Following the Latest Fad for Your First Dance

wedding couple dancing

a couple dancing at their wedding

Youtube has changed the face of first dances for weddings. People post their dances for the world to see and it gives others ideas for their own dance. This can be a good thing, but not always.

The latest rage in wedding dances is to start with a traditional dance like waltz or foxtrot and then surprise everyone by suddenly changing into a fast paced choreographed wild and crazy routine. Here’s a great example of a mother son version:

Pretty fun, right? Should you do it for your own wedding? Well that depends. If it really expresses your personality, as it obviously does in this case, then by all means go for it.

But look also at your motivation for doing this. Is it because you think of it as the latest thing and you want to do the “in” thing? If this is the case, I urge you to think twice. First of all, if you’re looking for that big surprise, you may be disappointed. You’re not the only ones who watch YouTube videos. If you go out of your way to make your “traditional” dance at the beginning as boring as possible, everyone will be relieved that you are finally doing something interesting, but you could have achieved the same thing by making your waltz creative and beautiful.

Here’s my suggestion that I recommend for all of my students. There is nothing traditional about a first dance, really. It’s a modern concept, so you can do anything you want. The most important thing is that it reflects who you are and how you feel about each other. Maybe a wild and crazy nontraditional dance is who you are. Maybe a lovely waltz is the best reflection of who you want to be on that day. Maybe your song choice is particularly meaningful and the dance is whatever goes with your song.
Copying someone else’s idea is rarely a good idea. You Tube is great for getting ideas, but watch out for the trap of doing the popular trend of the day. If your dance speaks to your hearts and reflects your feelings for one another, you can’t go wrong!

by LaurieAnn Lepoff

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A Bit of Swing Dance History in a Beer Ad!

vintage swing dance

Still from the new Guinness ad

I’ve blogged in the past about my appreciation for dance in advertising, and now along comes one of the best yet.

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I confess I don’t really get what this has to do with Guinness, but more power to them. It’s pretty wonderful all on it’s own so I’m happy to spread it around.  The dancing is top notch, the message is timely, and the history is accurate.  If this kind of dancing excites you, and you live in the bay area, call Steps On Toes and learn how to do it.  The bay area hosts a vibrant Lindy scene. You can be part of it!

By LaurieAnn Lepoff

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Best floors for Lindy Hop Slides!

Harlem dancers

The most famous slide ever photographed, from Life Magazine in the 30s

Swing dancing has a wide range of styles because it’s a street dance, constantly changing with the creativity of the dancers.  Slides are tricky steps.  They’re not that common, due to the difficulty in executing them properly.  You’ll only see them performed by advanced dancers, and they’re always show stoppers.  If you’re a bay area dancer, you won’t see them at Lindy in the Park or at Local Edition.  If you want to try them out, you need a slick floor no matter how skilled you are.

The best dance floors for Swing have a polished surface with just enough slickness to slide but not so much as to be dangerous.  The best floors are also sprung so they have a little give to them.  Here in the bay area great floors are hard to find, but as long as the floor is not sticky (like the sidewalk at Lindy in the Park or the unfinished wood at local edition or any finish that feels sticky rather than smooth) any finished wood floor is fine.  You can also make adjustments to the floor by wearing shoes that have right amount of slickness for you, and using dance wax if you need a bit more slickness than the floor offers.

Sprung floors are designed for dancing , so they are few and far between, but while they are great for low impact, they are not necessary for slides.  The recently renovated Starline Social Club, which hosts the new Tuesday night swing event The Breakaway, has one of the best floors in the bay area as does the Lake Merritt Dance Center.  The Scottish Rite Temple, which hosts vintage dances every other month also has a spectacular floor.  The Terrace Room recently renovated it’s floor which gives it a boost in ratings from sticky to pretty good. These places are all in Oakland, and SF also has good floors in many of its venues.  The Russian Center, Verdi Club (which just had it’s last regular swing night), and practically any place besides LITP and Local Edition, that hosts a swing dance, has a floor you can slide on.

