in with the new

I am excited about this year. I’m looking forward to some big changes: I will (hopefully) move out of the South. I will (hopefully) attend Grad School, but even if I don’t, I will (definitely) leave my position at the Library. I am looking forward to these major life changes.

There are some smaller and theoretically more manageable changes coming this year, too. I plan on learning more about what I like to eat and becoming capable of cooking said dishes (more on this in another post). I also plan on getting back into running, which had been put on hold due to a foot injury. I will re-start the hundred pushup challenge, and I will not stop until I can complete 50 consecutive push-ups.

I am also making some changes in how I approach dancing, learning to dance, and blogging about dancing. The most notable change for anyone who reads this blog is that I will have a blog dedicated to dance, rather than splitting the focus of this blog between myself (let’s be honest — I like talking about myself) and various dancing thoughts (which is what most people who look at this blog are hoping I’ll write about in the first place).

I have decided to share my goals for the New Year on this blog. You might roll your eyes (“Sure. Another list of New Year’s resolutions. Great.”), but you should know that I actually completed the majority of my goals from last year. I believe some of the personal success I experienced last year was due to this blog, and a whole lot more of that success was due to the support and encouragement of my friends and family.

So thank you for your continued support. Because this year is going to be awesome.

***

So Important they Deserve their Own Category

1. Move out of Georgia.
2. Be awesome at Graduate school (assuming I am accepted). If I am not accepted, be more awesome and re-apply.

Personal

1. Read more books than I read in 2012 (at least 23). Try to maintain consistency in a reading schedule (meaning, try to fall asleep less often on the bus).
2. Complete at least 5 craft projects this year, and share these accomplishments. I want at least one craft project to involve sewing!
3. Learn to appreciate the good in others, rather than focusing on their flaws. In particular, I would like to learn to not compare myself to others in a way which is detrimental to either myself, the other person, or both.
4. Create two blogs with specific purposes: one for myself, my goals, my accomplishments, my successes, and my failures. The other for dancing, so that dancers do not have to wade through miscellaneous posts about lipstick and grad school.*
5. Maintain a Daily Memories Journal, as I did in 2012.

Health

1. Learn to Cook. Specifically, I have two cookbooks to buy: “I’m Just Here for the Food” b Alton Brown, and a basic “Four Ingredient” cookbook, which is fairly popular. I’ll have to look through them and see what I like. As I find recipes I enjoy, start a personal recipe collection.
2. Begin running again (slowly). Work up to a 5k, keeping in mind my injured foot and a tendency to get shin splints.
3. Use the “sworkit” app on my iPhone to exercise.
4. Begin the hundred pushup challenge again, and go as far as I can. Preferably to 100 pushups, of course, but I am aiming for a minimum of 50.
5. Stop drinking coke entirely.
6. Improve my posture.**

Financial

1. Continue to use Toshl to track all my finances.
2. Teach dance (beginner’s lessons, Tranky Doo lessons, private lessons, whatever) to raise money; use this money specifically for dance purposes.
3. Resist the trap of over-consumption. Don’t buy anything, and sell unnecessary things, especially as I prepare to move.

Dance

1. Become more involved in the organizational side of exchanges and workshops.
2. Learn the Hat Trick Shim Sham and Tranky Doo. Learn the Jive.
3. Choreograph one solo-jazz piece, focusing on musicality and clean transitions.
4. Focus on some core basics in swing dancing: posture, pulse, and a clean and consistent connection. When I say connection, I don’t just mean that I cleanly follow the move a lead is leading, but that I’m also interacting with him as a dancer, rather than being in my own world.
5. Make more eye contact when I dance. Practice keeping my head up, especially in solo and when doing variations.
6. Continue to improve as a lead. Dance at least a few dances every night as a lead. Look for feedback on how to clearly lead moves.

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growing the swing dance community

The Atlanta swing dance community is not at its best. It’s not struggling yet, but it has its challenges. It’s entirely natural — every scene goes through an ebb and flow, but I believe that Atlanta is in a valley.

So here’s my question: I know there are a few people who read this blog* who are heavily involved in their own scenes. At the very least, I know there are a few people who have more experience than I, and who have opinions on what works and what doesn’t. So I have a question for you:

How do you successfully advertise in your local city to increase visibility and the dance community? What scene-growth strategies have you found successful?

I’m also looking for answers from people who might be newer to the scene. How did you get involved? What did you find welcoming, and more important, what did you find off-putting?

All thoughts and comments are welcome — I realize this idea has probably been hashed out in a hundred places by a hundred people, so I thank you for the time you’ve taken to respond!

***

*Let’s be honest — most of it is because of the awesomeness of Jerry, who helps publicize the occasional dance post. Thanks, Jerry — you’re awesome.

as promised for the most awesome Tranky Doo class ever

The best video to follow along and review the steps with:

We got until about 1:34 in this class — and don’t worry, we’ll go over that last sequence just a little bit more, since we only covered it quickly in class.

