Words for Lindy Hoppers – Seattle edition

Written by Tien Le – Oh internets. You surprise me sometimes, especially when all y’all find the stuff that we store on Vimeo. More surprising is that sometimes what we do sends to resonate with others and then it goes EVERYWHERE before we even realize it.

One day after uploading my Kelly Porter “Words for Lindy Hoppers” video, I get a message that goes like this:

Randy: Your Kelly Porter Words for Lindy Hopper video is getting lots of airplay in random places.
Me: Really?
Randy: Yep.
Me: WHO RANDOMLY VIEWS OUR STUFF?!? Especially on Vimeo. Seriously, we have no cat videos. None whatsoever.

Anywhos, it is really inspiring to have people actively following us on all our social media channels. We started this site to continuously inspire ourselves and to capture the moments that take place around us in our dance journey. My Words for Lindy Hoppers project started because I wanted to capture a few words from Steven Mitchell and Virginie Jensen to keep the Toronto dancers inspired after an amazing workshop weekend. Through time, I have refined the video asking just one question, “If you had one thing you have to say to all Lindy Hoppers, what would it be?…and GO!” *starts filming*  It is so much fun to be able to film these videos and everyone’s answers always makes me laugh or feel inspired hence the “awesome” or laughter before the clip ends.

Stay tuned! I have a few more videos that I’ve been procrastinating on, but I can’t wait to put them up for you. I’ll do so soon, and the project is far from complete!

When Kelly Porter’s video went viral in the community, I had uploaded a few videos from my time in Seattle at “The Classics Vintage Dance Workshops” (2012) and haven’t had a chance to put them up on this site yet. If you haven’t seen them, above is Kelly Porter’s video, and the rest can be found below:

– Tien

Read More…

On Competing – You’re Never Really Ready

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Randy and Gen competing at Enter the Blues

Randy and Gen competing at Enter the Blues || Photo by Ben

I have flipped flopped back and forth many times about my own views on dance competitions. By nature I am a very competitive person and there was a time when I have taken them, just way too seriously. Competing is in my DNA, something that has been a part of me ever since I can remember. Taking dance competitions way too seriously in the past however has been an actual detriment to my performance and overall enjoyment of these events. I worried about which moves I was going to pull off during the competition and whether or not the alignments were going to work based on where the judges were sitting or standing. I tried to predict which songs were going to be played based on the dj that was spinning for the comp or familiarized myself with the repertoire of the band. Tie or no tie? Should I wear a hat? What if I dance with a taller follow and the hat hits her face? Seriously, all random questions and self-doubt I could have done without.

What I have finally come to the conclusion is that you are never really ready for a competition. You are never one hundred percent, “I did everything I can to prepare” ready. So why stress yourself out?

You know that you’ve spent the countless hours practicing, rehearsing, and watching youtube clips to try to gain any sort of insight that will make yourself look awesome in the eyes of the judges. You’ve gone to great lengths to pump yourself up in the hopes that you might actually believe that you deserve to win this competition. Sometimes you actually do believe it and it helps you get through the next five or so minutes when you’re out there in front of everybody. No matter what though, whether you think you’re ready or believe you’re supposed to be up there, the competition cordinator counts you in, “five, six… five, six, seven..”

… and there is nothing left to do but dance your face off.

Troupes and Balls

Scx Awards 2012

bluestroupegroup

Anddd, here we go again… the start of another semester of running a troupe. Honestly, one of the hardest dance related projects I have ever done in my life was running the troupe last year with Gen and yet here we go again for round of madness. Don’t get me wrong, the positives (creating a routine, making friends with like-minded individual, and pushing our own dancing) definitely far outweigh the roles of being an organizer, mediator, counselor and if all goes well, a dance instructor, but just thinking about the long road ahead sometimes gives me the heebie-jeebies.

For the first time this year, we ran auditions for the available open spots we had on the team. And for the first time, we had to let some people know that they didn’t make it :-( . What a heart wrenching decision making process. Gen and I tried really hard to create a good learning experience during the audition so that even if people weren’t picked, they would at least come out of the process with things to work or think about (more on this on another post). I’m toying with the idea for next semester to just have a real thunder-dome audition process and let the applicants work it out themselves…


Alain = Randy???

Scx Awards 2012

I wasn’t able to be there for the SCX awards (chillin’ in VanCity) but I am actually really proud of winning the Balls-Out (“This person totally made your night with their balls-to-the-wall performance…“), Christopher Columbus (“By his dancing or social skills, or both, he definitely made his place at SCX this year…“), and Army of Two (“This couple enthranced you with their attitude, innovations or simply excellence…“) awards because they were voted on by my dance peers here in Montréal. I know I shouldn’t care what people think about my dancing and all that jazz… but… well you know. Being accepted by dancers in my adopted city (even though I don’t speak The French… yet) through funny clip-art awards is WAYYYYY more gratifying to me than any medal or free event pass.

