Archive for the ‘ dancing ’ Category

Statuesque

Dear tall women of the world, I have a message: please start swing dancing!

You see, I’m a tall follower: about 5’11” flat foot, so you can imagine what it’s like when I’m wearing my heels. [Well, let’s just say that one time at Camp Jitterbug, Peter Strom walked by and I realized I was looking over at him and not up at him.]

Me and Aaron at Heartland 2011

My last few years spent lindy hopping and loving it have taught me two things: (1) there’s no reason why your height should disqualify you from dancing (at either end of the spectrum), and (2) it would be really nice if more leaders were used to dancing with tall followers.

If that first part doesn’t make sense to you then you’ve never been a tall women living in this world (or a short man). Growing up taller than most of the guys you know does things to how a girl views herself*, how you view your own femininity, and the things that you “let” yourself do. I know tall girls who won’t wear high heels (that’s pretty common actually). They basically feel like being tall is bad enough already, why would they make it worse? I think that there are tall girls out there who haven’t even considered taking up a partner dance, because they feel like it’s not for their kind of person; that they won’t find guys to dance with, that it would be awkward (for the other people), and that it’ll just be another place where they aren’t the right size**.

But that’s the thing about lindy hop! It’s a dance of the people, and people are all different. This dance form is adaptable and it’s made to work on lots of different types of people.

If you’re a tall girl like me, who is happy in her height and doesn’t really think about it: yay! I’m not talking to you. If you’re a tall girl who feels like your height keeps you from being able to do things that other girls take for granted, I would just like to say: swing dancing is not that thing. If nothing else, let my experience prove to you that it’s possible!

And of course, know that it’s a tradition as long as the art form:

This past weekend, I had a bit of a realization about another aspect of this issue. I was at a small workshop with a bunch of shorter guys, who looked (and felt) like they’d never seen a girl my height let alone danced with her. My realization was this: I really wish there were more tall followers in the lindy hop world, so that more leaders (short leaders AND tall leaders) are used to dancing with me! Because in my opinion, the biggest part of the difficulty with height differences in social dancing is a matter of what you’re used to.

See, the other part of this equation is that I swing-grew-up with a guy who’s a good bit shorter than I am (see above photo). Since we started dancing together at about the same time in the same scene, we’ve always been figuring out connection and height difference without trying to, and we’ve never had a problem with good connection (even in things like balboa). Our great connection seems to prove that it’s not as much about the height difference between two partners (within a certain range, I suppose) but about how you deal with it. Aaron knows how to deal with tall followers; not a lot of shorter leaders do. And tall leaders get thrown off by dancing with me too!

Let’s put it this way: I frequently get smacked in the head when I’m social dancing; mostly by beginning/intermediate leaders. Sometimes, they’re going for a turn where they want to keep the hand connection and then OOPS, my head was there and they lose the connection and things go random. Now, my head was always there, in the same place it was a minute ago; the frequency of this occurring makes me think that it’s their habits which are not allowing for the difference that dancing with me creates. As I said before, I’ve danced with short guys who don’t have any trouble connecting with me (and I’m sure very tall leaders have a lot to say about the challenges of connecting with a really short follower) so it’s not just a “tall followers don’t work with short leaders” thing.

The difference is: a tall leader and a short follower is a common occurrence, so leaders get used to accommodating it. My situation (tall follower + short leader; or tall follower + medium and/or tall leader) is unusual, and leaders have to learn on me what the heck to do with it. And THAT is why I’d like more tall followers in this dance! So that more guys get exposed to what it takes to lead a tall follower***.

I also want this to happen so that other tall girls get to have the awesome things that I’ve gotten to experience, being in the lindy hop community. There’s something about this relationship, this scene, that has made me feel more comfortable in my femininity and my prettiness in a very comfortable and friendly way. I think it might be the way that we celebrate each other; whether it’s cheering for a friend competing in a jack ‘n jill, or when the guy you’re dancing with pulls some sweet footwork and you can’t help but whoop a little at the awesomeness of it all; there are a lot of confidence boosters built into this world.

BUT I DIGRESS. My point is: if you’re a tall girl, get your booty into lindy hop classes, and learn how to swing out! You’ll have fun, and you’ll make the world better for tall girls everywhere.

*The fact that girls are supposed to be short and cute and pocket sized is something that this culture gets across verrrry well, whether it means to or not.

**Before you go saying: “But super models are tall!!” Sure they are, but I’m not a supermodel. Supermodels aren’t hot SOLELY because they’re tall, that is just something that happens to also be true about them. In terms of the overall American view of feminine beauty, it involves things like being short enough to go on your tippy toes to reach for a kiss… AND before you think I’m sour about this; I’m really not. It’s just the facts of life, and I find it all pretty interesting. Being tall is GREAT in so many ways! But we tall girls are a kind of minority, and there are interesting things that come with that.

***Through writing this post I’ve realized that I have more notes on being a tall follower (like about how you can’t let the consciousness of it/habits grown from a regular life of being tall affect your posture); but this is already pretty long, so those thoughts will have to come later.

Day 14: Your swing group of friends

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Day 13: Favorite dancing memory

I think my favorite is just every time those little perfect things happen; those moments that we don’t get in normal, every day, modern life…

When half the guys around you are wearing vintage clothes; clothes that fit them and make them look great like men used to…When you’re dancing with someone, and they laugh out loud because of how wicked sweet that thing you just did was….When you hit that break SO EFFING PERFECTLY and you feel like a boss! Getting to wear pretty dresses, do your hair as beautifully as your Gramma knew how to, and go out dancing…When you’re standing around with other students after class, listening to the lead instructor explain something. You’re the only follower there, and when he wants to demonstrate something; without even thinking he reaches out to you. That little “here, dance with me” motion that leaders unconsciously do with their hand… it’s so endearing! Late night after-dance restaurants stuffed with dancers all happy and doped up on endorphins. How all dancers are huggy people. I love hugs! (And I’ve noticed that the best leaders are great huggers. Coincidence? I think not.) When that tall, handsome, well dressed guy over there comes over and asks you to dance with him. That’s pretty fun.

now & then

“They are buying into the notion of it being a simpler time and, in some odd way, a happier time. And a time of beautiful clothing. Don’t underestimate that.”

This quote is from an article about the huge popularity of Downton Abbey in America right now, but I think the main argument is interestingly applicable to the world of Lindy Hop.

Of course, this isn’t the ONLY reason people are drawn to swing dancing (other reasons: the joy of partner dancing, the music, the movement style, the social aspects… and on and on) but I do think it’s an interesting part of why we love it so much. Your swing life provides things that you just don’t get in the rest of your life; things we imagine people did have in their lives back in that jazzy, gorgeous day that we’ve seen in pretty movies and old photographs again and again…

“Day” 3: A description of your favorite partner (and why they’re your favorite).

LOOK! I am now re-starting my 30 Day Lindy Hop Challenge. Woot.

So, this is a tough one, because I’m not good at absolute favorites… As such, I am going to separate it into a few categories.

Local – Tie
One of the best leads at our little local scene also happens to be one of my best friends in the scene, and we were swing babies together (we started about the same time, and learned basically everything together). He just got a lot better a lot faster than me! 🙂 haha, which I’m fine with. Aaron Raiff, you know I’m talking about you! Aaron is a fantastic leader (especially considering how long he’s been dancing) and he’s fun and inventive and really lets you have a strong voice in the dance, if you want it. He also happens to be at least a head shorter than me (I am tall, have I mentioned this? 5′ 11” barefoot), but we have amazing connection and always have, even in Balboa. It’s partly because we learned with each other, so we learned to deal with partners who were not your average lead-follow ratios. Aaron has proved to me that very few height differences are any kind of an excuse; it’s really about learning how to deal with the differences.

Baaron and I, getting 2nd Place in the Nevermore Jazz Ball Jack 'n Jill!! I was never more shocked.

Another one of our local fabulous leads, Bradley Smith, is tied for favorite for me.Ok so yes: they are our best two leads; but I’m putting them here mostly because I just have so much fun dancing with them! (They’re also two of the guys I know best in the scene, which really affects this question, I think.) Bradley and I get really silly when we’re dancing together, and we also have a lovely habit of lazy/tired dancing, which is oh so fun. See, I’m a very tall follower, and when I dance with Bradley, he’s just the right height to rest my head against his, and fall asleep a little. It’s so relaxing!

Bradley + me

National
Anthony Chen! He is my favorite leader that I’ve danced with from the wider US scene. And it’s not just because he’s crazy sweet (every time I’ve danced with him HE asked ME, which is crazy considering our relative positions in the Cool Swing Dancer Social Hierarchy), or that he’s an amazing leader, or that he makes you move like you’re Ginger; it’s also because he just has SO much fun! And invites you into that. Even though he’s really good, he’s not the least bit judgey.

