Update: Partner for ILHC

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Many people read and shared my post about my search for a partner for the International Lindy Hop Championships. I was slightly overwhelmed by the response.

I had dozens of followers email me to say that would never have the courage to ask publicly for a dance partner. I received the most thoughtful emails and Facebook messages from male and female leaders wanting to push their dancing and declaring their willingness to train and put some art out there in August. Some sounded like job applications (which was surprising) and some caused me to tear up from their thoughtfulness and kindness.

And where did I get too…
1. I had several offers from some leads I LOVE dancing with and some good conversations about working together.
2. I thought about pursuing a Pro-Am because it would challenge me to work on my own dancing and get expert input.
3. I thought really long and hard about what I want to offer the lindy hop community and what my strengths are in the short to medium term and beyond.

But it looks like I may not going to go to ILHC this year and even if I did, I’d probably only do the Jack and Jill and Strictly.

The money, the time and the resources I would have put into ILHC this year went into securing my future in a country and city I love.

When you want to live somewhere and don’t have the legal grounds to stay beyond are a certain time in that place you feel constantly ill at ease. Unsettled. In flux. I spent many hours trying for a goal that seemed wild and somewhat unrealistic. I spent more money then I expected, more time then I expected and missed a flight or two in the process (talk about #lindyhoplife).

I earned an Exceptional Talent (Promise, really) visa and it was for lindy hop. It gives me 5 years here in England and counts towards residency, if I want that. It gives me options and choices. It also solidified how much I love this community and the sense of ownership I feel to challenge my personal dance practice, to build my skills as a dancer and teacher and to create a pathway that suits me.

If I make it to ILHC this year, it will be a year of reflection and celebration. If I don’t, you better believe I’ll be there with bells on next year with a posse of my best friends and most inspiring colleagues from London. I just thought an update was in order especially since I felt so very supported. Thank you friends for supporting dreams I didn’t even dream for myself. I am exactly where I need to be, doing exactly what I need to be doing. I hope you are too.

How to be a good ‘contest’ audience member

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Competition season has kicked off with the newest kid to the block, the Savoy Cup. I wanted to cover a couple of ideas around what it means (to me) to be a good competitor and audience member.

People enter competitions for all sorts of reasons. It might be a personal goal to focus on improving their dancing, it might be that they love to perform and we don’t have enough opportunities to do that in lindy hop, or it might be that it scares them and they want to push through that fear.

Whatever the reason they are competing, be supportive.

As an audience member – for the love of all that is holy – CLAP! CHEER! GIVE THEM ENERGY! Whether or not you know them. Whether or not it’s perfect. It’s part of the audience/performer contract. If people are nervous, having the crowd behind them can be so uplifting.
Be aware that sometimes we are so moved by a performance, or so distracted by watching that it’s hard to clap along, but do your best.
Smile at the performers, if feels so much nicer to perform for people who are interested and supportive.
Acknowledge them after the performance and congratulate them, or ask how it felt. When you see them in the hallway, at the nearby restaurant or on the dance floor. Competitions bring up all sorts of emotions – a kind word goes a long way.

If you’ve never competed before, try it sometime (it is often fun) and decide what success means for you going in. Often, ‘winning’ is just having the courage to share something you love with a group of people who also love that thing. It can be such a thrill. Best of luck to those competing at events across Europe this summer and to those hitting up ILHC and Camp Hollywood last this summer.

 

Wow: what a response!?

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I’m sitting in a record shop turned coffee shop and the new James Hunter album is playing in the background. Sipping m’cuppa joe and finishing my prep and music for the Oxford Swing Festival classes this aft and I just wanted to say a heart felt thank you.

I have had so many shares, views, notes and offers since I posted my ‘Dance Partner for ILHC’ post. It’s been unexpected and greatly appreciated. I’ve been particularly moved by the followers leaders who have messaged me to say that they have often felt the same anxiety about finding/asking a potential dance partner. Why is it so difficult to find someone to hold hands with (in the dance way, not the romantic way)? Why does it feel so personal and not ‘professional’ or ‘constructive’? There are some great people who have messaged me and I’ll be sorting things out in the coming weeks – but I just wanted to say thank you all those that shared my post. I’m still open to emails/FB messages and have been touched by the kind words and support shown by my London dance partners, instructor friends and dance peers worldwide.

