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On dance breakthroughs.. (mine this weekend was gliding)

March 13th, 2011 2 comments

 

I had an excellent weekend.  After spending all of last weekend with a significant portion of the charter members of the OMC, I had all of this weekend with Bay.  I won’t go into the stuff that you didn’t come here to read, but I highly recommend meeting someone that makes you a better person and marrying their ass (and the rest of them too).  Your life continues to get better the more work you’re willing to put in to a relationship like this – win/win!

We hosted my parents on Saturday night to cook them dinner, play crokinole, and slice off a portion of my finger.  My finger didn’t ruin the night, and fortunately it didn’t affect my crokinole playing.  I also successfully managed to raise my Dad’s blood pressure by playing my shots before he had the time to tell me “aim for my finger Adam!”.  I’m pretty sure my Mum had the exact same look on her face that she did over 15 years ago in Majorca when he did the same thing at the pool table.  Ah.. fond memories.

Before that, however, I took the afternoon for myself to go down to Centenniel Square and dance.  I didn’t start with this intention, but no one else was available given the short notice I had provided, and it had been too long since I’d danced in my hometown.  I wasn’t going to let anyone else’s lack of availability affect my need to get some creative release.  I gathered up my stuff and headed down.

Centenniel Square is actually a pretty great spot to go and share some culture.  The main part of the square has been fixed and is much more open than it once way.  While there was an event happening (and I heard at least one deep house song that I like playing), there was plenty of room further back and closer to the road.  One of the great parts about this area is that there are a number of businesses along one side, and all of the glass there is one-way mirror.  Not only that – it’s covered.  No issues with weather.

For a good solo session, having a reflection can go a long way to making you more comfortable dancing in public.  And that’s the other great benefit about the Square – it’s got a steady stream of foot traffic, but enough open area that no one ever has to feel about having their space violated.

One of the biggest things I’ve been working on this term has been opening myself up more when I’m dancing.  Not just physically, but emotionally and, if you can handle this, spiritually (it probably doesn’t mean the same thing to you that it does to me).  Having a consistent flow of foot-traffic offers plenty of opportunities for an audience, and if you can’t be comfortable with an audience, you’re never going to be able to achieve what you’re fully capable of.  If you have trouble getting yourself to this point, check out my post about opening yourself up more – it’s a great starting point that will naturally lead you to what I’m describing.

I was practicing in front of the windows (after being told,  bemusedly, by two commissionaires that there were people that could see me on the other side and were watching me), and taking a break from really dancing (when the goes off, I have to too!) and sat there grooving.  I made a surprising discovery – I figured out how I could teach gliding.

The problem

Gliding has always been an elusive technique for me.  I’ve never really felt how it connects to the music.  When I first started trying to to learn, it was by watching Graham.  Graham’s an amazing dancer and a great glider, but he is highly intuitive.  Without anything technical to grab on to, I was never really able to pick up the foundation.  Graham picked the technique up so quickly and seamlessly that I couldn’t find a space in his movement to pick apart and build on my own understanding.

With a lot of time, practice and classes, I was able to slowly pick up the technique.  But I never really learned how it connected to the actually dancing that I was meant to do.  Without an ability to ground the technique in the dance, it was a very dead move that I had taught myself to do.  Don’t kid yourself – anyone that is actually listening to the music will notice straight away if you’re just doing technique without any dancing.  Without an ability to dance with the technique, I could never really figure it out.  The way I taught the class was the same way I felt about learning the technique myself: it was slow, arduous.. it was frustrating.

The seed

The seed for my own epiphany was initially planted by Jamieson – a good friend, dancer and teacher.  In Jamieson’s class, he had us performing the stationary front glide (almost a forced walk) to the beat of the music.  This was the first time that I had actually seen a glide properly connected to the music.  (Much to Jamieson’s credit, I have never seen him teach anything that wasn’t connected with the music).

Ready for the music to pick me back up, I stood in front of the mirror doing the following to the beat playing in my ears:

  • Simultaneously raise my left toe and my right heel (1st beat).
  • Simultaneously lower my left toe and right heel, and then raise my right toe and my left heel (2nd beat).
  • Repeat

This is a simple motion, but it’s rhythmic, and that means that it’s a way to keep time with the music.  You should always strive to have part of your body moving to the music – this is how you stay connected to your dance, the rhythm, and the feel.  It’s how you know you’re actually dancing.  Have you ever watched a great dancer and seen them move like they had already heard the song before?  They haven’t – they’re just feeling music to the extent that they know where it’s going to go next.

The epiphany

Standing in place, rocking my feet up and down to the beat, I let my mind wander and focused on the music.  Rather than trying to think of what to do next, I allowed myself to sit in the groove.  I let myself know that it was okay to not do something new – I could do this for as long as it felt good.  This might sound trite to those that don’t understand, but this is the most fundamental principle of dancing that I can conceive at the moment.  If you can do this, you can dance.  If you can give yourself permission to enjoy a groove you’re sitting in, you don’t have to worry about how you look to anyone.

Reaching this conclusion is part of the greater (and ongoing) epiphany I’ve been having this term, thanks in part to the talented influences of my friends and teachers Dennis, Kyle, Kim, Johnnii and Jamieson.  Sitting with the groove in this position, I suddenly felt the tumblers in my brain fall into place.  I had gotten inside the glide!

Moving my feet up and down rhythmically, I was able to do the same while floating (the first is a foundation for the second), and almost magically felt everything snap into place.  If I could float to the rhythm, I could glide to the rhythm.  If I could glide to the rhythm… I could dance.

At the moment, I can’t provide any greater a breakdown of the technique I’m describing.  I need to teach it in order to understand it better myself.  What’s that?  You shouldn’t teach something that you don’t understand completely?  Why not?  Shouldn’t the teacher be allowed to learn with the students as well?  Surely this is teaching at it’s finest.  This is part of my process, and it’s part of why teaching, for me, is never just a one-way – it’s a two-way interaction.  Articulating an idea for someone should be a learning experience for both of you.

The good news is that I can promise more articulation in the summer months, for those of you that will be taking classes with me.  I’m looking forward to sharing what have been some profound changes in me as a dancer, and mutually working through those discoveries together in classes.  I have not yet found the right space for what I want to do, but that is currently in the works and once settled, I will be posting more information right here.  Suffice to say for now that I’m really excited about what is in the works.

TLDR

 

While the audience for this post may be different than some of the others I have written, I still think summaries are a good practice.  If not for you, certainly for me.  Here we go:

  • If you want to excel as a dancer, you need to be open to your audience, whoever and wherever they may be (don’t be selective)
  • If you’re nervous about dancing in public, find a place with a reflection.  Make sure you spend time facing away from it, but it can act as a security blanket when you’re feeling intimidated by those around you.  If you insist on staring at the mirror, make eye contact with your audience through it (it’ll catch them off-guard, I guarantee!)
  • If you can give yourself permission to sit in a groove, you can dance (yup, step-touch and two-stepping counts – don’t move on until you’re ready to).
  • No matter what you’re doing, try to keep some part of your body connected to he music (if you’re not sure why, see the point above)

And of course – I’m going to be teaching this summer somewhere in town, and it’s going to be awesome.  (and you should be there too!).

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Turning a corner

January 31st, 2011 No comments

I’ve been in a bit of a creative rut lately.  Work is good (great, even), I’ve adjusted to living in another city, and I’m starting to form a bit of routine.  But creatively, I just haven’t felt engaged or energized.  The result of that is little energy to actually create something like a blog post, and less energy overall (the more you can put out, the more you receive – it’s funny that way).  In the process of the last few days, this has meant that I’ve had an abundance of time to sit with nothing to do but meditate and reflect.

Spending time in this state is valuable, but it can be tiresome too.  As a driven person, I reach the point where I’m once again ready (eager, even) to feel traction under my wheels and start driving myself forward.

One of the aims I have this Spring is to continue my growth as a dancer.  This process has been ongoing for years, but recently I have taken note of three specific landmarks.  The first was during the Summer of 2009.  I was still working in software, and took a week-long trip over to Vancouver for the opportunity to dance and train with some of the originators of Popping, House, Locking, and HipHop.  It was an amazing opportunity, and was the first time I had been exposed to this depth of knowledge.  I left this week feeling like I had been shown what I needed to know, rather than what I had wanted to know.  This feeling was a bit disconcerting at first, but is ultimately an indication that you have learned something deep, and fundamental; something that will stay with you for the rest your creative pursuit.

The second milestone occurred this Summer, and culminated with the second Get Down workshop.  I was opened up to the social element of dancing, thanks to the fantastic teachers that I got to train with and the warm and welcoming people that make up Vancouver’s dance scene.  This too was an experience that caught me off guard, as up until this point, most of my dancing had been at home or doing drills with friends in front of a mirror.  I had been opened up to a side of dancing that I had been sheltered from for the better part of my first ten years spent dancing.

The third milestone was this Fall.  I returned to Victoria with a greater sense of what I wanted to have exist on our own island, and took steps to plant the seeds that would hopefully develop into something greater as time went on.  I also came back with a wealth of knowledge that I hadn’t been able to articulate, let alone been truly aware of for the first part of my time spent teaching dancing.  This time I had worked with better teachers than I, and been shown so much more that I wanted to share.  Although my classes were smaller this term, I felt like it was the best set that I have taught since I’ve begun teaching.

Now I’m back in Vancouver for another term, and the creative rut that I’m determined to climb out of has lead me to consider what some of my personal projects should be.  I’m talking about dancing, so it’s obvious that that’s the goal I’m going to be talking about today.

Before we go any further, “dancing”, by itself, is not a goal.  How do I know when that goal has been accomplished?  How do I gauge if I have made any progress in that goal?  Does doing anything related to dancing qualify?  If I think about dancing for ten minutes tomorrow, does that count?

