More good performances

Yesterday was a busy day. We actually went to two dance performances in between everything else. In the morning we went to the National Theatre in St Kilda to see this year’s VCE TOP Class Dance — basically the cream of the crop from this year’s secondary school dance students from the VET and TOP programs. They had three divisions: TOP Technique, TOP Composition, and VET. We were both blown away by the quality of the perfomances. These kids are amazing.

Then at night we went along to Dance Card, a program of improvised dance solos by 5 very different dancers to ‘live’ sound and audio. In fact the music was produced mostly electronically with occasional instrumental interludes (banjos and cowbells and things) by a guy called Mark Lang. The main reason we went was to see Lotte’s teacher Helena, a Korean born dance master whose performance eclipsed the others for me. I highly recommend checking it out, but I think the last performance of the season is this afternoon at 5pm, so you’d better be quick.

Aether

One of the nicest things about having a partner who is just as into dancing as me is that we get to go to dance performances together. On Wednesday night we went to see a show by local choreographer Lucy Guerin called Aether. The promo material says this about the show:

Aether is inspired by the increasingly invasive onslaught of communications we receive through email, phone, newspaper, television, billboards, radio, mail, fax, internet, text messages and myriad other forms for disseminating information. From devastating world events to advertisements for increased libido, we inhabit a world where information reaches us in many forms and often overwhelms us with its intensity and quantity.

What it doesn’t say is that it’s actually also pretty funny. The aim was no doubt to show something about how ludicrous it is to live in a mediated world, but they managed to achieve such a level of satirical comment that it was obvious that they were not taking themselves too seriously. I really enjoyed the performance also for the movement and technique — a sort of mixture between Cunningham and contact improvisation partner work as far as I could tell. The first half concentrates mainly on depicting electronic communication using stoccato, sometimes robotic, movements, while the second turns its attention to the interlocutors themselves in their frustrated mediated interactions. The dancers go to address each other, but instead of speaking or gesturing they emit strange (and usually silly) noises while using whole body movements to show what they mean. I belly laughed most of my way through the second half and so did Lotte.

Aether is playing at the North Melbourne Town Hall until March the 27th. There seem to be double passes being given away over at The Program, but I can’t tell if they are all gone yet. Check it out.

Improv & Choreography redux

The Improv & Choreography workshop went well. There were 6 of us in total, with thepaulguy stepping in to help with numbers at the last minute. I have to say it was a lot of fun. There is something particularly interesting about introducing challenges to spice things up, improv-wise. I guess that is no secret to anyone who has tried other forms of improv before, like Theatresports. There’s almost always a game or a rule to get your creative juices flowing, isn’t there?

The only alteration I made to the plan posted yesterday was to have a little more time at the end of each challenge to let everyone show the stuff they came up with to everyone else. This was a popular part because it allowed everyone to see, for example, a move they had made up on the spur of the moment being interpreted by someone else. Sort of like Chinese whispers. It was really funny and we came up with some stuff that was truly different from the usual. The process could definitely be used with a particular song or part of a song that you really want new ideas for. Cool.

Improvisation and Choreography

Today I finally wrote down in words an idea on Improvisation and Choreography that I have had in mind for a workshop plan. The act of writing it down made me revise my ideas, which is always good, and I looked around a bit (i.e. Googled) for some resources that have to do with learning objectives in the area. I found a few things that were useful and seemed to validate the idea I had in mind. The plan I came up with is below.

Improvisation and Choreography

Learning Objectives:

1. Increase understanding of choreographic principles, processes, and structures.

2. Improve improvisation skills in partnered dancing.

3. Develop cooperative skills in improvisation and choreography.

Activities

Impro Challenge # 1: Use three basic movements — twisting, stretching, and bending Dancers improvise movements with these ideas on their own (to music). (3 mins)

Partner work. Partners stay in couples for this activitiy without rotating. Dancers take it in turns to incorporate twisting, stretching and bending movements into their dancing. Follows improvise for about 1 minute while leaders dance basics and observe. Leaders improvise while followers observe for about 1 minute. Then try to incorporate these movements (together) into regular social dancing for 2 minutes. Try to remember 3 of the movements your partner did during the improv. (5 mins)

Revision. Partners change. Each person should demonstrate their 3 favourite movements that your previous partner did during the improv (they don’t have to be 1 twist, 1 stretch and 1 bend). (5 mins)

For the next song, the new partners should incorporate the learnt movements into their dancing. (3 mins)

Impro Challenge # 2: use 3 dynamics — high vs low, use space vs be stingy with space, move with vs against music.

Using these ideas, and working in partners, take 5 mins to improvise. Start with trying out all 3 ideas. Choose your favourite and select any 3 movements you like that come out of the improv. (5 mins)

Choreography: Spend the next song coming up with a sequence of 3 or 4 steps that you will teach the rest of the group. (3 mins)

Review: Each couple spends 3 mins teaching the group their sequence of 3 or 4 steps (12 mins)

Incorporate: Partners change and incorporate their favourite sequences into their dancing (3 mins)

Crazy Busy weekend

The weekend was all about hanging out with friends. It might have been a long weekend for most, but Lotte was working for much of the time and the University doesn’t believe in Labour Day so we had to make the most out of our time. So we organised a packed schedule.

Friday night was busy, with a 2 hour meeting with Ryan about the MLX video production followed by Diga Diga Doo (see previous post) while Lotte was working. I went to bed fairly late as a result, and Lotte came home with the new car around 10.30am. We went for breakfast at A Minor Place (pictured below) which is one of our favouite weekend indulgences.

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We decided we wanted to test out the new car and called the Swedes and the Crinster for an impromptu trip in search of a swim. It was a hot day and we felt like having some fun. We ended up at Sandringham beach at around 4.20pm, which meant that Lotte had a quick dip before we needed to get her to her shift. She was late even though we had the new shiny red auto at our disposal. I dropped her and headed back towards St Kilda to meet the others for what turned out to be a delightful meal at Soul Mama in St Kilda. Highly recommended. After wandering down Acland St for dessert at Big Mouth I headed back east to pic Lotte up. Phew — quite a few clicks on the digital odometer that day! The rest of the night involved some much needed household chores and an early night.

We must have been pretty tired because on Sunday morning we were nowhere near ready for James the Builder’s arrival (see previous post). That was pretty funny because we actually had to ask him to wait while we got out changed out of our jim jams. Oops. Well in our defence, he was a quarter of an hour early.

So after that we meet up with Doz at A Minor Place to plan out our trip to Europe. She’s going to come and hang with us at Hameau du Lac and then spend some time up in Holland.

After the Dozmeet we went to pick up Thepaulguy from the airport. TPG is here until Wednesday and will be staying at our place on his way out to the States for some film school interviews. Here’s a picture of Paul trying to look like Guy Sebastian:

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So after we picked up Paul we went over to a BBQ organised by Ali and Kat at the house they are sitting in Northcote. It’s been quite a while since I got to hang out with the swingtwins so it was really fun to see them, and once again I decided that it should happen more often.

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Then we all headed down to Mayfields. It was the first time back to Mayfields for a few of us for a loooooong time. Sam and I think we haven’t been there for about 2 years. DJ Doz was in da haus and Crin was there too. It was way too hot and I was wearing jeans but I still had fun.

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Afterwards we went to Trampoline in Brunswick Street and ate ice cream. I had pear-caramel, bloody orange and wild berry. The bloody orange was one of the nicest flavours of gelati I’ve ever had. Mmmmmmmm.

RIP DDD

Tonight was a sad night in Melbourne Lindy Hop history — the closing of the fortnightly DJ’d event started a year ago called Diga Diga Doo. I happened to be on the DJ roster this time and it was certainly a shame to think that this one was going to be the last. As expected there were quite a few people out for the last one. If only everyone would support these gigs every time — but I think it’s probably expecting too much. My own unsurprising and unscientific take on all this is that we simply don’t see enough new hoppers starting social dancing these days. There is always going to be some kind of attrition rate among the experienced group. So it’s a revolving door. Only a very small hard core will be around for more than a couple of years at a time.

So, happy birthday DDD, and rest in peace.

Inspiration and the lack of it

So one thing I should point out from the start is that a big part of my life has to do with dance. Lindy hop swing dance, specifically. For just on 6 years now I’ve been spending a decent part of my spare time pursuing this hobby. It has taken me literally around the world several times, has consumed hundreds of sweaty hours out on the floor, and thousands more inside my brain. Many (but not all) of my best friends have similarly been bitten by the jitterbug.

A topic I talk about a lot with my swing mates is our ups and downs as far as inspiration goes. It seems that this has become a more important topic as the months and years have worn on. So much so that by my estimation a fairly large proportion of the Melbourne Lindy Hop community has been experiencing a crisis of inspiration for some time now.

So here’s what I think. I think social dance inspiration comes from seeing and dancing with new people, and listening to and dancing to new music. It’s not very complicated really. What seems to happen here though is that we get kind of trapped in our own ever decreasing circles. Social dancing in the sense of meeting new people and dancing to a wide variety of music is dead or dying in Melbourne.

There’s another type of dance inspiration too though. Just generally being inspired to dance per se. I think you can be inspired to move for a lot of reasons: because of the music, a need to perform, or even because you just want to do something active.

I’ve been suffering from a lack of inspiration for both social and general dance stuff off and on for at least two years now. So what I thought I would do is list some things that have inspired me in the past.

1. Travel. By far the most inspiring thing for me has been to go to other place and meet new people. The Herr‰ng Dance Camp in Sweden tops the list here (4 times so far), but other notables are SwingCity New York, the Paris Lindy Exchange, Hullabaloo (Perth Lindy Exchange), Canberr‰ng (Canberra mini Exchange) and the Lismore Swing Dance Camp.

2. DJing. The music is what brought me to dancing, and collecting and listening to more swing jazz for the purpose of DJing opened up a new world to me. Getting to DJ at other events (like HDC) is also inspirational.

3. Performing and training to perform. For the last 12 months or so a group of friends and I have been training under the name Crazy Rhythm Revue, and that has definitely been a main source of inspiration for me. Performing and looking good dancing (as opposed to feeling good) was probably the side of my Lindy Hop that I had paid least attention to prior to CRR. So it felt like a major challenge. Also there is a discipline to learning a routine or a new skill for the purpose of a performance that was motivating for me.

4. Other stuff. There are other more general influences that don’t need as much explanation on their own: teaching, watching tapes, running events, seeing performances, talking to people, and thinking about dancing all fall into the category of being involved in a dance subculture.