My packing this weekend’s teaching (can you tell I’m gluten and dairy free):

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I’m going to go and teach some awesome people my thoughts on how to move on our own now. I feel  inspired by this community to do my best work, bring the best out of others and to challenge our preconceived notions of what we think we’re capable of. Again, you awesome person there on the side of this screen – THANK YOU. I’ll keep you posted on the journey.

Wanted: Dance partner for ILHC

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I have waffled about whether or not to post this. Partially, because it just isn’t done in the lindy hop community (at least from my perspective) – where a follower is actively and openly seeking a dance partner for a project and partially, because it feels like high school asking if anyone will take me to prom.

Who am I and what’s the brief?
I teach many weekly classes and have taught a variety of weekend partnered and solo workshops in Canada and the UK. I work with some amazing leaders in London. I currently have plans to go to ILHC, but don’t currently have a partner to compete with (because the people I’d normally work with are not able to go). Ideally, I’d like to compete in the Open Strictly and Open Classic and would be open to a Team Showcase if someone was already invested/subscribed in a project.

Ways this could work (open to suggestion):
1. In London, you either live here or are willing to come visit and crash on my sofa bed for a week or two and we focus on training and putting together a choreography.
2. You live somewhere in Europe that is cheaply and easily accessible and/or a major and easy to get to US city. You put me up for a week or two to come and train with you perhaps the weeks leading up to ILHC.
3. We each cover our own costs at ILHC and split our contest costs.
4. I am willing to invest additional time by coming to Herrang the same week you may be going and/or attending a camp or two in the lead up (depending on cost, but I’m flexible).

You may be the right person if:
1. You are a person who invests in your dancing and is focused on improving your personal dancing.
2. You have a cannon of performance work or at least a couple of performance routines under your belt.
3. You give valued and measured critical feedback and you are open to getting respectful critical feedback.
4. You want to put in 10-15 hours minimum on a performance routine and partnered dancing prep. For me, it’s about polish – but polish can also keep true to the spirit of lindy hop.
5. Your definition of success is creating and producing something original, distinctive, imaginative and truly ‘us’ as opposed to looking like other people.
6. You are self-aware and want to be the best dancer you can be.
7. Optional: You teach in your local scene and are comfortable watching, explaining and breaking down movement.
8. Optional: You are inspired by and have experience in other dance forms.
9. Optional: You have aerials experience and would like to work on this skill set with me.
10. Required: You have a high degree of partner empathy. You respect both dance roles equally and value the conversational quality and individuality of dance. Perhaps you occasionally like to follow, since I do also quite like leading.

If you think you’d be interested in working together and producing a routine that is professional, high quality and daring for us AND love social dancing and would like to train towards a strictly together please send me an email – nancyhitzig[at]gmail[dot]com. I’d love to hear from you.
If you think you may not be ready (either your new or don’t have a lot of dance experience of this kind), but would love to train and see if it’s a good fit – that’s valuable too.
If you are working with someone and want some help making a plan to do some work like this – awesome, email me! Happy to take you through how I approach stuff like this.

And lastly, if you are a person who has a network of dancers where someone may be interested in an opportunity like this, please, I ask you to forward it on, post it, instagram it – whatever.

As a follower without a regular partner, sometimes I feel like my ambitions and vision are impossible with out a regular partner. If it turns out that there aren’t any available or interested leaders, then I can decide if I want to push my leading and compete with another follower who has the same aims and goals. But I definitely wanted to ask you, my friends and peers for your opinions and recommendations first.

I think that brings my ILHC partner job pack to a close. If you share this or respond to it, please accept my sincere thanks. Both roles have their challenges and the desire to make great art always feels scary, but I wanted to be brave and to ask. Hope to see you on the dance floor soon.

Hard talk: what conversations should we be having?

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With all the European Swing Dance Championship madness, I feel like I haven’t sat still in six months. Thanks to the vision of the event director, Sharon Davis, I had the unique opportunity to curate a series of lectures around the big picture of lindy hop. I tried to put together talks and topics that hit a number of notes like: health and wellness, conflict resolution, design in dance, community building, business best practice and historical perspectives. It was small – only five lectures, but meaningful. It did however leave me wondering about bigger conversations we want to have. Conversations around ‘value’ – whether business related for organisers and teachers or ethos related around role and gender, conversations around ‘power’ and what it means to be a role model in our scene – or any talent based discipline. I like bringing people together to discuss hard topics, to find the words and understandable language to improve understanding and empathy. I guess I want to know what you want to talk about? How can we keep the conversation going? Do you need help? How can we help you? I don’t mind moderating to facilitating the ‘hard talk’. It’s not about me, Nancy Hitzig, it’s about all of us and how we relate to one another and promote kindness, respect and personal ownership.

