it is impressive and fun. These little bits of motion are the raw material for dancing.

Ella Fitzgerald transforms from a singer to a musician in her scat. The person who dances transforms to a dancer in their danscat.

The Right Way To Dance

Sunday, January 25th, 2009

Get it right! Don’t dance like that… it goes like this. That’s not right… this is the right way. Let me show you!

Stop! Don’t listen to those who say they know the right way to dance. Don’t listen to anyone that says this is wrong or that is right. They are delusioned… though, they are not wrong… Even if they are world champion dancers, saying “this is the right way” is surely wrong.

There is a way to dance Lindy Hop that is common to most people who dance Lindy Hop. There is a way to dance Salsa that is common to most people who dance Salsa. There is a way to Waltz that is common to most people who Waltz. Learn to Waltz the way most people know Waltz and you’ll dance with ease with most people while waltzing. If you Lindy Hop the way most people Lindy Hop then you’ll find it easy to dance with most Lindy Hoppers. Learn to Salsa the way most people Salsa and you’ll find you can Salsa with most people.

That’s really what is meant by “this is the right way to dance”. Only in this sense can one way of dancing be “right” while another is wrong.

When you dance instructor tells you to dance “this” way… do so and you’ll find you can dance with everyone in your class. Perhaps, you’ll be able to dance with most people in the world by doing as your dance instructor asks.

Now.

The right way to dance is the way that brings joy to you, to your partner, and the people around you. You can tell when you are dancing the “right” way when a smile comes to your face. A smile comes to your partner’s face. A smile comes to those who are watching. Now you know, you are dancing the right way.

Doctor of Swing Afraid to Dance!

Wednesday, January 21st, 2009

In elementary school I wanted to dance, but I was afraid to go to the school dances. I was afraid of what others would think if I moved to the music. So I danced here and there… alone, in my room or when no one else was home. Much of middle school was the same way. I didn’t go to any dances.

In 8th grade I decided to go to my first school dance. It took a bit of courage. I was nervous, so I asked my Mom’s friend to show me a couple dance steps. She did. That made me feel a lot better – but still nervous. I had a date… that is… I had a guaranteed dance partner. This meant I did not have to ask anyone to dance except the one girl I knew would say “yes”.

I spent most of the night dancing with her. We did the “slow” dance. One step left… one step right… nothing to it. As the night went on, something came over me… perhaps it was dance fever… maybe it was just me starting to have fun dancing… or maybe I was becoming more comfortable with who I was.

Then… the song came on! I remember it like yesterday… “under the board walk… out of the sun… under the board walk… we’ll be havin’ some fun…” My grove was on. And so was the grove of my 8th grade history teacher! So we danced something like the twist… together! Everyone was watching and I didn’t care. In fact, I enjoyed the attention. I was having fun, and that’s what mattered. Let them watch me have fun… and who cares that it’s with my 8th grade history teacher.

My life was forever changed!

I went to every school dance I could after that. My grove came and went. But I knew it was there even when it wasn’t on. My grove still comes and goes… and that fear of dancing – it comes and goes, too. That’s right, even today as I type, I have a fear of dancing that comes and goes. But now, I have something else: I have knowledge. I know I can build the courage to act when that fear is present, and I know the fear will go and my grove will come. In that moment, I experience life in a whole new way: free from fear, in the moment, having pure fun!

Come join me!

Frame, Confidence, and Having Fun

Friday, January 16th, 2009

Ladies, help me out here…

Men, have a strong frame and confidence and you’ll create a wonderful dance for the ladies. Even if you only know a couple moves, execute them well and have fun; the ladies will have fun, too.

A strong frame is developed through confidence and practice. Some characteristics of a strong frame are

  • commitment to your moves and motion
  • no extraneous motion, every movement is filled with purpose
  • width – spread the arms and legs a little wider
  • openness – hands should be a little wider than the elbows which are a little wider than the shoulders, elbows bent at greater than 90 degree angle
  • wholeness – carrying your whole body into the motion, from feet to torso to hands.

The biggest obstacle I’ve encountered that hindered my frame is confidence. If I’m confident, I have good frame; if I’m not confident, I have bad frame. This is an internal state of knowing you are capable and believing women want to dance with you.

Your frame and confidence create an environment for the lady to enter. When she agrees to dance, she agrees to enter the space that you create and to move with you as you move the space. She wants to know where the space is (commitment to move, no extraneous motion), she wants to feel welcomed in the space (width and openness of frame), she wants the space to be fun (you have fun and the space will be fun).

This is what partner dancing is about. It’s not about the number of moves. It’s not about the complexity or coolness of the moves. It’s about creating this space and inviting a partner into it. This creates a connection and an intimate interaction.

