Friday, November 4, 2011

GROSS Get Serious

GROSS - Grand Rapids Original Swing Society: My first love [for dance].

Steve Zaagman, founder of GROSS, recently announced the start of a Swing "mentorship program" at their weekly Tuesday night gatherings. Basically, for a half-an hour, a more experienced dancer will take aside a group of participants, free of charge, and teach them the difference between swinging and swing dancing. With yet another competing dance event in the area, this may be just the thing Zaagman needs to keep some of his oldest members from fleeing to more...skilled venues.

Let's be honest - technique is tough. We'd all love to spend our dance-days watching youtube and learning some new dips and flips, or learning new steps to a new dance, or something that makes us feel like we can dance to MORE music for LONGER without our partner getting bored.

This was my mentality 2-3 years ago when I became a regular at Grand Rapids Original Swing Society. I came at it like this - if you have INCREDIBLE technique, but only 5 or 6 moves, what happens when a 5-minute song starts up? What if I'm expecting to dance with 10+ girls, but none of them really know the steps? And what if one of my friends shows up, and I have to be extra-fancy all of the sudden?

I totally get that. Let's say I could put 5 hours into learning dance stuff per week. I want to feel like I've got something I didn't have last time - and with GROSS dances happening every Tuesday, that means I want to have another couple of moves to show my various partners. After all, the same dance each week, fun as it may be, might get monotonous. And if I'm improving my technique without anybody else "keeping up," my improvements may go unnoticed.

But then again - selfish as it may be - what about me?

What if I want to dance with the best follows? [Hint: The better follows enjoy dancing with better leads]
What if I want to feel like I'm doing something well? What if I want to be entertained rather than feel like I'm struggling to keep my partner's interest?

Sure, there's a fun factor - it's more fun to dance with somebody who is fun than somebody who is good. We've all danced with that person, lead or follow, who is just so dang technical and precisely on beat and concentrated that it's no fun.

But these are also not fun - sore shoulders, being off beat, feeling (as a follow) like you're incompetent (when 95% of the time it's because of a poor lead), moves that don't flow well together. And once we stack up 20+ steps, 15 dips and 5 aerials (guys), we start to spend our time flipping through our index of "what can I do next?" rather than focusing on communicating properly and safely with our partners.

Some girls like to see how many times in a row they can spin. Or like being lifted in a rumba. Or don't mind being off-beat for a full 4 minutes.

But most of them just want to have fun and feel pretty. Spinning off-balance until you're dizzy ain't pretty. Backflips and rumba walks are a very different type of pretty. And off-beat is NEVER pretty.

Learn cool moves. Never stop learning new steps, new arm work, new dips. But it's like my friend Matt Dusenberry told me before I really started taking dance seriously:

"You can learn steps, and it'll make your dancing a little better. Or you can make your dancing beautiful, and then you'll learn steps *snap* like that."

So much truth in that. TRUST ME - a single proper Lindy Whip feels better than 6 spins. In the Ballroom world, there's nothing like a PERFECT 1-2-3 in a waltz [I would trade every backflip I knew if you told me I could do a perfect Half-Natural anytime]. If you think the most basic steps can't look cool, check out some old Slavik and Karina videos - they throw a lot of "basic" steps in their routines, but the styling and technique makes them unrecognizably beautiful.

Oh, and kids at swing - stay on time. One of the most important things about dance is learning how to stand still.

1 comment:

  1. I saw Karen Hardy do a jive stop-and-go once and I literally didn't recognise it...until she started mentioning the figures...