Remote Distance Learning Dance Lessons!
Remote Dance Lesson for 5/11/2020
This week’s review will expand a little on another dance we’ll enjoy whenever it is we return to normal.
It wasn’t long ago that we visited a dance called Skrea fran Nor, a sweet Swedish dance – smooth and gentle on the knees. It is a relatively uncomplicated two-part dance.
Here’s a video for reference: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DXvYk7PgF6w
Beginning side by side and starting with inside feet (men’s right, women’s right). Relative body positions remain the same throughout; hip to hip, side by side.
During forsteg, (first step) each partner steps on every beat. Then, in the turning, the steps change, landing on beats one and three. (I’ll throw in a reminder here about the beat. If you have difficulty finding it, try just listening to the tune repeatedly, eyes closed. It could help.)
In the turn, notice the woman’s step on beat three leads with the ball of the foot, and positioning around her partner’s right foot rather than forward. This helps in completing the revolution.
As in my prior comments, observe how the body movement is up and down versus side to side. In addition, there is a delightful little bent-knee lilt to the steps.
And again, a small yet important tip, each partner’s head is toward the other rather than wandering. It makes the dance much more personal in addition to being practical.
Have fun with this dance. It can be very enjoyable.
Remote Dance Lesson for 5/4/2020
Hello dance friends !
Well, I hope you have had success in your search for that sometimes-elusive beat in our music. It’s a good tool to have and work with. Assuming you’ve found it let’s put it in play.
With the advent of widely available social media we have access to videos of some of the best teachers from Scandinavian countries. These are not a substitute for teaching; they are for reviewing only. But that doesn’t make them less valuable for our purpose.
Each of us have a preferred method of learning, and one can often learn from watching as well as from participating. And through Youtube you can view them over and over if you like, pause, rewind, take note of the foot work, the embrace, the body positions and movements.
There are several good teachers, but the degree of skill and expertise vary considerably with knowledge, experience and training. I will identify those I’m familiar with and whose skill is widely acclaimed. I will attach a link to one or another with my memo(s). Concurrent with those I will offer suggestions on what to watch for.
For this round, let’s look at a straightforward dance that we know, Bingsjo polska. Here is a link to two very good videos of the same dance taught by Leif and Margareta Virtanen
One is simply a brief demo of the dance while the other is a longer, more detailed instructional with breakdown for both men and women.
Notice how smoothly these two interact in the turns. Observe how the body movement is up and down rather than side to side. Notice also that their heads are turned towards each other throughout the turning portion of dance. A wayward head can affect the balance between you.
If you watch closely you will see that during the entire dance their bodies are balanced over their feet. That may seem like an obvious note, yet it is easy to make the mistake of letting your feet lead your torso. If anything, your upper body should lead your lower half. This is most noticeable in the forsteg (first step).
Look closely at the bend in the knees. It is slight but definite. This characteristic distinguishes the dance from merely walking and contributes to the pleasure of the dance. You can practice this anywhere, anytime.. Note the difference between walking with locked and unlocked knees. A dancer would do well to practice knees bent until it becomes second nature and you don’t have to think about it anymore.
And one last quick point about the turning:
MEN'S TURN is routinely used in military format to turn the body without lifting your feet (torso leads). Right heel and left ball on beat three.
WOMEN'S TURN: Beat 3 is on the ball of the left foot.
Remote Dance Lesson for 4/27/2020
Hello, my shut-in dance friends,
Since we may be socially distanced for some time I’ll approach these reviews in short increments so they don't become onerous. Let’s start with elementary stuff so as to refresh those with less experience to dance. More experienced dancers may find something of value as well.
As I previously wrote, I think there are some things we can do at home to remind us of the joy and fun we have through dancing and prepare us for our reunification.
There are two things – at least – that help us maintain and improve our dance skills: practice and observation. Clearly, we can’t do any partner practice while maintaining acceptable distance. But perhaps there are alternatives, and I’d like to explore those. This is the first aspect.
Here are some basic things you can consider while homebound:
1. To begin, let’s recall how important it is to recognize where the music beats fall. If you have difficulty finding the beat, find a tune – one only -- and listen. Just listen. Close your eyes and listen again. And again. Focus on the beats and rhythm. Where is beat one? Are there three beats to a measure or four? Find them, count them, discover their repetition. Some beats are easy to hear while others or more complex, but they are always there, and you will eventually hear them all. Listen some more.
(If you don’t have a tune click here to try this one)
2. Once you’ve found the beat take a step on any beat; not too soon, not too late. You can do this anytime, anywhere; while walking to your refrigerator, taking out the trash or even standing in place. The important thing is to shift your weight at just the right moment. Not before and not after. When you can step with the beat of the music you will find your rhythm. It is a sense of timing and duration between one beat and another.
3. Repeat step one.
Okay, that’s enough for now. I will add a second aspect in a subsequent post(s).
Be well. We'll get through this together.
About Monday Lessons...
Lessons are from 7:15 to 8:15 most Mondays, with warm-up from 7:00-7:15. Exceptions are parties with live music and holidays, when we don't dance and dances are currently suspended due to COVID-19 social distancing requirements. Dancing and requests from 8:15 to 9:30 with frequent mixers and easy dances.
No lessons during the summer.
Help for New Dancers
Joan’s Helpful Hints, Advice, & Obnoxious and Frequently Incoherent Suggestions for the Furthering of Enjoyment of Scandinavian & Partner Social Dance for all level dancers.
What follows is my personal advice and tips for success for beginners and experienced dancers alike. Read them, use them, discard them, but please don’t share or reprint them without my permission. Note: Due to the length of this missive, the author has split it into two installments. Before you allow yourself to be offended by anything in Part 1, please wait until you have completed Part 2. Thanks. jb
Dance is a Social activity. Everyone contributes to a successful and fun evening.
The goal of dance is to engage in a community activity - safely. We practice our skills, learn, and improve our dance ability and knowledge. But our ultimate goal is to connect with others and have fun.
Partner dances differ from other forms of social dance in that these partnerships are not democratic groups. Over hundreds of years it has been found to be most fun and successful if people choose and dance in a particular role. Both roles, Lead and Follow, are equally important, fun, and contribute equally to reach the goal of a fun and enjoyable dance for all involved. I think of them as ‘different but equal’.
Regardless of the dance - its footwork/styling/ethnicity/etc. - there are some basic ‘tips’ for both roles. What I call ‘tips’ will, like everything in life, have exceptions. But you won’t go far wrong using these as your basis from which to start. I will address each role separately, but I challenge each of you to read both roles – regardless of your preferred dance role!
Leads: The object of dancing with a partner is to ensure their safety on the floor, your partners’ enjoyment, and to dance well and correctly --- in that order!!!
Start by asking someone to dance. Ask everyone to dance. I know that we all have favorite partners, but there is someone dying to dance or try this dance that is sitting down wishing to be asked! Make their night!
Also be aware that not everyone is comfortable being dragged through a dance. It is not fun to be man-handled through an unknown ‘something’ without some degree of success. And injury IS NOT FUN. Don’t insist - in the name of friendliness - or in order to show off your own prowess. Making someone else uncomfortable is NOT worth it -and may drive them away from dancing all together! Remember, their safety is your first priority!
If you are not sure you know the dance, ask anyway. Don’t sweat possible ‘mistakes’. ‘Wrong’ figures, ‘wrong’ footwork, ‘off the beat’ – all is forgiven – as long as no one is injured! Let your Follow know that you are new or learning this dance. And don’t be offended if your asked Partner, declines the dance. Don’t take it personally – some dancers have pre-existing conditions that they are protecting. Just smile and go ask another to dance.
A Lead gently guides their partner through the dance for the Follow’s enjoyment (not to show-off how great the Lead is!)
It helps to visualize your Follow as:
A delicate, shapely, 400-pound crystal statue balancing a plate of filled wine glasses on their head. This imposing statue also stands on the most amazingly smooth casters!
To start this Follow moving may take some effort, but once in motion, they will continue in that direction until you direct them otherwise. Each Follow is different - some have power-steering and others do not. Be firm but gentle. If less effort is required to move your Follow, you can easily ‘gentle-down’ the leading. Remember, gentle, flowing, smooth movement is needed. Abrupt changes will spill the wine or shatter the crystal (which will probably hurt one of you!)
Leading is done with the shoulders. The upper and lower arms and wrists are connected to the shoulders to create a cradling frame in which to dance. A FLAT hand behind the upper back, is all that is needed. Do NOT try to grab a non-existent ‘handle’. Curved fingers are painful and can cause permanent and debilitating injury! Likewise, if the hands are joined, hold it gently. A death-grip is painful – and not useful in the dance. Hands need to be able to adjust position during dancing. You only want to ‘hold’ on enough to maintain contact with your partner.
It helps to think of (and practice with) a hula hoop. The hoop goes under the arms with your back against the inside. Your arms extend along the top of the hoop in front of you, such that the hoop is approximately parallel to the floor. Your elbows are along the hoop – not down at your sides. They stay in this position (or some modification of this position) during the entire dance.
Consider how a person walks naturally (not on a dance floor). When they change their direction, their shoulders start moving/turning first – before they ever take a step. The same thing should happen on the dance floor. The natural movement of your shoulders – as telegraphed through your frame of arms – signals to your Follow your intended movement. You just take your partner with you as you move, they have no choice because they are solidly within your frame. That’s all there is to the ‘magic’ of leading. You can practice this with your real or imaginary hula hoop. (That will be $600, please! The author.)
Just remember, once you set your partner in motion, they will continue in that direction/manner until you let them know (through your shoulders and frame) to change.
Your job is to guide them about the floor in such a manner as THEY enjoy the dance. Tip: Follows are not impressed by lots of poorly executed and frantically led variations – regardless of how many you know. Follows prefer fewer but nice, smooth, variations and an attentive partner. Your job is to make your Follow look and feel good!
Social dance is for each other; exhibition dance is for the audience. The only audience you should be concerned about is your partner.
Please stay tuned for Part 2 where there are Tips for Follows and Putting the Roles Together.
All contents are the sole ideas of Joan S. Bennett. I do not presume to speak for others. Any resemblance to other publications or instructors is merely coincidental.
Others may have other hints and feedback for you as you explore the world of dance. Like all ideas presented to you (including mine), it is your choice whether to accept them, adopt them, or reject them.
Copyright May 2020; all rights reserved.