Ah… and here’s the meat… when the lady agrees to enter this space you can continue to operate on the same “level” or you can invite more of her into the space. For example, you invite a lady to dance and you start with some basics. Then you lead an outside turn. That invites a little more of her into the space. But what if you lead a subtle left then right shoulder roll… that invites quite a bit more of her into the space. It is a deeper motion and connects with her on a deeper level. This is more intimate… and more fun! Similarly, leading her to swivel her hips is even deeper, more intimate, and more fun!

But careful here… executing a lead that, by rote, generates a certain response in the follow is not creating this space or connection. This is a kin to saying “Hi, how are you?” “I’m fine, thanks.” There’s nothing in this interaction. The lead must be such that the response is contained within the lead. Now this is difficult to communicate in words… But you understand that if a follow knows to turn left every time you wink your left eye and right every time you wink your right eye, there is no response contained within those leads. Instead, at some previous time you agreed or were taught that this is what the follow will do when you wink. If instead, you put your hands on the follows shoulders and turn her, now you have led something.

Men, you are setting the tone and creating the space. You are creating something for the ladies. What is required of you is internal strength projected into your frame and an attitude of fun. The ladies will love it!

Survey Says!

Sunday, January 11th, 2009

Women are 91% likely to say “Yes” when you ask them to take dance lessons with you! In the survey women were asked “If a guy friend asked you to take waltz lessons with him, would you say yes or no?” 91% said yes, 9% said maybe, and 0% said no.

And guys, take those dance lessons and leave the women you dance with wanting more! The women were asked “When you have a fantabulous waltz, how do you feel?” The women responded:

  • 50% said wanting more
  • 25% said excited
  • 17% said madly in love
  • 8% said turned on

It’s time to ask those lady friends of yours to take lessons with you!

Dancephobia – Fear of dancing

Thursday, January 8th, 2009

Usually accompanied with a feeling that one has no rhythm or coordination. Sometimes accompanied with a well hidden social anxiety.

If you feel this describes you, the treatment is to invite a friend to take dance lessons with you. In severe cases you’ll need to start with private lessons. In the most severe cases you’ll need to meet with the instructor outside of a dancing environment, first.

If this describes a friend of yours, the treatment is a bit tricky. In fact, tricking your friend to come out for a drink or bit to eat at a local swing dance joint may be just the thing to do. Sitting on the side and watching is a good way to get used to the idea of dancing.

Warning: don’t force yourself or someone else to dance before they’re ready. This may make the dancephobia stronger.

It’s a good idea to be around dancing and/or dancers without the pressure to actually have to dance.

Minervian Arts

Tuesday, January 6th, 2009

We’ll call this the art of wholesome activity. Minerva is the Roman goddess of art, trade, and science, as well as the inventor of music. So the name Minervian Arts implies some relation to these things… it is just a name however. And this name is to be used to reference the art and practice of wholesome activity – of which dancing… is one such activity. Though there are types and styles of dance that do not fall under wholesome activity, here we focus on dancing such as swing dancing, ballroom dancing, salsa dancing, contra dancing… and in particular dancing that enlivens your being and connects you with other people in positive ways.

Why bother talking about or practicing Minervian Arts? Because you have a lot of time in this life! What will you do with it?! Perhaps only half or less of your time is needed for rest, food, and the basic needs of living. The rest is your choice in how you spend it. If you think you don’t have enough time, think again! Your current choice holds you where you are. I’ve jumped to the punch line and realize there is a great possibility I’ve lost your interest in this subject already. What I’m saying seems wrong, because you have a feeling inside that you don’t have enough time. You feel stress, pressure, a frog in your throught, or tension in your neck. Or perhaps you don’t. I cannot know… you know. I hope I haven’t lost you yet… let’s change the subject a bit.

The practice of Minervian Arts enlivens your life and connects you with other people. Be it dancing, playing music, playing games, working on projects together, working together, scientific research together, political involvement, the list goes on! These things enrich your life and the lives of people around you. What’s not a Minervian Art. The short answer is watching TV, drinking, conspiring for lustful things, engineering weapons, and other such activities. These things degrade your life and the lives of people around you – and isolate you. The long answer talks about moderation – a couple hours of TV a week isn’t likely going to hurt anything, and it may even help you connect with people in social settings where the subject of some commercial or television show enters the conversation.

Let’s focus on dancing for a bit. This is a particular practice of Minervian Arts. Swing dancing being my favorite, of course. What can you expect to gain from investing in dancing? You can expect to enrich your life and the lives of those around you. You will have a bounty of opportunties to interact with people and make friends. You will have opportunities to create something with these friends; you may create nothing more than a dance with a partner on the social dance floor, or you may take the time to practice together on particular choreographed routines, or you may plan dancing events and parties together. There is a great fulfillment to be had in these interactions and the co-creation that results.

You will have many opportunities to grow! For the shy guy, you will have no shortage of opportunities to overcome your shyness by asking a woman to dance. For the woman with a frustrated desire to dance, you will have many opportunities to dance with friends. There will be challenges along the way. There will be dances where it seems no one wants to dance with you. There will be times when you feel like you just can’t dance. Me… I’ve been dancing since 1997, and I still experience the feeling that I cannot dance, occasionally. I still experience the feeling that no one wants to dance with me, occasionally.

The solution to all these challenges is an internal strengthening of your knowledge of self worth. Dancing provides the environment for that worth to grow. Not only are you met with challenges… your friends are there to provide encouraging words. For one of those dances where you just feel like no one wants to dance with you, a friend will come and ask you to dance. Your heart will be uplifted.

The idea is simply this: engage in an activity regularly that is wholesome and involves many of the same people. Turn off the TV, turn off the radio, turn off the Internet, put down the book, deny the drink or food, and above all: foster that internal desire to connect with people.

Would you like to dance?

I don’t want to dance

Tuesday, December 30th, 2008

Ah! And this is the reality of why you are not dancing!

It’s not that you don’t have coordination. It’s not that you have no rhythm. (though, there may be challenges in those areas.) It comes down to: fear.

You feel like you have no coordination, therefore, you are afraid of the frustration of trying to move in new coordinated ways.

You feel like you have no rhythm, therefore, you are afraid of not being able to keep up with a partner.

You feel like you can’t dance, therefore, you don’t want anyone to see that you can’t dance.

You make a choice. You have some fears based loosely on some reality of your capabilities. The fear is strong, but your capabilities are unknown, even to you. I sense that it all boils down to this: you don’t want others to see you as you stumble through learning to dance.

Am I right?

Honestly, do you really feel like you have no rhythm and cannot develop rhythm? Or are you afraid others will see you trying to develop rhythm? Do you really have no coordination? Are you really unable to dance? Or are you afraid others will see you as you develop coordination to dance?

I don’t know what you are thinking. I don’t know what your answers are to these questions. And no one else does. So you can be honest with your self, this once. ;-) Are you afraid to dance?

I hope your answer is “yes”. Because I strongly believe that you can develop all the skills and talents necessary to dance. I strongly believe that the only thing that is holding you back is fear.

For you to overcome this fear will bring great rewards. One reward will be: you will learn how to dance. But a much greater reward will be: you will learn how to overcome your own personal fears. How much you will benefit from this triumph.

If you decide you want to overcome this fear, you will succeed! It is your nature to be successful. You have been given all you need to overcome all your personal struggles. You may not become Lindy Hop champion of the world, but you can become Lindy Hop champion of your mind!

I challenge you to make this step… to overcome this fear. I’ll help you. Go to my website to get my email or telephone. Contact me. I’ll help you get started.

A Computer Scientist Dances

Sunday, December 28th, 2008

He chose computer engineering as his major. He likes computers. He enjoys working with computers. This is a logical choice. There’s money to be made working with computers.

After a couple of fun years in computer engineering (well, not all fun, there was that electronics course of doom), he met she. He and she became us and us wanted to do something fun. The she part of us spotted a swing dance flier. The he part of us thought that was a good idea. So us began swing dancing.

Mean while, he graduated from computer engineering. He decided that electronics stuff was too much! So he left the electronics behind and went into computer science for graduate school. Grad school was even more fun. Us continued to dance.

But then one day… us became he and she again. She went home. He stayed at school. Us was no more. He was lonely. “Ah ha!” he proclaimed. “There are lots of women at the dances. I will go dancing more!” And so he went dancing every chance he got. About 3-4 nights a week.

Dancing was fun. Dance provided many nice opportunities to make friends. He managed to still find time for computer science grad school.

He took all the dance classes he could from Solely Swing (the student run swing dance club of Virginia Tech). He attended all the meetings. He began traveling to other towns for fun dances.

Soon, the instructors of Solely Swing asked him if he would like to teach dance. He said, “Yes!” and became a dance instructor. In the mean time, he received his masters of computer science and began working on his PhD.

He began performing with Solely Swing. He helped organize dances, workshops, and hire bands. He was now part of a team of enthusiastic dancers and friends. How much fulfillment he received from these experiences!

Some time went on. He made friends, he learned to dance, he taught dancing, and he managed to continue in grad school.

The day came when he received his PhD, and he took the title of Dr.. He did not wish to remain with computers anymore. He had a much more rewarding and fulfilling life in dancing. He turned away from computers and towards dancing.

He became… Dr. Swing.