I’m of course using hyperbole to make my point here, but I think that what I’m describing makes intuitive sense.  A lot of times, we tell ourselves we’re making a goal, and then leave it utterly vague.  “Budget more”, “Eat out less”, and “Save” are goals that I’m sure more than a few of us can relate to.  However, no one ever teaches us that a goal needs to be broken down to be meaningful.  Until we have a handle on something like this, our goal is nothing more than an abstract desire to do something differently.  Most importantly, it’s no help.

My goal is ultimately continue to improve as a dancer.  Now, while this is already a violation of what I’ve described above, I’m deciding up front that the means by which I will accomplish this more abstract goal is to take efforts to put myself in situations where I’m not the best dancer.

Let’s talk about that.  This does not mean that I think I am a fantastic dancer (But I do know that I love it and work at it), nor that other people dancing with me are bad.  This goal is purely an articulation of my desire to train with the people that are best going to be able to pull me up in terms of my skill level.  Truly talented people can be intimidating, but the key is to replace that intimidation with an awe and a genuine desire to soak up what you can from them.  The more often you can surround yourself with talented people, the more their particular talents and way of looking at the world will rub off on you (genuinely a positive thing).  Of course, the opposite is true as well: the more time you spend with people that are narrow-minded and have a cynical view of the world, the more that will wear off on you.

So the goal here is actually quite simple: seek out those that are better than I, and spend time dancing with them in whatever capacity I can.  Taking classes is one way that I can ensure that I achieve this aim.  Actually committing to going out to practice with other dancers at any jam-times available is another way.  If I only ever dance by myself or in front of a mirror, I will only be able to improve within the confines of the box that currently defines my working set of creative knowledge.  If we want to truly achieve greatness, we need to ensure that we associate with people that help us continually push at the boundaries of our own knowledge and conceptions about how the world works.  (Incidentally, one of the tragedies of ignorance is that it causes people to turn inwards and get defensive toward the very type of personalities and concepts that would help shed them of that very ignorance).

I have another goal this term.  I intend to teach my own classes somewhere downtown in Victoria.  I have already been teaching classes, but up until now have been doing it for Vibestreet Dance (big ups to VSD).  However, VSD does not have classes this Summer, and it seems like an excellent time and opportunity to begin putting my own thing together.  I’ll be working with my friend Jesse to put something together, and we’re also planning to teach a Soul class together, focusing on grooving, feeling the music, and ultimately, just learning how to get down and be funky.  Jesse is one of the most creative people I know, and I think the opportunity to work with him will be fruitful.  I’m excited to see what our synergy will result in.

Time, weather, and city permitting, I’m going to be giving very informal classes at Centenniel Square, right downtown.  These classes will be very cheap (probably no more than $5 to drop-in), and are basically a way for people to continue to grow as a dancer.  Focus will be on fundamentals, and this kind of class is an excellent way to get more comfortable dancing where people can see you.  This is one of the biggest challenges that many dancers have to face (I certainly put myself in that category), and it’s hard to get much more legit than getting down, outside, in an urban setting.

If you’re interested in hearing more about these classes, join my group on Facebook here.

So, it’s back to Vancouver that I go, now with a new goal, and some personal projects to work on over the coming term.  I sense that I’m starting to move out of my creative rut, and can begin to apply some focus in a direction that I’m excited about.  Stay tuned as I will continue to blog about my progress, anything new that I learn, and the status of the projects I’m working on.

Lastly, I want to give someshout-outs to the great teachers that I get to work with in Vancouver: Johnni, Jamieson, Kim, and Dennis are all contributing significantly to my growth while I spend time in Vancouver, and it’s a honour to get to work with people that share their passion and talent for dancing so generously.  These guys help me become not only a better dancer, but a better teacher.  Thanks guys!

GET DOWN!

August 6th, 2009 8 comments

Man oh man, what a week!

I gave my notice three weeks ago.  I had a week of vacation time left over, so I worked two weeks, had a week of vacation, and then will work one more week starting Monday.  We had some money that I had been given for contract work that I’d done, and Bay got to go to Brazil this year, so we agreed that it would be cool for me to attend a dance camp being offered in Vancouver (for the first time ever).

The dance camp was called Get Down.  Get Down represents a unique and rare opportunity: a chance to learn and train with the founders of some of the styles I’m into, such as popping and locking.  Let me repeat that: the founders of those styles.  It’s a little surreal being in class and having the teacher tell you “Now, this move is called the Romeo-twist, because my brother was wearing these shoes called Romeos, and we used to say ‘Yo, twist those Romeos!'”.

The instructors teaching are:

  • Greg Campbellock Jr
    • Greg did most of the choreography for the original lockers (back in the day when they were on Soul Train).  You can see some of that original footage below.  Cheesy?  Yah, a little.  But it’s also way funky.
  • Popping Pete
    • Popping Pete (who’s actually named Timothy) is Boogaloo Sam’s brother.  Boogaloo Sam, created popping and boogaloo.  Popping Pete has been heavily influential in the creation and evolution of those styles.
  • Sugar Pop
    • Sugar Pop is one of the members of the Electric Boogaloos, and someone who has come from the start of locking and popping to its current state.
    • You can see Sugar Pop and Poppin Pete both getting down here (Mr. Wiggles is in grey, Sugar Pop is in brown, and Shonn Boog is in black and red):

 

  • Caleaf
    • One of the founders of House dancing.  You can watch Caleaf dancing here (sound quality is terrible):

 

So, now you’ve got an idea of the caliber of talent that we’ve been fortunate enough to train with.  The best part is that all of these guys are really cool, and really good teachers.  On the first day, I was a little worried.

Suga Pop went right into teaching us choreography, and I find that I generally prefer to learn technique so that I can then take that and use it in my own freestyle dancing.  However, as the days have passed, I started to gain a real appreciation for the fact that all of these guys are really teaching us that what these styles are really about is dancing.

If you’re not dancing, you’re not doing the style, and it’s that simple.  You can sit there and hit the hardest pops anyone has ever seen in their life, but if you aren’t dancing, it doesn’t matter – you’re holding the music hostage, and that’s not what it’s about.  Dancing is a visual representation (and interpretation) of a given piece of music.

I’ve been reflecting on the experience over the course of the weekend whenever I find myself with a few spare cycles for thought.  When I went into the camp, I had a set of expectations and thoughts about what it was that I needed to learn.  I left the camp having learned something quite different, but far more valuable.

When the first couple of classes didn’t meet my initial expectations, I was a little bit disappointed.  “Why aren’t they teaching us technique?”, I thought to myself.  Actually, they were teaching us technique — they were just doing it within the framework of teaching us to dance.  You can’t have all technique and no dance, because that’s not…. dancing.

One of the things that Suga pop stressed a number of times was that popping is a style of dance that it is very easy to hide behind.  What he meant is that it is very easy to use good technique in popping and simply do that without having any groove or dance behind it.  Because of the illusions that the technique in popping creates, people watching will be dazzled, and the person can get away without actually doing any real dancing underneath.

The more we worked throughout the week, the more I realized I’ve been focusing on technique to the detriment of my ability to progress as a dancer.  Only time will tell where the correct balance lies, but it’s certainly something for me to keep in mind.

Know your history

This week was a lot of history.  I’ve always known a good amount of the history surrounding popping and locking, but none of that knowledge contained an understanding of the social dances that went into creating these styles.  Every time we’d learn a new dance from hiphop’s roots (and often dances that I’ve seen people at weddings do (poorly) just for fun), sure enough, there’d be some element or technique in popping or locking that had integrated that original dance in some capacity.

Learning these original dances really helped provide a greater understanding of the context surrounding the styles that I love, and also provided a really solid foundation to grab onto whenever unsure of what to do next.  Unsure of what your next move is?  No problem, just drop down into the original dance and get back into the groove.

Find.  Your.  Groove.

This was really one of the biggest things we had hammered into us this  week.  Don’t go out there and dive into moves.  Even though moves and tricks are cool, they can never be allowed to supercede just getting down.

It is challenging to articulate beyond these points.  I suspect this is because it is fairly orthogonal to the way in which I’m used to being taught.  The next couple of weeks will likely lead to a number of revelations on my part. The trickiest part about this experience has simply been that there was so much knowledge to absorb.  You do your best to pick up everything, but it’s just impossible to fully retain all of the information passed my way.  It’s even more difficult when I’m trying to parse that knowledge and understand what it means to me as both a dancer and a teacher.

Regardless of what I end up pulling away from the experience, I can absolutely attest to the fact that it has been one of the most significant periods of growth to date in my journey as a dancer.  There’s really not much more that can top that, is there?

Still here…

July 5th, 2009 1 comment

I’m still here, there just hasn’t been much recently inspiring me to write.  In the meantime, here are some excellent dance videos to entertain yourself with:

  • Crazy Scandinavian’s

These guys may look goofy, but they’ve definitely put some work into their isolations.  Although I think there’s room for them to work on their technique, this video’s giving me a few ideas for what I’ll go over next drop-in class.

  • Hilty and Bosch, Featuring Co-Thkoo

This is an excellent video to see the difference between popping and locking.  Most people that don’t have any experience with the different styles think that they are the same thing.  Locking is actually the older dance (and was created before hiphop, breaking, and popping), and is based more on funkiness and a limited move set.  The guys wearing black shirts are two of my favorite lockers from Japan (a country with a lot of incredible lockers). 

The guys in the white vests are performing popping.  You can tell the difference if you look closely.  The poppers movements are punctuated with sharp hits, and are generally more angular in appearance.  The lockers movements are defined by faster movements with more flair and funk.  Wrist rolls, arm rolls, knee drops, and and points are all some of the locking techniques to look out for.

One very cool thing that my friend Jesse pointed out in this video is the symmetry of the choreography.  Although the two dance styles are often quite disimilar, the choreography that these guys are doing has been put together such that one group of dancers will perform a movement, and then the next group will perform similar movements and angles, but using the techniques associated with their respective styles.

