I’m full of the raging rage right now because I’m coming off the antihistamines and it’s really warm and humid. Last night I wore jeans dancing and I WAS AN IDIOT because it was so fucking hot. So just assume that everything I’m writing at the moment is heavily informed by physical discomfort rather than true curmudgeonliness.
Ok, so today I saw this clip from an event that’s happening pretty much now in the US. It caught my eye because I’m kind of obsessed with leads at the moment. I’m doing lots and lots of leading and really not following much at all. I’m actually having moments of serious confusion when I do follow, because I’m so in the leading zone. In fact, I was in a jam the other night where people came in to dance with me, some leading, some following, and I had a few moments of really strange confusion where I actually couldn’t tell whether I was leading or following at any one time. I was just dancing and responding to the connection I got from my partner. It got even stranger when people came back in for a second turn doing the opposite role. And the partner changes were quite quick, so I got even more confused. It was a very strange moment, a sensation I’ve not felt before. I often have a moment of retuning when I switch between partners and roles, but this time it was as if my body kind of knew what to do, but my conscious word-brain just couldn’t keep up.
At any rate, I was watching this clip just a moment ago and was immediately struck by Dan Newsome, the first lead:
The thing that caught my attention was the way he really listened to the music. He’s obviously really familiar with the type of structures at work in this type of music. If you’ve been dancing for a while, you figure out that swing music is actually very simple. It’s pop music, and the overall structure is quite predictable and constant. There are also lots of recurring elements and particular songs get played over and over again, in different ways. Dan is a DJ as well, so I’m pretty sure he’s spent quite a bit of time listening to music quite carefully. I don’t think this dance is perfect, but the point of the story is not whether or not they’re good dancers, because they are. My point, here, is that Dan does some nice things with the music which I don’t see in any of the other leads/partners in this round of the competition.
What did I like? Most importantly, he relaxes and doesn’t over-dance it with lots of crazy moves. He reminds me of Skye Humphries with the way he’s not massively tense in his body (at least compared with the other guys in that comp), he’s approaching the sort of goosh-into-the-ground that I really look for in a lindy hopper and he’s not over-dancing what is quite a simple, gentle song. I’m talking about this clip right now because it’s just gone up online, but also because I was really struck by the similarities with Skye in this next clip. And no, I’m not talking about their hair colour.
This is a very niggly point on my part, but this is what I’m really interested in when I’m looking at social dancers right this second. I want to see dancers capture the feel of a song rather than just executing move after move after what’s-cool-right-now move.
I actually quite like being able to see this couple working to find the sweet spot. It shows me that they’re actually dancing ‘live’ rather than just phoning in some pre-planned set of moves that ignore the music. There are other dancers that pull off a whole series of shmick steps in that comp, but I feel as though they’re newer dancers, pulling out all their tricks at once, rather than actually dancing to the music and responding to the moment.
So, really, I don’t actually have anything terribly awesome to say about this clip, other than that Dan really caught my eye with the way he responded to the music. And I guess the follow up point to this is that the feel of the music can be expressed through just how tense you keep your muscles. It’s such a difficult concept, one I’m really struggling with, especially when I’m following, so I’m on the lookout for different examples.