Randy and Joy Ottawa Workshop

Shorties teaching dance!

Shorties teaching dance!

Last Saturday I taught a blues workshop in our nation’s capital of Ottawa with none other than the illustrious Joy Arico. Teaching with Joy is actually (pardon the pun) joyous because she just has such an infectious love of the blues that when you are around her when she is talking about the techniques/aesthetics/history of the dance, you can’t help but feel invigorated.

Teaching in Ottawa is like coming home for me because that is where I won my first real blues competition and that is where I started learning how to do partner connection for realsies (Ottawa Blues Blast represent). I always tell people if it wasn’t for those early events that I went to in Ottawa, I probably would not have gotten into blues dancing (as there weren’t any venues in Toronto to dance it at that time) and I probably wouldn’t have moved to Montréal to start my soon to be awesome jass café (hee hee). Read More…

Shake That… Porto Swing

Dancing at Porto

This is one of our little choreography routine to Mora’s Modern Rhythmists’ version of “Shake that Thing” we taught at our solo jazz class in Quebec City/Porto Swing last weekend. Because we only had one hour for the class, Myriam and I wanted to work on similar structure of moves (in this case, fall off the log’ISH variations) instead of overloading them with a lot of “moves”. What is always fun for me as a teacher is to try to get my students to trust their body so they can focus on the great aspects of solo dancing – being silly, having fun, and of course flailing your arms around.

Shake That… Porto Swing – Class Recap from Hamfats.ca on Vimeo.

Now with the rest of the class!

Shake That… Porto Swing! from Hamfats.ca on Vimeo.

Thanks so much Lionel Mauvais for inviting us and making us feel so welcomed, even with my very poor francais.

Jazz Me If You Can

jazzmeifyoucan

jazzmeifyoucan

Myriam and I will be teaching in Saguenay for a jazz/lindy hop workshop in November! I’m pretty stoked about it ~ In related news, that’s me above in posterized form!!!

Saguenay Swing présente: Jazz me if you can II

JMIYC est un évènement de danse dédié au lindy hop et charleston. C’est à travers la musique Jazz que Randy Panté et Myriam Baril vous feront évoluer en danse solo et couple.

Détails et inscription à venir sur: www.saguenayswing.com

Teaching Quick Notes from MezzJelly Toronto 2013

rollingstone_fi

rollingstone

Sitting here on the train back to Montreal after a great weekend at MezzJelly at my old stomping grounds of Toronto and pondering the meaning of life, love, and dance.

Haha, just joking… but whenever I’m on the train, I seem to always be contemplating whether I should be productive and write or just chill and play Football Manager for six hours straight. Today I think I will be productive…

four days later…

Okay so I wasn’t very productive at all but teaching at MezzJelly was a special experience for me because the last MezzJelly event in Canada was also my first ever blues event. Circle of life or something like that eh?

For the event, I was hired to teach two solo dance classes – a “guys routine” and a fun “urban/hip hop” routine.

For the “urban” dance routine (hehe), I choreographed it to Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines”, which is charting at #1 in most billboards around the country right now. I chose that song mainly for the cheesy but infectious rhythm and mind numbing hook. Since the song itself is pretty party-time silly, I figured it would work well for MezzJelly. If you know the song, you might be thinking to yourself, “hey, that’s not a blues song at all”. Why yes you are right. That’s why the class title was called “urban dance” class. Whatever that means. Lawlsies. Anyhoo, the class was right after lunch so students were a bit slow coming in but as soon as the warm-up was over, the class was pretty packed. I don’t really remember much of the class besides getting everyone to do body rolls but I do remember leaving the class very happy that most people had a bumping time.

The second class I taught was a “dude’s routine” to a soul song (Temptations’ “Papa Was A Rolling Stone”) which focused a lot more on grooving and body movement. What was interesting for me as a teacher for this class was that there were multiple people just filming the entire class. At the time I thought it was a bit sketch as I can’t imagine filming an entire class being a kosher thing to do during a workshop but someone did put together this video of various runs we did:

There were a few things I could have probably done a bit better for the second class such as having a bit more time for practicing for the moves and going a bit more in-depth on the techniques. Admittedly I still have some teaching methodologies to work on when completely mixed group of dancers and I do have a tendency to just assume that most dancers are fairly experienced in solo dancing. Will work on it, promise.

