muddling through dance advice, part two

I took my first private lesson. Ever. It was a couple weeks ago, with Evita Arce, right after Hop Shop. My mind was already overwhelmed with all the information from that amazing event – and this just pushed it over the top.

I swear to you, I felt like I was butting my head repeatedly against a wall. Everything she said, I understood – but I couldn’t make anything function in my body.

Which is exactly what I wanted out of that private.

Like I said, between Hop Shop and Evita, I’m just trying to take it one piece of advice at a time. So, here’s the mountain of advice from Evita! (And remember – this was all given in the course of a single hour.) The following is broken up by concept, since WordPress doesn’t seem to like indented bullet points; you get the drift:

  • Move your rib cage more. Connecting a little to Andy Reid’s class – your frame is adjustable. When I dance (now), my torso/ribcage/core is almost solid, like a block of wood; what I want to move towards (as determined by the private with Evita) is a more fluid form of dancing, where my body moves naturally. This can help me be a more reactionary dancer, making for a more solid connection.
  • Sink into my rock step like stepping on a pillow – this helps the rib cage move, and it makes the rock-step a more fluid step; less like a staccato beat, and more like I am moving through and taking up the entirety of that beat.
  • Move shoulders and ribcage with swivels – when able / asked to, open up on 7&8 so that swivels are more dynamic and move through the entirety of 1&2 using your entire body; lots of contra-body movement.
  • The lead can even ask for swivels which start more rotated out (where your body is facing / rotated towards the left) – make sure you are connected through your back, so that the lead can open you up using his own posture and connection.
  • Move your left foot, belly button, and shoulder to open it up and really use the whole body to swivel.
  • On 3&4, don’t step back – be present and forward on your own weight (refer back to Jaya’s notes on being more neutral on 3&4). Position yourself forward, but still bouncing and moveable.
  • If you sink back, you are falling, and it is very hard to move a falling person through a swingout. You essentially become dead weight, which slows down your swingouts and makes you a heavy follow.

And then, there’s also this fantastic choreography that we learned. I was able to get it in class, but that of course meant I messed up during the video! I really enjoyed the not-quite-charleston smoothness which is very present in this choreography – I think it’s very characteristic of Evita’s dancing, and I think it’s an interesting way to push my own dancing.


muddling through dance advice, part one

A couple weeks ago, Atlanta hosted one of my favorite workshops ever conceived: Hop Shop. I love this event because it is such a different approach to workshops – it’s small, it’s intimate, and it’s almost personalized. The tiny class size (6-12 people) makes it easy for teachers to give individualized advice; conversely, it makes it easy for students to make sure they understand the material being discussed.

To top it all off, Atlanta also hosted Evita Arce for her Artist in Residency, and I took a private. It was the first private lesson I’ve taken (after four and a half years of dancing, it was about time), and it was completely worth the money. But now… now I am a bit overwhelmed with all the information roiling around in my head.

I’ve been trying to attack all the advice and suggestions one at a time, but there is so much in my head that it’s hard to focus.

So, in an attempt to purge what’s in my head so I can look at everything, and the hopefully focus on the more important things, I have written out a recap of both Hop Shop and Evita’s private. The first part is here, and all the detailed information from Evita will be posted tomorrow.

Maybe, if you’re looking for something to work on, you can find it here.


  • With Mike Faltesek, we worked on utting various jazz moves on any and every step of the swingout, with any foot (the most natural one and the opposite). Let me give you an example: as a follow, imagine doing a Suzy Q on the 3-4 with your left foot forward. (Suzy-Q-ing to the right). Now switch feet and do it the other way as well. Now do that a separate time on every count of the swingout. Now do an entire swingout of Suzy-Qs using both leading feet. This might be the best class I’ve taken in my life for learning new variations. Because it means that everything can be a variation, and it makes variations so much easier…
  • From the same class, we learned it’s also quite fun to do low-down swingouts, where every count switches low-downs. You can even do a sort-of chase with it, where one person sticks their low-down foot (the extended one) between the feet of the other person, and then you switch. You gotta see it, I think…


  • “YOUR TRIPLE STEPS ARE SOGGY.” – Evita. In fact, mine are a little slow on the first step. I’m working on springing off the floor on the first triple.
  • Exercise to fix: Jump off the floor repeatedly. As you’re comfortable with jumping, start working in your triple steps in both directions. It gives lift and momentum to the first step.

