Friday, December 14, 2007

the importance of dancing charleston...

humor me, i'm thinking out an argument i plan to make tonight. if you don't dance, you might want to skip it.

the ksda has its teachers meetings about once a semester to hash out the schedule and discuss any major changes to make. last time, we went to a schedule where a typical month of beginner lessons is one week lindy hop (1.5-hr lesson), two weeks six-count (45 min), and one week charleston (45 min).

last time around, i voted against going to this schedule -- our previous incarnation was two weeks charleston, two weeks lindy hop, two weeks six-count, all beginner lessons at 45 min. i mostly regretted the disappearance of 1/4 of the intermediate lessons. but based on what's happened, i now have totally different reasons for wanting something different.

as a teacher, i'm not too attached to any particular schedule. not having two weeks in a row to reinforce lindy hop has meant that almost none of the beginners attempt it on the floor, and i can't see that the 1.5-hr lessons are making enough difference to justify not having an intermediate lesson on those nights. those are reasons too, but the huge problem for me is this: the scene's getting slower!

first off, i love to dance fast. especially fast lindy. while a lot of swing dancing is as much social as skill, and while i can find ways to challenge myself artistically at every speed, fast lindy is absolutely exhilarating -- it's the one place where i get seriously mentally and physically challenged, where i'm forcing myself to work simply by choosing to dance.

as a DJ, i adore playing nights we teach charleston. all of a sudden, people who had never danced a step can keep up with 180 bpm no problem, and pushing it even beyond that won't make too many people sit down. otherwise, in knoxville, sometimes, depending on the crowd, it's hard to get much beyond 150 bpm without losing most of the dancers. and once there are only two couples on the floor, i can't very well play the even FASTER song i had lined up!

now, theoretically, six-count single step (=east coast swing=ECS for my purposes...) does the same thing. not even theoretically -- anybody remember the late 90s? however, while six-count triple step and charleston and lindy hop all blend easily together, ECS does not. thus, whereas if you get a floor full of beginners and beginner intermediates capable of quick ECS, they'll likely stay in ECS... whereas the ones trying charleston at a higher speed might -- just might -- throw in a couple swingouts. which is how one builds up the capacity to do fast lindy -- by doing it!

so teaching more charleston and less six-count swing in beginner classes serves my personal interest of wanting more people who can dance fast in a more complicated manner. it serves a public health interest; if lindy hoppers like me are skipping the gym to make time to dance, we ought to get a fine workout. it's not going to hurt the social scene -- people seemed to get just as much kick out of it when we were teaching equal parts charleston and six-count. (i got tickled pink when i hurt my right shoulder last summer and had a beginner shrug and say, "at least it wasn't your left!" he was thinking of side-by-side charleston as THE basic, thereby entailing more left-hand involvement than right for the follow.) plus, it gives the DJs more freedom to rove the range of tempos and play diverse music, and that ought to keep even the most advanced of advanced dancers more entertained.

i've tried the argument out on mats and dan. unfortunately, they agree with me, so no real testing of the reasoning. fingers crossed, and heading off to the meeting... (ideally, i'd like to try every other week rotating a 1-hr intro to either charleston or lindy... but my chances of getting that are pretty nil!)

No comments: