Swing Discussion Boards > Biomechanics and Lindy Hop: A natural teaching method.

Discussion in 'Swing Discussion Boards' started by d nice, Sep 1, 2003.

  1. d nice

    d nice New Member

    There are numerous methods and techniques to teaching dance. Can any of them truly be called superior over another? Yes and no. Use of the correct method for the correct person is superior but no technique works for all students all the time.

    Part of being a good teacher is knowing this and being able to change your teaching method to fit your student(s).

    There are certain methods that tend to produce results quickly. They apparently lay at opposite ends of the spectrum but with experience can be combined to produce a method the largest group of people will respond to and achieve resutls that are not only quick but will not contradict what they will learn five years down the line.

    The first method is what I term as "strict tempo". A very "ballroom approach, if you will forgive the use of the term. Every count has a specific step associated with it, rhythm is king, and there is a right and wrong place to step which includes angles and weight percentages. It provides very easy answers to where a person needs to be and when they need to be there.

    The second method is what I term as "relational positioning". It is a very vernacular approach. The patterns are seen as several movements strung together. The partners learn that where their bodies are in relation to each other is primary. Body movement dictates what type of footwork/placement is used. There is little in the way of questions that tend to be encountered with this method since the only "wrong" step is one that ignores your partner and their movement.

    Some people NEED numbers and order, others NEED organic movement and are comfortable with abstract thought. The first is a very intelelctual approach, the second a very physical approach.
  2. d nice

    d nice New Member

    Emphasizing that your partner is what is important... not yourself, ensures the focus is properly placed on their movement not your own. A leader's body movement is dictated by what he wishes his follow to do. The followers body movement is dictated by the actions the leader takes. It is a complicated interaction and deviation results in immediate break down of communication between the partners.

    If the follow responds incorrectly to the leader's body movement it is of fundamental importance that the leader shift his movement to accomadate for where the follower is now and where she is going, NOT where she was suppossed to be.

    The idea that your step placement is dictated by your body movement, and your body movement is dictated by your partners body movement ensures a "self-correcting" method of dancing that usually takes months if not years of dancing to achieve in hours.
  3. d nice

    d nice New Member

    Using various fomulas or mnemonics that students can learn and rely on puts their minds at ease. It is important that they are taught in one of two ways, either as underlying principles in the dance, which case they need to be internally consistant with all basic movements of the dance and all standard patterns. There are always exceptions, but if you can find a number of of them then it is not an underlying principle. It instead is a guideline that operates on a class of moves or movements.

    If the leader wishes to move the follower he needs to move his own center in that direction first. This is an underlying principle in the Lindy Hop.

    The leader always steps X on count Y. This is a guidelines for a class of move/pattern.

    Let's take this out of the hypothetical and deal with a real world example.

    The swing out, the lindy hop basic, has three basic variations, with a near infinite number of flavors, the Swing out from Closed, the swingout from open, and the lindy circle. It is generally taught with ten steps in a step-step, triple-step, step-step, triple-step rhythm. Six count moves are generally taught with eight steps in a step-step, triple-step, triple-step rhythm. A underlying principle that a teacher could share with their students is that the leader's center dictates which direction he wants his follow to travel in. This will cause the leader to always move his body first not his arm, when leading and it covers both rhythms with no need to make adjustments.

    The first step-step is a prep and follow through used to create momentum and direction.

    The first triple step is used to change direction of momentum. Regular turns follow this, as do moves like passes and the swing out variations.

    The second step-step is a follow through of the momentum in the new direction dictated by the first triple. While six count moves do not possess this step-step it is importatn to note that the rule is not broken by them, they just do not possess the step therefor no need to apply this rule.

    The second triple is a distance modifier. This can be applied in one of two ways, when the partners are in closed position at this point they are modifying their position on the floor, how much distance they travel in the direction dictated by the first triple step, and when the partners are moving away from each other because of the first triple they are modifying the distance between themselves.
  4. d nice

    d nice New Member

    Combining these together...

    Emphasizing that Lindy Hop is a dance based on natural movement is important. It should have a natural "bounce". Not exaggerated and not a glide, but the same kind of bounce as when you play sports or jog. Watch basketball players for an ideal type of movement. Their motion is incredibly smooth, but if you watch they flex their legs, bodies sinking into the ground and pushing out of it. Thsi "bounce" is characteristic in all athletic endeavors and in African dance from which lindy hop body movement is a direct descendant. The human body moves like this naturally for a reason. The wya our legs bend as well as how they rotate within the pelvis causes the body to "flex" and "bounce" into a position that allows rapid changes of direction. Weight should be on the "forward" part of the foot, centered around the ball of the foot.