Evita & Jaya (a bit of overlap from the two classes)

  • Be neutral / don’t hang back on 1&2 (a lesson combined between Evita and Jaya): otherwise known as not hanging back on your 1-2 when the lead is asking you to come in. Staying back to milk your swivels 1) makes you a heavy follow and 2) slows down your dancing. And technically, 3) it’s not actually following.
  • This includes being neutral on your variations, butespecially your swivels. They should not affect the lead. In fact, try to get to a point where he cannot feel your variations at all; then, if you don’t like that feeling of neutrality (see next bit), come back to a middle point, where they do not affect the lead but he knows they’re happening – this will at least train you to hold your own weight.


  • Be neutral on 3&4 (mostly a lesson from Jaya): make sure you are propelling yourself through 3&4 so that you do not slow down the swingout or create unnecessary drag for your lead.
  • A good thing to think about to help be more neutral on 3&4: make sure your shoulders are over your knees, which are over your toes – really think about having good posture. At first, this feels like being very forward on your 3&4; with more practice, though, it helps create a very natural swingout and improves the speed of your swingout for fast dancing.
  • Potential controversy in self:I’m not sure I like the idea of feeling or being 100% neutral, which is what I feel Jaya was saying (whether or not that was her intention). In fact, when I danced with her, I’m not sure I liked the connection, which felt as if she almost wasn’t there; I like knowing I’m dancing with someone, instead of dancing with air. I do, however, believe that follows can often be dead weight on 3&4, where they rely too heavily on the lead to complete the swingout.
  • Interesting note: there is one lead with whom I always have trouble dancing in Atlanta. When I thought a lot about this bullet and the previous bullet, the dancing was significantly more enjoyable. Coincidence? I think not.

Andy Reid:

  • Quote of the hour: “Sometimes you can find something useful with a floppy ass.”
  • We don’t use our upper bodies enough in dancing, and it’s a shame. Sit in a chair: do exercises, dance, practice your shimmies — do anything to loosen up your body and learn to utilize it more.
  • Think less about frame and more about a comfortable posture — your frame is not made of steel. It is moveable, and to dance without moving your upper body is to limit yourself.
  • Instead of having a rigid frame, think of having an adjustable, comfortable posture.

Michael Gamble (such a hard class):

  • Adding nearly un-detectable heel-drops and rhythm variations on the “y-and-a” beat (the preceding eighth note) of any step you want. These little half-steps should work smoothly into your pulse. A friend called these “heartbeats in your feet.” I found it to be an accurate description.
  • Anticipating a step by stepping early (on the “and” beat). This does affect your partner, but it can be a cool effect.

the manbattical conclusion: as coherent as I can make it

I have been putting off writing about the end of my manbattical for more than a month now. The problem is, I don’t really know what to say. A small part has avoided writing this to avoid sounding slightly neurotic and controlling. But if I’m honest, the main reason I’ve avoided this post is that there is a certain level of added responsibility I am self-imposing on my future relationships, and that is…intimidating.

Now, I’m not talking about responsibility to say that I only want to be involved in long-term, serious relationships on the marriage track; I am absolutely not ready for such ideas. More than that, I think that serious relationships happen because they’re meant to, and not because you want them or you think you’re “ready.” Realistically, are we ever really ready?

Instead, I’m talking about responsibility for my own happiness and the happiness of my partner: the responsibility of knowing what I want, and going for it. The responsibility of knowing when things aren’t working, and taking action to either improve things or move on.

The fact that my self-imposed manbattical has been officially ended does not mean anything has changed – I’m still not in any relationship. Of course, I am actively bemoaning the fact that I would love a cute boy to cuddle up with – but I’m trying to make better decisions, so not every cute boy will do.

What are “better decisions,” you ask? A concise list:

  • Not flirting with boys in whom I do not have a romantic interest. (What can I say? I like flirting…)
  • Being more vocal about how I feel when I’m talking to boys in whom I am interested.
  • Paying more attention to I want, and being more decisive (read: honest) about getting it.

