Wednesday, June 26, 2013

DJ-ing Teachers - A Special Opportunity

We DJs can play the dancefloor but can't chose who comes to events we play at. So we have to cater to the needs of those who are there. If that means it's a crowd that can only dance to very slow music, we'll have to play mainly in that tempo range. Funnily enough if a DJ gets asked why (s)he is playing slow music the answer is often "beginner music". What is beginner music and how does that affect teaching?

Dancing to 28 to 32 bpm is difficult because you have to superficially keep up momentum. Thinking of simplifying as slowing it down to those tempos is adding new difficulties and if you dance for too long on super slow music when you start, it adds habits that will be tricky to get rid of later.
It is patronizing to assume that beginners can't dance to medium tempos right away and worse - demotivating when they see the cool kids dancing to faster (actually regular) tempos at parties.

Of course we have to simplify stuff, and slowing stuff down to a certain degree makes sense, but stop in reason. Beginner classes with triple steps can be done to 34 bpm as slowest. Rhythm can be taught in easier ways as Groove Walks to beginners at tempos around 38-40 bpm.

Don't create weird new stuff for beginners. Teach them what you dance. Don't dumb down, but simplify!

If you are a teaching DJ you have a special opportunity, you can decide what the people on the dancefloor can dance to, - because you teach them. So when you play slow music - play it because you want to dance to it!

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

A Jazz Song Alphabet by DJ Maria

Lovely how this is still alive! Sunday I got a message from DJ Maria from Athens, Greece who sent me her Jazz Song Alphabet. Enjoy her lovely list of juicy songs!

Alreet – Gene Krupa & his Orchestra
Boo Woo – Harry James And The Boogie Woogie Trio
Charleston – Enoch Light & the Charleston City All Stars
Diga Diga Doo – Rex Stewart & the Ellingtonians
Everybody Loves My Baby – Glenn Miller & his Orchestra
Fractious Fingering – Fats Waller
Get Your Boots Laced, Papa – Woody Herman
Hotter than ‘Ell – Fletcher Henderson & his Orchestra
I’d Love to Take Orders from You – Mildred Bailey
Just You, Just Me – Red Norvo & his Orchestra
Krazy Kapers – The Chocolate Dandies
Let’s Misbehave – Irving Aaronson & his Commanders
My Woman – Al Bowlly with Lew Stone and his Monseigneur Band
Nosey Joe – Bull Moose Jackson
Old Man Mose – Louis Armstrong
Perfidia – Benny Goodman & his Orchestra with Helen Forrest
Queen Isabelle – Cab Calloway & his Orchestra
Ring ‘Dem Bells – Duke Ellington & his Orchestra
Splanky – Count Basie & his Orchestra
That’s a Plenty – Louisiana Rhythm Kings
Undecided – Chick Webb & his Orchestra feat. Ella Fitzgerald
Vol Vistu Gaily Star – Tommy Dorsey & Clambake 7
Who stole the lock – Jack Bland & his Rhythmakers
X Y Z – Earl “Fatha” Hines
You’ve Got Me Voodoo’d – Charlie Barnet & his Orchestra
Zig Zag – Casa Loma Orchestra

Want to listen to this compilation? Go here!
Want to see all alphabets? Go here!

If you are a DJ and have an alphabet, send it to me and I'll post it! Keep the alphabets coming!

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Momentum - A Good Basis For Creativity

In the beginning stage of becoming a teacher I asked myself what defines me as dancer and back then I concluded that part of it was the creativity bit. I know there have been discussions about the topic and the word, but for me it's like any other discipline - not a magical property some people have and some don't, but rather something that you learn. The following is an excerpt from my creativity class.

There are two main definitions of creativity in psychology today that are accepted: A creative work is when you do something new and on purpose and A creative work is when you do something new and on purpose that is of value to the domain. When I talk about creativity, I always only assume the two attributes the definitions share.

One of the aspects that visually attributes to lindy hop to me is the exchange of energy on a line and thus the momentum that we have to have. Momentum itself can be understood as composed of two elements - a linear and a rotational energy (for simplicity we'll ignore the vertical aspects for right now). Concrete: we can go forward, backward, turn left and right. We can combine the linear and the rotational movement (turn left while going forward etc.) and we can do those movements at different speeds, which makes it scalable. This will make the difference between a turn to the right and the leader's movement of an underarm pass.

A key to creative work to me is to start with something existing and then modify it as opposed to starting from scratch. Changing the energies leaves you, depending abit on how you count, with four options: increasing and decreasing of the linear and rotational energy and the combinations of it. Decreasing an energy might lead to zero energy - no linear but only rotational energy is what we call a spin - or inversed - going forward instead of backword - energy.

You can apply this during or at the end/begining of a move. A nice side effect of this is that resulting movements are fairly easy to integrate into the dancing, because they connect automatically.

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Sunday, June 16, 2013

DJ Research Challenges - In The Mood by DJ Superheidi

I've been a bit slow, but DJ Superheidi from Rotterdam sent me this awesome piece of research she did, and that's exactly the kind of research I wanted to trigger! Enjoy what she sent me:

It's about the notorious song: "In the Mood", hell yes! Maybe it's an old story to some, but it isn't to me. But this started with a musician. I wondered about the baritone sax player in Edgar Hayes Orchestra, as I really dig that low moaning sound. Heard a similar sound in the Blue Mills Rhythm Band. Finally looked it up last week and it turns out to be the same guy: Joe Garland. 