  • JRock and Pandora, Tutting

This is a very coo
l routine showing the technique of tutting.  You can tell just from the YouTube preview what the general idea is: assume geometric shapes with your body and arms that are reminiscent of egyptian hieroglyphics, and the way Bugs Bunny used to move when he would mimic egyptians in those corny cartoons.

This routine is especially cool because they’ve choreographed it to use two people.  However, this isn’t a necessary aspect of tutting, and it works just as well (well, maybe not quite as striking, but still cool) with one person.

Tutting is a technique that I have only been working on for about two months, as I was always averse to trying to learn it because of the problem I had getting my wrist to make some of the angles.  While you can train your wrist by stretching it out each day, you can also eliminate the need to hit certain angles through creativity.

  • Poppin’ John

An excellent video submitted by Poppin’ John for Mr. Wiggles internet video contest (correct me if I’m wrong).  Poppin’ John does awesome things with waves, and is always frustrating for me to watch and try to fathom how the hell he’s come up with his vocabulary.

I especially like his technique of putting one hand over the back of his head, and then using that hand to push waves down and out his other arm.  Very cool.

Anyhow, that’s all I’ve got for today.  If any of these videos or techniques interest you and you’d like to learn more, come check out one of my classes at Vibestreet Dance.  The techniques look complicated, but with practice, you can master them and trip out your friends too!  Seriously though, popping is an awesome style of dance to learn, and a ton of fun to play around with.  It’s never too late to learn..

Workshops, Community, and Collaboration

June 28th, 2009 No comments

Last night, I took the second popping workshop I’ve been aware of ever being offered in Victoria.  While I know that there have been other workshops offered between this one and the last one I took (Jake Evans, from Nova Scotia, about three years ago), these are the only two that I have been aware of.  This is an indication (to me), that there is a real lack of means to get in touch with other dancers, and the Victoria hiphop community in general, and share this kind of thing.

After meeting and talking, last night, with other people that are passionate about popping in Victoria, I feel that I have at least one small purpose to contribute towards our small but growing hiphop community, and that is to help the network grow.  But enough about that, let’s talk about the workshop.

The Groovy G’s

The workshop was taught by two members of the Groovy G’s, a popping crew based out of Vancouver.  The first time I heard about the Groovy G’s was when I started searching the net for popping classes being taught in Vancouver.  I wanted popping lessons, but since we didn’t have any classes in Victoria at the time, my only option was to head over to Vancouver.  I talked briefly with Jamieson, one of the two guys that taught the classes, but aside from subscribing to their blog, things didn’t get much further (I really wanted to take classes, but that didn’t change the fact that the only thing in my wallet was a gaping hole – it’s not cheap to take repeated trips to Vancouver).

I actually heard about last night’s workshop in a very round-about manner.  The Groovy G’s posted a note about a funk theory workshop that they had just finished giving.  “Whoa”, I thought, “I could easily make it over for one day-long workshop, provided I budgeted for it”.  I wrote the G’s to ask them if they could give me some advance notice the next time they were planning something like this, and whether or not they would be having another one any time soon.  From there, things just exploded.  Hector (I believe), wrote me back to let me know that Jamieson and Trevor were apparently teaching a workshop in Victoria in a few weeks.  I added Trevor and Jamieson on Facebook, started talking to the people over here that were putting on the event, and couldn’t believe that I almost missed this.

Arrival

Brooke managed to drum up some good interest, and a number of familiar (and friendly) faces showed up at the workshop with us, including Jo, Guillaume, Vincent, Sean, Jack, and Max.  As soon as we entered the studio, I recognized one guy from VEMF last year that Graham and I had seen tutting, and a few people I’d seen on the ol’ Facebook.

It’s funny to see that a dance workshop is really no different from any other kind of culture.  As soon as we sat down,I commented to Brooke that there were three evident cliques: The Vibestreet Dance clique, the Boston Dance Company clique, and ..  one more (which I didn’t know enough about to provide a label).  It’s not that any of us are elitists or anything like that – it’s just human nature to be apprehensive when in new social settings.

Cody Campbell had put some music on so I practiced a little bit with the kids while we waited.  The mood was very much that of everyone sussing each other out.  “Who’s that over there?”, “Hmm, I wonder if that guy’s a good dancer”, “Hmm, don’t know them”, etc.  Brooke pointed out various people that were prominent in our small but growing dance community and then it was time to start.

Intros

After we paid and I met some of the people I’d been chatting with on Facebook, Liz came out and did a quick intro of the two guys that were teaching us: Jamieson de Guzman and Trevor Chung.  I had talked to Liz over e-mail a few weeks prior, and she was awesome.  Super passionate, and really keen to help hiphop grow here in Victoria.

Once we got past the intros, Jamieson talked a bit about what popping is, and how it relates to dancing.  I’ve heard this many times before, and always attempt to imbue the same thing in my own students, but it’s always good to have it repeated and internalized.  Time to start!

Popping

The first hour of the workshop, we spent on popping.  It’s always interesting to attend different workshops with different instructors, as they have different fundamentals that they are teaching, and different approaches.  Jamieson stressed that three things you should work to pop are your arms, your legs, and your neck (yup, your neck).  Personally, I think that popping your chest and tightening your abs is also important and will further the power of your hits.  It could be that Jamieson was just providing the basic building blocks, and those last two sets of muscles can be added in later.

We drilled the basics for a while, focusing on the fresno, and mixing it up between singles and doubles (shift your weight on every beat, or every second beat).  Some people get impatient revisiting their foundation like this, but I can never get enough, and I was content to take it as an opportunity to tighten things up.  I actually felt pretty good about my hits from these basic positions – the work I’ve been putting in has helped keep things clean and tight.

I noticed things started to fall apart when we started moving into positions that I haven’t trained at all.  Getting my legs to hit when I’m in poses that are new is quite difficult when I don’t yet have the muscle memory in place.  Jamieson let us know that the general rule to follow was that you pop whichever leg has the most weight on it, and whichever leg you can straighten most easily.  That’s a good general rule to have, but I still need to practice hits in various positions, like during walkouts.

As we went through the choreography, one move I had never seen before came up, called the popcorn.  You do the following:

  1. Raise up one leg and hit
  2. Lower your leg in front of you, place your weight on it, and raise your back leg (essentially taking half a step forward).  Hit.
  3. Reverse the motion you just did so that you are now in the same position as in 1, and hit.
  4. Put your feet back together, and hit.

Pretty simple really, but it creates a neat visual that I haven’t seen broken down before.  I quickly realized that I needed to work on hits when I’m balanced on one leg – these are especially challenging, and the illusion is instantly broken if you don’t maintain your balance throughout.

Likewise, while practicing walkouts, I realized that although I’ve drilled the movement, I haven’t touched on actually hitting throughout it.  Another thing to work on…

Tutting

After Jamieson finished, Trevor took over the class, and we started focusing on tutting and waving.  The segment related to tutting was actually quite short.  Trevor mentioned the basics of tutting, although he didn’t get as explicit as I would have (which is cool, all teachers are different) about what makes a tight angle, and things to watch out for.  He did only have so much time though, so it’s possible he was just trying to cram as much in as he could.

Trevor showed us a bit about how he practiced (come up with a set of angles and transitions, and then drill that set), and went over some basic poses (like prayer stance).  After that, Trevor went through two different routines with us, and included some footwork.  I’ve been feeling pretty good about my tuts lately, as I’ve been working a fair bit on developing the discipline and mus
cle memory to keep clean angles.  The footwork was brand new to me though, and I had to keep myself from falling right over a couple of times.

Waving

After tutting we moved on to waving.  I’ve been putting a lot of work into waves lately, and I’m pretty happy with the progress.  There’s infinitely more room for progress, but at least I’m seeing some changes that I’m happy with.  Trevor went over the details of what makes a good wave versus a bad wave, and what it is that leads towards an aesthetically-pleasing wave (the secret is that wherever the wave is not, remains stationary.  This is the real key to a good wave).

I noticed that the one thing Trevor did not teach was the isolations of a wave.  His approach was more intuitive than mine, using techniques like visualizing the path that your hands and arms are taking, imagining there is a bar that your hands are travelling over, and so forth.  I made a mental note to incorporate these kinds of visual metaphors in my teaching as well, so that both types of learners can benefit.

Trevor provided some names for a few types of waves that I’ve been working on lately, but haven’t had a name for them.  The main one was a track wave, wherein you move your hands and arms as though they are travelling along a rollercoaster track (or any kind of path really).  Once you’ve done this, you can reverse the wave and travel back in the opposite direction – the key is that you travel back along the same imaginary path.

One of the most helpful ideas that Trevor put in my head was the notion of setting up a specific geometry with your body, and then waving within that geometry.  Eg, put your arms up in some kind of shape.  Then, run a wave through that shape.  Think about the way a wave might travel through that geometry, and mimic this path.  The example Trevor provided in class was holding your arms out in front of you, with your right arm pointing straight up, and your left arm held out so that it is parallel to the ground, with its fingertips touching the elbow of your right arm.  In this position, a wave will travel:

  • Down from the fingertips of your right arm to your elbow
  • From your right arm’s elbow through to the fingertips of your left arm
  • From the fingertips of your left arm up to your left shoulder
  • From your left shoulder, through your head/chest, to your right shoulder
  • Out your right shoulder, to your elbow, then back up and out the fingertips of your right arm

It’s not necessarily complicated, but setting up various positions like these and then waving through them is part of how you turn waving from a simple technique into an actual dance that you can innovate and improvise using.

Putting it all together

The last hour of the class was devoted towards putting everything we’d learned together into a set of choreography that Jamieson and Trevor made up on the spot as we went along. Before we started this though, we drilled our hits a bit by doing something Jamieson called “copy cat”.

