Weed Smokers Dream – Solo Slow Jazz Class Recap

Weed Smokers Dream… Porto Swing! – Class Recap from Hamfats.ca on Vimeo.

Here is the class recap video of the solo slow jazz routine we taught in Quebec City a few weeks back. We worked on slowing movements down and being very purposeful in steps and arm stylings as well as emphasizing more intricate movements instead of large over-the-top stuff you usually see in solo slow jazz/blues. :) Hope you like it.

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.

Snowbound Blues 2013 – Jungle Blues Class

blues class screenshot

This is a fun little class I had the good opportunity to help in titled, “The Jungle Blues”. I truly heart solo dancing so I was pretty amped when I found out that I would be doing the advanced track of the solo portion of the weekend. While I do enjoy teaching solo dancing for beginners, I know that what really motivates me is when I’m really pushing myself as a teacher and showing what can be possible movement wise in such a short amount of class time. There’s a lot of curating going on for solo classes – what to teach (and what to spend time working details on), what to just show and move on, and ultimately, what to cut altogether.

In terms of choreography and inspiration, I wanted to have one foot in the past and one foot in the present in terms of what types of movement I would be showing. I focused a lot on hips/arm movements that I thought that majority of the dancers could walk away from the class being a little better at while at the same time really being mindful of fundamental vernacular blues movements like fishtails, mooches, boogies, low downs and pivot steps.

Oh et juste pour rire, I threw in a hip thrust in there for good measure. Traditions are hard to break.

Overall I was really happy that most of the participants were able to get the choreography in the 45 or so minutes that I had with them and hope to have more opportunities to do these kinds of mini projects at blues events. I mean, I do this all the time in Montréal… but not everyone can be in my city all the time. Or can they? (see what I did there?).

Special thanks to Rebecca and Melanie for filming. :)

Join My Solo Troupe in 2014!

solotroupe

solotroupe

Hey internet heads, I’m looking for new dancers for my next solo blues choreography (jazz-blues based) which will last about 2-3 months. If you are interested or want more information, simply navigate on the application link below:

http://hamfats.ca/solo-jazz-blues-application

If you like working hard and improving your solo dancing, this is a great opportunity to learn lots in a short period of time Maybe you’ll cry from the hard work but it will be tears of dance awesomeness.

You May Run On Choreography Video

youmayrunon

robyn_gospel

This week we performed our solo blues/gospel routine at the Petit Medley titled “You May Run On”. I really like performing at this venue not only because it’s an actual blues dance night, but really because the decor and lighting of the venue makes it feel like a real stage rather than just an “open dance space”. Being a bar though, the space is fairly limited and the ceiling is absurdly low (there was a pretty funny moment when Any hit the lights with her fan during the intro). This routine really is meant to be danced in a bigger space and with all the dancers in the team, it was a bit difficult to navigate formations but I think we made it work.

My inspiration for this choreography were of Alvin Ailey’s contemporary choreographies of american black history. I tried to stay true to the idea of what the pieces were about while at the same time infusing it with some ideas I’ve had for a while for a choreo – fast arm movements, spins, and fans. I can’t even express how proud I am of my ladies (and of course the only dude on the team besides myself, the incomparable Elmer Ore) for all their hard work and dedication, especially those who would consider themselves new to solo dancing.

Check out the video below:

Super thanks to Irwin for filming!

Solo Dance Pre-Practice Warm-Up Routine

msr_slide

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.