We have all read/watched or at least heard of “Alice in Wonderland”. There is something really special about this heroine with her specific charm and fascinating personality. Alice Meï is that adventurer, but with dancing shoes.
Alice started dancing at the age of 4. By the time she turned 14 she had the honor of interpreting almost every single Disney character from “Dopey” to “Tinker-Bell”. She eventually joined a national dance school for another 4 years where she practiced ballet, contemporary and jazz dance daily. Slowly tiring of these dance styles, she began to look for something new. After a few unsuccessful attempts at African dancing, Flamenco, and kick boxing she eventually met her true love – Lindy Hop!
Alice is fascinated by the art of improvisation and has spread the joy of Lindy Hop and authentic jazz in more than 30 countries through teaching, performing, competing and social dancing. She love the diversity of movement and the freedom of expression that Lindy Hop brings to the world.
Name: Alice Mei
Home base: Montpellier, France
Year you started competing: 2005
Approx how many competitions have you competed in: 7 a year
What styles of dance have you competed in: ballet (’94), Lindy Hop, solo jazz, Balboa, Slow dancing, solo blues
* Why do you compete?
I compete to kick my own butt! Competition gives me something to practice for.
A fun plus: it’s also a great way to get a video album of my dancing at various points in time. I like to see how my dancing evolves over the years.
* Why do you think competition is valuable?
Competition can help you get over your fears, give you something to work for, and helps you practice dancing under stress which helps with your performing. I think videos of competitions also promote our art form and I believe it’s important.
To be honest, I never feel like competitions results should be taken too seriously because Lindy Hop is an art form and depending on who is judging, your scores can be so different. Over the years I have disagreed numerous times with competitions results. There has been people inspiring a great deal who didn’t make it to the podium, but those scores didn’t change what they represent for me or the joy they brought me.
I usually stress quite a lot about competition because it taps into my fear of not being good enough and it can seem sometimes like it isn’t a lot of fun. But when I compare it to the competition I experienced in ballet, I feel like the vibe in Lindy hop is very positive and healthy.
* What’s your personal philosophy on J&Js?
Dance with your partner first (connect with the human being holding your hand), listen to the music, and let that inspire you! I am usually turned off by people doing a lot of flashy things for no reason because I prefer when a partnership is connected to the music.
What I look for in a J&J as a judge is good timing, good body movement, and musicality. I want to see people taking care of each other and enjoying moving for themselves more than for the crowd.
* Do you still get nervous before a competition?
Yes, always. Very.
* How do you deal with nerves before a competition?
Haha, I don’t really deal with it too well. I think doing it over and over makes it a bit less stressful every time. I have been trying to fix my self-confidence for years now, but it’s not an quick and easy fix. Sometimes I drink a bit to relax (not that I’m advocating for other people to do that), but it’s only if it’s a social comp. I would be too scared to forget my choreography otherwise.
If it is a routine/choreography, I have been trying this thing lately before I go out onto the floor. I try to stand tall (I mean as tall as I can) and take up space because it apparently produces some good chemicals and makes you feel more powerful/confidant – it’s a mind trick (and it’s supposedly scientifically proven)! Lastly, I try to think of the routine only up until a certain point and then I have to trust my muscle memory instead of my mental memory. I trust that my body will remember because I have trained the same moves many times… the body is smart.
* What competition have you done that meant the most to you? Why?
I don’t know if I should say it, but I was really proud of how I did in the 2015 Strictly at Snowball because I got 1st place (below) and 3rd place with different partners, and neither of them were my regular partner. So maybe it means that I had something to do with the success ?!?! I feel like I am not a great competitor so I usually thank my partner for any good outcome.
This was also shortly after I stopped a long partnership and as a Follower I wanted to feel like I contributed to the dance for who I was as a dancer and I wanted to feel like I could stand on my own. I didn’t want to be an extension of the Leader anymore.
Also, the Solo Jazz at the 2016 International Lindy Hop Championships because I was in such a panic about doing it. When I realized I had made it to the finals I was surprised, happy, and terrified. I had promised Mikaela I would do the competition to face by biggest fears, but then it all became way too real! It took me 2 months after the competition to watch that video – my best friend had to make me 😀 I really don’t like my dancing there, but it’s a start … there is a lot of room for improvement and that’s a plus.