>> Pictures above were taken by Jessika D. from Montréal! She’s literally taken every dance picture in Montreal in the past year. Check her facebook albums out, chances are you are in there.

2013: Dance Resurgence

Tien Fighting

Over the course of 2012, I have progressively been getting more restless with my dancing and have been tossing around different ideas to improve. I haven’t been stagnant but I could have done more in ways of dance training and growth. I bet we have all felt this way before.

Resurgence: re·sur·gence (r-sûrjns)
n.
1. A continuing after interruption; a renewal.
2. A restoration to use, acceptance, activity, or vigor; a revival.

It’s the start of a new year, and as always, a time for reflection and a fresh start. It’s time for us to all stop tossing around ideas, wishes, and plans. Let’s make 2013 a year to resurge in dance! For myself, I’m focusing inwards, towards training myself in the areas I have been weak to achieve the future goals I have in mind.

  1. Solo dance practice / workout

    I have been looking at practicing once a day for at least 30 mins, ideally in the mornings to help me wake up. This would not focus just on blues dance, but also all the other dances I have dabbled in as well; Salsa, locking, popping, lindy hop, tango, jazz, hip hop.
    Randy made a great post about his pre-practice routine that I’ve been meaning to adopt.
    http://hamfats.ca/just-dance/solo-dance-warm-up

  2. Coaching

    I’ve tossed this idea around a couple of times last year and this year I’ll be looking at finding a few folks who want some coaching to improve aspects of their dancing.

  3. bluesShout! 2013

    This will be a tough one, but I have been looking at attending bluesShout! in the last couple of years. I would be ecstatic if I could make this trip happen.

  4. Produce one blues choreographed routine

    I’ve been tossing around this idea in the latter half of 2012, and have been searching for just the right song for me to choreograph.

  5. Blog more

    This is a simple one. I have a lot of dance stuff that I have collected in the last year but have never posted it up on Hamfats. This needs to change and I’ll be adding a note in my calendar reminding myself to post more.

  6. Build my music collection

    I’m finding that the music in my local scene is starting to get stale and in order to do something about it, I’ll need to jump in myself and pop off a few tracks. I had the opportunity to play a couple of times in 2012, and have already set up my first gig but this year on Jan 18th for tps://www.facebook.com/events/263319143795759/?suggestsessionid=1162016381357260014″>The Blues Cafe (Facebook) I’m looking at acquiring my DJ title belt.

Onwards into 2013! It doesn’t look like the apocalypse will happen anytime soon, so I hope you all have your plans set ahead. Now I’m off to the Las Vegas Fusion Exchange to get my fusiooooooooooooooonnnnnnnn on, and the start of my dance training regime.

Let me know what your plans are, or any advice you wish to impart in my endeavour. Hopefully I will have a few things to take away and share with our 3 readers.

Tien

Solo Dance Pre-Practice Warm-Up Routine

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At Harbour Dance Center in Vancouver

I do this warm-up in some fashion or another every time I practice my solo dancing. Even when I’m practicing with partners, I try my hardest to spend at least ten to fifteen minutes warming up on my own. The meat and potatoes of this warm-up really is meaty and starchy and unfortunately is a lot easier to show than to write about. That is why I wrote it in a kind of coles-notes format so you can just get a general idea of what I try to do rather than reading movement descriptions for twenty minutes.

1 – Turn on Ipod and Hit Random

I always make sure that I’m practicing in a studio with mirrors. It’s essential to be able to see yourself so you can make adjustments while practicing as well as simply practicing just looking up.

Even before I can think about what I want to do for the day, I play two or three songs and try to dance it all the way through without stopping. The goal is not to go full speed flailing arms and legs dancing but to focus on flowing my movements together without stopping or choking up for an extended period of time.

I usually try to just play a random song so I don’t end up micro-choreographing a tune that I’m familiar with but it doesn’t really matter too much. Sometimes I like to live a bit dangerously and even listen to some current popular music… har har.

2 – Internal Check

  • How do I feel right now? (am I tired/energetic? hungry? bloated/full?)
  • How did I feel about the last practice?
  • Are there any parts of my body that’s feeling particular stiff that I could focus on today?
  • Any injuries I should be careful of?

I find that quickly making a note of my current state helps settle into the right mind set for practicing on my own. For example, I noticed that earlier this year I would get pretty hungry by the end of practices and this was because I simply did not have enough fuel or specifically carbohydrates before going on an hour or two practice. Can’t flail without some fuel!