I’ve made a career around hard topics of conversation: money, legacies, wills and estates, human resources – artistic projects, dreams, schemes and everything in between. I don’t why that is. Maybe because I feel a relative amount of distance between myself and the cause or activity I’m fundraising for? Maybe because I’m often bringing an artistic vision to life and I don’t let myself feel bogged down with someone else’s perception of me? Whatever the cause, it often yields professional clarity or contractual clarity that makes it easier to deliver what I say I’ll deliver. There are so many topics we shy away from – perhaps we need to lean into them a bit more. Examine them with open hearts and heads and bridge the language/education/socio-economic gap…wouldn’t that be exciting? These are just initial musings, but I want to know – what do YOU want to address in the lindy hop community? What do you want to talk about? Let’s make those conversations happen with the right research, moderator and panel and in the most appropriate language where people can be heard. You tell me.

Reasons I love Lindy Hop

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  1. It pushes me to be my best self through movement – whether it’s exploring my own musicality, inventiveness and rhythm, it pushes me to be better and more playful.
  2. It’s the best boyfriend I’ve ever had, I always say sometimes I’m more in love with Lindy Hop and sometimes Lindy Hop is more in love with me. My interest and focus has ebb-ed and flowed over the last ten years. I’m in a serious love affair these days – I have never been more inspired with the dance and with all of you on the social dance floor.
  3. It encourages me to dare, to take risks and challenge my preconceived notions of what my potential and ability is and could be.
  4. It changes. Cause we all change. It’s never the same, you never take that same rock step twice. I find this strangely comforting.
  5. And most importantly, it brings us all together. I get to meet my chosen family. My peers, my awe-inspiring colleagues. My beloved students, my like-minded mega babes. It is an energy and magic that rarely exists in other art/hobby forms and I am so grateful.

    The International Lindy Hop Championships feels like a strange homecoming – I get to see so many people I know and love in one place, celebrating together. I’m nervous – that’s the nature of contests – but I’m just so proud to be going and spending time with those I care about as we push ourselves and throw down. Boom! You can watch the live stream here! 

Definitions of Success

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I’ve been thinking about the idea of ‘success’ lately in relation to dance. What it means to be successful, to find greatness and what that means for different people. This past weekend I went to Rock that Swing Festival in Munich and competing brought to light some familiar feelings and insights around competing that I thought I’d share. These are definitely coloured by my experience as a figure skater, solo dancer, jack and jill participant, partnered swing dancer, opera singer and burlesque performer. They are by no means groundbreaking, but might be helpful to someone else especially as people start preparing for London Swing Festival in May.

1. Define success before the competition. Why are you doing it? For the love of performing? For the thrill? To challenge your personal dancing? To place? Decide what success is before and then whatever the outcome take a moment to celebrate afterwards. You’ve worked hard.
2. Be kind to yourself. Unless it’s a showcase of some kind, you don’t get to pick the music, sometimes you don’t pick your partner or even the texture of the floor. The moment you walk on the dancefloor you’re winning – so don’t let other s#$% affect your state. Go back to what you defined as success. Sometimes it’s winning, sometimes it’s just sharing what you love with other people. If things go wrong, let them go. It’s just dancing! (I personally struggle with this, but you really do have to do it.)
3. Only wear things you’ve danced in before. This is something that I see far more in burlesque then lindy hop, but it still applies. Practice or social dance in the things you want to compete in. You’d marvel at how many things go flying or rip or tear when you haven’t tested them out. Wear that necklace or dress and make sure it’s not going to be more memorable then your performance.
4. Consistency is key. Practice your routine. Film yourself, watch the video and look for things to celebrate AND things to improve. Let yourself get comfortable with particular movements, tempos etc. It’s the easiest way to alleviate stress.
5. Look up. Maybe smile. Whether it’s burlesque, swing dance, cabaret – whatever – it’s about connection. Look up and connect with the people in the audience. Invite them in, make them a part of your success. They want you to do well and are on your side, let them give you energy. You’re in this together! That’s part of what makes dancing, performing and competing fun. If you lose this part it lacks the joy and life it deserves – that you deserve.