the hidden reason we become lindy hoppers: a response

The Back Story

I love this blog, which I’ve actually only recently found. It has some great inspirational tips and ideas to push myself harder; it also comments on a lot of Lindy Hop ideas and challenges that come up in the social scene. On this most recent post, the author states that the hidden reason we become Lindy Hoppers is for the challenge. I believe she does have some very good points about the challenge of Lindy Hop and how it can bring motivation and inspiration. I agree with her in that challenge is a huge part of the fun of Lindy Hop.

However, the challenge of Lindy Hop is not for everyone. In my opinion, the reason we love Lindy Hop is made of something much more complex.

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I have two scenarios for you:

The first is a lead in the Lindy Hop community who has not improved in the last three years. You know exactly who he is – he might have trouble staying on beat, or maybe he always forgets the rock step; most frustratingly, you’re always afraid he’ll hurt you. Still, you dance with him almost every week because he clearly enjoys the dance, despite the fact that he’ll never get past starting his swingout on the wrong beat. So why does he keep coming out, if he won’t ever get past this speed bump in his own dancing?

The second is a follow I personally brought into the Lindy Hop community from the Contra community. I thought she would absolutely love it, and that would be that. She would come Lindy Hopping with me and we could rekindle our friendship over a new love of the best dance there is out there. But…she didn’t like it. She went back to Contra Dancing. For a while, I was afraid I didn’t help her enough. I didn’t teach her the basic well enough, or I didn’t tell enough leads to go dance with her to make sure she had a good time. But over the past year, I’ve realized something: she loves something else about Contra Dancing more than she ever enjoyed Lindy Hop.

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Community

What the above dancers have in common is a love for the communities which they respectively frequent. To me, dancers of all age, gender, nationality, and belief system come to Lindy Hop because it fosters a kinship and identity that fits our needs and desires. We like the people we dance with.

The reason the Never-Improving-Lead still comes out dancing? To me, it is because that’s where he has friends. The reason my friend goes Contra Dancing instead of Swing Dancing? She enjoys the community more: in fact, they are her community, and they are just as important to her as the Lindy Hop Community is to me.

I think that this is the same reason many Lindy Hoppers drop out: whether it’s school, family, or some unidentified reason: you might not realize or understand it, but they probably have other things in their lives which engender more of a community feeling, even if it’s as simple as taking a regular cooking class.

I also believe this is one of the biggest reasons we all love dance event weekends. It is a time where we all get together and share inside jokes, go to lunch or dancing between dancing, and offer up our homes to people we’ve only just met. I have never lived in the same city as two of my absolute best friends, but that doesn’t change the fact that I speak to them on an almost daily basis.

Where else do you get a community like that?

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A concession

I do believe that the essence of challenge is an incredibly important part of Lindy Hop. Without it, we would not have rock stars: we are inspired by incredible dancers, and that often pushes us to keep going and get better. For some people, the challenge does become necessary – because theoretically, we could find a community anywhere, but it might not have the added benefit of pushing us both physically and mentally.

But you know what I see more? People posting these videos on facebook. Having discussions. Everyone clapping at that one part in the routine for “Jump through the Window” where Skye and Frida clap (you know exactly which routine I’m talking about, but here’s the link anyway). Think about it: those videos give us something to talk about.  Something for our community to drool over, at the very least.

I believe that challenge drives many of the upper echelon of dancers – as well as those who wish to be in the upper echelon, at the very least. In fact, I am one of the many who is constantly thinking up ways to work on my dancing, and I am more than excited about the challenge which Hop Shop offers at the end of the month. I also love that the author admits the following:

Accepting and navigating challenge is one of the recurring themes on Dance World Takeover.

That is the purpose of her blog, and it is one of the reasons I enjoy her writing so much.

However, I believe challenge inspires us to improve, but I do not necessarily believe it inspires us to Lindy Hop. There are so many of us who are just out to dance and be with friends.

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Conclusion

So to all those who come out just to dance: I totally get you. At one point in the future, I will probably be you. Whether or not I ever place in a competition, I have my Lindy Hop friends to keep me company. We share inside jokes, cuddle on the floor of dance events, and share amazing awkward-pelvis moments. I love the challenge of Lindy Hop, but you are the real reason I dance.

Of course, this is just my opinion, just as the motivation of challenge is the opinion of the author of the original post. We’re all driven by different things. I just think that Lindy Hop would be significantly less fun without my friends.

Photo Credits to the lovely Jessica Keener

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april goals: you mean I’m still doing this…?

