Lindy Focus XI – New Orleans Bump

Evita Arce is one of those women that you can never forget. She is charming, bubbly, sunshine, and a connector. She is a choreographer, a dancer, a creator, and an inspirational figure. This year for Lindy Focus, she invited me to perform along with her and Elyse Sparkes. This was the most challenging number I performed in 2012.

 

I had my eye on that dress for quite sometime, so when Evita said we were rocking the turtleneck dress, I was all over it!

I didn’t hit the number, but it doesn’t matter – I had such an amazing time being on stage with those lovely ladies! I am really looking forward to doing this number again somewhere so I can dance my roll the way I know I can. Regardless of that, it was an honor and pleasure to dance along side of these lovely ladies.

How to Learn Choreo off of Video

Originally posted on Jo & Kevin!

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.

Truth be told, I’d much prefer to learn choreography in person, however, most often that is not an option. I’ve had the priveledge of working with other talented, international travelers such as: Nikki and Shesha MarvinMikey PedrozaLaura KeatNick WilliamsSharon DavisAlice MeiThomas Blacharz, and Sarah Breck – to name a few – and more often than not, someone sends a video across the WWW and hopes the person on the receiving end can learn the choreography in full. In my last performance with Alice, I sent her my notes (I will give an example later), a few breakdown videos, and a link to me performing the routine.


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.

  1. 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!
  2. Get a hold of the song. Check Spotify, buy it on Itunes, check your personal music library, or get it from the choreographer.
  3. 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).
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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 :D
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.
  11. 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.
  12. 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.
  13. 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?

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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 :D

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Here is a short list of routines where I’ve had to do this:

Everybody’s Trucking – Choreographed by Sharon Davis
Evenin‘ – choreographed by Nathan Bugh
Blues – Choreographed by Sarah Breck
Shake that Thing – Choreographed by Hot Club Stomp
Honolulu – Originally performed by Eleanor Powell

 

‎”It turns out that the process of working toward a goal, participating in a valued and challenging activity, is as important to well-being as its attainment.” – Sonja Lyubomirsky

Lindy Hop in Genova, Italy

This event was a tribute to how amazing Silvia Palazzolo truly is. The Friday a week before the event was to start, the Sheraton Hotel reneged on their contract and yet Silvia was still able to pull strings to make her event happen. Amazing!

Some more of the details: The Sheraton Hotel in Genova should have been the perfect for this event. Everyone would fly into Genova, cross the street to get to the hotel, stay in the gorgeous rooms (they were really, really nice), and then wander downstairs to take class and go to the dances at night. What made it not ideal was that the Sheraton didn’t have a dance floor, so Silvia bought one. The Sheraton also didn’t have a proper sound system, so Silvia got one lined up. Now, I know what you’re say, “That’s an organizer’s job; they need to make sure there is a dance floor, sound system, transportation, a place to stay, rah rah rah.” Silvia accounted for that, like a great organizer should, but what makes Silvia one of the great organizers is that a week before the event, almost everything she had planned fell apart.

I have no idea how she did it, but she was able to pull some strings and got 4 couples (Juan & Sharon, Nathan & Evita, Kevin & myself, and Mindaugas & Gierdre) a new place to teach classes and found a new night venue on 4 days notice. That’s freaking impressive!! Unfortunately, I don’t know how many of the students who attended knew that this happened, so I am assuming parts of the event just seemed poorly run when actually, it incredibly well run.

Long of the short of it, classes went really well, the students were great, the facilities were wonderful, the dances were fun, The Killer Diller performances went well, and the hotel rooms were lovely.

PUTTING ON THE SHOW

Putting on a show to a live band is fun and slightly stressful. We’ve worked with Roberto, the leader of the Nine Pennies Big Band, before and he’s an absolute pleasure. He’s put together some beautiful arrangements for us and his band has gotten stronger and tighter over the past 3 years.

