Thursday, April 26, 2012

on climbing trees for creative fruit...

(me and chad kubo in san francisco magazine march 1999)

i think i mentioned that i injured my back (somehow) recently...  well, it's been a few weeks now and sadly, i haven't been dancing at all...  neither social swing dancing nor hip hop classes...  per my chiropractor's orders.  :)  i'm healing at glacier speed...  and i'm not handling it very well emotionally - vacillating between despair and rage....  *sigh*  (ohemgee... what if i forget HOW TO FOLLOW...)

the upside (?) of this is that i have been able to catch up on some blog and book reading...  i picked up a copy of austin kleon's steal like an artist at the library.  i was hoping that reading it would help me with my writing & blogging lapses, maybe even my clothing design/sewing, etc...  however, when i read the following passages, i thought immediately about dancing...

"Just as you have a familial genealogy, you also have a genealogy of ideas.  You don't get to pick your family, but you can pick your teachers.... You are in fact a mashup of what you choose to let into your life.  You are the sum of your influences."


"Instead chew on one thinker - writer, artist, activist, role model - you really love....Then find three people that thinker loved....Climb up the tree as far as you can go.  Once you build your tree, it's time to start your own branch."


"Seeing yourself as part of a creative lineage will help you feel less alone....The great thing about dead or remote masters is that they can't refuse you as an apprentice.  You can learn what ever you want from them.  They left their lesson plans in their work."

i don't like to admit it, but often i feel very alone as a dancer....  I learned how to lindy hop & started dancing in 1997 in san francisco. i'm a very shy person so it's very hard for me to open up to new people ( i still can't ask anyone to dance) and although i've been living in chicago for 11 years now - the dance community here is not as familiar as my (now somewhat internationally scattered) san francisco dance family.

additionally, because i started dancing earlier than most current chicago dancers.  my style (often dismissed as groove lindy) doesn't look like the current, more popular & historically authentic style.  it is wonderful to see how the dance community has survived & evolved, but it's almost as if i'm a beginner again....  for example, the speed of the music is much faster than what i'm used to (lindy 101 all over again!) and although i enjoy listening to today's more popular genre of music, i'm not as inclined to dance to it...  there i said it...  my bad.  :(

all of this becomes a challenge for me when i go out dancing...  i'm usually in my living room, dressed up & ready to go & very conflicted and anxious about it...  thankfully, i end up quieting my inner fears (of mediocrity).  i'm SO immensely thankful to all the (old & new school) leads who give this old groovy lady a turn on the floor...  :)  the best thing about the younger dancers is how much of my younger, spirited & eager self i recognize in them...  and every once in a while, i will even meet young'un dancers who actually PREFER groove lindy - always a treat...  :)

just like younger dancers, i still want to exercise my creative process when i dance, but it's difficult for me, oldie mcoldster that i am, to find inspiration as easily as they do, given the same motivations.  additionally, now that i'm 40 and a stay at home mom, i don't have extra spending money on workshops or travel - if i did, i wouldn't have enough time to spare.

it's SO hard to reconcile all these things so i sometimes surrender to my dimming creative vision & contemplate moving on, hanging up my well loved chromed keds & two tone oxfords...

this book however shifts that paradigm for me...  and i really think about my lindyhop tree...  it's not a traditional tree, rather a beautiful and intricately grafted plant....  because although all lindyhoppers learn very similar basics, we come to the dance with a set of skills/experience and then those same skills/experiences translate & mature into something else...  but i gotta say...  i have the bestest & strongest roots like EVAR...  and although i love & respect them deeply, it didn't occur to me to look to them and notice how their lives blossomed for some encouragement & reawakening...

frankie manning - i think it goes without saying that frankie inspires every dancer...  i shouldn't assume that every lindy hopper knows who frankie is, but they should. i constantly remind myself not to complain about "being old" because frankie danced pretty much his entire life... a portion of it on replaced knees & hips... and after a dance hiatus of 20+ years or so.... i'll never forget when i taught with him, being completely surprised at how youthful, strong and solid he was at the age of 85. i miss seeing his smiling face and hearing about what he's doing from the grapevine...  i never tire reading about him or watching interviews & footage of him dancing...  or of others dancing inspired by him...  & clearly, if frankie liked the electric slide & the running man, i should have an open mind to whatever new & questionable dances show up on the horizon... ;)  i'm also buoyed by chazz young, frankie's son, who continues to spread the love of the dance, i'm hopeful that my children will also love the dance as much as i do...  most of all, i remember frankie's comic timing & his infectious laugh... if there's one thing that keeps me dancing, it's laughter - if laughter weren't a part of lindy hop, i really would quit doing it...

dawn hampton - i mentioned in an earlier post of my first encounter with dawn hampton. my admiration of dawn is pretty deep. :) thru the magic of facebook stalking, i know she makes appearances and teaches at the bigger events/camps. i'm pretty sure she still dances at swing 46 when she's not travelling.  recently, her family was featured in a documentary and she published a book, two penny soap opera with her sister.  like frankie, dawn reminds me to keep on sassy dancing, LISTEN to the music, to reinvent my wheel and to indulge my unique & inner diva/ham.  really, the only evidence i need that she consistently does something right - she's always got some AMAZEBALLS leads asking her to dance...