Don’t know what I’m talking about when I reference slides?  Here’s a great example in this recent clip from a swing camp in Spain:

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Look like fun?  Think about adding a signature slide to your Lindy repertoire!

by LaurieAnn Lepoff

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A Double Dose of Dance

the bar sans people

At Local Edition the dance floor is everywhere

A relatively new dance venue for the Swing crowd has opened in SF.  It’s in a Market Street bar called “Local Edition.   Only half a block from BART, it’s easy to get to from Oakland, and the music starts at 8:00 on Tuesday nights.  I can dance for a couple of hours, leave at 10, and be in bed by 11.  A live band attracts a good crowd of dancers most weeks.  The only drawback is the floor, which is unfinished wood, so rough that dance wax doesn’t make a dent. My plastic soled shoes that I use for dancing on concrete are perfect, though!

 

A couple of weeks ago while I was waiting at the BART station, a Hip Hop duo was playing music and dancing.  I was reviewing a new balboa move and appreciated the music.  When the train arrived, the dancers got on too.  Using the hand holding bars, they performed an acrobatic routine with considerable skill before passing a hat.  They were the second hip hop train performers I’ve ever seen on my BART travels.  I felt blessed to have been on the right train to catch the show and it made my day.

 

There has been some controversy about dancers on the subway systems of America.  Not everyone likes it and some consider it too dangerous.  A subway crowd is a tough audience.  These people did not opt for a show so they have to be good enough to please an audience that has it’s own separate agenda.  In this video, the dancers are good enough to win the attention of their audience.  Busking is hard work and there are no guarantees.  Check out this New York crew: [embedplusvideo height=”509″ width=”640″ editlink=”http://bit.ly/2a6DPm9″ standard=”http://www.youtube.com/v/YJdpRpHEf-A?fs=1″ vars=”ytid=YJdpRpHEf-A&width=640&height=509&start=&stop=&rs=w&hd=0&autoplay=0&react=1&chapters=&notes=” id=”ep9098″ /]

 

New York sports a lot more of these subway dancers than we do here in the Bay Area.  In this video on BART, the dancers are not nearly as spectacular as the New Yorkers we just saw.  The unforgiving audience is totally ignoring them.

 

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My Tuesday night experience was somewhere in between.  I loved it and so did some of my fellow travelers.  Others ignored, or even frowned at them.  I hope if any of you are lucky enough to catch this kind of spontaneous performance will at the very least give the dancers your attention.  

 

And if you’re in the Bay Area and want to catch some great music and watch some dancing, or join in yourself, check out the swing nights at Local Edition.  Don’t dance yet, but wish you could?  Give Steps On Toes a call and get started now!

 

By LaurieAnn Lepoff

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Ballroom meets Hip Hop

dancers performing

Ballroom Dance Champions Garry and Rita Gekhman surprise the crowd

Ever notice how when you notice something, you seem to see it everywhere?  A while back I wrote a series of posts about fusion dance, a phenomena in which two different dance styles are “fused” together. Last week on my facebook page  I added recent example of Swango that was particularly beautiful.  No sooner did I post it than I found an example of a fusion dance that was totally new to me, and I suspect nearly everyone else as well. It is from 1004, but this is the first time I’ve seen it!  There’s an ironic twist in this because it fuses The Robot, a street dance, with competitive ballroom.  The irony is that street dancers, polar opposites of formal ballroom, might describe ballroom dancers as “stiff” and “robotic”.  Rarely do you see dancers so well versed in vastly different styles.  Their clever combination is a delight.  You can tell by the voice over comments that they brought the house down when they performed this fusion for a ballroom audience.

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By LaurieAnn Lepoff

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Happy Birthday, Frankie Manning!

a workshop with the late Frankie Manning

Teaching with Frankie Manning–joy personified!

Today my friend and mentor Frankie Manning would have turned 102.  If you’re a dancer, you would have been delighted if you used google and noticed the google doodle honoring Frankie’s birthday.  Several people brought this to my attention, which is all to the good, because although I missed the pleasure of seeing it  by chance, it’s just as likely I wouldn’t have noticed.  From now on, I’ll pay more attention to the doodle when I’m using google!  
If you are curious about my relationship with Frankie and want to see him in action, go back to this post I wrote a year ago at this time.  Enjoy!

Learning to Dance on Youtube

My friend Stu Sweetow, videographer extraordinaire, sent me the picture at the right with the excellent phrase, “Real men take dance lessons, because you can’t learn connection on youtube!”  This inspired me to once again take up my blog, which my many fans have no doubt noticed I have let slip for several months due to more pressing matters in my life.

The Question

The blog-worthy question is, of course, what is connection and why can’t you learn it on youtube and maybe also, if not connection, what can you learn on youtube?

 

Connection in partner dance is the skill of leading and following.  It is how the leader communicates to the follower what to do, without telling her in advance what the step will be.  It is how two people can move around the floor as if they are one without choreographing and practicing a routine ahead of time.

 

Connection is a right brain skill and you have to feel it to know what it is and if you are doing it right.  That’s why you can’t learn it on youtube.  Different dances have different kinds of connection, but the basic principles are the same. Once you have learned how to connect to a partner in one kind of dance, it’s a lot easier to learn how to do it in another.

 

What part of dance don’t you understand?

 

So is there anything you can learn on video?  Yes there is!  Once you’ve learned how to dance (connection) you can pick up new steps on youtube if you’re a visual learner and you work at it.  But if all you know are the steps, not the connection, you’ll be hard to dance with and dancing won’t be much fun for you or your partner.  You know something’s missing but you don’t know what it is.

 

Connection Vs. Steps

So here’s my advice if you are the kind of learner who has the discipline and learns well from videos.  Take private lessons FIRST.  Learn what your strengths and weaknesses are and learn connection.  Then find cool steps on video that you like and practice them.  If you fall in love with a step and somehow it isn’t working, take a private lesson and ask a teacher what you’re doing wrong.  There’s probably something tricky about the lead in that particular move.  Have fun!

By LaurieAnn Lepoff

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In Honor of Frankie Manning

a workshop with the late Frankie Manning

Teaching with Frankie Manning–joy personified!

This is the week Frankie Manning would have turned 101 had he lived and I always like to leave a tribute for him every year.  I was privileged to have been friends with this wonderfully positive and highly charismatic man for the last fifteen years of his life.

 

Frankie was one of the people credited with creating the Lindy Hop, and due to his delightful personality was in many ways responsible for the resurrection of this joyful dance in present times.  After being pulled out of retirement in his 70’s, he began traveling the world teaching workshops and spreading the popularity of Lindy Hop world wide.  He was modest and unassuming, always grateful to his students and the burgeoning Lindy community for bringing back this dance that he loved and giving him the opportunity to spend the last years of his life spreading it’s joy.  “I’m happy to be here”, he would say at every workshop.  “But at my age, I’m happy to be anywhere.”  And right up until the end, he was.

 

I met Frankie on his 80th birthday at a big celebration in New York City.  Practically everyone who danced Lindy in the bay area was there.  About 5 out of 6 of us!  We were exposed for the first time to dancers from all over the world, and to exciting new (to us) styles of the dance.  We fell in love with what was known as Modern Savoy Style and brought it back home.  As our community grew, Savoy style was what was mostly danced here.

 

When Frankie came to the Bay Area for the first time shortly after the New York workshops, I got to teach with him for the first time. I thought I’d died and gone to heaven.  It was one of the high points of my life and although it was the first of many, nothing beat the high of that first time.

 

He was a piece of living history, a joy to know, an honor to call friend, and I’ll always feel lucky to have crossed paths with him at the end of his life and the middle of mine.

 

I’ve included two clips to give you a glimpse into the joy he brought into dance and the charm that was always the hallmark of his teaching style.

 

Here he is dancing the Shim Sham Shimmy with his son Chaz Young at the Herrang Dance Camp in Sweden.  He was in his mid eighties believe it or not at the time!

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This clip gives you a window into Frankie’s style and sense of humor.  To Frankie every woman was beautiful, and he made every woman feel beautiful and special.

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by LaurieAnn Lepoff

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Sisters Do the Dance of Love

 

young sisters smiling

Dancing sisters pose before their dance

Dance has all kinds of functions, from exercise to art, to connection, to just plain fun.  As an art form, it’s one of the best ways to express emotion.

 

My sister, whom I love more than just about anyone else in my life, sent me this beautiful video of another set of sisters performing a dance that tells a tale of love about as eloquently as I’ve ever seen it told.  Love is a favorite theme in art, in it’s many forms.  Love unrequited.  Tragic love.  Plain old romantic love. Love of nature.  Love of beauty.

 

Sisterly love we don’t see so much.  Watch it come through with such blazing sincerity it brings tears to your eyes in this moving dance number

 

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by LaurieAnn Lepoff

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Dance Heals the Brain

 

Distonia sufferer dancer

Italian journalist Federico Bitti finds healing in dance

Dance as a cure

Dance has been used as a valuable tool to cure various brain disorders.  When we are passionate about something, often our brain skips over the part that’s not working right and focuses.  Music, when it is music we love, can have a healing effect of it’s own.  When music and passion and movement are combined, magic can happen.

 

It’s a miracle!

I’ve seen with my own eyes many times the miracle of elderly people who can barely walk, leaving their canes and walkers by the side of the dance floor as the music starts, returning to them after the dance is over.  Neurologist Oliver Sacks has written about music bringing patients out of comas and alzheimer’s patients have also been known to come back to themselves when they hear a familiar and beloved song.

 

My friend Zo DeMuro, a wellness coach who is magical in his own right, sent me this beautiful video of a man with a condition that I’d never heard of before now.  Nothing worked for him until a creative and open minded holistic practitioner realized that dance was the road to wellness for him.  The video speaks for itself!

 

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by LaurieAnn Lepoff
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Dancing With Myself

 

me, dancing alone

Enjoying my own company on the dance floor

I’m a great fan of partner dance and for me the fun is in the connection with the other person.  But there is something to be said for dancing alone.

Dance as meditation

For people who are resistant to sitting still and being present, solo dancing can be the easiest form of meditation.  The Whirling Dervishes use it as meditation, and in a less formal way anyone can lose themselves in movement to music to calm and center themselves.

 

Solo but social

Of course, it can be social as well.  Even though you don’t touch your partner, you can engage with each other in other ways.  You can follow each other’s movements, try out each others steps, play off of your partner’s styling.  Doing this is much more fun than just standing in front of another person on the dance floor and basically ignoring them.

As is so often the case, the case for solo dancing is perfectly expressed by the muppets!  With irresistible enthusiasm, Gonzo makes a case for the best partner of all time: himself!

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by LaurieAnn Lepoff

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My Dance Vision in Action: Another Great Example!

 

If you’ve been to my website, you know know my vision statement has to do with people dancing spontaneously in inappropriate places.  Last week I wrote about hip hop crews on subways.  This week I want to bring your attention to a different kind of subway dancing.

 

Starting Dance Parties on Trains

In Australia, a country famous for oddball behavior, there’s a guy who goes around instigating random dance parties on trains.  He first makes a bold announcement that he’s going to start dancing and that anyone is welcome to join him.  He turns on some music and dances up and down the aisle.

 

The Party Gets Going

Pretty soon someone else who loves to dance jumps up and takes the opportunity to join him.  If I’d been there, that would have been me!  Some of you might have seen a TED talk about starting a movement.  It starts with a lone nut, who is eventually joined by a first follower.  Other people then feel they have permission to join in, and finally the rest of the crowd feels left out if they DON”T join in.   Although there are definitely people who who are happy to continue to sit and watch, you can see that dynamic in action here.  The guy comes across as a lone nut at first.  It’s kind of embarrassing to watch him, but his courage gets everyone into the spirit and a train car full of travelers spend their time joyfully dancing and interacting with one another instead of sitting in lone separation.  Watch this little miracle here!

 

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by LaurieAnn Lepoff
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