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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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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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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Another Dance Controversy: Hip Hop Crews on Trains

 

dancers hang from the rafters

Hip Hop crew Tylive makes creative use of the subway  props

The other day on BART, three young hip hop dancers looking like street thugs started dancing and passing a hat.  They weren’t great, but they weren’t bad either.  And they were doing something joyful that took skill and not a little hard work and practice, for the pleasure of onlookers.  For money, yes, but they exerted no pressure, and they obviously took pride in their achievement.  I put a buck in the hat, thanked them, and told them they made my day.  They beamed in appreciation of the compliment.  Other passengers enjoyed the performance as well.  How often do you get live entertainment on public transportation?

 

In this clip you can see real pros at the top of their game busking for a tough crowd: New York subway riders.  I’d have been thrilled to have gotten to see these guys, but even so, the first youtube comment calls them criminals and urges subway patrons to report them.  “These so called dancers are nothing more than criminal beggars!” he rants.

 

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Granted, not everyone likes Hip Hop, but to call these guys “so called dancers” bespeaks a serious shoulder chip.  Whatever your opinion of people busking on the subway, these dudes can DANCE.  It does make me wonder, though, why so much anger?  Yes, it’s illegal.  And if amateurs had a go at this level of gymnastics it would be downright dangerous, but these dancers were highly skilled and very much in control.  Would he have had the same reaction if a team of white Olympic gymnasts had taken to the racks of his subway car?

 

So what’s really going on here?  Hip Hop is an African American street dance.   It reflects a very specific culture.  Not just black, but ghetto black.  My last post about a dance controversy was about people’s reaction to fat dancers on stage.  When someone has a visceral, angry reaction to art, there is usually deep seated prejudice of some kind behind it.  Fat prejudice for Australia’s Nothing to Lose, racism in New York’s subway for the Tylive Crew.

 

It’s my vision statement to do my best to contribute to a world in which people break out into spontaneous dance in inappropriate places, so you know where I stand on this controversy.  But I also like to see people, including myself, take a look at the reactions we have to art and question the validity of what’s behind them.  After all, that’s part of the job of art, isn’t is?

 

by LaurieAnn Lepoff

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The Fat Dancer “Controversy”

A scene from Nothing To Lose

Dancers from Nothing To Lose

I’ve written a few past posts about fat dancers and was inspired to write again on the subject by a show in Australia featuring a cast of obese dancers.  What caught my interest, aside from the obvious fact of how unusual this is, was the director’s comment that such a show shouldn’t be, but is, controversial.

 

In my area there is a popular feminist dance company called the Dance Brigade. It’s talented director, Krissy Keefer, while not fat, does have an atypical body type.  She’s short, stocky, and muscular.  Just because her body is not that of a typical ballerina, her dancing is controversial.  Just what is this all about?  Why is it controversial for more than one body type to perform dance?

 

Human beings move naturally to music.  We do so with grace, or we don’t, and it has nothing to do with our shape, size, or even our physical abilities.  Yet the majority of people in our society are astonished to see great dancing in a fat body and embarrassed to find themselves as mesmerised by the movements of the fat dancer as by the more familiar lithe dancer body.

 

Even worse, derisive laughter is a common reaction, no matter how good the dancer.  Derision is a tool that keeps people in their place through shame.  So it’s all the more impressive to see the existence of a show like  Nothing To Lose, where the dancers are unabashedly comfortable in their bodies.  Take a look at this video and notice if you have a reaction, positive or negative.  It’s interesting to look at the root of that reaction and question it’s history, influence, and how much of it is culturally imposed and how much is pure artistic appreciation.  Have fun!

 

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by LaurieAnn Lepoff

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Do You Have to be a Dancer to Make a Marionette Dance?

Tiny marionette dancing

Dancing Marionette at the feet of puppet master Ricky Syers

Last week I posted on Appalachian  dancing dolls and promised a follow up post on Dancing puppets.  Making a marionette look real is a real and fascinating art.  The dolls themselves are amazing works of art and the puppet masters are true masters of illusion.

 

When a puppet dances, does that mean a dancer is pulling the strings?  Well I haven’t met many people behind the puppets so I can’t answer for sure, but my guess is that it takes a dancer to make the doll respond to the music in a realistic way.

 

In this clip, the street puppeteer is standing in plain sight as he works his puppets to the music.  You can see him dancing along with them:

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The incredibly gifted Ricky Syers delights ever amazed crowds with his tiny marionettes in the streets of Manhattan.  His beautiful creations are constantly dancing to the music.  Sometimes the camera picks up on Ricky and you can see him swaying to the music as he maneuvers his little charges.

 

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As you can see, it’s possible to perform a mesmerizing dance where the audience can’t even see you.  And it’s possible to be in full sight where the audience doesn’t even notice you.  If you can make a doll dance with grace, charm, rhythm, and engaging personality, that, in my book, qualifies you as a dancer.

 

If you’d like to support the career of this gifted street performer, consider joining his kickstarter campaign on kickstarter.com.

 

by LaurieAnn Lepoff

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Using Dance to Make a Point

dancers from "Hand of Power"

dancers inspire people to rock the vote!