All right, how many of you expected me to have given up by now? (Honestly, I did…) No such luck! I am officially a quarter of the way through the year (has time really gone that quickly?), and I am excited about April. I’ve been doing these focus-months long enough now to be more aware of what I can and cannot accomplish. I want to focus on completing challenges where I know I will be at risk of slacking off; this means I need a better spreadsheet to keep track of things which I don’t necessarily do every day. I wish there was an app for these challenges…

New Challenges

1. Learn the Tranky Doo. I am already partway through this challenge, but I want to make sure I don’t slack off. I need to be able to dance the Tranky Doo without someone standing in front of me and reminding me how the phrases link together. This Saturday I will be working with some lovely ladies on this dance; then I plan on practicing it at least twice a week on my own (meaning aside from Hot Jam) for the rest of the month.

2. Work on solo movement twice a week. Along with doing the Tranky Doo, twice a week, I’d like to work on my solo movement at the same time. The biggest challenge here will be actually finding the time and space to do this. For this challenge, solo dancing a minimum of three songs at Hot Jam will count as one practice session. I run the risk of slacking off on this challenge, so if you see me at Hot Jam, please ask how it’s going!!

3. Keep my apartment clean. I am terrible about slacking off on cleaning, since I am the only person who sees my apartment on a regular basis. This needs to change. I plan on deep-cleaning on Sunday and maintaining that cleanliness for the rest of the week. This challenge obviously runs the risk of being pushed to the wayside, but I’m going to do my best to keep it up.

4. Take a photo with my iPhone every day. For the rest of the month, at least, since I didn’t decide on this challenge until a couple days ago. These photos will be uploaded via Instagram to Facebook.

5. Run! Work up to two miles on a regular basis, and start working myself down to an 8:30 mile. I would like to run at least three times every week, though I realize my work schedule may not permit this.

Continuing Challenges

6. No more Coca-Cola. I would also like to cut out my desire for Coke at dance events — so if you see me with a Coke in hand at Hop Shop, feel free to slap it out of my hands and pour it on the ground in front of me, no matter how sad or angry I appear.

7. Track spending using Toshl. The goal here is to pull down my snacks and restaurant spending even further, and to avoid unnecessary miscellaneous expenses. I have, however, made my misc expenses budget bigger, as you never know when some ass-hat with gazelle legs will take off with your iPhone.

8. No more buying clothes. I am halfway through with this challenge, and stupidly excited about that. I might break down and use my rewards to get some pick-me-up items at Banana Republic or Gap — which is allowed, since I will not actually be spending money for this purchase. I just need something to be excited about again — a skirt for work, or a good flouncy dress for dancing. I can’t decide.

9. 20 mins of reading per day, 5 days per week. I would like to get back on track with this goal, which slipped a little bit this month. Any recommendations for good books?

march goal analysis

So clearly, I have some places in which I regularly struggle. Regardless, I am seeing significant improvement in my ability to follow through with a goal, and that’s exciting.

1. Research Grad Schools. Clearly, I have some follow through issues in this area. Mostly, I just don’t like researching — a sentiment which is probably left over from a distaste for homework. However, I have found a school which is a very good candidate for application, and I will be posting about that in the next few days.

2. Exercise Regimen. I did not follow this exercise regimen; it is no surprise that getting up in the mornings proved a little more difficult than I wanted. However, as I recently posted, I do actually like running now, and I ran twelve miles in March. I plan on running as much as I can in the evenings, with more specific goals to be noted in my goals for April.

3. Dance Focus: Always keep my elbow in sight. This was hard to practice because it was impossible to engineer a situation for practice, as practice of this skill cannot be pre-meditated. However, I did think of it every night, and I think I did pretty well.

4. No more Coca-Cola. Going strong. This was the hardest month, though! Part of the problem was ATLX and Cumberland Shuffle, during which I allowed one coke a day to keep me awake and functioning (I still don’t like tea or coffee, or I would have searched for caffeine elsewhere).

5. Pay only by Cash, Track spending. I have officially decided to ditch the pay by cash part of this challenge. However,  tracking my expenses has become progressively easier using Toshl, and I will stick to this.

6. No more Buying Clothes. Still going strong, though it is SO HARD not to buy anything. I was completely not excited by my wardrobe at Cumberland Shuffle. I think it is time to break out my remaining Banana Republic rewards vouchers for a little pick-me-up. Mostly, I’m looking for a new skirt for work, as I’ve worn the same four or five almost every day since I started.