Copy cat is fairly easy – the leader starts by taking a pose and hitting on it for four beats.  Then the class does the same thing.  Then the leader takes a new pose, and the class then repeats that pose. It’s not complicated (but then, most of this stuff isn’t – it just requires dedication), but it’s a great way to work with the class.  Ironically, I’d been planning something very similar out in my head for when our classes start again in Fall, so it was really nice to see that this is a valid approach that works well.

Once we’d finished this, we got going on actual choreography.  I struggled a bit with this, as I have some difficulty remembering all of the parts of choreography when you’re putting it together quickly.  I was definitely getting frustrated by the end of the class.

The other thing that I would have liked a little more would have been to spend more time on some of the additional techniques that they were including in the choreography.  We ended up including some techniques like boogaloo that I would definitely have appreciated getting more time to work on.  But that’s the way things go when you only have three short hours to work with a group of people.

Boston Pizza

After the workshop was finished, I met up with the Jamieson, Liz, Trevor and a few other people that had taken the workshop.  I was a little bit hesitant to do this initially, as I generally don’t like just diving into a group of strangers, but I was glad I did.  It was a little weird because noone but me was drinking beer (I stopped after the first one once I noticed that), so things were slightly awkward (bunch of strangers, but no social lubricant).  However, I met some new people, got some e-mail, and got a chance to chat a little more with Trevor and Jamieson (interestingly enough, they started the same way I did – through raves).

Take-aways

So, what did I take away from the experience?  I learned a good deal about teaching and some exercises and techniques that can be used, and I definitely picked up some new moves to practice on.

One thing that was interesting was talking to the other people that were in the workshop, afterwards.  My friend Jo mentioned that she found Trevor’s more visual and intuitive approach easier to work with.  So rather than breaking up an arm wave into the various isolations, just visualize your hands travelling up, over, and around a metal bar.

Unlike some of the classes I’ve had, most of the knowledge that I gained from these three hours came from taking what we were shown during workshop and reflecting on it.  I’m cool with that – I love spending time reflecting about new knowledge, and figuring out where it fits into my existing understanding of the way things work.

All in all this was a really great workshop and I’m really glad to see these kind of things happening in Victoria.  I came away with a few new friends, some more ideas to work towards, and inspiration.

Vibestreet Dance end-of-year wrap-up

June 16th, 2009 2 comments

It’s been a little longer than normal since my last entry.  That’s mostly because I’ve been keeping myself fairly busy.  The stuff that is keeping me busy is stuff that I don’t really want to set down only to come home and spend even more time writing about (don’t get me wrong – I’m extremely passionate about dancing, I just haven’t felt inclined to write about it lately), and I haven’t really felt inspired to write beyond that.

However, this Saturday was the end-of-year wrap-up for Vibestreet Dance, and so it seems a good time to reflect a little bit on how things have gone.  When I look back to only two months ago, when I first started taking popping classes from Dillon, I can barely fathom how much things have changed.

The Show

Before I talk about my own thoughts, it’s probably worth talking about our end-of-year show.
  Three weeks before the show, Brooke mentioned that our breaking instructor would be putting together a routine for it, and it would be great if I could as well.  This would pretty much be the first time I’d ever done any choreography, so I was a little bit nervous – I spent about a week putting things together, and then went over it with the class.

In retrospect, I over-simplified certain parts, as I wasn’t sure how quickly the class would pick things up.  It turned out, really quickly!  All of the kids were great, but I was obviously especially proud of the kids that I had been working with, and was really happy to see how well things went.  I think that in the next year, they’re going to start to really take off.

Although it’s nice to pretend that the instructor gets a lot of the credit for the progression of the students, I think most of that credit belongs to Guillaume, Jack, Max and Vincent (along with Olivier and Sean, who weren’t able to come to the later classes, and thus participate in the portion I put together) for being such great students.  Kids like these guys don’t come easily, and their dedication and hard work make everything easier.

I also bumped in to two other guys that had been popping for about a year as well, got them out into one of our cyphers, and then got their information and told them to come out to the jam sessions I’m trying to get going.  All in all, the show was awesome.

Instruction

The biggest change that has occurred since starting at Vibestreet has obviously been that I’ve moved into the role of teaching, from that of a student.  Teaching is something that I’ve always wanted to do, and that I’ve always enjoyed.  My own experience has been that teaching people the art that I am interested in is one of the best ways for me to gain a better understanding of it myself.  Breaking techniques down requires thinking about each part of the technique and understanding it at a very fundamental level.  I’ve always felt this way, and indeed, studying calculus with friends in University, I always appreciated being asked for help with various questions.  My friends would apologize for bugging me with another question, but I was secretly being selfish and gaining from the questions they were asking me.

Back in the very early days of the world wide web, a friend and I ran a dance website called “Shaddup and Dance”.  It was a piece of garbage, and would make web browsers explode from having to render the sheer ugliness of colours that we jammed onto that page.  Not only that, but there was also negative feedback from the original gangsters that took exception to my tutorial videos (many of them were indeed quite poor), or our attitude that just because you’d been around for a while didn’t mean that you were above critique.  Still, there was an awful lot of positive feedback that accompanied the negative, and the opportunity to provide some advice and direction to other dancers that were attempting to learn the same techniques I had was one that I relished.

The first day that I started teaching was with the junior class.  I hadn’t met any of the kids before, and I had no idea what they had learned up to that point.  Brooke told me that they were passionate about popping, which was promising, but I didn’t realize how accurate she was.  These kids have been awesome, and really stuck it out with me.  They were patient with my fumbling starts, and have given me lots of inadvertent advice that I have taken to heart.  The opportunity to work with them (and hopefully to continue to do so), has been really great and has provided ample opportunities to learn myself.

Working with the adults has been slightly easier, though no less of a learning experience.  It’s been easier because adults are generally more willing to focus on the foundation, and because I had the benefit of being attending the four classes previous to my taking it over.

When Brooke asked if I wanted to keep teaching, I didn’t even have to think about the answer.

Choreography

Starting to think about choreography, and to actually apply that to the lessons I’m teaching, has been a completely new experience for me.  In the ten years that I have been dancing, I have always focused on building and practicing foundation movement.  No fancy moves, no fancy vocabulary of choreographed moves to draw from, just foundation.  Personally, I like this, as it means that I can very quickly adapt my dancing to work with whatever the music is asking of me, and when I focus on foundation, it is much easier to take in new influences and apply those to the existing foundation.

However, choreography is a very important aspect of dancing, and freestyle dancing is essentially coming up with choreography in real-time.  Taking on the role of teaching has required me to re-evaluate my relationship with choreography (a sentence that sounds exceptionally lame).  Seriously though, while working on foundation is essential for anyone that really wants to become a great dancer, not everyone is geared the way I am, and most people want to actually do something cool as they’re learning.

Choreography provides students with a direct relationship between the foundation that you have them working on and actually dancing (honestly, it’s difficult to understand how you are going to turn a chest hit until a dance until you’ve practiced it enough).  With a little bit of choreography, it is easy to take some basic foundation and put them together to make something that looks kind of cool, and provides a direction to train towards.  This should be one of the key goals of anyone attempting to teach – to instill in students not only the value of foundation, but also some ideas for the direction that they can take those foundations.

Friends

Finding Vibestreet Dance has been a lot like finding Victoria Squash Club – a whole new community of people to meet and interact with, and that share interests similar to mine.  Although finding people that shared my interest in squash was a bit of a challenge, I have literally been searching for ten years for people that are as passionate as I am about the styles of dance that I love.  It’s not that those people don’t exist, it’s just that the hiphop scene in Victoria is so dry, and it’s very difficult to find events that support maintaining that kind of culture.

In all of the people that I’ve trained with and taught, I’ve discovered new inspiration, and it really is extremely energizing.  Nothing inspires creativity like being exposed to more creative people.  In Brooke, especially, I’ve found a
new friend with which I can talk about new observations, epiphanies I’ve had while practicing, and complain about the things that have bothered me in dancing culture for as long as I’ve been a part of it. 

I can (and do) share many of these things with Bay on a more abstract level (as we can discuss dance with each other at a level above any particular style), but it is refreshing to be able to talk to someone else about things that have, up until now, existed solely in my own head for the last decade.

Dancing

Although I started to develop a love for popping from watching hiphop videos and tapes put out by Mr Wiggles, it was raving that actually really got the ball rolling.  For all of the negative stereotypes (many of them accurate to some extent) present at raves, good dancing is appreciated, and if that’s what you’re into, there’s space to do it.

Not only that, but every party, I would run into the same people that were there to dance.  We knew each other, and it presented a constant drive to keep improving.  I really wanted to rise to the top, and to bring something new to the table everytime that we met.  There were many days of the summers that Graham and I would spend alternating between playing Tekken and practicing dancing.

However, raving is not really a sustainable activity, and as time went on, going out to clubs stopped being one as well.  Without either of these options, there really wasn’t any outlet to fuel my desire to improve.  I would practice from time to time, but to what end?  My friend Michi can apparently derive his motivation out of thin air, but I’m not that way.

Teaching is exactly the factor that I have been missing for so long.  Having students that are thirsty for new knowledge presents an incredible amount of motivation.  With other people to be accountable to, my drive to continue progressing is stronger than ever before.  This doesn’t surprise me, but it is extremely rewarding to feel that way again.

With Brooke being gracious enough to let me use the studio for practice when it’s not in use, I find myself heading there at least twice weekly to work on new ideas.  Although I am still at the stage where I am planting a lot of seeds, I really feel that the coming year will mark a huge wave of progression on my part.

On top of that, I’m taking hiphop classes, a style of dance that I’ve never really had any exposure to aside from watching it being performed.  These classes have given me an opportunity to appreciate new ways of moving around the dance floor, new postures, and a greater appreciation for choreography in general.  Watching Brooke teach the class has given me a chance to glean as much knowledge as I can from her own wealth of experience.

