This weekend at Lindyfest, Kevin and I compete in the Invitational Draw competition, were interviewed by Ryan Swift’s Inside the Dancer’s Studio along side Mikey Pedroza (video coming soon), but he and I also debuted our new routine! Check out the videos below!
Jo and Mikey at 2:54 (3rd place).
Naomi and Remy at 4:35 (first place).
Alice and Jon at 9:40 (2nd place).
Kevin and Laura at 11:02 (4th place)
The Floor Cleaning Routine 😀
Another highlight of the weekend: I was given the opportunity to emcee a competition! I was asked if I could help out as both Peter Strom and Jon Tigert were in the Invitational Swing Dance Battle Finals. I recommended Kevin as he’s done far more emcee work than I (and knew that he’d do a great job); however, it sounded like it was a great opportunity to have more female representation. Eeeep!!!
I was hesitant to accept, but I figured it’d be a great opportunity to try something new AND I had a great team of people that would help prep me.
You can only hear me a little bit – thanks to some very clever editing – but fortunately for me, the contest was about the music, the competitors, and the dance! I’m honored I was given the opportunity and that so many staff members took the time to walk me through the script. Thanks Team!!
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
Gaaaaah, I love this routine. It’s beautiful, simple, and classy. Mikey, thank you for choreographing something so lovely. Laura, it was a pleasure performing along side of you. SF Girl Jam organizers, thank you for creating an event where two gals can dance with their gams out!!
Throughout February and March, Kevin and I created two separate routines for students at Wednesday Night Hop and the 920 Special. The goal of the classes was to perform the routine at 920’s annual Open House, battle for Lindy Hop World Domination, to the cheers and adoration of hundreds of friends, family, visitors, and to inspire our dancing community. For most of the students, this was there first-ever performance. Not only that, but many of them have been dancing less than three years!!
What a fabulous job everyone did on Thursday night! To all the students: Thank you for hanging in there. Thank you for believing in yourself and sticking with you. Thank you for rehearsing and coming prepared. Thank you for your dedication, kind words, for serving as an inspiration to Kevin and me, and for adding to the lindy hop legacy.
Some favorite moments from this truly inspiring weekend.
Kevin and I kicked off our weekend with a little bit of “Shake that Thang!”
The Atomic Cherry Bombs were sexy as hell! I think it’s a great video of the performance, which means it must have been that much more incredible in person.
Hat Trick Initiation
James Bianco & Irina Amzashvilli were initiated into the Hat Trick Club this weekend. They are now members of the League of Extraordinary Hat-trickers.
This is one of the best versions of this routine I’ve seen them do. Sure, there were a few little flubs, but honestly, they freaking hit it. The crowd was awesome and Tips & Tops were men of legend. Well done men!!!
1st Place – Augie Freeman & Irina Amzashvilli
2nd Place – Conrad Friesen & Sarah Stembridge
3rd Place – Andrew Jose & Alice Pye
Yeah!!! Lindy Hop has a future!! I was so impressed by how good everyone was in Orange County. Good heavens, those cats swing! The quality of their movement and swing outs assures me that lindy hop will continue to grow and thrive. Thank you to all the competitors; all of you won over my heart.
1st Place – Peter Kertzner & Irina Amzashvilli
2nd Place – Stephen Sayer & Chandrae Roettig
3rd Place – Jack Chen & Brittany Calavatti
I freaking LOVE the concept of 30-Second Showcase! And seriously, check out what people came up with. Love it.
1st Place – Conrad Friesen
2nd Place – Matt Richey
3rd Place – Sam Chan
Hahah, this one looks a little bit like a Jo Hoffberg show reel, but really, I just got lucky that the top three leads in the competition picked me as their follower. Fabulous job everyone!!
Unfortunately, I was in rehearsal during this amazing feat of Hat Tricking, but it was sooooooooo freaking awesome I had to post it. About a year ago, Tips and Tops had a dream were planning on performing the Hat Trick Shim Sham while at Lindy Focus this year, but when they realized that all their buddies were there, they knew it was time to take the performance to the next level. Here the eight of them are in all their hat tricking glory!!
From left to right the performers: Tin Tin, Taps, Tips, Toodles, Tops, Toes, Targoff, and Tubs.
How awesome was that?!!! This tip-top team tricked their way into the hearts of many this past weekend. What I enjoyed most about this performance was seeing the individuality of each performer and how well they all worked together. On top of that, I really liked how the choreography was modified to best use the number of performers. Neato Gang!!
In case you want to learn how to hat trick shim sham, you are in luck!! Here are the first two (of twelve) videos to get you started:
Word on the street is if you want to be initiated into the group and get your own terrific nickname, you need to learn the routine and perform it at an event (make sure to have video to prove it). I can’t confirm this, but that’s what a little birdy told me!!
I needed to put a performance together for when I was in Greece a few weeks ago and I was thinking about doing my old fan dance from Lindy Focus VIII. After some thought, I figured I should push myself to come up with something new, something better. Somehow I decided that a drunken striptease would be the way to go, and who better to help me out than Kevin!
After performing the number in Greece, I figured I was brave enough to perform it at Lindy Focus X. Here is me being as silly as I can be during opening night!
The great thing about “acting drunk” is that it covers up a lot of the flaws in the dancing 😀
I LOVE performing this number. It’s unlike everything else I do and have done. Getting to strip down to my skivvies has always been a dr……..what am I saying?!! It was nerve-wracking as all hell, but it was a blast. I figured of all crowds, this would be one that could appreciate my silly sense of humor. I think what I like most about it is that I get to be incredibly silly! The dancing is by no means spectacular in this, but the “acting” was really fun to do.
Some photos from the show:
Thank you Jesse Keener for taking some awesome shots of me!! xx
Now it’s time to talk Costume!!
The black thing with the fringe on it….I found that at Red Light in Seattle and it fit perfectly. It was just a black shell, so all the accoutrements that you see were added after the fact (huge thanks go out to the sensational Miss Indigo Blue). I played with the idea of having ugly underwear on at the end (so not only do I come home drunk, and slightly useless, but I have Laundry Day undies on ….hahahha), but Kevin vetoed that idea.
The nude slip thingy was also acquired at Red Light. I found some diamond stickers that I put onto the front so there was some sparkle to the costume.
I bought the skirt from Betsey Johnson two years ago and it was worth every penny!!
I borrowed the scarf from my mother.
The gloves came from Amazon and are cheap, satin gloves. I found some fun heart-shaped jewels and glued them on the side of the gloves and added a tassel to the end.
The jacket came from Macy’s this March on super sale. God, I love that coat!
The black hair flower is from H&M and I bought it less than a week ago.
And there you have it! Hope you enjoyed the ridiculousness of it all 😀
I think this is my favorite version of this routine captured on film. Juan & Sharon nailed their solo and I really enjoyed what we all did in the background. Tommy & Alice were studs, as always, and skated their hearts out! I was SUPER happy with mine and Kevin’s solo and couldn’t have hoped for better energy from the crowd. Maaaaaan, the crowd was fantastic! I LOVE you Korea!!
And small note, tooting my own horn. Check out my jazz! I’m am really happy with my movement and how I complete my lines throughout the routine. Yeah, I miss some stuff, and go all fa-fa-fa-funky on the Tango, but otherwise, I have great lines. There, I said it. 😀
Originally, this was going to be the finale of the show and only the Killer Dillers were going to perform it, but there was a last minute decision made to add on Tommy & Alice, William & Maeva, and Shesha & Nikki. I’m really glad we did it with everyone because I think i was a ton of fun, even though rehearsals were….slow going 🙂 That being said, I love that all the girls are in some version of red, Kevin had the BEST floor slide anyone could have hoped for, and I was happy with how Kevin and I did our solo. We miss connection near the end of the routine (perhaps you can’t even see it) and so do William and Maeva, but it doesn’t really matter because we still ended the routine gloriously!
We spent a little bit of time deciding on whether we do two solos each or Juan & Sharon do two and Kevin & I do one and ended up having J&S do two. They really wanted to do their new aerial “The Dutch Cupcake” so they used the third solo to showcase it. Personally I’m not thrilled with how Kevin and my solo went, for various reasons, but otherwise I think the performance went fine.
What do you think? Which is your favorite version?
This was a ton of fun for me to do. It’s been 5 weeks since I’ve performed a jazz routine, and before that, man, I couldn’t tell you when the last time was I performed jazz.
Really, and truly, the last time we are performing “Communication.” We wanted to have a new routine by this date, but Kevin’s been injured the last 8 weeks and haven’t been able to train, so unfortunately, we didn’t have anything else together. That being said, it sounded like the Greeks were super happy to get to see it live. Thank you guys, SO much, for being so enthusiastic about the routine!
The floor was a little…iffy in some place. 😀
Even though Kev missed some of the elbow catches in the beginning, he nails them at the end! Love when he catches the hat on his face and puts one arm/finger in the air telling the crowd that he nailed it!
Two couple version of Sharon’s awesome routine 😀 I’m going to do a post dedicated just to this routine shortly.