7. 20 Mins of Reading per Day, 5 days per week. I have slacked off on this the last two weeks or so. I plan on picking it back up starting this week.

8. Manbattical. Well, it’s over. Thank goodness. No, I did not go out and immediately kiss every boy I saw, no matter how badly I wanted a good ol’ smackeroo. I’m not sure this was a success, though, and that frustrates me. I plan on putting down some thoughts on this later this month.

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BONUS: I styled hair! At Cumberland Shuffle, I styled the hair of two lovely ladies, Eva and Emma. I even learned how to make a mohawk on both long and short hair! I’ve never worked with super short or super curly hair before, so it was fun to expand my horizons. I’ve always kind of wanted a mohawk…and now I can make one anytime I want!

Styling the mohawk I wore on Sunday! It's so much fun to wear! This was after being at the park all day, so it's a little flat, but it was still fantastic!

shim sham jam

We’ve all seen it happen: a super-fast song comes on, but there are only maybe five advanced dancers in the room. Regardless, a jam circle forms, and the intermediate and beginner dancers are looking expectantly at you, begging you to do some cool moves in the middle.

Well, the first couple goes out, and it’s awesome — and the second and third couples are pretty great, too. Then someone solo dances, because there’s not a lot else we can do, and by that time a lead’s rested up enough to go a second round in the middle with a different follow.

But then there’s nothing else to do. And the jam circle suddenly gets very awkward, because everyone’s standing there clapping at…nothing.

It’s pretty much the lamest thing ever.

But last night! As soon as it got a little awkward, Michelle stepped a little ways into the circle — just enough to be seen — and looked around at the rest of us and started…the Shim Sham? She wasn’t even through the first set of Shim Sham stomps before the rest of the advanced dancers had joined in, and by the time cross overs came, most of the intermediate dancers had caught on as well.

It was easily the best jam circle in which I have ever participated. The best part about this one was that included all the dancers who knew the Shim Sham — even though the music was beyond fast, the Shim Sham is easy enough that almost every dancer in the circle was following along. And because we were in a circle, we were all looking at each other and smiling and laughing.

It was the same feeling I get when I do the Big Apple in a big, huge crowd of people — we are part of a community, and we were all sharing a special little moment.

I love the swing community.

PS — I will be updating about my goals soon, I promise! It’s just been a little crazy, since I just got back from Cumberland Shuffle. Expect to see something later today!

march financial analysis: why everyone should use Toshl instead of Mint

My financial goals for March actually went pretty well, all things considered. I came under budget in four out of seven categories — which is a far cry better than last month, when I was over budget in five out of seven categories. No joke.

The problem? I still came out $281.65 over budget. Ouch. This is almost entirely due to the loss and subsequent replacement of my iPhone, which was about $200.00. Taken in perspective, that means I was only over budget $81.65, which is cutting my over-spending inhalffrom the previous month. Now that, I believe, is actually an accomplishment.

The categories in which I am still over-spending? “Other Food,” which relates to restaurants and snacks, and “Misc,” which refers to everything from movies to birthday presents.

To help keep track of my expenses this month, I started using an app called Toshl. I have to say that I am very, very excited about this app. I am not a big fan of Mint, which everyone seems to love — I find it clunky, and I think it is very hard to manipulate. In contrast, Toshl is very user-friendly and customizable. It runs very, very smoothly on my phone, and it makes categorizing expenses very easy.

The pros of Toshl:

  • Easy, clean, and attractive interface; also a very lightweight app.All in all,
  • Customizable categories and budgets are very easy to maintain.
  • Allows multiple different views of how your expenses break down, including by day, by category, and by time frame.
  • Easily accessible at all times, including online.
  • It doesn’t try to notify me. Ever. I love that.

The cons:

  • You enter all your expenses yourself; if you forget one or miss one, it’s on you.*
  • To have access to all the features, membership is about $20 a year.
  • It does not have access to your bank account information.**

All in all, I highly recommend this app if you’re looking for a clean, lightweight program to help track your expenses. I think it is ten times easier to use than Mint, and it’s helped me keep track of my expenses better in a single month than Mint was able to do for two years. If I go another month using it as much as I do, I will probably purchase the full app, as it allows you to create multiple budgets and then connect expenses to specific budgets so that you’re more able to keep track of where the money is going.

