Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Simply Playful - Thomas & Alice

When asked about being a dancer and choreographer Frankie Manning would respond that he was only doing what the music told him to do. This both sounds very simple and also sets a very high bar. 

Just move the way the music says.  It's that simple, right?

Here is another video my friend Heather Warner-Dubin reminded me of the other day. This is Thomas and Alice performing a social dancing demo at Fram.

I love how they play with their movements, matching them to what is happening in the song. To me there is always an inherent silliness to Lindy Hop and Jazz in general. It has something to do with a deep connection to joy and celebration, and this song exudes silliness with the scat lines and even the tuba bass line which I always seem to find a little bit silly sounding. 

If we break their dance down we see that most of their movements are very common - they do a swing out here, a side pass there - but they mix in extra flavors to match what the music is saying. They dramatically extend the 1-2 of a swing out, they add in little hops to emphasize the end of a phrase, they play with a melody line and hold a pose. It's simple and yet very difficult at the same time. 

Think of it like painting a still picture of a scene in front of you. As the scene (the song) plays out how are the characters feeling? What is the mood of the lighting? What is the pace of the scene? This is analogous to the feeling of the song. How does it pulse? How fast or slow is the song? How does the melody interweave with the instruments? How do you set the scene with your movement to paint this picture? 

Next, to paint a picture you need tools. Paint brushes, pencils, colors, different types of paint, inks, materials. These tools are your vocabulary of movements - everything from triple steps to swingouts to jazz movements. Anything you've learned about moving is a tool during your dance. 

Ultimately there is also a level of artistry that can't be taught or supplied to you. It's that spark inside that comes out of you and into your artwork. Some say it's part of you, deep down. Others claim it's the human ability to reach out and draw upon that which is outside ourselves. Either way, you, in your own personal way, are combining the things you've learned with something deep down to create something completely new. 

So easy, right? Just mix in how the music feels with the moves you know and add in a little of your own artistic interpretation and tada. And that's what's so wonderful about this dance. We can always keep learning more about each of these areas - and when we watch couples who have honed their skills in all three it creates art that inspires us.

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