The four most common songs for Tranky Doo Performances:

  • “Jump Session” by Slim and Slam (the slowest of the songs, and thus the song we’ve been using)
  • “Chant of the Groove” by Fats Waller (probably the song the Tranky Doo was choreographed to, though it is unclear)
  • “Dipsy Doodle” by Ella Fitzgerald (the song used in the Spirit Moves)
  • “Tia Juana” by Bud Freeman (I have no trivia about this one)

And finally, another plug for The Most Awesome Spreadsheet Ever (for learning the Tranky Doo, at least!). Also known as the spreadsheet where I geeked out over the intersection between the Tranky Doo and Excel for a couple hours.

You guys did really great tonight, and I can’t wait for next week!

some thoughts on being in a “dance funk”

Over the course of AVS, I have been experiencing a moderate amount of “dance funk” – but instead of riding the waves and suffering through the lows, I’ve been trying to find the triggers which cause me to be frustrated, unhappy, or upset when dancing. While I don’t think I’ve found the solution, I have identified a few of the problems moments.

Some examples of situations which stress me out:

  • During competitions, especially in the spotlight.
  • Dancing with amazing dancers – especially to particularly fast music with people I do not know well or have not danced with before (if you’re not good at reading between the lines: this generally refers to dancing with instructors)
  • Performing a choreography.
  • Struggling with certain technical concepts as a follow (there are a few right now).
  • What I feel is unjust praise for my dancing (usually after comps).

However, I’ve also noticed that certain similar situations are no challenge, and are often extremely enjoyable:

  • Silly competitions, like the Jill and Jill in which I danced with the lovely Emma.
  • Jam circles. Especially the absurd ones, like the impromptu jam circle in which everyone danced on one foot, and I swiveled like a flamingo. Think about it.
  • Dancing with amazing dancers who are friends, no matter how fast the music.
  • Performing the Tranky Doo (even if everyone is watching me ‘cause they don’t know it).
  • Leading and solo movement.

I think the theme here is a certain amount of pressure I am putting on my own dancing to “be awesome.” I am aware that a large portion of this is in my own head. Now, if I only got upset after competitions, I would smack myself upside the head and tell my stupid ego to suck it up, because I am well aware I have a long way to go before I am ever the amazing dancer I want to be. Being unsuccessful in comps is a good reality check, and I love the feedback I’ve gotten from the comps at AVS.

No – far more concerning is the stress I have felt when receiving praise for my dancing. I am not sure what about this praise should make me so upset, as it should be a positive experience. Regardless, every time I receive a “Great job!” or “I love watching you dance!” after an experience in which I feel I could have done better, I feel an overwhelming and terrifying weight sitting on my chest. I often have to find a curtain behind which to hide, or corner in which to sit alone for a few minutes.

The good news is that I do not hate dancing; in fact, quite the opposite. I have immensely enjoyed taking classes as a lead this week, and the solo jazz class with Mikey absolutely blew my mind. And any situation in which the pressure is low is incredible – especially dancing with friends or doing absurd things.

As a result of these realizations, I am going to take a short break from dancing, starting after Hot Jam tomorrow (gotta tell Michelle I won’t be around for a bit to teach lessons & all). I am going to step back and remind myself that there is no pressure to be amazing – the goal is to have fun, and I can only do myself a disservice if I get stressed about “being awesome.” This is something I tell each and every beginner I teach, yet it is advice which I am struggling very hard to take myself.

When I come back, I’m going to focus on the aspects of dancing which I truly enjoy. I think that enjoying being a follow and enjoying the aspect of putting work into my following will follow naturally when I’m ready.

dance depression

I am struggling to enjoy dancing right now. In the last two weeks, I have actually avoided dancing, which I have absolutely never done before. In fact, dancing is usually what I turn to when I need to pick my spirits up – it has never dragged my spirits down before.

I understand that many dancers go through periods where dancing is significantly less enjoyable than it has been in the past. What is troublesome is how sudden the transition was. It’s not like I lost interest over the course of six months or a year. At ILHC in August, I was so excited and pumped about dancing that I could barely wait for the next thing; but by Jubilee Jazz Revival, approximately three weeks later, I was so depressed about dancing that I could barely convince myself to even attend the Sunday afternoon dance.

A few people have asked what’s wrong, but I have stoutly avoided addressing my sudden change of attitude. Part of this is that I vehemently want to avoid certain conversations with overly-enthused dancers who can’t see the other side (often beginners and intermediates):

  • The Person who Associates Skill with Happiness: “But you’re so good!  How could you not like it?” (Well, first off, I’m not that good; second off, my ability to swing out has little to do with my enjoyment of the action.)
  • The Perky “I’ll Always Love Dancing” Dancer: “How could you not like dancing? It’s so fun and enjoyable and amazing! I will never stop liking dancing.” (Yeah, good luck with that. In fact, that was me about a month ago. What I’ve realized is that for some people, dance is not their thing; and while it is my thing as far as I can tell, that doesn’t mean I love it right now.)
  • The Person Who Places Blame Elsewhere: “It’s probably just that you’re stressed with work / life / whatever. Just get out there and dance – you’ll feel so much better!” (Actually, this is relatively valid, with some recent non-dance-related events. Regardless, I think the issue is a bit more deeply rooted.)