That's how I stumbled on the voyage of "In the Mood", a song that changed across the 1930s before it became a hit record by Miller's Orchestra. Joe Garland is credited for "In the Mood". A popular riff in Harlem before he wrote it down. 

I knew "Hot and Anxious by Fletcher Henderson. but not what came before: Wingy Manone's "Tar Paper Stomp" from 1930 recorded by Barbecue Joe and His Hot Dogs (1). Just after that came Horace Henderson's "Hot and Anxious", recorded by his brother Flechter in 1931 (2). But I really like the Don Redman version from 1932 (3), it's getting already closer to swing.
In 1935 the tune evolves and gets swinging in the Mills Blue Rhythm Band recording of "There's Rhythm In Harlem" (4). And in 1938 the Edgar Hayes Orchestra records (with Joe Garland playing) as "In the Mood" (5).

Garland offered the tune to Artie Shaw who didn't record it because of long arrangements (>8 minutes). But he did play it live in the Blue Room in 1938 over 6 minutes and it was broadcasted live (6). But there is a shorter and faster version from around 3 minutes. Must be from the same period but I don't know if this short version was before or after Miller's recording from 1939. And remarkably it is announced as "an original composition by Artie Shaw" (7).

Finally the song was sold to Glenn Miller and in 1940 it became a hit record. Some state it was chopped down and rearranged and recorded in 1939, but some say it's nonsense as Edgar Hayes' version is already shorter. So I'm a slightly curious from when exactly the shorter Shaw version is. (will see if there's anything on the liner notes of the CD sleeve in the library).
Had to finisch with Mora's Modern Rhythmists version of "Tar Paper Stomp" from 2000 (9) for a nice round-up. 

The much loved and hated Glenn Miller hit will always be around. Even if it seems forbidden territory for swing DJ's. but play it (locally?) and people do rush to the floor. Maybe because it's good, maybe because it holds memories for many of us, it may have been the first swing song they heard. And it just sticks in your head after the first time. Now I think I have to add it as well (8).

A few days later she sent me this addition:
Miller's recording is from August 1st, 1939. The shorter Artie Shaw live recording is from December 18, 1938. So it came before Miller's hit.

Want to listen to this music? - check it out on 8Track!
You like this completed research challenge? Thumbs up and +1 it!

You completed one of the challenges? Send it to me and I'll publish it!

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

A Good Teacher Is An Improving Dancer

Many teachers are teachers because they are great dancers. Few teachers are teachers because they are great at teaching. If you are reading this blog, you probably count more into the second or at least want to become part of the second group. But great teaching alone doesn't cut it. Throughout all articles on this blog I advocate to do what you say. This applies to demonstrating at the same time as explaining, this applies to failing, and something we rarely talk about, the most basic aspect of teaching - continuing to progress. Here are three tips that helped me:

1. Train!

As simple as that - you teach your students to improve themselves and tell them to train. Get yourself access to a floor with a mirror on the wall and train!

2. Train with focus!

Just because my time for training is not all day, unlike before, I feel like I don't have time to waste, and thus train with goal. Train for a show, repeat class or workshop material or do the Total Swing Experience series. Training with a goal has drastically improved the quality and results of my training and I promise you will feel it too!

3. Train regularly!

A bit more than a year ago, I trained about monthly (hardly ever) - now I train a couple of times during the week. Together with training towards a goal, this makes training powerful!

As nice side effect to improving you will be more believable and motivating for your students.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Stop Disappointment And Create Successful Classes!

The german word for disappointment is "Enttäuschung", which literally translated means dis-deception. Disappointments arise when people's expectations are not met.  It doesn't matter if they deceived themselves or were deceived by someone else - what matters is that we can influence their expectations. If we are good at it, it can even be possible to set their expectations.  Talking about them is a first step. 

Let's look at two practical application's of this concept:
An easy expectation to create is about the class' content. Since I always set goals for myself anyway, I try to communicate those to my students. It's important to communicate goals that make sense to your students, else it will be difficult for them to adapt to the new expectations.  When you feel like your class wasn't perceived as you had imagined and planned it beforehand, ask yourself if you perhaps created the wrong expectations or none at all.  Did you communicate them effectively?  Could it be that you created unrealistic expectations for yourself?  Evaluate these questions, adapt the newly found results, and try again!

Your ability to influence student expectations varies based on whether the original expectations are deeply engrained or not.

One dance school I worked for often held regular "group" classes with only 1 to 3 participants. The expectations of the new students were everything but matched.  Many of you reading this may be thinking "woah! awesome for the students!", but consider the fact that many students like the "anonymity" of a group class. They can learn by listening and watching, and the limited amount of personal feedback they receive does not overwhelm them.  However, if they are exposed to too much feedback all of a sudden, a big gap between their expectations and reality arises. If the students can't adapt their original expectations accordingly -- and it's unfair for you to expect them to --  the experience will be very frustrating. For us as teachers, this means that we must either try to re-orient their expectations or, if this won't work, teach as if it were a class with 20 students.

Should you manage to create expectations and then exceed them, the class experience will be even better for your students. In addition to having learned the material that they would have learned either way, your students will also feel good!