Summer and the Future

It is difficult to know exactly what the future will hold, but now that I’ve found a dance culture that I can partake in, I will hang on to it like grim death.  The summer is already filling up with exciting opportunities, including dance camps and workshops that I am planning to take, which will really open my eyes up to new ways of moving and keep the ball rolling (I just hope I can keep pace!).

I’ll be posting updates as we move further into the Summer.  Until then, stay tuned!

Dance notes

May 16th, 2009 No comments
Since starting to teach classes, opportunities to come up with new ideas and techniques to teach in class are something I have been trying to keep on top of.  Well, actually, it’s not really an option; I simply have to find those opportunities, because otherwise the classes will get boring and dull (and I don’t want that).

Fortunately, I had a super productive night at Steve’s place, practicing dancing while Graham and Steve played video games.  The night was so productive that I actually ended up with 7 pages of dance notes.  Although these notes contain a fair deal of shorthand, I thought it would make for an interesting blog entry to replicate those notes here (naturally a scanned them in after getting home, as I try to move away from having any straggling paper as much as possible), and go over them, explaining some of my methodology behind how I took the notes, what I was thinking, and how I capture stuff onto paper.  Even if you don’t care about dancing, it may be interesting to see the process by which I go from capturing a visual thought (dancing is highly visual) into paper, and then into the digital world.

First up, the notes:
Dance_Notes_Page 1.png
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(You can click on each of the notes to see a full-size version of it)
The first thing worth talking about is the way I’ve laid out the notes.  Each note is numbered at the bottom, so that I can keep track of the sequence with which I thought up these notes.  This might seem like a waste of time to put together, but doing it when it’s fresh in my mind will save me time.  It’ll definitely longer to try and figure out which p
age comes first after the fact.
Important ideas that I want to make a point of going over again later get a box drawn around them.  When I’ve finished writing about a specific idea, I draw a line across the page to make sure I have a clean break – visually and mentally.
So far, none of this stuff is groundbreaking, but that’s okay, this is my chance to talk about my process, not an opportunity for me to split the metaphorical atom of taking notes.
Use Cases

One interesting thing to note is that peppered throughout these notes are the words “Use Case

As I went through the process of writing out these notes, two main thoughts crossed my mind.

  1. Surely someone has done this before me and thought up notation to support this
  2. Why isn’t there software to do this?

Coming up with my own notation will work, but if someone has already spent time doing it and has created a system that works, I would like to hop on board that and start evolving from that jumping off point, rather than rebuilding the wheel.

More importantly though, why hasn’t any software been created to support this need?  There are plenty of dance choreographers out there, and it just seems like having software that supported them is a no-brainer.

When going through and taking notes, this was something that stuck in the back of my mind.  A use case is something that we capture when gathering requirements for a piece of software.  More specifically, it indicates a specific way in which a piece of software would be used.  Typically use cases are as simple as writing out:

As a user, I would like to be able to login to the system.

My notes are less formalized than even that, but you can see the places in which I’ve noticed a particular use case that a piece of software like this would need to support.  On the first page, one of the use cases I thought of is that to effectively capture choreography, you need to capture not just the main body position, but also to add notation and indicate which way various body parts are oriented (fingertips pointing up, for example).

Naming Stances

As I took notes, I noticed immediately that there was value in naming each new tutting stance that I came up with.  The stance may already be named by someone else, but having a name that I can use to quickly refer to a stance I’d written down previously saves me a lot of time.  Throughout the notes you can see that I’ve peppered names for various stances (and left one of them unnamed because I couldn’t think of an intuitive name for it).

More Use Cases

Some more use cases that struck me as being potentially relevant:

  1. Give users the ability to indicate the transitions to and from a given stance (eg, you can transition from this the box stance into the wall stance)
  2. Give users the ability to indicate the lines that the dancer’s body creates (and extend those outwards).  Better yet, automatically determine what the lines are, and possibly display the mid-line that exists between those.

Lines and body-geometry are an important part of good aesthetics when dancing, and providing a choreographer with an immediate representation of what lines are being created would be a nice touch.

Some other ideas

Some other ideas that I would like to see integrated into a choreography software would be allowing the user to quickly put together their own set of “body positions”, and then slide those positions in and out of a sequence of moves.  Eg, I create one position to show my left arm being in the air, and one position to show my right arm in the air.  I can then create a sequence of moves that goes from the one position to the other, simply by dragging and dropping those positions into place.

As you can tell, this is far from an exact science, and mainly an idea in progress.  Still, it would be really nice to see something like this put together, if only because then I wouldn’t need to resort to scrawling notes on paper and making a mess of things.

Still, in the meantime, my workflow continues along the following lines:

  1. Write out dance notes whenever practicing
  2. Get home, scan dance notes in
  3. Add dance notes to Evernote, so that I can access them from anywhere

As I continue to use this method, I’ll continue to evolve my notation so that I can improve its efficiency.

Teaching better…

May 12th, 2009 No comments

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I recently took over teaching the popping classes put on at Vibestreet Dance.  The story behind this is that our existing instructor fell into a wormhole and is now selling potted meat at Zarglon-7.  Or something to this effect.  Whatever he ended up doing, he sent Brooke a text message saying “Sorry, I can’t teach any more.  Good luck”, and that was the last we heard of him.  Pretty flakey.

Taking over for Dillon is/was pretty intimidating.  Dillon is, by my standards, a pretty good dancer.  His technique is simply much cleaner and refined than my own.  Although I believe that I have a lot of innate dance talent, I’ve struggled to motivate myself to practice, because Victoria has never had a culture surrounding the styles (we’re working to change that).

While Dillon’s ability on the dance floor certainly surpasses my own, it’s my own belief that his teaching ability is severely lacking.  This isn’t a diss on Dillon or anything, as I’ve already stated that I have great respect for his ability to bust out; It’s simply an observation.  Some people are good at breaking things down and explaining them, and some people understand things on an intuitive level but are unable to share that knowledge with others.

The main thought I try to hold in my head each time I start to doubt my own ability to teach is to remind myself that while I may not be a super advanced dancer, I do spend a lot of time thinking about dancing, and I am naturally inclined to break things down and think about the fundamental units that make up each technique.

Yesterday marked the last of the six classes that I initially signed up for this term, and the last of two lessons that I was due to teach after taking over for Dillon.  This term, I’ve taught a total of four classes: two of them to teens, and two of them to adults.  The adult class is the one that I was previously taking, but both classes are roughly operating on the same skill level.

This post is simply an opportunity for me to reflect on the experience so far, talk about some of the things that I’ve learned, challenges I’ve had to overcome, mountains I’ve had to climb, and other clichés too numerous to mention.

Taking on the role of an instructor instead of an annoying student that asks too many questions has not been without challenges.  The least of which simply having the confidence in myself to accept the fact that I know enough to break down and teach the styles of dance I’ve been pursuing casually for all these years.

Fortunately, I’ve got some experience to draw upon, mostly from teaching friends tricks here and there.  Teaching Michi to pop when we first met has given me valuable experience to draw upon, and helped me appreciate the fact that everyone learn things at their own pace and in their own manner.  Incidentally, be sure to check out some of Michi’s videos – the student has truly become the master!

Lesson Plans

Putting together lesson plans has been another challenge to overcome.  Figuring out the right number of exercises to review with a class is something that I think will only come with experience.  The first class I completely underestimated how much time we would need to take to review the Fresno.  As an example, I started off with the assumption that we could go right into covering both leg and upper body hits.  However, as we started this, I realized that we would probably be better served breaking things down even further, focusing first only on leg hits, then on upper body hits, and then bringing them both together into the Fresno.

The second class, I had put together some more work for our Fresno, but this time overestimated the amount of time that we would end up spending working on this (based on my observations from the previous class).  After covering off the basics thoroughly the previous class, we blew through the other stuff I’d put together, and sticking to it for longer seemed like it would only frustrate students who wanted to progress and tackle something new.

What’s the lesson here?  I think basically the best approach is to underestimate how much time will be required to cover each technique, and plan more stuff than will likely be needed for each lesson.  I can then move anything in excess over into next week’s lesson, and will have ample material to iterate over if the class progresses faster than I anticipate.

Quantity over Quality

Another item that I’m still learning is how much should be covered in a class (quantity), versus how much time we should spend on drilling each technique (quality).  The longer we spend practicing each step, the better the class will grasp the concept and technique, and the easier it will be for them to practice that technique later on their own.  However, the longer we spend, the less new material the class are given to work on, and the more likely they are to become bored with the class and what we’re working on.

This too feels like something that will come with experience.  I have a reasonably good grasp of how the class is responding to what we are working on, but I would really like to tighten this up.  I suppose my desire is the same as most teachers – I want to see my students get stoked, really improve, and become great dancers.  Finding a balance between drilling good technique and keeping things fun is going to be one of my main goals throughout this summer.

Tediousness

One of the things that has always been challenging for me, and for people that I have attempted to teach, is the fact that some of the techniques in popping are difficult and take time to learn.  And when I mean they take time, I mean they require putting some effort into drilling basic movements that initially will not immediately be obvious as to how they connect with the end result.

The most prominent example of this occurred last night when I was teaching the class gliding.  Gliding is a very popular technique, and for a number of reasons.  First, it looks ridiculously cool when it’s done well.  Second, gliding is a technique that is easy to integrate into whatever other techniques you are doing.  You can Fresno for a while, glide over to a new space on the dance floor, and then start your Fresno up again.  Lastly, when done well, gliding appears effortless and graceful.  The dancer just stands there and moves gracefully around the room.

These three elements combine to make the perfect storm. The student sees how smooth and graceful the glide looks, and immediately wants these results.  Unfortunately, gliding is not a technique that comes easily, and it requires practicing some basic drills and honing your balance before you are able to see the results that you want.

The biggest problem I felt I was encountering was taking the class through the fundamentals and the basics while maintaining their interest and avoiding discouraging them.  Becoming discouraged means that the student gives up hope that they will be able to glide with practice, and that puts an end to their progression.  A discouraged student is always going to be a signal to myself that I have failed in some way and need to adapt my learning plan.

I have not yet figured out the best way to work with the class towards learning gliding, but this is something I will definitely be working towards.  It may be the case that it is better digested in small chunks, having the class learn only floating in one class, then moving on to the sliding transition the n
ext class, then the transfer of weight the following class, and so on.

Planning

For both classes, I’ve put a fair amount of preparation in beforehand.  When I am anxious about taking on something new, my experience has shown me that the best way to calm those nerves is to spend time preparing. The more I think about something, the better I can wrap my head around it and don’t have to worry about unknowns popping up and turning everything on its head.

However, preparation is an iterative art, and preparing to give lessons is something new that I haven’t done in the past. In the past two weeks, a couple of events have popped up and thrown me off. 

Last Saturday, our studio’s amp/stereo died on us, meaning that I had to play music out of my laptop’s speakers, or not at all.  Popping without music is akin to simply doing moves (thanks for the feedback Graham!).  If you’re not moving to the music, you’re not dancing.  Without music, it’s much more difficult for student’s to connect what they’re doing to form an actual dance, and doing drills starts to feel like only that – just doing drills, rather than building up a foundation from which you’ll drawn upon when it’s time to get out there and dance.

As a result of the faulty stereo, I didn’t put as much time as I should have into the music I’d pulled out for our class on Monday.  The first class was easier, as I simply searched through my playlist and found good hiphop with slow beats.  However, given that I couldn’t really roll with music on Saturday, I neglected to find new appropriate music for what we were going to work on this Monday. As a result, I had to forego the music and stick to counting out beats.  This is okay at first, but it rapidly gets old, and it’s not really dancing, it’s doing drills.

To accommodate for better planning, I’ve started booking time off each week to sit down and plan things out.  With the time slotted off in my calendar, I’ll make a point of doing the work and ensuring that everything is up to shape.

Next Term

So that’s it!  The end of our Spring term at VSD, and the end of the first series of classes that I’ve taught.  Unfortunately it doesn’t sound like we have enough students to keep a kid’s class going, but I’m hoping that we get enough together to maintain adult classes.  We’re working towards some other ideas as well, and those will get posted on the VSD website (here), as well as here.  If you’re interested in any kind of popping instruction, write me a comment, send me an e-mail, or sign up for a class!

Keep it locked, and get out and start dancing! 

Popping Class #4 – April 27, 2009

April 28th, 2009 No comments

This is part of my ongoing series related to the popping classes that I’m taking at Vibestreet Dance studios, you can read last week’s entry here.  The most recent class focused almost purely on tutting, a style that I have never gotten into.

Before I get into the details of the class, I want to provide a quick update on myself, as I haven’t been able to sit down and write as much as I’d like to.  If you are hear to read only about the dance class, you can skip past this stuff.

This was the last week I had to occupy myself before Bay got back from Brazil, where she was taking part in the international emerging markets aspect of her MBA degree at UVic.  She has been gone for three weeks now, which is the longest her and I have been apart from each other in about four years.

The time apart has been very healthy.  When I say healthy, I don’t mean “Thank god we are away from each other!”.  What I mean is that it’s good for a couple to spend some time apart from one another now and then, remember who we are as individuals, spend some time recalibrating ourselves, and learning to appreciate each other and what our relationship means to us all over again.  I make a point of saying this every time we teach the marriage preparation course – it is imperative that the two people in a couple can function independently, if they’re going to be able to function together in a healthy relationship.

Over the past three weeks, I’ve accomplished a bunch of things.  Some of those are:

  • Started and finished some Spring cleaning, organizing our condo and storing some things that have been left out for far too long
  • Come up with a couple of new systems for managing my tasks (nerdy, but it does feel really good to come up with a new system that makes you more productive)
  • Officially resigned from the VEMF management team this year (a difficult decision to make – more on this later)
  • Hung out with good friends
  • Caught up with old friends
  • Started getting up early in the mornings to fit an hour bike ride in before work
  • Continued training hard for squash

In Bay’s absence, I’ve tried to treat the three weeks as something of a working vacation, starting with Easter weekend, and then taking the following two Monday’s off work as well.  This has given me more spare time than I would otherwise had, and given me some spare to let my mind be creative and wander.  Although this has been a bit of an experiment, I think that the results have been really good.

I really enjoyed watching Marc Lesser’s talk at Google about accomplishing more by doing less.  One thing he said that has stuck with me is his mantra that you should take time during the year to “retreat, in order to move forward”.  By retreat, he means remove yourself from your daily life and give yourself the opportunity to think about it from outside of the box (at least, this is how I interpreted his advice).  I look at the past three weeks as the first opportunity I’ve had to practice this advice, and will certainly be looking to continue this practice.

Now, isn’t it about time that we started talking about dance?

Tutting

At the start of this entry, I mentioned that in the past, tutting was never a style that I had pursued.  The reason for this is a simple one really: I just didn’t feel that I was anatomically capable of performing the dance.

Tutting, as a style, is all about moving your body in and out of positions that incorporate right angles.  Wrists bent at right angles, elbows bent at right angles, shoulders bent at right angles, etc.  The name derives from King Tut, and the stereotypical angles created by the body parts that mimic some hieroglyphs, and certainly Steve Martin and Bugs Bunny mimicing “walking like an Egyptian”.

The problem is, my wrists don’t bend back at a very sharp right angle.  With a lot of effort, I can get them bent back at about 80 degrees, but when I see this in the mirror, it just looks ugly.  I can take my hand and pull on the my other wrist and get a good sharp right angle, but surely this isn’t what the dance is about.

So, tutting was a style that I’d watched dancers like Tommy Boy do, and always appreciated, but had put a mental barrier in place and wasn’t going to bother trying to progress further with it.  It turns out, many of my concerns are fairly unfounded in the dance.

The most important thing to keep in mind with tutting is that you don’t need to be perfect. We should always aim to make sharper cleaner angles, and to be as tight as possible, but there are limits to what the human eye can perceive, and by and large, if you’re making an effort to keep the lines created by your hands parallel and tight, you should fare just fine.

Some basic positions

Unlike the rest of what we have worked on so far, tutting didn’t come with a set of fundamental moves that Dillon taught us.  However, I’ve tried to break out some of what I perceived are fundamental positions that you will find yourself moving in and out of frequently.

Prayer position

This is a very common position, and you’ll find yourself starting and ending a lot in this position (at least when you are beginning, as I am).  It is exactly as it sounds like.  Feet at shoulder width, arms in front of you and close to your stomach, with the palms of your hands pressed against each other as though you are praying.  Ideally you want to make an effort to bend your wrists back at 90 degree angles, and keep the line created by your forearms parallel with the ground.

You have now mastered your first tutting position!  Congratulations.

Variations on the prayer position

From the prayer position, there are a number of movements that you can make.

  • While maintaining the angle your wrists are bent at, you can slide one of your hands up one hand-length, so that you now have one hand in the previous position, and the heel of your other hand touching the fingertips of your bottom hand.
  • While maintaining the prayer position, move your hands over to the left or right side of your chest.  As always, try to maintain the angles created by your wrists, and keep the line created by your forearms parallel with the ground.
  • Pivot one of your hands downward, with the base of your wrist as the pivot point.  When you are finished, you should have one hand fixed in the same position it was at the start of the move (pointing upwards), and one hand pointing downwards.  The heel of both of your hands should be touching.
  • Do the same pivot as above, but at the end of the pivot, continue your movement to bring the back of one hand against the palm of the other hand.  One hand should remain as it was in the prayer position, with the other hand bent downwards at the wrist, with its back flat against the palm of your other hand.

King Tut

Although I’m not sure that it’s actually called this, I noticed that a lot of our movements tended to flow in and out of this position.

The king tut position is what I call the position where your arms are out, your elbows are bent upwards at 90 degrees, and your wrists are bent again at 90 degrees.

The most common position I found us moving into was done from the prayer position:

  • Start in prayer position
  • Moving your arms up and out, you want to end up with your elbow bent upwards at 90 degrees, and your wrists still bent back at 90 de
    grees.

That’s it.  The transition from prayer position to this one is simple, as you don’t actually have to move anything – you simply pivot around your elbows.  The hard part in this position is maintaining a 90 degree angle with your wrists.  When I asked about how on Earth this is possible, Dillon said that it’s most important to make sure that your hands remain parallel with the ground.  Imagine that you’ve got a heavy book resting flat on the palm of each hand when you’re doing this position.

Some transitions from the King Tut position

From this position, you can transition into a wide variety of other angles.

  • You can fold your wrists over and bend them from an outwards angle to an inwards angle.  In this position, your arms and elbows remaining the same, but your fingertips will go from pointing outwards to point inwards.  This is an easy one to make tight 90 degree angles with, so make sure you look in a mirror and get this right.
  • You can roll your wrists in a circle so that your fingertips remain pointing outwards, but your wrists are now bend forwards at a 90 degree angle, rather than backwards (again, a much easier angle to make)
  • You can pivot your arms around your elbows, so that your elbows now bend downwards at 90 degrees, and your wrists remain bent backwards, this time with your fingertips pointing inwards at roughly your stomach level

Head tuts

A number of angles we ended up working on were created by taking a tut and shifting it to the top of our head.  For example:

  • From the King Tut position, bring your left arm over top of your head.  Your wrist should now be resting on the right side of your head, pointing up like a horn.  Now bring your right arm over top of your head as well (you’ll have to put it either in front or behind your left arm), and make the same position with your right hand as you are with your left hand.  Ideally you want to maintain 90 degree angles with your wrists, so that both of your hands remain pointing straight up.
  • From the King Tut position, make a transition similar to the one above, but bring the palms of your hands together, and rest them together on the middle of your head, with your fingers pointing up (to my eyes, this position always makes me think of Indian dancing)

Box tuts

Box tuts are just the term I use to describe any tut that mimics the shape of a box.  The most common box tut is done by:

  • Take your right arm, and put your fingers just against the inside of the crook of your left elbow joint.  Use this elbow to bend back your wrist at a 90 degree angle
  • Take your left arm, and bend your left wrist downwards just above your right arm’s elbow, putting your fingers lightly touching your elbow.

In this position, your forearms and wrists should be forming a box.  From here, you can collapse and recreate the box by:

  • Straighten the wrists of both of your arms.  Your left arm should be resting flat on top of your right arm.
  • Smoothly slide your left arm behind your right arm and downwards.  As you do this, the fingers of your left arm need to sit just inside the crook of your right elbow joint – remember, this is how you are going to bend back your right wrist.
  • While you’re doing the above movement, simultaneously bring your right arm in front of your left arm and upwards.  As you do this, the fingers of your right arm should gently touch the elbow of your left arm.  Continue moving your arm smoothly upwards, bending your wrist to create a 90 degree angle.
  • You should now have a box tut again, but with your right arm on top instead of your left arm.

This motion in itself creates a nice visual, although doing it over and over again will get boring for the audience.  Nevertheless, you can see that you can do a lot with a little bit of movement.

Wrist twirls

Wrist twirls were a movement that Dillon showed us because he found them useful as a way of moving in and out of various tut positions.  Unfortunately, it’s almost impossible to describe in writing the motion that is used for a good wrist twirl.  I know this, because I’ve just spent five minutes trying to get it down, and I haven’t really had much success.  However, the gist of the motion is:

  • Hold your hands out, with the inside of the wrists of your hands together
  • Pivot your hands in a circle, around the inside of the wrists. 
  • As you do this pivot, you want to make sure that the fingers on your left hand are always pointing away from the fingers on your right hand.

That’s it.  If it sounds easy because there’s so few steps mentioned, that’s because it is.  But it only becomes easy once you get the hang of it.  If there is anyone that wants me to show them this move, just ask me in person and I can give you the goods very quickly.

Another wrist twirl that we learned is to transition from the prayer position at your chest to the one on top of your head.  To do this, you:

  • Starting in prayer position, start raising your hands upwards.
  • As you move your hands upwards, slowly start to open up your hands, showing the backs of them to the audience (so you’re looking at the palms)
  • Press the backs of your hands together, and imagine that the back of your wrists are now glued together
  • Pivoting around the back of your wrists, rotate your hands inwards (towards you), then down, and then out and upwards.
  • When you are done this motion, you should have the backs of your hands stuck together, with your fingers pointing either outwards or upwards (depending on how far along you’ve moved them)
  • You can now continue moving your arms upwards and place your hands on top of your head.  The backs of your hands should be against each other, with your wrists bent backwards at 90 degrees angles to your forearm.  Done!

Footwork

One thing I was curious about was what kind of footwork we would use to complement tutting.  Back from my earlier days of liquid dancing, one of the things that always drove me nuts were dancers that stood in place with their feet fixed on the floor, and then proceeded to totally trip people out (their own words).  I found this annoying for a couple of reasons – One, it’s contrived and obnoxious to make the assumption that you’re totally tripping people out, and two, standing fixed on the dance floor for an entire song is not dancing.

Dillon commented that tuts do not have a specific style of footwork that is used with them, though some dancers will raise their feet off the ground to create angles that complement those being done with their hands.  The main footwork to use with tutting is the same as that which we have learned previously.  Gliding will complement tutting, and the Sac-step will as well.  On that note, I noticed that in spite of all of the good foundation we’ve covered so far, Dillon has not broken down the Sac-step for anyone, so…

Sac-step

The Sac-step is a very simple motion, but allows you to fill a few beats with your feet.  The name is derived from Sacramento, where Boogaloo Sam (the creator of boogaloo) was from (I believe).  The motion works as follows:

  • Start with left foot slightly in front of the other
  • Take your left foot, lift it up, and then put it down beside your right foot
  • When you touch the ball of your left foot down, shift your weight to this foot, and then
  • Take your right foot, lift it up, and then put it down in front, r
    oughly at the same distance that your left foot was at the start of this move

That’s it.  The step isn’t complicated, and it certainly won’t trip people out!!  However, this is a valuable step to learn, and lets you add in additional footwork while you’re doing something more complex with your upper body.

Practicing

This session left me with a lot of things to practice.  One of the things I was most interested in finding out was how Dillon went from this very rough set of fundamentals to actually being able to use tutting as a dance.  The main suggestion that Dillon offered was to start in any one position, keep one hand fixed, and then practice as many transitions and angles as you can with the other hand.

The main art of tutting is maintaining clean angles and transitioning in and out of various positions.  Once you’ve developed the muscle memory for these positions and transitions, it becomes fairly easily to string them together into a dance.

Conclusion

Towards the end of the session, we went into a bit of liquid, as all of us had aching shoulders and wrists from holding the tuts for so long.  Liquid was the first style of dance that I ever really got into, so most of what we were working on came fairly easily.  However, I did notice that I am a bit rusty at this style, and my liquid isn’t quite as smooth as I would have liked to see.  I’m alright with that though, as there’s simply too much other stuff that I want to practice right now.

I believe that the remaining two classes will be devoted to reviewing of what we’ve picked up so far, which is good.  There’s been so much material that we’ve covered that an opportunity to go back and solidify it will be a very good thing.

More updates to come!

Popping Class #3 – April 20, 2009

April 21st, 2009 No comments

It’s another Tuesday, which means another popping class has passed.  This past class was related to glides, slides, and floats – essentially all different ways of moving yourself around the dance floor.  I’ll dive right in to the material we covered, adding my own thoughts throughout.

Floats

Dillon started out by showing us the most basic piece of foundation for gliding: the heel-toe pivot. This is a very simple movement (in theory), and forms the basis from which the glide flows out of.  To do this move, the motion is:

  • Start with both toes pointing inwards, almost, but not quite, touching
  • Pivot on the toe of your left foot, bringing its heel around so that it is now pointing to the right (and your toe will now be pointing to the left).  While you do this, you also:
  • Pivot on the heel of your right foot, bringing its toe around so that it is now pointing to the right (and your heel will now be pointing to the left).
  • When you have completed this motion, both of your toes should now be pointing out
  • Repeat this process, this time pivot on the heel of your left foot, and bring its toe around so that it is pointing inwards (and your heel pointing outwards), and, simultaneously:
  • Pivot on the toe of your right foot, and bring its heel out so that it is pointing outwards (and the toes pointing inwards).
  • At this point, you should have your feet in the same position that you initially started in, but be a few feet to the right of where you started.

As you can see, this is a fairly simple movement. I have been shown this motion a couple of times, not just from watching popping instructional videos, but also in a few workshops that I’ve been fortunate enough to take.  However, I’ve never really gotten it to stick.  What I mean by this, I guess, is that I’ve been lazy and neglected to practice the move.  I suspect that this is because when I first started teaching myself, I didn’t realize this was the foundation upon which glides were built, and just started right into actually working on the glide.  My glides aren’t horrible, but they could certainly be better if I put in some time to practice proper floats.

This is really pretty unacceptable.  Since this is the foundation upon which gliding is based, I’m making a mental note to make sure that I get this down.

As we were going through this, I noticed that a couple of people were having trouble alternating where they were placing their weight on their feet.  Having worked with a couple of friends to try and help then get this motion down, I can totally appreciate this difficulty.  One of the techniques I would recommend is a good starting point is to get the first pivot setup (so raise up on the ball of your left foot and the heel of your right foot) and then just pivot back and forth, into and out of, the first and second position.  Don’t worry about changing where you’ve got your weight positioned for now.  Just practice going back and forth between these two positions.  After you’ve put some time in to that, work on the pivot from the second position back into the starting position (but this time continuing in the direction you started, rather than back to the original position).

Breaking the move down into these two steps will help you solidify it in your head and ensure that they can happen without you thinking about it, and this is really the key goal to establish when we’re learning new techniques.

Glides

Okay, on to the meat of what everyone has been waiting for.  First, a quick note on glides.  This is, hands down, the single technique that I get asked about the most.  Gliding is a simple movement, but is very visually confusing.  People always want me to show them how to do it, but don’t realize that it only becomes a natural movement with a little bit of practice.  Not a ton, but some, definitely.  I noticed in class that some people were getting a little discouraged as we went through the various techniques, and I got worried.  I have a vested interest in seeing people getting stoked about popping (and the rest of the funk styles as well), so I want people to be pumped on these techniques.  Hopefully some group practice sessions will help with that – more on this later.

Before going any further, there is an important point to make that Dillon didn’t cover in class.  The key, in my opinion, to the glide’s visual effectiveness, is making sure that the foot that is raised up on the ball of its foot is not the one that is moving.  The movement will always happen with the foot whose sole is flat to the floor.  There is a good reason for this:

Imagine someone walking, running, moving normally.  Which foot is doing the movement?  It is always the foot that is raised.  During normal locomotion, the foot that is flat on the ground remains stationary (and is being used to push off forwards with), while the raised foot travels forward, then gets placed flat on the ground, and is then used to push forward (and the back foot is now raised and moved through the air). Our brains are trained to understand this kind of motion, and to expect it.

A glide works by flipping this rule on its head.  The raised foot never does any movement, and the flat foot does all of the movement.  When the brain tries to parse this visual input, the viewer focuses on the raised foot expecting movement.  However, no movement ever happens, and before you know it, the dancer has moved halfway across the dance floor.

When practicing glides, keep this cardinal rule in mind:  The raised foot does not move.

Side-Glide

The side-glide is the second most well-known type of glide, after the back-glide (popularized by Michael Jackson, incorrectly, as the moon-walk).  This glide is actually much simpler than it looks, though it does require some training to understand exactly what is going on.