    Attempting to dance "smoothly" with no bobbing of the head or in an upright postion is against the way our bodies are intended to move. There is a reason why finishing schools must train their students to move without a bounce.
  5. pygmalion

    pygmalion Well-Known Member

    I'm not a teacher, but as a student, I agree with this completely. My first teacher(s) tended to emphasize the learning by rote -- just do the pattern a million times until it falls into place. They did this because that's what most of their students wanted.

    But, for me, it was very frustrating. I needed a logical context for what I was being taught, and I needed to connect concepts together in a way that made sense to me. I'll never forget the day I asked my teacher why a particular pattern was called "flirtation turns". He looked at me like I was from Mars. From his perspective, just do the step. But I needed to know what was flirtatious, to be able to do the step. Two completely different appraoches.

    I think the secret of being effective with different students is being flexible in your approach.
  6. Swing Kitten

    Swing Kitten New Member

    This makes a lot of sense.

    I'm a huge fan of conceptual learning (give a man a fish and you feed him for a day, teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime). I would much rather take a little longer to learn something and be able to find a true understanding of its concepts than to proceed very quickly learning only what I need to know for the moment to end up lost when the first deviation occurs.

    While my beliefs hold true for many sujects of learning I feel this is particularly important in dance but even a little bit more so for followers. We have only indirect (or relfective) control of the dance and it is hardly ever 'the way I learned it' and it is our job to go with it. Knowing such underlying principles helps me move from leader to leader ready to listen to what he has to say through his dance and learn something both about him and about the dance and what it can do.

    Thank you, I would like to hear more.
  7. pygmalion

    pygmalion Well-Known Member

    My new coach is so great with what you call "conceptual learning", or, in his case, conceptual teaching. And I find myself internalizing concepts a lot more effectively, catching my own mistakes, understanding how a particular technique applies in different contexts, and on and on.

    My coach and I spend probably a third or more of our lesson time talking about concepts, then I can go home and practice more effectively, because I know what to practice and how to practice. And since we don't just talk, but also dance, I also know how it feels when I'm practicing a given move right or wrong.

    This approach really works well for me.

    Thanks for the information, d nice. Any more thoughts you have will be much appreciated.
  8. Vince A

    Vince A Active Member

    d nice,
    Thanks, man . . . I really enjoyed this . . . I read it all twice.
    Something you mentioned . . .

    "If the follow responds incorrectly to the leader's body movement it is of fundamental importance that the leader shift his movement to accomadate for where the follower is now and where she is going, NOT where she was suppossed to be. "

    "The idea that your step placement is dictated by your body movement, and your body movement is dictated by your partners body movement ensures a "self-correcting" method of dancing that usually takes months if not years of dancing to achieve in hours."

    Following learning to count in the 8's (with the music) instead of 6's for WCS . . . this IS, without a doubt, the most important thing that I have learned.

    Once I grasped this and was able to do it . . . my dancing went through the roof. To me . . . this is one of the major differences between a newcomer or novice dancer and an intermediate to advanced dancer, albeit many int/adv dancers also don't this!

    If my lead is "off" ever so slightly, and the follower misses it and does something else, I catch it "right now," adjust immediately, and make a move out of it! I never miss a "stroke."

    You should do a item just on this info . . . it would help so many!
  9. Swing Kitten

    Swing Kitten New Member

    Depending on what you mean by "a item" I think he just did! WooHoo!
  10. Vince A

    Vince A Active Member

    Yes he did, and I printed it out. This stuff is 'gold.'

    I mean just the part about 'adjusting' . . . there is a lot more that could be said, and I know he's the man to do it!
  11. d nice

    d nice New Member

    Conceptual learning will produce the best results in dancers. The question is are you trying to teach someone to dance, or get them to get out on the floor once or twice?

    If you want to get them on the floor all that is necessary is teach them enough moves that they feel "confident" that they won't freeze. The technique behind the moves is pretty unimportant. The problem is that while they may get on the floor, they will develop all sorts of bad habits, most without ever even knowing it.

    Conceptual learning allows a student to grasp the fundamental connection between what is being demonstrated in the step being worked on and see applications throughout the dance.

    Counting itself to me is often times counterproductve. While music is a form of mathmatics so is pool. No one carries around scientific calculators to hussle a table. Counting can be useful when you first learn to dance, but its like training wheels, eventually you have to abandon it or it holds you back. Learning to hear the phrasing is more important than counting out your steps (the 8 of the two bars as Vince said). Learning to recognize the two beat unit that creates the superstructure of the song is the key to rhythmic freedom.
  12. d nice

    d nice New Member

    Relational Postioning

    In order to make adjustments as a leader you have to do one very important thing... pay attention to your follower.

    This does not mean making eye contact, or even looking at her (a common misconception). I have ssen people look their partner right in the eye and lead her all over the place with no regard to where she is, how she is moving, or where she was last moving to.

