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

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

  1. Vince A

    Vince A Active Member

    I still like the "evolution" theory . . . I remember doing the Jitterbug with my Mom back when I was 10 years old through about age 19. I certainly am a better dancer now, than I was back then. Is that not an improvement?

    Yes, I know, I'm comparing WCS and ECS to Jitterbug, and dancing with my Mom versus a partner, and inexperience versus experienced. But she was the NY State champion, so she says, and I really enjoyed dancing back then . . . she was good. I turned out to be better . . . so I say!
  2. salsarhythms

    salsarhythms New Member

    d nice...

    Excellent points.

    The breaks should be dictated by the song.
    Each song has its own story, and the dance
    should reflect that...

    Personally, I do recommend the counting for someone
    who is having problems with the music...I'm not familiar
    with Swing, but a lot of what you says applies across
    the board...
  3. pygmalion

    pygmalion Well-Known Member

    I agree, salsarhythms.

    Counting is unnecessary for advanced students and dancers, but, sometimes, counting is the only way to go. That's why I told my formation story. Sometimes, with new dancers or people who have no musical background, counting is the only way to go.

    "Feeling" the music and understanding phrasing comes later for some.
  4. d nice

    d nice New Member

    That is evolution as a dancer not the same thing by any means. I'd put Steven & Virginie or Ryan & Jenny against the best WCS dancers in the world.
  5. d nice

    d nice New Member

    Socratic Method...

    What is the pupose of counting?
  6. Vince A

    Vince A Active Member

    Change, evolution, or revolution . . . I'm different! I'm better!

    I won't get into a "who is better than who" here . . . I have not seen Steven or Virginie or Ryan or Jenny, but you have not seen Benji and Heidi . . . have you? I wonder why they are World's Champions and US Open Champions, among many other titles. Just as do the ones you mentioned . . . yes???

    I can deal with many champions . . . anyone that gets that good is a champion in my book!
  7. d nice

    d nice New Member

    I can believe that, but the question is why are you better?

    Actually I have seen Benji & Heidi... I do WCS also. Which is how I know that one dance is not better than another.

    And if we are going to be completely truthful I have issues regarding anyone declared world champions at an event put on by a relative... *shrug* as awesome as they are the term conflict of interest comes to mind. Ryan and Jenny are also ASDC and US Open champions if championships mean anything to you. *shrug* gaining a title for choreography doesn't impress me nearly as much as watching a couple improvise and creat art to music they don't know.
  8. Vince A

    Vince A Active Member

    As in an event put on by Buddy Schwimmer??? And being "a champion," never, ever entered your brain during your dance career? Never? I never will be, nor do I want it, but it's a PMA contributor towards a dance goal!

    OK . . . I concede . . . you DO know what you are talking about! Although I never doubted you for a minute!

    However, I do like both the choreographed and improvisational dancing!
  9. d nice

    d nice New Member

    Being a "champion" has not ever entered into my mind. They didn't have "national" competitions until I stopped competing. What does being a "champion" mean? A group of people decided that for that day in that dance you were better than those that showed up. *shrug* Dance is an art and therefor is subjective. All attempts at making it something quantifiable I believe lessens the dance because it takes away from the communicative aspects which is the reason for art.

    So while I have no problem with competition (or choreography either) my issue has more to do with what happens to peoples dancing because of competition, "We need to do this kind of trick, or that kind of body movement, or dance in this style, because the people who won last year did". *shudder*

    We are way off topic now. ;)
  10. Vince A

    Vince A Active Member

    d nice,
    We're off topic, but it was nice to hear another point of view . . . kinda opened my eyes . . . no need to compete any longer (no goals), and I need to stop going to the 'judges' classes (as I may have to make someone a champion some day)!

    As if I needed a reason.

    Thanks . . .
  11. d nice

    d nice New Member

    Back on topic...

    So if we are to combine strict tempo and relational positioning I feel that it is necessary to use good imagery. When used correctly this allows a student to take natural, everyday, body movement, understand what is happening intellectually, and then apply it (or more to the point allow the body to do it's thing and not have the brain micro-manage) in this new and potentially confusing form.

    Example on explaining the lead follow relationship:
    I ask all the leaders to join me for a chat. I tell them to take the followers hand in their own and start walking, as if they were shopping and pulling their girlfriends away from the window with the wedding rings. The follow at first "hesitates" and then is brought forward by the leaders committed and decisive movement. I explain that lead/follow is as simple as that. It is not complicated unless you make it so.

    This example helps diffuse the apprehension in the leaders about how difficult the whole dancing thing is going to be. At the same time it shows the followers that they don't have to know what is going on to follow. They just have to not fight the leader. By evoking an image that carries common implications or experience little more information is needed to achieve the desired results.

    Does this one exercise produce amazing dancers by itself? Of course not, but does it get both parties well onto their way to understanding the fundamental nature behind a very complicated concept in a very accessible way? Hasn't failed for me yet.

    Describing movements like pushing a car (why we lead with our body versus our arm) how we walk (moving the center first then "catching" ourselves with our feet), how we jog (a grounded, downward "bounce" or pulse results from flexing our knees into a step and pushing out of one), what posture we have when we are walking in a straight line versus playing a sport like basketball (how our body assumes different postures depending on the type of movement and how quickly we must transition from one direction to another) all help shorten the learning curve.

    Once the movement is understood to be natural, it allows a break down of the move and the base rhythm associated with it, using numbers if necessary at first, but switching to a mnemonic that describes the timing as well as the movement or footwork pattern after a few run throughs.

