Friday, February 08, 2013

Lindy Hop Challenge - Day 8 - Friday Dance

Day 8: Your favorite instructor.

it's funny, when i first read this, i thought of this dr. who t-shirt - "you never forget your first doctor".  if you're a dr. who fan, this probably rings true for you too...  although i've become fond of the more recent regenerations of the doctor, especially david tennanttom baker is still my first doctor.  :)

ennyhoo, i think the same can be said of lindyhop teachers...  i've said it numerous times before, but paul overton and sharon ashe are/was/always will be my favorite lindyhop instructors to learn "the basics". of course,  i'm biased for sure, as paul and sharon taught me to lindyhop from day 1 (circa 1997) and started me on the long lindyhop journey i'm apparently still on...  :)  in addition to providing a strong dance foundation to build upon, they served as great role models for my short lived teaching career as well. i consider myself very blessed to call them my teachers as well as my friends....

swungover did a recent (well, for the very private paul & sharon anyway) interview with paul here.

it's a shame that there aren't more publicly viewable videos of paul and sharon teaching.... here's a teeny tiny short one.... paul and sharon really exemplified to me, two dancers/teachers who genuinely loved dancing, teaching and lindyhop....  they had clearly been affected and deeply moved by those three things, and had seen the affect on others.... they danced and taught effortlessly - seemingly - but were also challenged and captivated by their students and by the transitive nature of the dance and the community...

they were always encouraging and supportive teachers without being enablers. although they offered to help students to improve, if you didn't improve by the time the month long class was complete, you did not move on to the next class.  it was made quite clear to us students and the rule was enforced.  too often, i meet students, who are lovely, energetic, positive people, but are in dance classes or levels far above their current skills.  and too often, i hear it's because "business is business"....  imho - moving a student up to make room for more students is not good for the student or the dance community...

sharon and paul's passion for lindyhop was also very contagious.  san francisco's lindyhop scene was very lucky to have them as they often brought in the best teachers for workshops.  they also continued to take lessons and teach new choreography that they had learned or new (old) dance variations - the madison, shag, balboa, etc...  paul was always listening to music and challenging all of our perceptions and paradigms about lindyhop relative to music.

i think because their vision and philosophy (and popularity) grew they left the metronome ballroom and started the 9:20 special - where they taught and also hosted a dance event.  they also started the oakland swing dance festival, if i remember correctly.  at one point, after i began teaching, paul also hosted a private weekend intensive workshop with steven mitchell for teachers from the west coast including - meeshi, josie say, chad kubo, ken watanabe, virginie jensen, micah jacobsen, jason christodoulou and myself.  at one point, i think we all thought we should stop dancing and teaching - steven was very critical of all of us...  but, then we all worked together on our weaknesses as well as our strengths...   it was  an elevating weekend to say the least....  they worked with local bands to perform at dance events.  they collaborated with other local lindyhop groups like the ncls to host events and workshops as well...

not sure if this was deliberate or not, but clearly they began to teach and inspire outside of the framework of the physical classroom...   and soon because they were so open to the positive changes that they were causing, they were open to the ripples of change that were returning to them...  and improving and challenging them....  much like lindyhop - a conversation between people - an exchanging of ideas....  hey, it's no wonder to me that the first lindy exchange happened in san francisco...  :)

paul and sharon were tireless teachers...  in addition to teaching at their venues, they traveled to other cities, domestic and internationally to teach, etc...  they choreographed or performed a few times with groups that they created, etc...  they were like planets in orbit, constantly moving...

paul and sharon have moved on to other professional careers and other cities and i can only hope that they look back on those years happily and satisfied with the fruits of their labors....  i hope they return to teaching and dancing lindyhop soon.  i really think the community (ok, me especially...) could use their encouraging presence, creativity, vision and guidance again...  :)

happy friday!!!

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