Instructors
I’ve danced with a few of the international-level leaders, and I loooved dancing Balboa with Bobby White. He’s tall, I’m tall, he’s AMAZING, and we have virtually no balboa leaders here at my scene, so it was pretty dreamy. Peter Strom is probably my overall [lindy hop] favorite, though, because he’s (again, tall, and) such a sweetheart. He really loves to give his follower a fantastic dance, and he can often be found asking all levels of dancers to dance. Actually come to think of it, Bobby’s the same way (asks all sorts of followers) too! What can I say, I like the heroic ones.

The One That Got Away
At Camp Jitterbug, there was this one teacher who I REALLY wanted to dance with; going into the weekend, and then after I’d been in some of their classes even more. I did my darndest, and the cool thing was he actually was dancing with a lot of random follows (good on him!). But of course (as any follow who’s been to a large-scale packed event like CJ knows) getting one of the best leaders is a tricky game of maneuvering, and pouncing at the right time. And since he was dancing with a lot of random followers; lots of girls were sort of mobbing him. They were literally lining up to grab him after dances… and it seemed like he could only take so long of this, before he had to flee the dancefloor (understandably).

Alas, I never got to dance with him! [And for the record, I’m not talking about Skye. Not that THAT wouldn’t be such fun, of course!] I’d still like to know if it would be awesome, or if I would just end up feeling like a bad follower… But either way, I am convinced it would be great. That’s the best part about dancing; even if the dance sucked, you were still dancing with* a handsome and well dressed man, who smiled at you.

*Thought of writing “being held by”, because that’s just the honest truth. We do a lot of holding each other in swing dancing, and it’s pretty dreamy.

Two-Thousand-Twelve

New Year’s Resolution: Blog more about swing dancing.

(my favorite red heels)

That’s one of the reasons I started this blog, and I have gotten way behind (CRAZY behind!) on it. I really enjoy the swing dancing blog/tumblr/facebook community, and I’d love to be a contributor to this thing that I get a lot out of. And I do have THINGS TO SAY, I just haven’t been saying them.

So: this year I will blog more, and specifically blog more about lindy hop/swing/everything therein. I don’t think anyone’s actually reading this, tbh, and if you are, and you’re a design friend of mine, or a church friend of mine, or a reading friend, etc, all the dancing stuff might be a little foreign to you, but it’s cool. We’ll have fun together.

If I also manage to blog more about other aspects of my life: yay! I’ve just got one semester left of college, and then it’s on to big life decisions and exciting life happenings… so it’s a good time to get thoughts out, and record my various (hopefully interesting) thoughts.

First up: finish that blogging challenge I started eons ago, and then dropped like third period french.

Camp Jitterbug 2011

My brother* and I are going to Camp Jitterbug this year, and I’m getting wicked excited. I never would have thought that I’d be able to go to it anytime soon, but here we are, going! This year.

Things I’m looking forward to:
– the Jump Session! Lots of beautiful swing dancers, doing their thing; performing. (I hope there’s lots of Balboa.)


– seeing all of my Seattle friends! and making new ones.
– seeing swing friends from all over the country, who are gonna be there too.
– dancing with leads I don’t get to very often.
– dancing with Peter “the dreamboat” Flahiff, who I did not get to dance with last time I was out there.
– wearing my new cute dance dress.
– all of the amazing instruction! I’m looking forward to having Skye and Frida for my first time ever, plus just so many great instructors, and TAP lessons on Monday…!
– beautiful venues.
– being in Seattle! which means eating delicious food. I’m looking most forward to Tutta Bella, good Pho, and the doughtnuts from Pike Place. mmm…

Things I think I might like less than at regional events:
– waaay more people. I can’t imagine it’ll be easy to get to the good dancers/teachers to dance with them… but we’ll see!
– way more people. I might feel a bit lost! Then again, I love meeting new people, and there will be tons of new people…
– huge classes.

Goals:
– dance with Pontus Persson. He’s just so tall, and Swedish…!
– dance with lots of leads who are good and intimidate me.
– challenge myself in classes, and bring the things I’m learning to the dancefloor.
– more facebook friends!!! heh
– have fun.
– take some nice photos (even with limited camera options).
– record video, so I can make a cool video after the weekend.

*I’m so glad that I got him into swing dancing. And that he likes it as much as I do. Winning!