Teaching Follows to Swing Dance

Chris and I have had a couple opportunities to teach Balboa and Lindy Hop recently, and we’ve gotten very gratifying feedback on how well we teach together as a team – especially how much we work with the follows in class. Chris gets as much credit for this as me, because he’s very conscientious about making sure the follows have material to work on. I’m just a loudmouth and make sure I get heard in class. :)

Photo courtesy of Dave Welch at Photos With Class

Because of the nice response from our students, I’ve been thinking lately about our teaching partnership. Of course, we aren’t perfect and are always trying to improve on this ourselves, but these are the major points I see as critical in giving the follows an equal education.

1) Stop seeing the follow as the less important member of the team. To teach follows effectively, both the leads and the follows must respect how important their role is in partner dancing. If both teachers model this behavior and outlook, the students will hopefully feel the same way.
Something as simple as the leader-instructor introducing the follows’ styling, and showing genuine enthusiasm for spending time on the topic in class, will help balance the roles.

2) Spend enough time preparing – together. The follow-instructor must be clear on the class material in order to participate in actually teaching, not just dancing. I suspect that when the follow-instructor isn’t contributing to teaching, it’s usually because she doesn’t know what the leader-instructor is going to demonstrate next. She’s trying to figure it out along with the class.

3) While planning, pay attention to whether the moves are lead-centric or follow-centric. Try to balance the material with different moves or additional styling.
4) Teach the Skills needed when following. This might include where to hold your arms, position your weight, or different footwork that makes a move easier. This is especially important to remember when teaching Advanced classes – teaching the nuances of Following Skills changes an Advanced class from “a bunch of choreography I can never use after I leave class” to “now I’m a better follow!”.
5) Sometimes a class will be at a completely different level than the material planned. So go with it! Even though you’re teaching off the top of your head, still try to address the reasons why you make certain choices as a follow, not just the mechanics of how to execute the move.

What other techniques do you find helpful for effective teaching of both roles in partner dances? As a student, what do you find helpful, or dislike?


The Bletchley Circle

Are you watching The Bletchley Circle? I’m LOVING this show – in fact, my husband walked in the room when a commercial was playing for it, and he asked if they made it JUST FOR ME. :) It’s a murder mystery thriller set in England during the early 1950’s, and centers around a group of women who worked together code breaking at Bletchley Park during WWII. 7 years after the war there’s a serial murderer attacking women in London, and the police are clueless where to start hunting. Unbeknownst to the police and behind their husbands’ backs, these 4 women work to find the murderer.

This won’t be a surprise to any of you, but I’ve got a thing for historical fiction. And I also love cozy* murder mystery stories. The thing is, I don’t love period shows and movies and books just because they’re set in the past — for example, I’m barely tolerating my way through Mr. Selfridge on Masterpiece right now (this show about the drama of shopping is kind of setting my teeth on edge). But The Bletchley Circle isn’t just surface drama, it digs deep into these women’s lives and roles in their post-war society and explores the issues without being melodramatic. These women are concerned about finding a killer, but *we’re* concerned about the lack of gender equality in their world.
The Bletchley Circle airs on PBS (on my station it’s 10pm after Masterpiece), or you can watch it online here. It looks like they’ve already taken down Episode One from the website, but I’m sure my enterprising readers can find a way to see it. Or knowing PBS, it will air again, and again, and again…
*a “cosy” mystery is a quaint mystery with an amateur detective solving the case. Miss Marple is the ultimate cosy heroine.

Haul of Shame – April NSB Roundup

I failed pretty miserably at my Clothing No-Spender Bender for April. You see, when I decided to do this, I forgot that I was planning to go to a friend’s vintage sale. Or maybe I was really in denial about it, and didn’t want to recognize my lack of self-control (sometimes it’s easier to fail, right?)

But the good news is, I got some cute stuff! I’m not a fan of “haul posts”, because looking at others people’s shopping is kind of lame – and this is actually a confession, not a bragging post. Because even though I thought I was being careful in what I brought home, it’s still overwhelming me. These clothes are hanging in my living room, where this rack has been taking up space for several weeks. Weeks! I need to do a few minor repairs and cleaning, and then find these items a permanent home. I finally have a deadline though – we’re having people over on Saturday, so I need to get these things out of the living room by then.

Haul of Shame
40s purse
50s plaid suit
50s suit jacket
40s acorn sweater (actually, no shame on this one. I LOVE it.)
60s floral dress
40s white embroidered dress
2 fur stoles
1 fur muff

On the bright side, I didn’t buy any other new clothes, and I didn’t even browse online or in stores. I weeded out my closet a little but still need to drop things off at the thrift store. And I lost a pair of shoes at a dance event, so I’m one pair down (good shoes that I wore all the time, but I’m not going to replace them right away). Oops!
Two more months to go! And I don’t even mind – and I’m pretty sure I’ll do better next month. :)

Swing Jam at the Rendezvous – 1938

I recently looked through some of my photo files, and found a cool photo I hadn’t shown you!
This photo comes from the 1938 LOOK Magazine spread about the Rendezvous Ballroom (posted here), and it shows a dance jam. Roy Damron is the guy in the middle doing the splits, and a couple of his friends are in the crowd. And do you recognize the couple dancing in the upper right (white jacket, white dress)? That’s none other than Hal & Betty Takier! Oh, what I’d give for a little video footage of this jam. :)
Photo from LOOK Magazine – August 30, 1938

No-Spender Bender

I’ve decided to go on a Clothing No-Spender Bender for the next 3 months – I started on April 1 (no foolin’!) and will go until June 30. That means no clothing purchases of any kind during that period – no modern day-to-day clothes, vintage clothes, shoes, accessories, etc. I have more than enough clothes in my closet, and I’m actually looking forward to thinning it out during this period!
As with any No-Spender Bender, I get a couple exceptions – 
1. In June we’re going to All Balboa Weekend (hurray!!) and we’ve planned time for checking out the Cleveland vintage shops – specifically, we’re taking a flight that leaves stupid early in the morning so that we have shopping time. All spending rules are off on that trip, but I trust myself to not go crazy.
2. I might need a new pair of daily/work shoes. I’ll try to make do with what I have, but I’m allowed to buy something new if I need it. Dance shoes are NOT allowed! 😉
3. Undies etc. – again, I think I can get buy with what I have, but I’m allowed to buy something new if I need it.
I’m still a little undecided if sewing and fabric purchases are off-limits or not. I’m definitely not buying anything for the stash, but I think it’s okay if I’m going to use it immediately.
I’m really excited about this! I want to use the next few months to organize, save some money, and rediscover some pieces I haven’t worn in a while. And since I won’t be hunting for deals on Ebay and Etsy, I’ll have more time to work on that!

Dustbowl Jeans – HSF #5 (Peasants and Pioneers)

Last week I finished my entry for the Historical Sew Fortnightly #5 – I’m falling further and further behind! Whoops. I’m taking off for the next couple challenges, maybe I’ll catch up then. Or not. 😉 Either way, I’m still glad to be part of this group because it’s helping me focus on certain projects that have been in the works for way too long!

This entry is inspired by the 1930’s Dust Bowl, which seemed to be a popular theme for this task. I’ve been wanting some vintage-y jeans for a long time and did the pattern work for these last summer, and I plan on living in them until they’re in tatters (which will make them even more “authentic” ;). For this outfit,  I paired them with a feedstack print top for a good 30’s look.

The Challenge: #5 Peasants and Pioneers – As wonderful as making pretty, pretty princess dresses is, the vast majority of people have always been poor commoners, whether they were peasants working the land, servants in big houses, or (later), pioneers carving their own space in new lands. This fortnight let’s make something that celebrates the common man.

Fabric: Lightweight Denim

Pattern: Wearing History’s Smooth Sailing Trousers – modified to be flat-front, and added patch pockets front and back

Year: mid-1930’s

Notions: Thread (blue and contrast yellow), metal zipper

How Historically Accurate is it: More “inspired” than accurate – a few women wore trousers in the 30’s, but jeans like this were really still menswear. The fit is altered to have a higher crotch (not period correct, but much better for movement.) And I used a metal zip instead of my standard invisible, but a button placket would be even better.

Hours to Complete: Maybe 3 for patterning, 10 for sewing & fitting, and 4 for redoing the back pockets several times. So at least 17, and that’s a conservative estimate.

First Worn: Dancing at Atomic Ballroom last Friday

Total Cost: ~$20 for fabric, $5 for thread and zipper


Regency Reticule – HSF #4 (Embellish)

I’m racing to the finish with this challenge, slipping in this blog post at the 11th hour! I’ll try to do better with my next one. For the Embellish challenge, I decided to finish an embroidery Regency reticule (drawstring purse) that I started at Costume College 2011. (Soon you’ll start noticing a theme with my HSF projects – I’m trying to use as many UnFinished Objects as possible!)

I love this project – I had wanted to learn embroidery for a long time but never found a book I liked on it, so when Beginning Embroidery was offered as a class at CoCo, I jumped at it. The purse is cute and easy to make, I love the off-white and green, and I’m a sucker for initials.

I embroidered both side of the purse so that I could have more practice with the stitches, and I think that was good – it wasn’t until halfway through the second side that I could pick up the project and start right in with the handstitching, my hands remembering what to do on their own.

The Challenge: #4 Embellish – Decorations make the historical garment glorious. Whether you use embroidery, trim, pleating, lace, buttons, bows, applique, quilting, jewels, fringe, or any other form of embellishment, this challenge is all about decorative detail.

Fabric: Silk Dupioni

Pattern: Embroidered Regency Reticule: A Kit for Beginners by Catherine Scholar

Year: 1810-1815

Notions: Embroidery floss, Tassels, Cording

How Historically Accurate is it: Good enough for me! As far as I know, slubby silk dupioni was considered inferior quality at this time, but I think it existed. I think the trim has rayon and/or poly, and the bag itself is 100% machine sewn – EVEN the one visible seam. (*gasp*)

Hours to Complete: Many good hours spent in front of the tv, 2 or 3 to make the bag.

First Worn: Maybe I’ll use it at Costume College this year? No other Regency events on my horizon.

Total Cost: The class and kit was $20 or less (can’t remember) — a STEAL!


The Great LA Air Raid – 2013

Forgive me as I’m still catching up on events from last month! February was a short month, but a busy one. A couple weeks ago we attended my favorite event of the whole year – the Great Los Angeles Air Raid of 1942 at Ft. MacArthur. As you can see from the line up of sunglasses below, this year was especially gorgeous – I didn’t even wear my 1938 coat because it was so warm, darn it.
I wore an oldie but a goodie – I made my dress a few years ago for the Air Raid, and I think I’ve worn it at least 3 times to the event but never got any really good photos. It’s wool crepe with long sleeves, so it keeps me warm on the beach in February, but is too warm to wear to anything else.
I had a bit of a panic attack over my hair, which is too short and cut wrong for 40’s (First World Problems, I know). I got a beret, slapped some feathers and a brooch on it, and did some curl fluff around the ears – turned out rather okay! whew.
Rachel, Ashley, Lauren, me, Cait, Rusty
Overlooking the Bluff

With Cait

Michael and Cait – I had more fun editing this photo than any others. Aren’t they smashing?
the always adorable Rachel
This star was only about 2 feet off the ground, so getting the photo was pretty funny. :) The boys nearby thought I was crazy when I announced I “needed a picture with my head in the star”.
Another Los Angeles landmark, the Griffith Observatory.

Me and Netta

Katharina www.Facebook.com/GoForKatMakeup
Jealous…that’s all I got… 😉
Chris was running around, getting ready for a dance performance, 
but I grabbed him for a couple photos throughout the event
5pm Flyover
Morgan in his grandfather’s uniform

with Sharlene and Heather, a couple of my amazing dance girlfriends
Before and After
View from the Dance Floor

Rocky Mountain Balboa Blowout 2013

After years of not traveling further than San Francisco, all of a sudden last year Chris and I decided to leave our bubble and start traveling to dance events – I left one job with over 2 weeks of vacation time saved up and realized that not using it was the dumbest thing ever (yes, they paid me out, but it wasn’t worth it). We’ve been invited to teach at several out-of-state events in this last year, and we love teaching, meeting new people and seeing a few sights, so we’re trying to take advantage of as many opportunities as we can. And now that we’re meeting people who live all over the world, we need to keep traveling so that we can see (and dance!) with them.

Last weekend we went to snowy Denver for Rocky Mountain Balboa Blowout. Now, Chris and I were both born and raised in Southern California, and we are NOT built for snow. I went to college in Iowa, but that was 10 years ago now (yikes!) and it was a small town and small campus so I didn’t have to deal with a car. So of course the first time we venture out to Denver, the town is hit with the biggest snowstorm of the season!

We were prepared for cold weather, but I forgot how darn WET snow is. I SO did not bring the right shoes – I only had one pair of flats with me. 7-Eleven bags to the rescue!

But that said, we still had a great time! RMBB is a fab event – we always had it on our list of events to go to, sooner or later. The music is great, the venues are pretty, and good/NICE dancers always turn out. We taught two classes (advanced Balboa and LA Lindy Hop) and I was in 2 contests – just the right amount of obligations for a fun weekend away. (Teaching and competing *are* fun, but sometimes you don’t want to keep an eye on the clock.)

Here is video footage from the two contests I was in – enjoy!

Open Strictly Balboa – 
Chris & Beth, 1st Place
(For my family members who only want to watch our spotlight, that starts at 9:52 😉

Invitational Jack & Jill –
randomly paired with Andreas Olsen, from Sweden, whom I met only the previous night!
(Andreas and my spotlight starts at 5:08)

Big thanks to David Bradford for the video footage and for the great dance we had! :)


Floweruary the Last

I knew this already, but I’m REALLY bad at daily challenges. :) I kept up Floweruary until the middle of this month, but I realized I’m not a very flowery girl, and I felt weird taking photos of repeats. Oops! So here’s the final installment – maybe I’ll stock up on flowers before next February (but probably not).

Clockwise from Top Left:

Floweruary 8th – tiny flowers on a hat pin. And sushi.

Floweruary 9th – listening to a book while Chris is at work. Then off for some dancing!

Floweruary 13th

Floweruary 16th – Air Raid!

Floweruary 14th – Valentine Candy and a fake Ivory rose ring

Floweruary 11th – Yellow Fakelite Rose Earrings

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