What I’ve realized is that my biggest challenge in relationships is not knowing what I want. In fact, I have even entered a couple relationships because, as a friend put it, “Well, I like being liked.” But “being liked” is not a valid reason to enter a relationship. In fact, it’s a pretty terrible reason.

Other terrible reasons to get into a relationship:

  • You are lonely, horny, or bored…and he’s available
  • He’s financially stable and he can buy you lots of things
  • He’s persistent (it can be good, but it can also be creepy)
  • All your friends are doing it
  • “Well, I mean, we’re already making out…”

On the other hand, there are many good reasons to get into a relationship:

  • You’re attracted to him (mentally, physically, or both)
  • He makes you laugh (or giggle, or snort)
  • He makes you feel safe
  • You always have a good conversation with him
  • It’s easy to spend time together – both being active, and quiet time

You would think it would be easy to avoid the relationships which are predominantly made of the first category. You would also think that it would be easy to leave for work on time, but that doesn’t keep me from opening facebook and mindlessly browsing through status updates from people I barely know…

Here’s the thing: I find that I frequently gloss over some of the reasons I shouldn’t be in a relationship. In fact, I will convince myself that I really do find him attractive (even if I don’t), or that our conversation quality will improve the longer we’re together (doubtful)…and convincing myself that he has those good qualities allows me to overlook or reason away all the reasons that particular relationship is wrong, even before it’s started.

So I’ve made a few resolutions:

  • I resolve to be more conscious about starting a relationship, instead of the passivity to which I have fallen victim in the past.
  • I resolve to be more aware of what I want and need out of a relationship, and communicating those desires. This could range between a casual, friends-with-benefits arrangement to a serious, long-term commitment; regardless, awareness and communication are necessary.
  • If my needs are not being fulfilled, I resolve to take action to improve the situation; if things cannot be improved, I resolve to never drag things out.
  • Most importantly, I resolve to never regret a smile, kiss, or relationship.
    Because we’ve all been there, and I refuse to go there any more.

I don’t know how to conclude all of this, except to say that,relationships are fun, and they’re comfortable. They are a little oasis of calm in a sea of “MY LIFE IS FALLING APART.” They bring happiness and security, and without love, I’m not sure I’d be human.

Now that I’ve gone sappy, I’m going to end things while I can. But I hope I’ve given you food for thought, and if you’re not happy with how your relationships are going, I hope you’ll consider taking a manbattical of your own to sort things out.

It helps… sort of.

“i think you need to learn to slack off better.”

This is a quote from a coworker at the Library. While he meant it (in jest) in reference to all the grueling work we do shelving books — and trust me, at the end of the semester, we receive hundreds of books to shelve on an hourly basis — I couldn’t help think of this blog. Sometimes, I feel like I’m achieving a lot; other times, I feel like I’m a bit of a slacker. Or, at the very least, I’m aware that I don’t always have the best follow-through.

This month, like I said, we’re going for consistency. Granted, I had an absolutely terrible day today, which means I’ve already slipped a little and had a coke. But that’s it – no more. So, without further ado, the goals for this month:

Run twice a week: Minimum. I’m hopefully going running Saturday, and then maybe Sunday as well for this week. I will get back into the habit, despite the heat and humidity.

Drink 3 cups of water per day: This is really just a health thing. Water should be my go-to drink, but it’s not. I will start bringing a water bottle to work, and water will be my go-to drink at restaurants.

Keep Apartment Clean: Pick up after myself, with a deep clean every Sunday. Shouldn’t be too hard.

Update Blog twice a week: I’m aiming for Tuesdays and either Thursdays or Fridays. I’ve even created a spiffy little calendar to help! Even if it’s just a few words on how the challenges are going, look forward to more regular posts.

Dance Focus: Use my upper body: This topic comes from a recent private lesson with Evita Arce. In fact, I learned many things from her. I’ll also be working on my triple steps in the coming months, as well as various aspects of my 1&2 and my 3&4. She broke me, and I love it – I have so much to work on!


On-Going Challenges

No More Coca-Cola – Like I said, I had a particularly rough day and I caved (trust me; my car is having some expensive issues*). This means I’ve already had my middle-of-a-crisis-and-stressed coke; since we’ve gotten that over with, the rest of the month should be a breeze!