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*I have to say that I actually like to enter all my expenses myself. I am a bit of a control freak, and I was always frustrated with the categorizing of Mint, which was somehow frequently wrong — for example, it liked to categorize the coffee shop at the library as a “Home Improvement” expense. True story. I can note a single expense as belonging to multiple categories — so if I want to remember what I purchased my dad for his birthday, I can just add a tag for that.

**I have to say that I also like this — I always found it creepy that Mint has such unlimited access to my financial information. Yes, it means I have more to keep track of — but it also forces me to pay attention, which I believe encourages more financial responsibility. I just recognize that it is a feature which Mint has but Toshl does not.

 

 

signs the world might be ending

You’ve all heard rumors of December 2012 and the impending end of civilization as we know it. Well, I might have just found another sign of your imminent doom: I like to run. (Cue ominous music.)All right, so maybe the world’s not ending because I like to run – but it is definitely something I never thought I would feel or say. I mean, let’s be honest – I went running while in Nashville, even though it was the middle of the day and I was dancing all weekend and there was no earthly reason why I should have tackled 1.5 miles and two huge hills. But I did…and because of that, I might be crazy.

 I find that I really like running in the evenings. I understand that there are more benefits to running in the morning – you burn calories all day, and it’s a good way to get up and be immediately active. However, I am more likely to sleep in most mornings, whereas I actually find it quite easy to walk in the door when I get home from work and immediately throw on my running shorts, turn around, and go for a jog.

Over the past month, I have been running nine times, totaling just over twelve miles. My most recent run had a pace of9:58min/mi, which is a moderate improvement over the first time I ran at10:16min/mi. Considering the fact that this most recent run also included two very large hills in the heat of the day, I’d say that’s a rocking time. Also, my run time is much more consistently under 10 min/mi than it was when I started this whole thing.

Goal for April: I have not yet run two miles in one go, so that will be my goal for April: to consistently run 1.5 to 2 miles (I am slowly becoming more comfortable with a mile and a half, so I don’t foresee a problem). I would also like to be able to consistently run an 8:30 min/mi.

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Side note: I think I should go buy some running shoes. For a while, I didn’t see running as a valid investment of my hard-earned money; as time went by, I really liked that I was learning to run with minimal support, which is healthy for your feet. Now, though, I’d like to help save my shins, and I’m sure running shoes would help with that. I guess I just need to find the time (and money!) to go shopping.

cumberland shuffle

I would just like to take a moment to mention how fantastic Cumberland Shuffle was this past weekend. I believe many congratulations and praises should go out to Morgan Kestner and Breanna Perry, who are the organizers of this incredible event.

I would love to see more events of this scale and caliber. The interesting thing about Cumberland Shuffle is that it started as a very regional event for dancers interested in learning classic forms and styling of dance – it has always been a smaller event, giving it a very intimate and casual feel. This year, however, the event attracted a much wider range of people from all up and down the Eastern Coast, and even a few from out west. I think this attraction is due partly to some great marketing by the 20 Club, and partly to the reputation for being a quality vintage-focused event.  

I believe there are many benefits for maintaining the size of Cumberland Shuffle as it is; some aspects which I think made it work are:

  • Fewer venues make transportation and navigation easy.
  • One set of really quality instructors makes the event attractive, yet keeps it affordable.
  • In the same vein, one (or two) really good bands keep the energy high and the price point low.
  • To make up for only one band, a couple really fantastic DJs (such as Rob Moreland, who killed it every time he played) keep the energy high.

I won’t go into it, but I’ve seen a few events in the past couple of years strive a little beyond their means and really hurt the quality of the event. Cumberland Shuffle was spot on, and the affordability and simplicity of the event really enhanced the quality of the event. In particular, the level and quality of dancing was exceptionally high. Combined with the intimacy of the event, it fostered a very inspiring and energetic atmosphere.

I would love to see more exchanges and workshops which follow this model – sure, we all love a good ol’ Lindy Focus or ILHC to get the blood pumping. But in-between the all-star events, I would love more casual, intimate, and simple events. Ones where you go to relax and socialize at an affordable, comfortable event.  

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In a separate yet related topic, my favorite part of the event was going to the park on Sunday with a few people who weren’t taking classes. We watched the capoeira dancers, played some Frisbee, took naps in the grass, and learned the Tranky Do. It was entirely casual and relaxed and fun and social. I would love to see an exchange which focuses on being simple and social; I think it would be absolutely the best way to spend a weekend.

Also, I would love to say that our mohawks were incredible. And last but not least, you can be funny, but you can’t have fun. So a shout-out to my carpool and house-mates: you guys made this event into more than I expected or asked for.