Dillon indicated that the motion for the side-glide flows directly out of the floating technique we covered earlier, and as soon as we started working on the glide, I was surprised how closely it really does.  The motion is broken down as follows:

  • Start, again, with your toes pointing inwards, and your heels outwards
  • Raise up (and put your weight on) on the toes of your left foot, and the heel of your right foot
  • Pivot on the toes of your left foot, and the heel of your right foot, so that your toes are now both pointing outwards.

So far, this is identical to the float.  Here’s where the change comes in:

  • At the end of the last pivot, you need to shift all of your weight to your left foot (which remains up on its ball), because…  As you drop the heel of your left foot down to the ground, you want to slide your right foot away from you.  I find that the hardest part most people (including myself) have to deal with is getting their right foot to remain as flat to the ground as possible, but without it touching.  You want to avoid generating any friction between your foot and the ground.
  • At this point, you should have both your toes pointed out, with your feet about two feet apart (or shoulder-width).
  • Now, again, as with the float before, put your weight on the ball of your right foot, and the heel of your left foot.  Pivot to bring your toes pointing inwards again, then shift all of the weight onto your right foot and slide your left foot back in towards your right foot.  At the end of this motion your toes should just about be touching each other, and you’re back at the position you started in.

Another aspect of this glide that people have trouble with is the weight transfer.  Ideally you want to do both the weight transfer AND the pivots at the same time, in one smooth motion.  However, I’ve always found this fairly tricky (possibly because I ne
ver learned to float properly).  I would recommend just taking things slowly for now, and focusing on the individual steps.  If you have trouble with the weight transfer and the pivot, then just repeat that motion over and over, until you get it right.

One other thing that we worked on that was helpful was simply going up on the ball of your one foot, and sliding your other foot away from it as you brought the heel of the raised foot back down to the ground.  This is a great way of developing the muscle memory for half of the motion for the glide.  You could apply this same principle to the second half of the glide, ensuring that you get these two aspects down tight.

One last principle that is very important here.  Ultimately, you want to learn to do this motion smoothly that you can carry it out without making any movement in your upper body.  Initially, you will find it difficult to maintain the balance required to stop yourself from moving around, but with practice, you should be able to glide while keeping your upper body perfectly still (and then once you’ve got that down, you can start doing contrasting movements like waves through your upper body while gliding.  But save that for later).

Cross-over Glides

Next up, we focused on cross-over glides.  These are done identical to the side glide, with the exception that your trailing foot either crosses in front of, or behind, your lead foot.  This glide is definitely more advanced than the side-glide, due to the high level of balance that is required to sustain the isolation that you need.

As soon as you cross your feet, it becomes much more difficult to maintain balance and keep your upper body stationary.  At this point, the class was starting to get frustrated, as we were nowhere near getting the regular side-glide down.  Adding in this additional step was simply too much to handle at that point.

Circular Glide

The circular glide is based on the same principle as the standard side glide (most of the more advanced techniques are), and as always, the cardinal rule continues to apply: The raised foot does not move, while the flat foot does.

The motion for this glide is performed as follows:

  • Start in the same position as the side glide, toes inwards
  • Raise up on the ball of your left foot, the heel of your right foot, and pivot your toes outwards
  • Slide your right foot away as you lower the heel of your left foot
  • Now, pivot your toes inwards, and raise up on the ball of your right foot
  • This time, you pivot around your right foot, in a semi-circle.  Your left foot traces this semi-circle and remains flat to the ground
  • Your back should now be to the front of the room, and your toes should be facing inwards.
  • You can now carry on the glide as you normally would for a side-glide, or continue to rotate in another semi-circle.  The motion is the same, raising up on the ball of your lead foot, pivoting your toes outwards, and pivoting around the lead foot in another semi-circle

You can vary this glide by see-sawing back and forth as well if you like, always leading the turn with your front, or, with your back.

Snake Glide

The snake glide is one of the glides that does not actually move forwards directly from the side glide.  All of the movement is produced by one foot, while the other foot simply traces out a path beside it as you travel along.

The motion for this glide can be broken up into two distinct movements.  For the first part, your back foot will be doing the moving.

  • Start with the toes of your left foot pointing to the left, and your right foot held up off the ground
  • Put all of your weight on the heel of your left foot
  • Pivot on your heel to move your the toes to the right
  • Now shift your weight to the toes and ball of your left foot, and pivot on them to move your heel pointing to the right
  • Repeat

This is the half of the motion that will actually move you across the dance floor.  The second half of the motion is should initially be practiced with all of your weight on your left foot, and leaving that foot stationary:

  • Start with your right foot beside your left foot, with your toe pointing forwards
  • Slide your right foot (flat against the ground) forwards
  • As you the heel of your right foot reaches roughly your the toe of your left foot, rotate your foot around your ankle as much as you can, so that your toe is now pointing to the right (and hopefully somewhat to the back).  Then start to slide it backwards
  • Slide your right foot backwards (attempting to lead with your toe as best you can), and when the heel of your right foot roughly reaches the heel of your left foot, rotate your foot again around your ankle, bringing your toes around so that they are again pointing forwards.

To bring everything together, you combine the pivots of the first motion with the slide on your right foot.  The visual you are aiming to produce is that your right foot is snaking along the ground, and your left foot follows along.

I’ve practiced this motion in the past, but I find it very difficult to get the balance correct that is necessary in order to avoid lurching your upper body all over the place.  Still, this is an excellent candidate to practice, and something that I will make a point of spending some time on, along with the floats.

Wiggles glide

The Wiggles glide is a glide created by Mr. Wiggles, of the Electric Boogaloos.  I remember the first time I saw this glide in my Mr. Wiggles 2 VHS tape, and not being able to comprehend what was going on.  The confusing part about this move is that the main amount of motion that is generated happens from a left-to-right (and vice versa) direction, while the dancer actually moves forward along the dance floor.  This makes it really confusing for someone watching to figure out how they are actually accomplishing this.

The glide is composed of a set of pivots on your heels and toes, and the rest flows from that.  First, the most important motion to train:

  • Put the heel of your right foot directly in front of your left foot
  • Pivot on the toe of your left foot, swinging your heel out to the left.  At the same time that you do this:
  • Pivot on the heel of your right foot, swinging your toe out to the left.  Next, you pivot on the same body parts, and reverse the direction, so..
  • Pivot on the toe of your left foot, swinging your heel in, through the center, and then out to the right.  While you do this, simultaneously:
  • Pivot on the heel of your right foot, swinging your heel in, through the center, and to the left.

You’ll notice that you can get your heel and toes out much further for the second part of the pivot than the first.  This is okay, it’s just a limitation of your anatomy and the way our ankles bend.

Once you have this motion down, you’re ready for the more complicated part.

  • Start with your feet as before, with the heel of your right foot directly in front of your left foot
  • Pivot on the toe of your left foot, swinging your heel out to the left, and on the heel of your right foot, swinging your toes out to left.
  • Now pivot again, swinging the heel of your left foot in, through the center, and out to the right.  Do the same for the toes of your right foot.  Now comes the new movement:
  • Place all of your weight on the heel of your right (front) foot.  Leave this foot positioned as it is
  • Take your left (back) foot, and slide it out to your side, and around in front of your right foot.  While you’re doing this, you want to pivot on the heel of your right foot, so that its toes swi
    ng out to the right.  This pivot should complete right as the heel of your left foot comes into position right in front of your right foot’s toes.
  • Transfer your weight onto the heel of your right foot, and the toes of your left foot.
  • At this point, you should be back in a familiar position – with one foot in front of the other, the toes of your left (front) foot pointing to the right, and the heel of your right (back) foot pointing to the right.
  • Perform the pivot you practiced above, pivoting on the front left foot’s heel and swinging your toes to the left, and pivoting on the back right foot’s toes, swinging your heel out to the left.  Now repeat these steps as much as you like to continue moving forwards.

Dillon mentioned that this appears and sounds like a complicated movement, but once you get the hang of it, it’s actually quite simple.  I can attest that this is the case, having practiced this glide a fair bit.  It takes a little bit of time to figure everything out, but once you have it, it creates a very pleasing visual without a lot of effort.  This is, however, one of the more difficult glides to perform on “sticky” ground, as the heel of my shoes always gets caught and throws off my pivots.

One amusing note to mention – I can remember just throwing out this glide when I was taking the Funky Stepping workshop a couple of years back, and Jake, the instructor, jokingly called me a biter.  Fair enough, I suppose.  This is a very distinctive glide that is absolutely the domain of Wiggles.  Having said that, I still think it’s valid to use a move that you’ve seen someone else doing.  Just make sure that you give credit when it’s due, and apply your own style and attitude to the move.  It’s okay to derive inspiration from other dancers – just take what you like and make it your own.

Practice

So that’s the whole of the class.  Dillon took things a little bit slower this class, which was good (perhaps part of that was due to my insistent prodding), but I definitely noticed that there were at least a couple of people that were getting exasperated as we went into more complicated glides.  This is definitely not what I want to see, because I have a vested interest in seeing people get enthusiastic about Popping (it means I’ll have more motivation to keep at it myself).

I’ve been talking with Brooke about the potential to set up a practice session at the studio, and I feel more strongly than ever that this is really something we should get going.  I was originally waiting to hear back from Dillon on this, but I get the impression from him that he has too many other things currently commanding his focus, which is fair enough.  However, I’ll see what can be done to take the lead on this and see if we can get something going (provided there’s some interest).

Next class is apparently about tutting.  This should be an interesting class, as I’ve always shunned tutting due to the fact that my wrists simply don’t bend back at 90 degree angles, and thus my tuts look like ass.  However, I’m sure there are a lot of techniques that I can take away from the class, regardless of how clean my angles end up looking.  I’m looking forward to the next session.