Track Spending – I’m still great at this! And I’m still in love with the Toshl app on my iPhone. Since I now have four months of spending history, I’m trying to be much more realistic about my budgets (i.e., increasing my miscellaneous budget – though even an increase there won’t cover my new car bill!).

No More Buying Clothes – I don’t anticipate any problems with this for May.

Twenty Minutes of Reading per Day, Five Days per week – I have been reading a lot, but this month there weren’t a lot of books, which is what I originally intended for this challenge. I’m going to refocus on some novels and keep chugging away. I’m excited. Any book suggestions out there?


*Side note, and a window into the world of expensive car issues.

See that shiny thing in the very middle? The bolt? It’s the tension bolt for the steering belt (you know, that thing which is essential to power steering and all). That bolt has now broken in half, and the shaft of the bolt is lodged inside the engine. To fix the car, the engine must be taken out and the bolt must be drilled out of the engine and replaced. Until then, my car is an incredibly expensive (and immobile) radio / air conditioning unit.

The crazy thing? This isn’t uncommon in Toyota Corollas. In fact, the tension bolt is expected to crack and weaken after only three years with regular driving — and my car is six years old.

I wish I had remembered the Curse of the Cleaning Challenge before I picked my challenges last month…but I refuse to let it affect me this month. I refuse to be superstitious. But just in case: if I have a wreck by the end of the month and manage to survive, remind me to never clean my apartment on a regular basis for the rest of my life. I’d rather avoid mopping my floor if it reduces my car bills…

april challenges: consistency is only a virtue if…

In some ways, these challenges are getting easier; in others, they are getting more challenging. What’s clear is that I’m not seeing consistent success, which is frustrating. I’m almost halfway through the year, and I’d really like to get it at least 95% right before then.  At a certain point, it’s on me. Actually, it’s been on me the entire time. What I’m saying is, I expect me to do better.

Regardless, a recap of the goals for the past month:


I Learned the Tranky Doo –I worked with my lovely ladies Claire and Emma on learning the Tranky Doo, and then we practiced every Hot Jam, Graveyard Tavern, and miscellaneous dance that we could. The Tranky Doo is fast becoming one of my favorite choreographies in a similar way to my love for the Big Apple: there’s something about performing a big dance with a crowd of people which is absolutely intoxicating.

Track Spending – This challenge has been going great, especially since Toshl had a recent update for their app.*

Reading – I’ve been reading a lot, but it hasn’t all been books. As such, I’m going to refocus on reading books, and hope

I got it mostly right:

Work on Solo Movement – Moderate success. I am solo-dancing almost every single chance I get at social dances. I’ve also learned the Tranky Doo, and I took a solo movement class by Evita while she was here. However, I have not scheduled any regular practice time for myself, which would definitely help.

iPhone Photo – This challenge went really well for the first half the month, but became harder the second half, when I was often too distracted to take a photo. However, I am more used to pulling my phone out at fun moments to snap a picture, which was actually the intention. And I did end up with some great photos as a result!

No more Buying Clothes – For the first time since I started this challenge, I caved. The short story is that I’ve been looking for a similar dress for about five months now, and when I saw it, I caved. Considering it cost about $20, it’s adorable, and I’m going to use it for dance competitions, I feel like this was a worthwhile purchase.  Oh, and I got matching bloomers with lace, so I’m super happy.

I really could have tried harder:

Keep Apartment Clean – I did not quite succeed at this challenge. However, I did do a deep clean, which has been necessary for a couple weeks now, and I plan on keeping it cleaner from here on out.

Run – I really wish I’d done better on this challenge this month. Getting a kidney infection the second week, though, severely limited my abilities. Once I was finally back on my feet, it warmed up to absurd temperatures. Now I have to either find a good gym and run inside in the AC, or I need to run in the heat and humidity. Any suggestions?

No more Coca-Cola – There was a bit of backsliding on this challenge this month, especially towards the end. I’m buckling down again, no matter how badly I crave a coke when I see a vending machine.

Look forward to an update tomorrow about this month’s goals!


*Toshl updated! Now you can keep track of your income as well as your expenses! With the new update, I decided to buy yearly access to the app, since with free access you can only add income once a month, which is unrealistic. I feel like I have a much better method for keeping track of my income and expenses now, and I’m really excited. More about how I did on spending during April later this week!