you are right, it is sometimes hard to commumicate exactly what we mean physically when we
are using just words. sharedweight is good practice for us!
inexperienced was a poor choice of word for the dancers who go to (and sometimes
absolutely prefer) ceilidh type dances to other types (just like some of us prefer
contra). my experience is fairly limited and i did see a lot of stuff that was unfamiliar
to me. but there IS a real difference in that i never met anyone at a club-type dance who
was a rank beginner. so it's a difference experience. and i apologize for the use of
the word inexperienced - my bad.
the references about swinging pretty much refer to the higher-energy swings that i am used
to seeing (my local dances are full of crazy kids). it really has to be a cooperative
effort, but there are a lot of guys who swing fast and hard, and a lot of ladies who have
never been taught that they have to do anything but let the guy throw them around - and so
i hear complaints about dizziness, going too fast, rotator cuff injuries (had a friend to
had to have surgery a few years ago), shoulder and back pain, etc. i think a certain
amount of this comes because of the cross-over these days between the contra dance world
and the swing dance world. fancy figures and aerials, as attempted by swing dancers (and
banned at some contras), kind of morph into contra dancing without much consideration for
the structure of the line and the safety of the people around them. yes, the range of
skill goes from excellent to terrible. unfortunately, sometimes we have to instruct new
dancers how to protect themselves from bad dancers - without, of course, using any of
of course, i demo everything when i teach the class. even if my words may not exactly
make sense to my students, when i SHOW them and also tell them, i can generally get the
message across to anyone who's receptive. for me, in class, the important thing is to
teach them a good way to dance that will be fun and not cause injury.
anyway - interesting discussion, everyone.
barb (who is not beth)
Date: Sat, 3 Sep 2011 10:14:10 +0100
Subject: [Callers] Re Swinging
As I said at the beginning of my post, I apologise for
anything I may have misunderstood. It looks as though I may have not
understood exactly where you were suggesting that the lady should place
her hand. And I still don't understand statements such as "make him
pull her through the swing" and "holding on to the gent a little bit so
that he isn't the only one working during the swing". If you both keep
your own balance and work the swing with your feet, then the upper
bodies should be an effortless, relaxed symmetrical, counter-balanced,
coupling that both parties can enjoy.
I suspect we won't get any further with this discussion
unless we continue it on the dance floor. I am sure you are a wonderful
swinger and I look forward to meeting you on the dance floor somewhere,
somewhen - we vacation in the US every year and visit contra dance
weekends and local clubs as much as possible.
Yes, we do have high-energy contras in the UK - but they are
much rarer than in the US. Yes, there are lots of more sedate swingers
at the local Folk Dance Clubs - many of them are in the 70s and 80s -
and many of them swing beautifully. The regular Ceilidh dancers would
be most upset that you think them inexperienced - there are many who go
regularly to ceilidhs and are excellent dancers. And there is a much
wider variety of swings at ceilidhs, such as traveling swings and
hornpipe swings (when the music is at 80bpm instead of 120bpm the
buzz-step doesn't work - you need to do a step hop and need different
connection), plus lots of stepping.
And across all the different types of event on both sides of
the Atlantic, I generally find that there is a complete range of
swinging skills, from excellent to terrible.
As in the US, there are lots of One Night Stand type events
(barn dances (but often called ceilidhs) at weddings, parties, community
gatherings, etc.) where virtually all the attendees are beginners.
- - - - -
Marianne then said:
"I've found that the most comfortable position for my partner and me is
for us both to have our hand on the other's shoulder blade (that is to
say, on the back rather than the top of the shoulder)."
I know lots of people who find that very uncomfortable - they can't
reach, or can, but only by clamping down the man's arm. And it does,
sadly, mean that a clockwise exit from the swing is dangerous, if not
"Push gently there"
WHY? You have just created a beautiful, relaxed symmetrical,
counter-balance with your partner, the man's right hand is on the lady's
left shoulder-blade to ensure that you stay connected when centrifugal
force increases. Why push? If you push with your back it makes the
other person's arm tired. If you push with your hand, no matter how
gently, it causes discomfort. Why push?
"the woman might have her whole arm draped down the man's with a bit of
tension pressing down"
No, you don't need to press down - it has no beneficial effect and
causes discomfort - as does putting your hand on the side of his arm and
pressing in - something that lots of ladies do - again, no benefit, lots
"but I haven't seen it work well in contra unless the woman is
experienced enough to dance upright and bear her own weight"
You don't have to be experienced to dance upright and bear your own
weight. We have all been doing it since we started walking! It only
becomes a problem when beginners are taught to lean or misunderstand
terms like "give weight". I always start a buzz-step swing instructional
by getting the dancers to practise turning fast alone with a buzz-step,
so that they learn to keep their own balance.
- - - - - - -
Sorry if I sound a bit passionate about this topic, but I
love swinging, and have had so many bad experiences because of ladies
who push, pull, lean, drag, lift, squeeze, strangle, clamp, grip, dig in
or hang off the man! I have had two shoulder operations - I am hoping
that I won't have to have any more!
John Sweeney, Dancer, England john(a)modernjive.com 01233 625 362 &
07802 940 574
for Modern Jive Events, Instructional DVDs and
for Dancing in Kent
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