Another reason why I do a quick internal check is so that I don’t indadvertedly hurt myself during practice. Most dancers that I know go into practices with a small injury or strain so I always make sure that I’m practicing smart. For example, it’s way too easy to roll your ankle while practicing when you have been social dancing the night before and are feeling a bit fatigued. Take care of your body, you’ll need it for a long time,

3 – Body Isolation

  • Head
    • Rotate clockwise/counter clockwise.
    • up-beat groove (“nodding”).
  • Shoulders
    • Rotations – left shoulder, right shoulder, both.
    • Forwards/backwards & up/down per shoulder.
    • Alternating between quick and slow movements.
  • Arms
    • Working on moving the arms up and down in various ways.
    • Isolating one arm and moving it in straight angles then “flowy” movements.
    • Rotations from the elbows to the hands.
    • Contra-body rotation with the arms.
  • Hand/Fingers
    • Rotations.
    • 90 degree angles.
    • Rotation of the hands, opening and closing.
  • Chest
    • Forward, back, left, right.
    • Clockwise/Counter clockwise circles.
  • Hips
    • Same as chest.
    • Side to side movements.
    • Isolating one side stretching.
  • Back/Lumbar
    • Mostly doing curls and bridges.
  • Feet
    • Plantar flexion and dorsiflexion exercises.

4 – Rhythm Isolation

After doing some body isolation, I go through the motions of trying to isolate various rhythms while focusing on one or two body parts. So whatever rhythm i choose (for example quick, quick, slow (1,2,3&4)), I try to replicate it with body isolations.

While doing focusing on body isolations, I change the rhythm up every phrase for one song, then every half phrase for another song, then every 8 counts (fun challenge!). All the while focusing on one or two body parts to “stylize”.

5 – Internal Check (Again)

At the end of the warm-up, I do a quick internal check again to see if there is anything that stands out in my mind that I can keep track of. Sometimes I feel that a particular rhythm or styling I did was good enough to keep in my repertoire of moves while other times I notice that I had challenges moving a particular limb to a specific rhythm. Doing a quick check again for myself forces me to think about what to work on for the next practice.

It is worth to point out that these are just my own techniques and thoughts for warming up before practices. Your mileage will of course vary and what works for me might not work for you.

What I believe is important is to always be thinking about how you can improve your training and practice sessions. Let’s face it, practicing is hard work and it is very easy to just call it a day when you don’t find yourself getting the most out of it.

For myself, doing this style of warm-ups has actually kept me more engaged about dancing over the long term because I see little personal mountains that I have to climb over to get to the next level. It feels great when you do finally cross those chasms and even if there is no one there to see it, you know you did it for yourself.

Lastly, if you can, film yourself practicing. It sucks to watch but trust me, it’s for the better.

Dance as a Team Sport

Canadian Swing Championships 2012

Being a perpetual student of dance is comprised of many components – dance partners, coaches, mentors and now very recently again, dance troupes. It was not until I came back from my first CSC (Canadian Swing Championship), that I really fully appreciated the benefits of being part of a really dedicated team.

The people you you spend countless hours in the studio with sort of becomes your extended family. You might mess and up and fall (sometimes literally), but the quality of the learning and personal experience is so much richer in the end.

What an amazing hobby we all have.

- Randy

What’s More Nerve-Racking than Competing?

Watching your friends and teammates compete.

I’m sure you know this but Montréal has a very competitive social dance culture. Whether that is solo dancing competitions such as Juste Debout, or swing competitions around Quebec and north-eastern United States, it seems like most people I know are competing in some form or another. Montreal is a great city to grow as a dancer. Being around highly motivated dancers pushes me mentally to make it out to those extra practices when all I really want to do is just chill and play Mass Effect all evening long.

As expected, the more competitions I do, the less nervous I get. Perhaps I’m just getting a big older as well but at the end of the day, social dance competitions are not that really such a big deal. It’s fun to dance and do it in front of people but placing or winning is not why I go to those events. While it’s great to win and get recognition from your peers, I must always write that I have no aspiration to be a globe-trotting dance instructor, nor am I anywhere near that level anyways but that’s besides the point.

What I have been finding more though is that it’s hard to stay calm when people I know are competing or performing themselves! I get all shaky and start biting my nails (nasty habit I know) and can’t help but yell whenever I see them pull something off that I know they have been working on. I don’t even need to be there in person either to get nervous – for example, when I watched the Boston Tea Party videos from this year. I was pretty much yelling at my computer like a madman the entire time in joyous celebration. At Starbucks.

– Randy