All in all, I was pretty happy to be part of the event and also see so many of my friends come together for a great party. It was also awesome to be paid to just do my thanggg. See you guys at the next Toronto event :)

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

Look for a Dance Coach Instead of a Dance Teacher

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As September rolls on by, I have been getting a few inquiries about private lessons and classes here in Montreal and Toronto. Most of the times these are one-off privates about a particular technique that someone wants to work on. Those are always really fun for me because I can geek out about something hyper specific. Recently however, I have been getting inquiries about longer periods of training and I honestly couldn’t be more elated.

Having students approach me about training and teaching them dance has really got me reflecting on my own dance growth over the years. After some introspective analysis, what I found interesting was that it really wasn’t going to workshops, exchanges, group classes, or even privates that had the greatest impact on my dance technique and enjoyment of social dancing. Sure those helped me refine and expand my skill-sets but what I’m talking about are really fundamental events that shaped me to find my own dance identity. It really was having mentors and coaches – individuals who were genuinely interested in helping me become a better dancer. People who were there to drill me in technique, answer dance-related questions without being “on the clock”, and in general give me real honest feedback when I really needed it. They were the game changers in my dance life.

Having a coach is like having someone who always has your back. They are there to help you grow and reach your potential because they want to see you succeed and in turn you want to succeed for them. Coaches care about your journey because in a way, them coaching you is part of their journey as well.

Teachers, in our current social dance world setting, really are there to teach you what they have planned for that lesson (in group classes) or to impart their own way of doing things onto you (private lessons). This isn’t to say that all teachers are like that and I know very many teachers who do more outside of the class time for their students than they get credit for. I have nothing but mad respect for these people. However, I believe our way of thinking in terms of social dancing and growth is fundamentally flawed. We go out of our way to far off exchanges and seek private lessons with our international jet-setting dance heroes in the hopes that we might, just a little bit, be able to emulate them. We spend a lot of our energy trying to learn and grow a lot in a short amount of time instead of trying to grow consistently over the long-term. How many dancers have you met in your lifetime who were able to get to a very proficient level in a short amount of time by going balls-out on lessons and workshops then just suddenly stop learning.

One of my favourite descriptions about the difference between a coaching and a teaching is that “teaching is about the teacher and coaching is about the student”.

Think about that for a second and let it sink it.

Have you ever sought private lessons from an instructor because of their “name” or because you have seen them on youtube? Did you go blindly paying for lessons without even knowing if they would be a great match for you? Be honest ;-). I think we can all attest to the fact that the not all the best dancers are great instructors. However, all the best teachers are also coaches.

When you think about other activities such as sports – coaches are not necessarily the current best in their chosen craft because they are focused on skill-sets that are about helping other people succeed. Coaching means spending more time with the students on working on specific techniques or movement ideas and having them pinpoint their weaknesses. Coaches plan on correcting these mistakes and those plans might take a long time but that’s okay – they are there for the long-haul and they are there for you, not just for the time you have paid them for.

If coaching works for sports (even Tiger Woods has a coach) and most other physical activities, why don’t we don’t we have more dance coaches in our own dance communities?

Just like anything worthwhile spending your time on, being a dancer is a life-long process. There really are no short-cuts and it’s all about the repetition of doing your chosen craft day in and day out.

So the next time you are out shopping for instructors to improve your dancing, ask yourself a few questions before making a purchasing decision:

  • Is the instructor genuinely interested in helping me grow as a dancer?
  • Is the instructor committed in the skills required in being a great teacher, mentor and coach?
  • Does the instructor embody the type of dancer that I want to be, not just from a technique stand-point but also from a social dance perspective (we are after all a social dance community)?
  • Will this teacher form a conducive teacher-student relationship that will allow for continual feedback from both parties?

I think by seeking out dance coaches and mentors instead of short-term dance instructors, dancers will not only grow more in the long term, but they’ll also enjoy the process of learning on a weekly basis. Hopefully in the future, these dancers too will get asked by newer dancers to help them in their own dance journey. Wouldn’t that be a great dance world to live in?

In another blog post, I’ll type up some of my own personal dance mentors and how they have really helped me throughout the years. Until next time!

– Randy