* What is/was your favorite competition to watch?
I used to like watching competitions more when I wasn’t at the top level because there were more things to look up to. When I was younger, really all the ULHS videos from 2005/2006 were incredibly exciting to me. I couldn’t sleep, they were so good! Oh, and The Silver Shadows – they just were…amazing.
Now I like to watch Classic Routines a lot. It’s like watching people’s new born or something.
* Three pieces of advice to give to the next up-and-coming competitors?
1) Be yourself. Just dance like yourself.Your dancing won’t change that day, so it pretty much depends on who you’re up against.
2) Listen to the music
3) Try to stay cool. Nobody likes to watch people freaking out.
Photo Credit: For Dancers Only (http://d.pr/1fEEY)
* What do you enjoy about judging?
I appreciate when I get to implement my value system and give credit to what’s important to me in the dance; it’s one more way in which I get to shape the dance scene into something I like, beside teaching and performing.
* What do you dislike about judging?
Well, it’s nice to get a seat and not have to fight for a spot on the floor, but I don’t enjoy it as much as when I’m merely watching because I have to compare instead of just focusing on what I like. Sometimes it’s a challenge to watch everyone dance when really you’d love to continue watching a particular dancer/couple rocking out. The other thing that I find difficult is when there are two people/couples who are equally as good but represent the dance in a different way. It makes me struggle to rank them when they are to me equally as good but just different. Like comparing apple and strawberries.
* As a judge, what are you looking for in a Routine?
Good body movement, clear rhythms, maintaining connection with their partner because it makes the movement look better, and see something that I don’t see while social dancing. I really enjoy seeing solo choreography and partnered choreography blend into each other. I like to see two people dance in and out of partnering.
* As a judge, what are you looking for in a Strictly?
Good body movement, good rhythms, and I am not necessarily expecting to see choreography. I like to see two dancers listening to each other and reacting to one another. To be more explicit, elements of choreo are ok, but I put more emphasis on the spotlights being a great social dance with a few tricks specific to that partnership.
As much as I would like to see faster dancing in general. I think people tend to play music that’s way too fast for people’s skills in competitions. I think we need to overall play faster music (in classes and in parties) before we make competitors do crazy stuff to a speed that they can’t handle.
* As a judge, what are you looking for in a J&J?
Please take care of your partner! I want to see an exchange between two people and see what they each have to say. I regret that often times a strong Leader with a weaker Follower is placed higher than a strong Follower with a weaker Leader. I am trying to change that mentality in my judging. Followers, I can see you when you make it work and when you are being musical despite bad choices on the Leader side and I value it highly 🙂
I value good choices.
* What do you think the biggest misconceptions are about routines/Strictly’s/J&Js?
think in routines, people think it’s just choreography and they overlook the technique at times. The technical skills are still essential to making a dance look good even when it’s choreographed. It ain’t what you do it’s the way that you do it!
For a Strictly, I think the biggest misconceptions are that they think they need to do choreography and I just don’t think that’s true. I think it is good to be prepared and to have little sequences but it’s also important to know when to actually do it, if it fits the feel of the music or not and if it matches the format of the tune . I would say, if you are going for a choreography, keep it simple enough so that you can dance it and embellish it on the spot to fit the music.
For J&Js, misconception is that you have to shine really hard instead of connecting to your partner. Honestly, good body movements and good rhythms go a long way. There is a bit of luck involved too, on who you’re get as a partner.
* Three pieces of advice to give to the next up-and-coming competitors?
1) Keep working on your dancing all year and remember that to some extend, the result of the competition says more about the judges than it does about your dancing.
2) Dancing is an art so you can’t take the result too seriously. We all have different tastes and preferences, so please dance “you.”
3) Winning doesn’t always mean you’re the best – it just means that you were the best at that moment in time, for the judges. Remember, it’s not a sport , so make it personal and enjoyable and let the music inspire you.
It’s that time of year again, when many of the instructors at Lindy Focus are working on choreography either for an evening performance or the grand New Years Eve show. Since I, too, am working on learning choreography, I figured I’d share my process with you.
Check us out! Alice was a freaking champ at learning all of the details! We probably got 4-5 hours of rehearsal time in together before our performance, but that is rather unusual. Honestly, if you can get a full hour with your partner before performance time, it’s a blessing!
So moving along. The wonderful, marvelous, and effervescent Evita Arce sent me a piece of choreography to learn and it’s a really fun number. The song is New Orleans Bump by Wynton Marsalis and the dancers in the video are trained, New-York-dancers. What this means is that I have my work cut out for me!
To be specific, I have been sent a rehearsal video that is done to music; I didn’t get any prior notes or counts or explanations or anything of the sort. The reason this might be on interest is that I’m going to learn exactly what’s on the video, including any mistakes the dancers made in the video. Since I don’t have confirmation on the movement, I sometimes have to find the common denominator between the dancers when their timing isn’t together. Fun times!
I’m going to give a rundown of my process learning choreography. This isn’t the only way to do it, but it’s how I am best able to learn/visualize the choreo on a number of different levels.
Download the video so I can watch it forwards and backwards. This helps me break down transitions, tricky timing, or something much-too-fancy to see at realtime. I’m on a mac and I prefer using Quicktime over a different player because I can comb through the video second by second. Suuuuuuuuuper important!
Get a hold of the song. Check Spotify, buy it on Itunes, check your personal music library, or get it from the choreographer.
Breakdown the song. I first break it down into eight-counts so I can see how long it is. I go through it again and put in time codes. I go through it one more time and put in musical cues that can help me identify what is where. Here’s a screenshot of what that might look like.
So what are we looking at?
I have my downloaded Quicktime video (upper left), I’m playing the song off of Spotify (lower left), and I’m writing my choreo down in Evernote (righthand side).
Now here comes the (potentially) difficult part: breaking down the movement 8-count by 8-count. What is helpful for me to know is what foot my weight is on (if you’ve taken classes from me you know how important this is), what my arms are doing, and what count something happens on. I don’t need all of that information on every 8ct, but I need at least one of those three things.
After I annotate a few phrases, I’ll go back through the video and do the choreography with my body. I go through the sections slowly. First I need to know where my body is going, and then I need to learn to string it together with the movement on either side of it.
Once I have a decent idea of where my body is going, I then put the video on and try to dance that section with the music at full tempo.
Next, I break down a few more phrases, dance it, and put it to music. It doesn’t need to be perfect, but something that looks similar to the video
Once I make it to the end of the choreography, I then try to run the routine while watching the video. I’m not worried if it’s a disaster. Again, I just want to be able to get through it.
DAY TWO: Yup, this takes me more than one day if I’m really going to perform it. I put the video on and try dancing it again. This shows me what solidified and what didn’t.
Go back to the sections that I can’t remember or suck at. I go through them slowly to build the muscle memory I am lacking. When I do this, I take my time.
Once I can do it all the way through (again, it doesn’t need to be perfect), I turn off the video and do it just to music. When I find the next set of glitches I work through those (I’m always surprised how many visual cues I’m taking). This is helpful in order to attach the movement to the music. Again, I rework the sections I can’t remember or suck at.
Almost there! Now I need to try it facing the other way! What?? Yes-sir-ree! I have found I can learn choreography faster when I keep myself positioned in one direction in a room. I know at certain points in the music I should be facing a certain direction. If you can get through your piece of choreo while doing the routine facing a different direction, you should be fiiiiiiine.
Last step!! Dancing it in costume!! Perhaps that seems silly, but it makes a HUGE different. Every – do you hear me? – everyprofessional knows they should run their routines in the costume before taking the stage. If you learn the routine in flats but have to perform in heels, you’ll probably be surprised with where you balance is. If you’ve been practicing in one skirt but performing in another, you might not know how slippery the material is (that’s terrifying while doing aerials). That fun thing you’re planning on wearing in your hair? Yeah, that might get knocked off, stab you in the eye, or stab your partner in the eye. The thing is, you’ll never know unless you’ve had at least one run. So do it. Full costume. Underwear and hair pieces. Do it.
So there you have it! What do you think? Ridiculous? Amazing? Unnecessary? Fun?
ADVICE IF YOU’RE CREATING CHOREOGRAPHY TO SEND TO OTHER PEOPLE:
Send the song along with the videos (yes, plural)
Make a video with you performing the piece full out to music (don’t mark it, do it)
If you’re feeling extra generous, do it again but facing away from the camera so someone doesn’t have to transpose
Make a video with you walking through the movement with counts. Remember to say things like “the weight is on the right”, “left arm on 7″, “move downstage starting count 5″, etc.
I’ve you’ve broken down the song, send that as well
Is this overkill? Yeah, maybe, but it’s almost everything someone would need in order to learn somebody else’s choreography. I don’t often have the time to put this much together when I’ve sent videos in the past, but I’m also working with other professionals and can get by with less information. That being said, if I had more videos from the back (or even side view), it would help me out
Last weekend Kevin and I were in Seoul, South Korea and had one of those weekends that I’ll never forget. As per usual we were treated exceptionally well, over fed, translated, inspired, and supplied with Soju. What put this weekend on the top of my list were the performances. I was on a “performance high” during the weekend, and now having watched the videos, I’m getting to relive it.
The teachers performed both Friday and Saturday night. Due to the large number of choreography competition on Saturday, the teachers felt it was best to show their lindy hop numbers on Friday and cabaret numbers on Saturday.
HAhahha!! Did you make it to the end and see BB bounce around while cheering?! Perhaps that is my favorite part!
So why was this performance so special? The audience! Good heavens, when Kevin and I were introduced, it sounded like the crowd went bananas. It was …… touching, and surprising, and heartwarming. Even now, trying to put words to the swells of happiness that rushed over me….. nothing I can write will do it justice. It was ineffable. (Regardless, I will continue. *smile) As we hit our “ready position”, I couldn’t see anything because of the spotlights.
As I looked into the blinding darkness, the crowd continued to cheer. It was an awesome experience not being able to see anything, but hear everything. After hushing them so we could start, Kevin and I danced, and we danced well. As we finished the routine, the crowd erupted again! Gaaaah!!! THIS is what a performer lives for – the roar of the crowd, the cheers, the applause, the noise, and the joy of doing what you love! If I hadn’t felt like I had “made it” before, the experience of performing for the crowd at CSI 2012 put me over the moon.
I watched the video of the performance and it doesn’t do it justice. The crowd was so much more than what was captured on film. Even though we were performing in an enormous space, the audience still managed to fill the room with their energy and appreciation. I am not sure if the other performers felt the same way I did, but I certainly hope so. So CSI 2012…..thank you for being apart of a performance I will always remember.
GAAAAHHHH!!!! I’m thrilled! Alice worked her booty off to learn this routine and I think she was freaking amazing! We. Were. Fabulous.
Originally, Alice started learning this routine off of the video of me performing this solo at Lindy Focus. I then sent her a video breakdown of the first half of the routine, and then again with more detail a week before the event. I don’t know how much time she was able to put in to learning it prior to seeing me – I know it was fewer hours than I put into it originally – but when we first checked in with each other, she solidly had the outline of the routine. We rehearsed for 3 hours on Thursday at a dance studio, an hour on Friday to check the floor, and on Saturday we got an additional hour to rehearse with mirrors. Holy cow, our lines were really together!! I was thrilled.
Costuming: Alice had gone shopping on Thursday and bought a LBD for the performance. On Friday, I went to the same shop and bought the same dress. Not only that, but Alice had black gloves on her, and as fate would have it, Maeva had a matching pair on her. Luckily I remember to bring garters, stocking, and fascinators for us (this might seem like a given, however, I somehow managed to forget a quarter of the things I should have brought with me). Goodness! Everything fell into place…more than I could have hoped for.
Back to the performance. As I described above, the crowd was marvelous. While performing, I rarely hear the crowd because I am so focused on the music, so I didn’t hear them until the end; however, as I watched the video, I was delighted with how the crowd “oooh-ed” and “aaaah-ed”. Oh Korea, how I love thee.
1) Watching the Junior Division!! They were amazing. Videos coming soon!!
