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.

 

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Life lessons with Duke Ellington

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This weekend, I had the pleasure of attending the London Lindy Exchange. Standing in a ballroom of 400+ dancers I often think “I can’t believe this is how we spend our free time. How lucky are we?” Those moments where everyone hears the break coming and you watch the dance floor communally hit a particular beat or jump at the same time. It’s like for that split second we were all hearing the music in the same way. That feeling is magic. It is energy that is created by the band, enhanced by the dancers and lifts the spirits. Those are the moments where I feel the most connected and tapped in to the community. It also helps when the band is Gordon Webster and Friends. Gord’s joy playing for dancers is only matched by his ability to rally great musicians and produce music that inspires. What a gift!

My friend Sam posted this video of Duke Ellington explaining how to snap your fingers and it seemed like the right tone and pace for today, “You don’t push it, you just let it fall.” Words we could apply for many aspects of our lives and even in our dorky but beloved subculture, “one can become as cool as one wishes to be.” Enjoy!

Easily distracted…

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I started writing a paper about peer to peer file sharing and it’s descended into listening to all my favourite songs from 2004. Solid year guys! Arcade Fire, crying my eyes out to “Crown of Love”, Feist, “Let it die”, singing the Weakerthans loudly with Mat Katz and and our university crew. All excellent memories. It happens to be a dreary day here in London, so I offer a few recommendations for rainy day reading and music playlists:

The Writer’s Almanac – Garrison Keillor could read me the phone book. I have Angela to thank for this gem. A poem a day and a ‘today in literature’ segment. What’s not to love?
The Toast – a blog that explains feminist truths and offers vintage pictures of smug bitches (no, really they do!). A suggested read from Cecily, one of the smartest women I know.

Weakerthans – Left and Leaving
Arcade Fire – Funeral
Feist – Let it Die
The National – Trouble Will Find Me
M. Ward – End of Amnesia (in particular the song Carolina)

Playing for keeps – moving abroad and other musings

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I’ve been thinking about community a lot lately. How you build a life? Friendship requirements. Worthiness. I moved to London with a motley crew of acquaintances and find myself feeling more and more settled. I keep asking myself, “what’s changed?”

I’ve had a couple of friends ask for some tips on moving continents so here are a couple that seem relevant this week:

1. You’re never ready. You’ll repack your bag at least four times and you’ll forget at least five things. “Man, if only I had that *insert item of clothing/or piece of loved junk here*.” It’s ok. It’s just stuff, you can buy/sell/replace stuff. Or friends can bring it with them on follow up trips.
2. Take people up on their offers of friendship. If your cousin, friend, colleague, casual acquaintance, barista or dry cleaner offer to connect you with a friend or relative of theirs – TAKE IT! You never know. So and so’s bff from when they were 12 could turn out to be your fav brunch buddy in a new place. It’s like when you see someone knows people you know on Facebook. They are vetted and are less likely to be cray cray.
3. I know you hate ‘cold calling’ people, but get over it. Email those weak tie potential friends. Go to a Meetup and then judge whether or not you want to join from a corner in the bar. If the meetup is lame, make friends with the bartender (strategic friendship).
4. Put some work in. Friendships and business relationships take effort. You need to put some time and love into fostering that connection. Check in to see how people are doing by email, text or phone. Whether or not you can get together, it shows you’re thinking of them.

That’s my poetic waxing on a Friday friend. Be indulgent. Be kind to yourself take some risks. Here’s some ukulele music for you.