Tuesday nights are when the Mudflappers teach our weekly beginners’ swing dancing class before the London Dance Orchestra takes to the stage at Swing at the Scolt Head. Since I have been doing a lot of the teaching recently I have deployed my usual set of beginners’ class material and so I am having to come up with some new content. Since quite a bit of thought goes into this, I thought I would make some record of it on this blog, not least so I don’t forget in future.
In recent classes we have been spending a lot more time on warm ups. This week we put on Opus One by the Mills Brothers and just got the crowd to shake different bits of their body to the music. It felt really good and everyone seemed instantly to have shaken off their day.
Next up, we taught a bit more of the Shim Sham. This week we tackled the trick bit, the break. (I think we could dedicate a whole class to learning breaks, and maybe call it ‘Breaking Good’). We started by clapping the rhythm, then worked through the footwork, calling the steps. Pretty quickly the crowd picked up, and we had them doing their breaks to the classic T’Ain’t what you do.
Then on to the bulk of the bulk of the lesson, which we spent teaching side-by-side lindy hop moves. I think this set of moves feels really good to learn because you can really move a long way on the dancefloor, you can style it up lots, and the benefit of a strong connection can really be felt. We taught side-by-side charleston, and taught kick ups, and kick the dog. We then showed how from a side-by-side Charleston you can do an inside turn to reverse direction, and from there to move into a hand-to-hand Charleston.
To fit all this in in an hour and half we had to keep the pace up. We did our usual half-time drinks break about two thirds of the way through and then we upped the pace to fit in the hand-to-hand Charleston. By the end, I think everyone in the crowd had nailed the routine and felt pretty good and warmed up for the band.
The last thing to mention is for this week, I paid particular attention to the music. Earlier in the week I had discovered the music of Kid Ory, and so the whole teaching playlist was tracks by him: Ain’t Misbehavin’, Joshua Fit the Battle of Jerricho, Muskrat Ramble and Maple Leaf Rag, all top tunes which I can’t get out of my head. I’m looking forward to next week!