That being said, regardless of what band you’re working with, you’re adding another layer of uncertainty. For example, our rehearsal time with the band ran later than expected and people were stressing about that (I was one of them). Even though I dig the version we performed to, it’s inevitably different than the one we as a group have been rehearsing to (more of something to take note of…no judgment, just another layer to account for). There are “sound” issue to have to deal with – the sound guy, the sound system, the microphones, etc – and that’s something else that needs to be addressed. Finally, something every performer deals with (unless at the same venue every night), is the floor. Slippery or sticky? Is there anything sticking out that we can trip on? Where’s the lighting set on the floor? Where will the audience be on the floor? And so on…

Regardless of the challenges, having the band is awesome. The most important thing the band does for us is pump out sound and energy that is energizing to both performers and audience members. The music was spot on for us, the tempos were great, the sound was full, and the energy was up. The Nine Pennies Big Band nailed it and I think (*toot toot) so did the Killer Dillers!

Here’s Our Set List:

1. LIVE MUSIC (2:35) Serenade to a Savage – Kevin, Jo, Juan, Sharon, Nathan & Evita
2. LIVE MUSIC Band Segway (with a singer 3 choruses)
3. LIVE MUSIC (2:45) Lucky Numbers – Nathan & Evita
4. RECORDED or LIVE MUSIC (3:22) I ain’t Gonna Give Nobody None of my Jellyroll – Juan and Sharon
5. LIVE MUSIC (4:15) Taking a Chance on Love – Nathan, Evita and Juan
6. RECORDED MUSIC (2:30) Communication – Kevin and Jo
7. RECORDED MUSIC (2:41) Shimmy Like my Sister Kate – Bellboy Routine – Sharon, Jo & Evita
8. LIVE MUSIC (4:20) Living in a Great Big Way into Fascinating Rhythm – Kevin
9. LIVE MUSIC (2:43) Eight, Nine, Ten – Nathan & Kevin – dueling ukes

Here are some photos taken at the night dances: Enjoy!!!

To see some of my (crappy cell phone) pictures from the weekend, click here!

Again, Silvia, you are wonderful, marvelous, amazing, and inspiring. Thank you for hanging in there and pushing to make sure the event went off and for making our jobs as easy as they were. XOXOX

ULHS 2010

I didn’t know what to expect since I haven’t been to ULHS since 2007, but I’ll tell you, it’s magical, and then some.

I’ve had a hard time finding video from the weekend for some reason. If you find a better quality video than the one I have up, please let me know and I’ll repost. If you find more video from the weekend that should be up here, please let me know and I’ll throw it up into the mix.

The music was ridiculous all weekend long and the weather was perfect. The food was good, transportation was easy, drinks were cheap, and the company was as fabulous as expected. I missed seeing the members of Hot Club Stomp, but they were off at various gigs (which is the same reason I haven’t been at ULHS for the past few years). Sosh & Lisa, thanks for taking care of me. Andrew, thanks for throwing down with me. Lindsay, thanks for being all-around awesome.

Let me throw out a HUGE congratulations to Juan & Sharon for winning Showcase and Showdown!

Congratulations to Sharon and Kevin for winning the Slow Blues!

Congratulations and thank you from the bottom of my dancing heart to Evita Arce for killin’ it in the Solo Blues competition!

Congratulations to Bobby Bonsey for his Solo Jazz win. That back flip was ridiculous!

Final Battle

Congratulations to Rainer Rhythm for their Team victory!

Click here to check it out. Yeah Seattle!!

Week 3 Cabaret – Vogue

Last night in the Week 3 Herrang Cabaret, we performed Vogue:

Who is “we”?

Evita Arce and Gio starring as Madonna and the backup dancers were Sharon Davis, Juan Villafane, Michael Jagger, Ilan Dromi, Bobby Bonsey and myself.

Swing, Brother Swing 2010

I must applaud Silvia for putting on such a wonderful event this year. Swing, Brother Swing was originally a boogie woogie event, yet billed as a lindy event, and has finally turned the corner and has become a proper lindy event (thank goodness). I’d say the biggest change has come from the clientele; three years ago there were very few, if any, Italian lindy hoppers, and now they number in the low hundreds. The ex-boogie dancers can’t escape their roots, but the new slue of beginning and intermediate dancers are truly lindy hoppers (in the sense they have no other dance background).

