Wednesday, May 29, 2013

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?

Friday, May 3, 2013

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.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

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. :)
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