Category Archives: learning

On Pain

A friend of mine had hosted a dancer (I want to put in some adjectives; well-respected, talented, skilled, admired, etc to let you all know that this isn’t just any dancing Joe off the street. This is someone to listen to and to give weight and credence to my story.), and got into talking about philosophy and dance as intermediate and advanced dancers so commonly do. Eventually the topic swung around to injuries and pain. The hosted dancer had been dealing with a fairly serious injury that had taken him out of dancing for a while, and was limiting how he could dance now. They commiserated about how hard it is to learn to do an already learned skill while working around a new limitation. At the end of it, they agreed that pain and injury should be addressed in classes and workshops.

After telling me about the conversation my friend suggested that with my background I would be suited to teaching such classes and leading such discussions. While I think that pain is an important thing, I think it is important enough that it shouldn’t be handled by a huge class. With my training I have at least 7 different types of pain in my mind. Each has it’s own implications and an achy pain is very different than a burning pain. Ways to work around and compensate for pain is just as complicated. Some exercises are the same no matter which way your problem goes. Do your knees tend to fall outside of your foot? One legged squats making sure your knee-cap is centered over your second toe. Knees tend to fall to the inside of your foot? One legged squats making sure your knee-cap is centered over your second toe. This is so common and so important that I tend to teach it to every class who I have the privilege of speaking to. Most exercises or corrections however, are going to be very different from person to person. I am not going to encourage someone who over-tucks their pelvis to do the same visualizations as someone who is sway-backed.

What I do think would help is an emphasis in classes of doing things that work for you. Many classes focus on doing things just like the instructors (not necessarily the fault of the instructor since the way they know how to dance is their way) and this means that people do things that are awkward and uncomfortable. Learning to recognize the difference between this isn’t working for me because I don’t quite get it yet and this isn’t working for me because my body doesn’t/shouldn’t/can’t do it is very important, and should be encouraged. One of the more brilliant things that I heard was talking about styling, but could be easily applied to protecting your body

Do more of the things you like. Do less of the things you don’t like. Don’t do things you don’t like at all if you can avoid it. You only need three consistent things to build up a style. — Paraphrase (mangling) of Bobby White

Basically you should do things that you know you can handle, and avoid things that actually cause you pain. Hardest of all is respect your own tolerance. I know I want to dance all night, but at this point, my knee would not handle it. I need to respect that because I want to keep dancing for a long time.


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Original quote from Ira Glass.

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May 23, 2013 · 11:39 PM

Saying yes

I have been thinking rather deeply this last week about what the dance community is. What we owe to that community and what that community owes to us. For the most part it has been a convoluted twisting and turning of ideas and has forced me to define and redefine some things multiple times.

One thread of my pondering has lead me to think about how we build up certain expectations. Most concrete of these is to say yes to someone asking you to dance. The lindy affair wrote about how yes contributes to our over all culture:

the low penalty in our community is one of the biggest contributors to the open and welcoming attitude which is so common in the Swing Dance community. When I ask someone to dance and they answer with “yes,” it makes me feel accepted. The special part of the Lindy Hop World is that any person – no matter their clothes or personality or age or gender or whatever – will be accepted.

For some reason reading this post reminded me of one of my favorite crossover concepts. In comedic improvisational acting the rule is that you never say “no”; it will shut down a scene, but instead say “yes and”. This allows for acceptance of whatever the other actor put forward with an expansion of your own making. There are several dance teachers who encourage this attitude in dancing. They are some of my favorites.

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breaking a move

Since I have been focusing on my skills as a lead lately I have been thinking about taking solo movements and how to partner them. Lots of things that I do are pretty explicitly leadable. I could probably get someone who is following well, but who had never seen the move to do it with me, just by managing our centers well. However, I like to think about what would happen if I didn’t lead it correctly. What happens if we do it “wrong”? Yesterday, waiting for the train I think I found my favorite new move to try out by exaggerating a wrong way of doing something.

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Filed under blues dance, leading, learning, teaching

When Regina Spektor hits the nail on the head

When I get stressed, a lot of it goes into my body. Stress tightens my muscles and I can’t move right and I’m in pain. Right now, I can clearly feel a knot by my left scapula, the muscles in my mid back are making my low back curve far too much which pulls my pelvis out of alignment and giving me pain in my very low back, my neck is so tight it is giving me a headache and making me clench my jaw.

Days like this I sometimes decide to forget my stresses and instead hate my body. My itunes is on shuffle and I was reminded by Regina Spektor

I’ve got a perfect body

But sometimes I forget

I’ve got a perfect body

because my eyelashes catch my sweat

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Partnering and Dancing

I’ve talked before about my beliefs about the fine intertwining, but separation of the skills of partnering and dancing.

As I’ve improved my skills at both I’ve found that my skill in partnering allows me to do a lot more of my own dancing. I don’t have to concentrate quite so hard on what my partner is asking me to do, which frees up a lot of energy and time to work in my own variations, or body movements, or do things just to match the music. I feel like these things still let me dance with my partner. The most amazing follows that I’ve lead do very similar. They do their own interpretations of the ideas that I start us out with. Sometimes it’s jaw dropping levels of amazing how someone can mold and shape their ideas while keeping true to our dance. I’ve danced with the opposite. Follows who cared very much about what their dance was, and didn’t pay close attention to partnering. Where I felt I had to be very firm to get their attention at all, taking any subtlety out of my leading (not that I’m super subtle to start).

However there is one type of person that will ruin both my partnering and my dancing. The person who will lead me into others on the dance floor. For a good dance, especially when I am following, I need to be able to trust the person I’m dancing with. To partner well I need to know that they aren’t sending me into danger. Otherwise I spend the dance worrying about looking after myself. This introduces anxiety and with the anxiety I become tense and that washes my dancing down the drain.

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Awesome accidental workout

I was about to present, and my brain wanted something to obsess about, and I knew that going over my presentation again would be counterproductive. Instead I took myself into one of our labs, shoved a plinth out of the way, put on a song, and did one jazz step that I’ve been working on continuously for three-(ish) repetitions of the song. One of my explorations today was how much I could change my vertical dynamic. I was going from very straight up to very low and bent. By the end of my second cycle of the song, I was sweating and my thighs burning.

Also amusing: a class mate of mine came through nodded at me and said “nice”
“sometimes I need something to obsess on”
“best sort of thing to obsess on”

I love being in a physically based career.

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