    Using this method I had a brand new follow last night (no partner dance experience at all) following swing outs, texas tommys, passes, and sugar pushes after a two-minute brief. Not perfect by any stretch of the imagination but good enough that I did not have to alter much of my own dancing to compensate for her. These results will vary of course, but you can see what is possible.
  12. pygmalion

    pygmalion Well-Known Member


    I'm going to print this out, to share with my coach. He and I have talked about the same thing many times. Dancing (with a few exceptions) is just using natural movements that occur everywhere in life.

    I'm not too fond of the wedding ring example, though. :D
  13. Vince A

    Vince A Active Member

    Amen, amen, amen . . . so very well put!
  14. msc

    msc New Member

    Depending on the level of ballroom dancing, relational positioning is unbelievably important. Almost paramount, especially if you and your partner are supposed to stay rib-to-rib for the whole dance.

    Even in Latin, positioning is very important, due to the ferocious speed of many of the moves. When moves occur in the blink of an eye, you don't want to appear to be reaching in desperation for your partner at the end of the move.

    Although, to be honest, based on a lot of the stuff you see, both in the ballroom and on the competition floor, I can understand where you might draw the conclusion that positioning isn't that important to ballroom dancers. But it should be.

    Oh, one more little note, the idea that the body leads/directs the feet. I saw that mentioned briefly, that's an incredibly important concept. If the feet move independently from your center, it's darn near impossile for the follow to feel what's going on. That's one of those fundamental rules that applies to any dance ... the body always leads the feet.
  15. pygmalion

    pygmalion Well-Known Member

    YES! Big yes. I've almost completely stopped worrying about where my feet are. I just try to get my body in the right position with respect to my partner. If I do that, my feet will follow, and fall into the right place. Yay! :D
  16. d nice

    d nice New Member

    The body lead is a fundamental concept to the biomechanical approach to dancing. These things apply pretty much across the board to all forms of movement though each specific form will have modifiers that take it out of the Lindy Hop focus of my posts.

    Due to the elastic dynamic and high-tempos that lindy hop is danced at (or more appropriately should be able to be danced at, the dance has a huge range of variance in tempo at least 150 bpm range) and it's inherent improvisational nature, footwork as far as foot placement, is unimportant, while the method of foot placement is of utmost importance.

    If I want to move backwards placing my foot behind myself and transfering my weight to it is unnatural. Moving my body back (concentrating on the desired result rather than trying to artifically create the individual components) and letting my foot catch and support me is the most natural way.

    Now if I am walking forward or back with no expectation of needing to change directions laterally I can step and roll heel to toe (fore) and toe to heel (back). However if I am going to be moving laterally at a momenets notice (remember my body movement and orientation is dictated by where I wish to place my follow) then stepping on the ball of my foot (mid foot rolling to toe and visa versa) is required. Lindy Hop is an athletic dance which does not use a continuous slot so moving in a manner more remeniscent of a sport or jogging is required.

    Since footwork is dependant on body movement, and the lead/follow is dependant on relational positioning it only follows that moving the bodies need to be in "sync" and that anything that pulls them out of sync is undesirable.

    The Body Lead -vs- The Arm Lead
    While a large number of dances allow for, and even encourage the leader to lead his partner by moving his connected arm(s) instead of his body, we can see how easy it is for the partners to end up moving at different speeds if the movement is generated by the leaders arm alone.

    If the follower's body has sped up in relation to the leaders he will have a harder time keeping his leads within her space/time continuum (YAY PHYSICS!). His leads will have less and less relevancy to her the further apart they become in their relative speeds.

    The leads in lindy hop are derived from the center. In Chinese Martial Arts this is called the "tan tien", it is about two inches below your belly-button, or a line drawn from the union of the leg into the pelvis. The movement lateral or oblique originates here. As it travels through the body it may be manipulated or fine tuned with other muscle groups, but it starts here.

    The example I use is moving an object that has weight and has either momentum in the wrong direction or is at rest. Lets say a refrigerator on casters. If you want to move it you don't stand completely upright and push with your arms. You lower your center of gravity and push with your legs, moving your whole body to either retard it's momentum or give it momentum. Disclaimer: No I'm not equating a follower with a heavy, unwieldy, major appliance... at least not all of them ;)

    Your body in this example stays at a relativistic speed to the object you are manipulating reducing any lag between the application of force and the resultant change in the object.
  17. Swing Kitten

    Swing Kitten New Member

    I thought it a good idea to bring this gem back to the forefront... some excellent information here.
  18. d nice

    d nice New Member

    Minus the spelling errors there is really good information in here. I had forgotten about this.
  19. SDsalsaguy

    SDsalsaguy Administrator Staff Member

    I think those can be forgiven Damon. :D
  20. alfborge

    alfborge New Member

    I've been thinking a bit on the subject of teaching lindy hop to people who have never before danced (at least while sober). The general opinion of the instructors where I live is that you need to teach lots of figures so that the beginners feel that they learn something, and so that they can dance. Otherwise they beliveve that the beginners will get bored and leave.

    The beginners-courses I've attended have all been very oriented towards the teaching of figures. (Obviously, first one learns the step-step and the triple-step).

    When it comes to leading and following the instructors only mention enough to make people believe that they're leading/following the figures they've learned. Anything beyond that is usually up to the individual dancer to pick up while dancing at the classes or socially.

    Later on in the course they take about 15 minutes of a class to teach about connection. This is done by making the follower close her eyes (we only have female followers at our beginners classes) and the lead leads back and forth. No basics involved, just lead back and forth. There might be some more excercises like this, but all in all, there is very little focus on leading and following. On technical details like weight and stuff like that.

    I believe that a beginners course in lindy hop should try to minimalize the time it takes from the step learning phase to the dancing phase. Using what Damon has written in this thread, how would you (that's the plural you) go about teaching this to beginners?

    Wannabe instructor,

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