And more importantly, I want to avoid telling all my friends and peers in the dance world, because I’m afraid they won’t understand. Or, they will understand, but they’ll write it off as a non-issue. Or even, I’m afraid of being judged – of being seen as unhappy with dancing for the wrong reasons, if that’s even possible.

I didn’t say my fears were logical – but logic does not change how I feel.

And if I’m honest to my fears, I also don’t want to talk about this because I don’t really understand where my change in attitude is coming from. Dancing has always cheered me up, even in the worst attitudes…so what do I do when dancing is what’s getting me down? The unsettling lack of understanding is causing even further distress, and thus I’ve avoided thinking about it as long as I could.

But I think this all needs to change. I need to analyze what about dancing is causing distress. I know that this depression will not end in me forgoing dancing – I love the community and the activity itself far too much. However, I want to know the source of my frustration so that I can properly nip it in the bud and enjoy swinging out again. Like, now – because honestly, it’s AVS, and there are too many awesome people here to not enjoy dancing.

congratulations to the AVS scholarship winners!

There’s been a lot of talk about community development in the lindy-blogosphere lately, whether it’s tools we can use to better our scene or about the important differences between beg/int and advanced classes — both are articles you should read! With that in mind, I’d like to bring to your attention one of the absolute coolest community-building endeavors that I’ve seen over the last few years: scholarships.

The Atlanta Varsity Showdown, in case you’ve never heard of it, is a mid-size workshop event held in Atlanta every year. It started as a workshop oriented towards college students who didn’t necessarily have the money or time to learn to swing out on their own schedule; it’s an affordable workshop, and it will teach you everything you need to know to swingout in a single weekend.

It’s also a great introduction into the swing scene for new dancers – not only do you learn to dance, but you meet so many people who dance from all over the southeast, and it’s incredibly exciting. Add into that the competitions – it’s stunning for new dancers.

Still, the event is a big commitment, especially when you’re a new dancer. As per the economy, the cost has (of course) gone up. And while the event often falls on fall break for students, spending an entire weekend learning to dance can be intimidating; new dancers are often skeptical that it’s worth the money.

This year, the Emory Swing Club donated money to pay for the registration for five students to attend AVS. This is incredibly exciting to me because it takes the cost out of attending; this way, five students can attend a workshop. In all likelihood they will bring what they learn back to their school and spread the love, which of course helps the community grow even stronger. It also gets them excited about other workshops and events, and even sets them up to start traveling.

I would love to see the use of scholarships more when it comes to workshops – especially workshops on a regional scale. I know that it is common to win a pass to an event through competitions, and I do think one’s skill to be a worthy reason to garner free admission to a great workshop. However, it would be incredibly worthwhile, I believe, to also offer scholarships based on a dancer’s enthusiasm; that dancer might not be incredible in comps, but they are excited, and they are going to spread that excitement back to their home scenes – to other college students, to small scenes, and to people who might not yet have the opportunity to spend a weekend at a workshop with internationally renowned instructors.

Granted, a student could attend nearly any event they wanted if they have the foresight to ask to volunteer.  Volunteering is great, too, because it engenders a sense of community and togetherness which you often miss out on. However, I also see the benefits of rewarding the particularly excited and self-motivated students – especially because it engenders so much pride and excitement.

This is a good way to grow our scene. It’s not possible for every event, I know, but it’s still a good way to grow our scene, and it’s really incredible, I think, that Atlanta Varsity Showdown is giving this opportunity to college students.

In conclusion, congratulations to the winners of the 2012 AVS Scholarship! I would list your names, but this is the internet, and I didn’t ask your permission. Regardless, I’m so excited for all of you and your impending adventures in swing dancing!

a short note on KLX and dancing for the hell of dancing

I went to KLX this past weekend, and I think we can safely assume that any time I attend a dance event, I won’t be updating that weekend. Maybe I should be planning ahead and writing the post early so I can just post it when I’m at a dance weekend? I’ll work on that, but no promises.

I would just like to say something quick which I learned this weekend. Sometimes, we need a break from dancing to remember why we love it. While attending KLX was not a break, entirely, it was different from my “normal” as of late. It was a different crowd with a different vibe and different goals. It reminded me that dancing can be fun, casual, exciting, and comfortable – rather than stressful or overwhelming or frustrating.

KLX was a solid event, and I thank all the organizers for putting on something that reminded me of the community we share and the simple love of dancing for the hell of dancing.