2) Showcase Division:
I am kicking myself for not seeing this live (I missed it by 25 seconds). This must have been unreal!! Sitting in the kitchen watching this was still an emotional experience, so I can only imagine what it must have been like being in the ballroom during this momentous occasion. While watching the video, I was screaming and hooting and hollering for them!! I actually shed some tears in honor of their awesomeness. Fuck, this totally touches my heart.
SOOOOO many people have talked about doing something like this, yet they actually put it together and threw down! Uh, the blue balls experience of them doing Balboa instead of swinging out left me wanting more. Thank goodness they finally provided the much needed release by teaming up and swinging out!!
Dargoff showing us the importance of good hygiene. And lemme tell ya, sex sells!
Tips & Tops and their newest routine:
Nothing quite like Man-on-Man + hat-on-hat dancing if you ask me! Well done Gentlemen, you were wonderful.
The ending is my favorite part. I LOVE Footloose!
4) Classic Division:
In my eyes, Tommy & Alice won this competition. Their choreography is stunning, easy to understand yet still complex, exceptionally well danced, beautifully performed, and they both make the other person shine. To me, this is one an example of one of the best partnerships out there today. You two are such an inspiration!
This one knocked it out of the park for me! I’m always super impressed with how Peter is able to dance with the ladies of any size and still retain the integrity of his movement. Uh! Check out his kick ups at 0:37, his spin at 1:09, and how they play off each other at 1:25! And Alice is just amazing! Favorite moments by her: swing out variation at 0:22, her swivels forward at 0:57, and her shapes on her Rocks at 1:43!
This cat has been dancing lindy hop for a year and a half (or something close to that). How ridiculous is he?!!! Uh yeah……wow is right!
Isn’t she fabulous?! Sasha Gross was in the Junior’s Program and she killed it!
8) On a personal level:
Getting 2nd place in the fiercest Classic Division I’ve seen in the Lindy Hop world. I was told the difference in score between Kevin & me and Skye & Frida was only one judge which means there was someone who thought that was a first place routine! Looking forward to seeing the score sheets!
Taking 2nd place in the Solo Charleston contest! Normally I try to prepare by creating routinelettes so I have something to fall back on in case I go blank in a contest, but this year I just didn’t have time to get any together. I spent some time working on my lines using the Big Apple choreography, but otherwise, that was just me dancing (*chin up…..very proud of myself). Would love to see the scores on this one as well!
Having a blast in the Champion Strictly!! We had to battle our way out of prelims and since Kevin and I haven’t gotten to train the way we’d like (he’s been injured), we decided to fall back on the ol’ personality thing. Thank goodness we had Baltimore’s support!! I don’t remember much about the prelims other than doing swing outs across the entire crowd (crowd pumping anyone?) AND having our seamless room take-over thwarted by the ever-so-gorgeous Pontus and Isa. Luckily we didn’t completely run into them…..our awesomeness was just slowed down.
Fortunately, Kevin and I made it to finals which gave us the opportunity to crowd surf the Baltimore contingency!!!! The second half our our second solo starts with The Move of the Weekend, The Chase, and ended with us hurling ourselves on top of the crowd!!! Glory in it’s finest red & blue outfit if I do say so myself!!
9) MOVE OF THE WEEKEND: The Chase
You know the old adage “pink is the new black”? Well, “the chase is the new swing out” according to this weekend. SERIOUSLY, it was a college kids drinking game dream!! I need to watch through 2 more divisions, but I’m confident in saying that there was at least one chase break in EVERY division. I’m even guilty of it myself. I’ll compile a list of people who are guilty of such things and hopefully someone will put a video together of all the Chases from the weekend. *wink wink, nudge nudge lindy scene
10) Last but not least, just being there was a highlight. Getting to see so many friends, having someone buy me cupcakes (thanks Michelle), having some incredible dances, teaching with two of my favorite people, being asked to work with the future of our Lindy Hop community and having a blast doing so, competing against the best lindy hoppers in the world, being cheered on by the community I love, dancing to extraordinary live music, and seeing the fruits of everyone’s labor were a few of the many reasons this weekend was sensational.