    Paying attention means putting her first. Before you lead her notice where her weight is. Is she moving or at rest? If she is at rest you need to shift her weight so she moves with the appropriate foot. If she is moving you need to pay attention to how muchmomentum she has, is she increasing or decreasing her speed, what path is she following? You need to pay attention to her distance to you and how much tension is between your bodies.
  13. Vince A

    Vince A Active Member

    Exactly . . . and that's what I was trying to get out of the comment. I wanted others to ask about it . . . then the comeback would be as you stated!

    So many people DO count, as is evidenced by watching their lips count out the count. Most will do this for years, until they, well do what you said . . . "Learn to hear the phrasing". . . and knowing where you are all the time, without counting.

    Since you mentioned "superstructure of the song," I was wondering (if you Cha Cha or Salsa) what count do you break on? I always figured that since CT 2 is the upbeat, you should be moving forward, or upward, onward, whatever, on CT 2. If I boke on CT 1, my next step (Cha Cha) would be backward on the next CT (2) and not on the upbeat!

    Your perspective? We've been here before on this subject.
  14. pygmalion

    pygmalion Well-Known Member

    I don't want to get off on a tangent, and I freely give the disclaimer that partner dancing and formation dancing are two completely different things.

    But while we're on the subject of counting, I agree with Vince A. Really good dancers feel the music -- the beginning and ending points. The openings and closings. The phrases. Counting becomes irrelevant.

    But, in a performance situation where you have to be there on cue, if you can't feel it, please count. I can't tell you how many times I've been performing with a formation team where people couldn't feel the cues, and wouldn't count either. You should've seen me yelling out 5,6,7,8 in the middle of a performance to get people back together. In retrospect, comical. But at the time, very frustrating.
  15. d nice

    d nice New Member

    The whol idea that you must break on a specific count is a very western european thing. Afro-cuban dance is of course based on african movement and precussion. You break were the music says to break.

    Now if you are dancing to "strict tempo" music it is easy to say break here... but this is all latin stuff.

    Swing music is a bit different. You have two forms of music in Swing (note capitol "S") standard or AABA and 12 Bar Blues. Because if its jazz there are general guidelines rather than hard and fast rules about what is going to happen where. These makes it dificult to set an arbitrary standard about what needs to happen when. The musicians purposefully push and pull beats truncating and elongating notes, begining and ending of phrase.

    This is where familiarity with the two beat unit (up and down beat) will allow you to create in the moment without ignoring the structure of the song (something I see all the time in WCS and becoming more prevelant in Lindy Hop).
  16. d nice

    d nice New Member

    We can explore this more in a different thread if you want, but I have two things to say about this. "formation" dancing, for that matter any choreography follows compeltely different rules. It isn't social dancing. The second is that if you don't know where you belong and when and aren't capable of finding your place if you get lost you don't belong on a team.
  17. Vince A

    Vince A Active Member

    I think we are talking about two different "breaks" here . . . one in Swing, or most dancing, is "break" in the music, and yes the music dictates that expression! 100%! Then hitting that break! Right?

    However, there had been a huge discussion here about the Counts 1 and 2 in Salsa and the Cha Cha, and what the feet are doing at this point. Mainly, we are talking abut the L foot for the lead . . counting 1-2-3-4-&-1-2-3-4-& so on! I step R on 1, and break @ on my L, etc. Most feel that htis is not necessary as long as the beat dictates what you do. I agree to a point, however I was "dinged" a point or two in a competition where I got off the music and stepped Forward 2 on count 1.

    Is this apples and oranges and worth the discussion? I just wanted your 'musical' knowledge take on this.

    This to me is getting off topic, but can be compared to stepping back on Count 1 for the lead in WCS. It's a given. Same for Salsa or Cha?
  18. d nice

    d nice New Member

    Actually it is always the music that is suppossed to dictate when and where you are going to go.

    You are talking about ballroom latin... a completely different animal. Watch the clips of old mambo dancers in the 50's and you'll notice they aren't breaking on the same count through out the song but shifting as the music dictates.

    West Coast used to not require a step back on one... nothing was "required". As it has become more and more of a competition dance certain "standards" have been placed on it that the old timers would never have thought about.

    Today it is hard to find dancers in this country who do the old vernacular (street/folk) style of the latin dances. Ballroom has become too popular and it has left its mark on dancers, even those who have never stepped inside a studio. West Coast is quickly becoming the same sadly. Over-intellectualization of the dance is restricting its creativtiy.
  19. Vince A

    Vince A Active Member

    Keep the info coming . . . I enjoy reading and learning . . . as much as you and Joe bump heads, the two of you do supply great info!

    I guess that things do evolve, especially in dance. If things didn't evolve, we'd be having this conversation by letter and a stamp . . . smoke signals . . . drums . . . guttural verbiage!
  20. d nice

    d nice New Member

    I wouldn't use the word evolove...

    How about "change"?

    Evolution implies that the changes are an improvement. While change doesn't carry any implications about better or worse.

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