steven mitchell - i remember after an intensive advanced weekend workshop with steven, i almost gave up dancing completely.  he had drilled us relentlessly (basics & choreography) and his critiques of my dancing were challenging but not demeaning.  steven's advice still grounds me.  he reminds me to exercise my creativity but NOT fix something that isn't broken.... to build on the foundations i have...  he was the first teacher to encourage me to try other forms of dance to put my approach to lindy hop into perspective...  the only other form i tried was argentine tango, but i know steven was pushing me to try jazz and ballet classes...  which i realize i am more open to trying now, then i was in my late 20s.  :)  now that steven has moved to the other side of the world, trying to set up a private with him will be even more impossible than it was when we were on the same continent...  so, in the meantime, i'll have to do some research into local jazz/ballet classes...  and fb & youtube stalking him never fails to introduce me to a new workshop or camp to follow and stalk...

sylvia sykes - the extent of my study with sylvia has been in lindy hop only.  i have always wanted to emulate her smooth style and precision following.  sylvia sykes is another one of those follows who always has some freaking amazeball lead following her around... so of course, i want to know all her secrets!!! is it her west coast experience?  maybe i should dip my foot in that pool?  i should probably take her balboa classes too.  it never ceases to amaze me that in all these years, i just never got around to it...  luckily, chicago has it's fair share of talented bal dancers and teachers so, this too will have to change.  :)

david dalmo - so, finally...  10+ years later...  i *think* i could keep up in a david dalmo hip hop class.... i think. back in the day, there was nothing so humiliating as getting brain SPANKED by david in his hip hop class...  *facepalm*  but it's because of him and josie say that i still attend hip hop classes, follow hip hop dancers, choreographers & bloggers, etc... they seamlessly connected lindy hop and hip hop as the street dances they both are...  again, they used a vocabulary that i was familiar with growing up in chicago surrounded by house music.  david and josie always make lindy hop look effortless (one of these days, someone will actually post a video of josie dancing...)   they both encouraged their students to take tap classes...  and again, i kinda ignored (hid from) that advice... so, i have only myself to blame if i don't explore that corner of the world...  something else to aspire to...

paul overton and sharon ashe - there aren't enough words to describe/express my gratitude to paul and sharon for teaching me to dance...  for fostering & encouraging a curiosity and respect for dancing and music...  for introducing me to & learning from everyone i listed above.... and for their friendship....  as dancers, i have always viewed their style as fluid, inviting, cosmopolitan & unconventional.  as teachers, they were knowledgeable, supportive, comedic and above all benevolent...  i hope that when someone dances with me that my dancing imparts/exhibits even a tenth of that goodwill & passion, not just a solid connection and shared dance vocabulary....  :)  it's a shame that there really isn't enough video of them showcasing their dancing or teaching...  i hope that more camps/ workshops invite them to teach more - it would only enhance the dance & the community to have them & their experience present & involved...  like kleon's book, i read paul's two blogs dudecraft & everyday is awesome and i always gain a new perspective that always resonates with me and informs my creative process...

ennyhoo...  i. CANNOT. wait. to dance again...  it's great to sit on the sidelines and cheer all you yahoooos on, but maaaaaan it is also equal amounts maddening! :) in the meantime, i guess i'll spend more time harvesting the fruit of my lindy hop plant to share with some unsuspecting peep on the dance floor - when i finally get there...   i suggest you take a minute to do the same...  :)

i'm kinda curious...  whose roots are you grafted to?

thanks for coming by and reading but go dance now... i'm living vicariously thru you! :)

8 comments:

lila said...

thanks for all these awesome video links. and i hope you heal quickly and can dance again soon!

geraly unite-o'day said...

you're welcome lila! & thank you for the positive thoughts!!

Nikki @ Mommy Factor said...

sorry to hear about you back. hope you feel better soon and back on the dance floor. until then you can dance in your heart :)

geraly unite-o'day said...

so true, thank you nikki! :)

lindyshopper.com said...

It's a shame that Paul and Sharon don't come out to social dance in their new city - please do continue to go out dancing and share your love, knowledge, and style with the newer dancers in your community!

geraly unite-o'day said...

lindyshopper - hi! i really enjoy reading your blog! :) thanks for taking time to stop by & read my post. :) i totally agree, i wish paul & sharon would dance more socially... i think that sharon still teaches in raleigh at a studio... the name escapes me now though... i will keep hoping and nudging... :)

Rebecca B said...

Geraly- I spent weeks in bed recovering from a back injury. That was about 2 years ago. It DOES get better. Eventually.

And personally, I like to see other styles. I just love good dancing, period. Seeing the same damn swivels all the time is disheartening to me. So go you. :-)

geraly unite-o'day said...

hi rebecca! thanks so much for stopping by and reading & for your encouraging words re: my health & my dancing! love your blog! :)

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