Silvia and Bruno are the organizers of Swing, Brother Swing and put countless hours into turning their boogie event into a proper lindy hop extravaganza. This year had a lindy-only line-up of instructors: Steven & Virginie, Dax & Alice, Mike & Nina, Joseph & Trisha, Joel & Valerie, and all the Killer Dillers: Kevin & Jo, Sharon & Juan, and Nathan & Evita. What a great group! From my perspective, it was fantastic to have my entire team there as well as some great friends. One of the highlights of the weekend was on Sunday night after our late dinner. Mike, Nathan, and Kevin had their instruments out and Nathan and Evita sang along (yup, Nathan does both). Sharon kept rhythm with some brushes; Dax and Sarah social danced; Mindaugas, Alice, and I worked on moves; Juan went back and forth between dancing and watching videos; and some Italians watched the spectacle in awe. The group just clicked and we had a blast! Definitely one of the best late nights I’ve had this year.

So the teaching line-up was solid, and so were the DJs. Silvia brought in Swingin’ Swannee (from Berlin) and Mindaugas (from Lithuania) to DJ when we didn’t have live music. They played some great stuff….stuff I think most of the Italian scene hadn’t heard before. To top that off, we had The Nine Pennies and The Nine Pennies Big Band, with whom the Killer Dillers performed live. They’ve come a long way since Kevin and I first danced to them in 2008. Roberto, the director and composer for the NPBB, did an outstanding job of writing out 9 songs for the show we did on Saturday. Given, he’d written out the score for The Big Apple the year prior, but still….that’s a ton of work!

So here’s the run down of the show. On Saturday, each Killer Diller taught 2 classes, did a double rehearsal, and put on a live 30 minute show to the Nine Pennies Big Band. For us as performers, this was a huge opportunity. This was our first show to a live band in Italy! EEEEKKK!

Some challenges that made the show all the more exciting:
1) We all live in various places and subsequently have very different travel schedules
2) Because of that, our rehearsal time as a group of 6 is extremely limited (6 hours total this weekend. Last group rehearsal was in December for Lindy Focus)
3) To top it off, we have to do choreo via video (eek….what if we weren’t perfect on video? What if we weren’t specific enough? etc.)
4) We were not able to get the music before the show, so we had to assume what we’d be performing to was going to be similar to our recordings
5) When we did our run throughs with the band, not all the members were there, so we weren’t quite sure what the final sound would be like
6) Due to an Icelandic volcano erupting, I couldn’t get back home and get our costumes together. Evita and Nathan had to scramble around NY and find something suitable. Needless to say, they found better costumes that I originally did.
7) During a live show, anything can happen: the band might play at a different tempo than in rehearsal, the solos sound different, costume pieces don’t do what they’re supposed to, lighting might be in the wrong spot, etc.

Knowing that, here’s the show:

Killer Diller Show at Swing Brother Swing, Bologna Italy, May 2010 from Killer Dillers

Yeah yeah yeah!!!

In regards to the rest of the weekend, the food was great, the company was fantastic, the rooms were nice, we had water, the sounds systems worked, the students were great and our translators were awesome. As an organizer, Silvia and Bruno took great care of us, threw a great event, and were all around awesome. Oh yeah, and the Showcase and Team competition were tons of fun! This year we saw significantly more lindy hop!!

xoxo

Camp Jitterbug 2010

Camp Jitterbug Flyer

Doesn’t Sharon look amazing?! I am so thrilled that The Killer Diller’s very own Sharon Davis on this year’s Camp Jitterbug flyer and on the website header: www.campjitterbug.com

The photo on the flyer was taken during her tribute act to Josephine Baker in last year’s Jump Session show. Josephine, being one of her all-time greatest inspirations, has inspired numerous costumes that take up a great amount of space in Sharon’s luggage.

Josephine Baker Banana Skirt Josephine Baker

The 2010 Camp Jitterbug details are:

Camp Jitterbug & the Jump Session Show 2010

Memorial Day weekend

May 28-31st 2010

Seattle, USA

And this year the Jump Session show will feature all six Killer Dillers! Myself and Kevin, Juan Villafane & Sharon Davis, and Evita Arce & Nathan Bugh will all be attending Camp Jitterbug, performing in the Jump Session Show, competing, and teaching some classes! Without a doubt, Camp Jitterbug is one of the greatest events of the year. Don’t miss out!

Here is the trailer from last year’s Jump Session show. If this doesn’t make you want to be there, I don’t know what would: