Q&A – Where is home?

I spend a lot of time on the road, and I am often asked “Where is home for you?”

The simple answer is where ever my suitcase is. Today it’s Fullerton, CA and tomorrow it will be Pittsburgh, PA again. By the end of September, I will have four different “homes”: Pittsburgh, Columbus, Seattle, and Berkeley. By the end of November I will have considered seven more places home: Cologne, Buenos Aires, Quebec, Grenoble, Hamburg, Genoa, and Lima.

Originally home was Lafayette, CA, a small suburb outside of San Francisco on the other side of the Caldecott Tunnel. In June 2004 after my brother graduated from high school, my parents moved to Seattle and I was upset about it. I understood that there was no reason for my parents to continue living in suburbia, especially since the kids had left the nest and my mother was no Stepford wife, but Lafayette had always been considered home and with them moving, I was not going to be able to return to the place that I grew up in.

While attending UCI, Irvine was considered “ school home” and Seattle was “home-home;” after all, that is where my boxes, spare clothing, childhood trophies, and parents were. Before graduating, “home” had also been in Osaka, Japan and Montpellier, France. After graduating, I moved into Kevin’s house in Pittsburgh, PA so that we could dance full-time. And then we started traveling. And then it got complicated.

As the hours ticked along from time spent away from home (referencing Pittsburgh), I would catch myself saying things like “I need to go home before we go to the dance tonight” (that location) or “my boyfriend is back at home” (Pittsburgh) or “last week my suitcase exploded when I got home” (anywhere) and they all referenced different places. So where was home for me?

While traveling, the immediate “home” is where my suitcase is. When thinking about how great it will be to go “home” and sit and relax, it’s Pittsburgh. Getting to be home and being taken care of is where my parents are, Seattle. And at the end of this month I’ll get to head back home to see my aunt next week, and then I’ll be in Berkeley.

Home can be anywhere. Home is a place where I can relax and take a shower. Home is where the bed I am sleeping in is. Home is a place where I can stretch in my underwear. Home is the place where I can be me and not have to censor myself. Home is where I make it.

“How do I become a professional lindy hopper?”

(July 22, 2009 – This post has been translated into Korean. If you are interested in reading it, click here. Thank you Moonyoung Kang!)

I am often asked this question when I teach at events in the US, and it’s often by the people who I would least expect.

I really enjoy being asked this question, but I don’t really know how to field it. I can recount my experience about how I started, what I spent my time doing, and skills I wish I had picked up along the way, but I don’t know that if someone had the same experience that it would mean they could become a professional lindy hopper.

Whatever. This is what I tend to say; the content is serious, but it’s said semi-sarcastically (as most of the things I say are):

– LEARN as much technique ASAP so that when practicing, you are building “good” muscle memory vs. “not as good” muscle memory

– SOCIAL DANCE a lot

– TRAVEL to dance. I cannot stress that enough – if want want to go pro, you need to travel. There is so much great dancing going on and you should be there in the thick of it. Get out there!! (Don’t forget to enroll in a Frequent Flyer Program – I like Skyteam, but have membership with United Airlines as well. If you want to go pro, assume you’re globe trotting on a regular basis)

– TECHNIQUE – keep working on your basics. Technique, technique, technique!!!

– CREATE – choreography. Learn to choreograph quickly and work with your strengths. This helps if you want to do a showcase or classic, or are putting jam material together.

– COMPETE – people/judges need to familiarize themselves with you by seeing you. Familiarity breeds attraction, so get familiar!!

– CROSS-TRAIN – protect your tool (your body). Just dancing every day isn’t going to keep you in shape the way cross training will. Lift weights, run on an elliptical, stretch, do pilates, P90x (and look like this), or whatever, but do something other than lindy, charleston, and aerials to keep your body in shape.

– GO VIRAL and get your stuff on Youtube or Vimeo. They are fabulous tools to get you and your name out there. Make sure you label your videos properly; if you have the greatest clip in the universe but people can’t find it, it won’t matter much.

POSSE – get a group together so you travel in a pack. Show up places together and throw down!

– COSTUMES – find something you (and your posse) can wear that will represent you. Find you signature style (i.e. Ninjammerz – all black, white shoes, white tie, white belt)

– acquire a NOVEL SKILL – if you and that group of friends of yours decided you want to put on a show, you’ll need “Spacer Skills”. This is a skill that (hopefully) requires less energy, can be done in a variety of costumes, and creates a breather for the audience. A perfect example: Fatima from the Harlem Hot Shots, creating rhythms while brushing her teeth.

– BODY MOVEMENT – is uber important! Take other dance classes, check yourself in a mirror, dance solo, learn to point your toes, do whatever, but do it!

– TEACH – people will most likely want to learn from you if you’re killin’ it on the social dance floor and on the competition circuit, so figure out what you are [really] doing, and start teaching. Learn to teach, and then people can fly you out places so that you can influence and inspire their scene.

– COMPUTER SKILLS – having web skills will greatly help you out. Get a website together (or blog), keep it current, post videos, learn to edit music, etc

– DANCE – dance with people, lots of people, and have fun!!!!

So yeah, I say something along those lines when I am asked. So all you out there who want to go pro, look at the list every day, then go practice, buy some keds to dance in, and rock it Jack Black Style.