Monday workshop in Quebec

Yesterday I taught a lindy hop, blues, and burlesque workshop and it went rather well. I wasn’t as funny as I normally am while teaching, but I taught a lot of new material. I thought the first class was the blues class so I did a slow warm up with them. Needless to say, everyone looked horrified. I then introduced myself and then said “Welcome to this workshop. We’ll begin with a solo blues routine.” Shriek, gasp, OMG! Wait! It’s a lindy hop class!! Hahah, I looked a tad sheepish, but I changed gears just as quickly. Lunou was my follow and we did basics. I tried to make sure everyone could do weight changes through their center, rock steps with their heels up, and then triple steps. I did some figures, but focused on improve. All in all, I think the class went well AND my lead is getting better. Nice.

In the blues class I worked on hip bumps (using the bum to help accentuate the movement), walking through the hips, and really using the legs to make shapes. Lunou has a group of girls she’s working with and all of them attended. I worked on stuff with the entire class that those girls specifically needed to work on, so I hope they can apply that knowledge to their routine they did (this weekend and at CSC). I made up the routine as I went and then had to remember it (eeek!). It changed along the way, but again I think the class went well.

The burlesque class was a riot. I made the assumption that since winter was coming, every girl would have a jacket and a pair of gloves. In fact, most of them did. So I showed them an act of striptease….not the “art of…” but an act. I didn’t claim to be a master, but I did give a general explanation of the burlesque scene as I understand it and told the girls if they wanted to know more, they could look up the ever-so-talented Sharon Davis and would be able to find heaps of info. I felt like I wasn’t discounting myself by saying that, but was also redirecting them to a master of sort by referencing Shaz. So…… I showed them how to unzip their jackets, how to use their shoulders, and how to make similar shapes that sent different messages. After we did that to music a few times, we moved on to glove removal. I showed the ladies six different ways to remove gloves (and having them remove winter gloves was hilarious because of how big they all were) and then put on the music. At the end, the girls dance around, removed a glove, removed their jackets and then posed. Even though the girls didn’t end up removing clothing, some of them had a hard time with it at the beginning, but by the end of class, most of them were sassy with their gloves and jackets!

Thank you Lunou and Port-O-Swing for having me!!

Followlogie 2008

This was a very special weekend for me, perhaps more than most.

Back at CSC, Dominique and I chatted about her putting on an all-girls weekend in Quebec and wanted to know if I was interested in teaching there. I was stoked to be asked. I also found out that I would be headlining alongside of Nina Gilkenson and Annie Trudeau, both of which are exceptionally talented dancers/teachers.

A little while later I needed to come up with class titles. I am very comfortable teaching solo classes, so I figured a charleston class and jazz movement class would be a piece of cake, but I still needed 3 more ideas. I thought teaching a class on choreography would be cool; I didn’t know whether or not I’d have anything profound to say, but I’d at least share how I go about choreographing. Something that was inspiring me at the time were Power Moves. Mostly I feel like the guys dominate in this field, so I liked the idea of working towards something that girls could do….more of a challenge for me, really. Finally, I needed to do something that would be a partnered class, and what do I know how to teach best at that point (partnered)? Connection!! I figured more technique never hurt anyone.

The official class titles and material:

1.20’s Charleston – a routine to ” Putting on the Ritz” by the Pasadena Roof Orchestra. This was a very girly routine that I picture the girls wearing top hats, tux jackets, and something gold underneath. Oh, and let’s not forget the legs!! This was choreographed as a leggy routine!
2. Focus on the Details – this was a jazz class where I taught [what I consider] “proper” jazz technique and some variations. We covered boogie forwards, suzie q’s, and shorty george. We focused on arm positioning, knees, direction of the feet, and heels.
3.  “Things I wish I knew 5 years ago” – partner technique class. There were soooooo many ideas that I had, but in the end I decided to go with bring the girl in on count 1 vs. 2 vs. 3. There were soooo many students in the class that it was a little difficult to teach, but the students were such troopers about the size and the chaos of learning… was great. The leads had to work on how to change their body in order to delay the lead, and I asked the follows to keep their swivel going instead of dropping it on 1 or 2 (what I mean is that follows will often swivel on count 1 and then walk in on count 2). Finally, I told the follows that I wanted them to swivel under their bodies instead of letting their feet get out in front of them.
4. Choreography 101 – picking a song, mapping it out so you know how many 8 counts, where the phrases are, musical instruments playing, time codes, etc. Some key points: don’t start on the first music beat, I prefer shorter songs than longer songs, learn to edit music, if you have aerials, figure out how long they take and what kind of entrance you need and choreograph around it. We unfortunately didn’t get to the dancing, so it was more lecture….but people held in there.
5. Power Moves – we did brushes that looked like corkscrews, but they had African-inspired arms. We also worked on turning and kicking down a line and adding in some fierce arms. This was my smallest class.

So now to back it up a bit. A week before I left for Quebec I was down in Argentina testing out my charleston material and I found out the routine took at least 2 hours to teach. Not only that, but in that 2 hours I didn’t even finish the routine. The attention to detail that I wanted the students to pay attention to was a bit higher than I normally require, but for me, the greatness of the routine is in the details. The day before I left for Quebec (which was about 15 hours after I got home) I finally accepted that I wasn’t going to be able to teach the whole routine. Perhaps someday though!

Before leaving Argentina I had a tiny moment of panic. “OMG, what if I don’t have any material?” I thought to myself. Well, I already had class titles and I knew what I was going to do for them, so that was me being silly. “OMG, what if I draw a blank and have nothing to teach?” I furthered. The truth is that I would have to make something up on the spot, and over the years I have being proficient at “pulling things out of my ass” (pardon the phrase) and would just deal with it. “GAAAAAHHH, what if they don’t think I am funny?” I questioned. Well, I have had a record of going to foreign countries and having all my jokes bomb (ehhem….Ukraine), but Quebec wasn’t that far away from the States and many of the students were sure to speak English….and I knew some French which due to that lack of my ability to conjugate and some caveman like phrases I was bound to get a laugh or two. “EEEK, what if I taught things that everyone already knew?” See freak-out number 2.  So all of the things that freaked me out I actually had under control. Thank god!!

So after my little brain-fart, I realized how freaking cool it was to be invited to do something like this. There really have only been a hand-full of ladies that have been invited to teach at an all-girls weekend, and I was going to secure my name on that list. Whoopie!! I am very honored that I was invited to teach, especially the part of getting to headline next to Nina and Annie. OMG, how freaking cool!!!

By the end of the weekend I was very proud of myself. Not only had I taught all of my classes, but I felt like I rocked them. I had a blast teaching in my pseudo-French and was stoked that so many people came to my class. I don’t know if anyone really knew who I was before I showed up, but they do now. But more to the point, I did it. I did this on my own. This is an accomplishment that I can give solely to myself. I have had help preparing for this moment for the last 2 years or so, but I had the opportunity to step up to the plate and prove that I am a great teacher on my own, and I did it. Toot Toot!!! Pat on the back!! I am so proud of myself!!!

Moving along.

To be continued….