Dance can be a powerful motivator.  It’s energetic and engaging and keeps people’s attention.  I’ve talked about how much I enjoy the creative use of dance in advertising, but it’s also used to make people think, to inform, and to combat apathy.

 

One of my favorite examples is Rock the Vote. These guys make funny, engaging, creative videos to encourage responsibility and they almost always use dance.  Check out this example:

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Wasn’t that fun?  If you want to see more of them, look them up on youtube.  They make a point of letting individual groups of people know they count and that they can make a difference.  And dance is one of their favorite tools.

 

by LaurieAnn Lepoff

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A New Take on Disability and Dance

Viktoria Modesta shows off a beautiful fake leg

Viktoria Modesta sporting a prosthesis as glamorous as she is.

I’ve written in the past about dance troupes like Axis that feature dancers in wheelchairs performing with able bodied dancers, blind and deaf dancers, and a hip hop crew composed entirely of physically challenged dancers.  This is a subject near and dear to my heart because of my background in working with people who live with physical disabilities.

 

You may have seen the video I’m featuring today because it’s gone viral.  Pop singer Viktoria Modesta is an amputee who in the past has made videos in which her prosthesis was hidden and she looked like a classic beauty with all of her limbs intact.  In “Prototype” she features two different artistically designed prosthesis and at the end of the video does a dance with one of them.  The first one looks elegant and exotic, a perfect fit for her fashonista style. Her movements are graceful and natural as the prosthesis lights up like a futuristic bionic body part.

 

The second one is a spike that comes to a point and it looks as if the dance is designed for it or it was designed for the choreography.  If you want to fast forward to the dance, it starts at 4:57, although she does dance here and there throughout the video.

 

This video sparked a ton of comments, many from people who dislike her music and therefore find the whole thing pointless, or a shameless use of a disability to get attention.  I confess I’m not a big fan of this type of music either, but I think the way she showcases her prosthesis is groundbreaking.

 

I would enjoy it a lot more if I liked the music, but that doesn’t change what she’s doing in this dance.  She could easily hide her leg and still dance.  We wouldn’t be able to tell.  So what is so new about this that makes it different from some I’ve the other artists I’ve written about in former posts?

 

She doesn’t just show the world that she can dance just as well as an able bodied artist in spite of her missing leg.  She creates a work of art out of the leg and showcases it.  It’s a thing of beauty in its own right.  One viewer commented, to the disgust of many others, that he almost wished he had a fake leg that lit up.  He voiced what many were thinking.  It’s that cool.

 

Born with this disability, she’s comfortable with it and it’s a big part of who she is.  I’m glad it’s sparking controversy because it means people are thinking and talking about it.  I give it a thumbs up!  Here you go:

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by LaurieAnn Lepoff

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Yep! Another Great Use of Dancing in Advertising!

Sainsburys ad using dance

Sainsburys Dancing Dads dance in  thier Chirstmas Jumpers

I love it when advertisers use dance in creative ads.  I couldn’t get enough of the delightful Evian dancing baby ads and wrote about them, thinking it would be the last one when they’d come up with another that I just had to share.

 

Sainsbury’s is a British clothing store and I give high marks for this ad with the Dancing Dads.  For those of you who don’t know, “jumper” is Brit speak for sweater.  They claim this is an amatuer group, but I have my doubts.  Middle aged British men are no more famous for their dancing skills than their American counterparts, so it seems unlikely that there would be this much talent in a random group of school kid’s fathers.

 

Stranger things have happened, however, so I’d like to believe it’s true.  If so, these guys are really spreading holiday joy at this event and out to the rest of the world through this ad.  Kudos to them, and enjoy!

 

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by LaurieAnn Lepoff
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Dancing In Inappropriate Places

Dancing makes people smile.  My vision statement has to do with a world in which people break into spontaneous dance in unexpected places and occasionally I like to blog about occasions where that happens already.

Great examples of inappropriate dance

Nothing makes me happier than seeing evidence of people dancing with abandon in “inappropriate” places.  Some people are blessed with the not caring what others think of them gene.  Check out these garbage men dancing on the back of their truck.  What a way to make a workday fun!  Do you think they brought a lot of smiles to a lot of faces along their route?

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Dancing Cops

One of my all time favorite examples of this fabulous genre are police who dance in public.  Introducing this element of fun and spontaneity to this job could go a long way in healing the rift between police and citizens they are supposed to be protecting.

 

Not surprisingly, most of the examples I have took place in countries where there is considerably less of a rift than there is here.  This one’s from Canada where a Toronto cop doing security at a jazz festival joins the revelers in a line dance:

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The next two very short clips are from Sweden.  I wish I knew the story behind this first one  because I’ve been to Sweden many times and I’ve never seen a dancing cop.  He just seems to, like my vision statement, be breaking into spontaneous dance with a “who cares what anyone thinks?” attitude.

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This guy joyfully joins a Pride march and dances in the parade, creating a ton of goodwill and having a great time.

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And here in the good old US of A, this SWAT traffic cop at a political convention outdoes our neighbor countries in this delightful show of dance skills that don’t interfere with his job:

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Last but not by far the least, I leave you with this example which I’ve used in a previous post. (More Thoughts On How Dance Makes a Better World.)

It bears repeating because it’s the absolute best example of the healing possibilities of dance:

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by LaurieAnn Lepoff

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