Thank you to Tena, Nina, and Sylvia for running this event AND to all of their staff; without you the event wouldn’t happen. I’d also like to give a shout out to all the competitors that came to compete this weekend; you are helping lindy hop continually grow and your contribution is duly noted. A huge thank you to all of the people that filmed the event and put video online for the world to see! Finally, an enormous thank you to everyone in the audience; thank you for coming to support and cheering for everyone as they put their heart and soul on the floor. Baltimore especially, I love you. xxoo
Holy goodness! Look at these staggering 8-inch heel Christian Louboutin designed for the English National Ballet–inspired by ballerina toe shoes auctioned off at the ballet’s “Summer Party” on Wednesday in London. Not sure how many of us could walk in them, but you can’t argue with how spectacular they are.
Agent Provocateur, Moschino, Erdem and seven other designers joined Louboutin in donating couture items to help raise money for the world-renowned dance company. While couture tutus are never going to be anything but insanely beautiful, it’s Louboutin’s jaw-dropping ballet heels that really stand, um, a foot above the rest.
Louboutin reasoned,”“I could not help being inspired by English National Ballet… after all…isn’t the classical dancing ballet slipper the ultimate heel? The heel which makes dancers closer than any other women to the sky, closer to heaven!”.”
What do you think? I’m hoping Sharon Davis or Alice Mei will do a number in them. 😀 Would you even try to walk in something like this?
It was opening night and all the teachers had a little sum’im-sum’im to throw down. Heheh, we might have done the Friday and Saturday show differently had Sharon’s luggage arrived sooner. Regardless, it was a great show! Juan & Sharon opened the Friday night show with Ballin’ the Jack, which looked amazing! Unfortunately, I can’t find video from it. Anyone have it?
Bear Mash Blues
That floor was SO slippery in those shoes, my goodness! Otherwise…..booty!
Hat Trick Tranky Doo
I think this might be the first time Kevin performed this without his buddy Tops. Good on ‘im!
Isn’t she gorgeous! I talked Alice into doing some ridiculous makeup and I’m so pleased she followed through with it (picture on FB). Not that you can really see it here, but still, it’s there. And Tommy!! Omg, he played his part perfectly!
I think Alice went about this routine perfectly. She was inspired by a costume, bought it, found a song, and choreographed something brilliant to it. Her points are gorgeous and lace-removal is stunning.
Brittany and Dargoff being amazing. I love their movement and am totally inspired by it. Again, congratulations to both of you; you were fantastic all weekend. xoxo
Later that night we had the student cabaret. I think I have a performance idea for all the girl instructors for next year. 😀
Dance performance to popular K-Pop songs by “Orange Chocolate” during Cabaret night, Camp Swing It (CSI) 2011 / Korean Lindy Hop Championships (KLHC)
Eeek, I can’t find the second cabaret number. I guess it’s not up yet OR it is and I just can’t read Korean. 😀
Korean traditional fan dance performed by Crystal Lee, at Cabaret night of Camp Swing It (CSI) 2011.
Here are some of my favorite pictures I’ve found on the web from the weekend:
What an amazing show this turned out to be! Even though this was thrown together, it couldn’t have worked out any better. The best part: the audience.
You might not know this, but those fans are significantly heavier than they look and Shaz makes them look effortless. I’ve seen this number a few times and it just gets better and better. Not only does she worked the crowd, but she did a great job of keeping her straps from falling off!
How amazing was that?! It was even better live, if you can believe it. I love Alice’s knee socks, I love the swing outs, I love the rhythms and syncopation, I love their dynamic together, and I thoroughly enjoyed watching the audience watch this dance.
I’ll be honest, I didn’t want to perform after seeing Tommy & Alice do their thing; how could we top that? As Kevin and I stood in our “ready position”, I could feel the energy of the crowd. When the music began, the audience got louder, and every time I swished my skirt, the audience cheered! This has made the list of Favorite Performance Moments for myself, and it was all because of the crowd. I’ve danced the routine better before, but the roar of the crowd was sensational!
G-dang it! They are bloody fantastic. I find their movement to be super-inspiring and their shapes and lines make me want to wiggle (that’s a good thing)! Well done you two; you totally earned your stripes! It was a pleasure to perform along along side of you.
Sharon choreographed this piece for Rock That Swing (which I’m dying to see but hasn’t been posted yet) and I think it’s a fab little piece. We all were super-sucking in rehearsal, but managed to pull it together for the show. Yeah us!!