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What Does This Have To Do With Lindy Hop?

So one thing you may not know about me (Tina) is that I love, love, LOVE African Dance! So I was super excited when Nii Kwarty Owoo turned up in Leeds and started running weekly classes! His classes are brilliant and I want more people to know about them so I’ve organised a weekend workshop for him in November and I’m really hoping especially to see lots of Lindy Hoppers there.

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If you’re wondering, “What does West African Dance have to do with Lindy Hop”, the answer is “Basically everything!” Lindy hop is an African-American dance that grew out of earlier dance styles (Charleston, cake walk, tap, etc) that would have been heavily influenced by the traditional dances that came over from West Africa. This blog post does a much better job than I would of breaking down the influences and similarities that you might notice.

For me, personally I find that African Dance feels vibrant and joyful in the same way that lindy hop does and it uses the whole body in ways that feel strong and natural. Its also similarly geeky and challenging. I’ve taken classes all over the world but still struggle to hear the beat of the music correctly and have to work really hard to figure out how to make some movements look right–I love the challenge!

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I hope you can join us in November, either to explore the roots of lindy hop or just to try out a new dance style. There will also be a drumming workshop and Ghanaian lunch but you can pick and choose which bits of the day interest you most.

West African Dance & Drumming Workshop

24th November 2018

at Chapel Allerton Methodist Centre, LS7 4NB

10:00-11:30 Drumming Workshop
12:00-13:30 Dance Workshop
13:30-14:30 Lunch Break (Homemade Ghanaian food!)
14:30-16:00 Dance Workshop

 Please book your ticket in advance as it may sell out. You can book from the facebook event in the link above or go directly to the booking form

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Let’s Talk About Shoes

Whether you’re going for maximum performance and comfort or authentic vintage style shoes are a very important part of any dancers wardrobe. We’ll have a look at what options are out there, some popular brands, and how to find your perfect shoe!

You Gotta Have Sole

One of the most important features of your dance shoe is what’s on the bottom! You want a shoe that will allow your feet to slide around on the floor a bit but there’s a lot of room for personal preference here–some dancers like just enough slip to be able to spin easily while others want to glide through every move frictionlessly. At some point you will probably end up with a variety of shoes for dancing on different types of floors so that you can always achieve the perfect combination of shoe and dancefloor to create your desired amount of slippiness. Here’s a rundown of the basic options:

  • Rubber: A rubber sole without too much texture (think plimsolls not walking boots) can be a great option for newer dancers and those who prefer a less slippery shoe. Rubber soled shoes are generally softer so good for those who are worried about stepping on their partners’ feet or have yet to master the art of floorcraft. Pros: Soft, durable, and easy to clean, forces you to pick up your feet and be more precise with your footwork, Cons: May be too sticky for some dance floors.
  • Suede: So long as you have a suede brush you can have some control over the slipperiness of sueded shoes. Brush them regularly to give them a bit of grip or leave the suede to matt down for a bit more slip. You can purchase dance shoes with suede soles, get your favourite shoes sueded by a cobbler or even do it yourself with a bit of superglue. Pros: versatility, Cons: Do not get wet! Also hard to clean so not  great on sticky bar floors
  • Leather: Hard leather soles will give you the maximum slide on most floors, soft leather can be slightly less slippery but its not as hard-wearing. Pros: excellent for slides and slip slops, hard-wearing (hard leather), Cons: May be too slippery on some dance floors
  • Split soles: Split soled shoes are popular for many styles of dance so you may see them around a bit. Rather than being one piece the sole is in two sections to allow your foot to bend in the middle. Pros: Can be very comfy, Cons: Prevent you from using your whole foot on the floor
  • Heels: Heels aren’t strictly necessary for lindy hop but many dancers love the aesthetic. We would recommend flats to start with for most dancers but once you’ve been at it for a while you may want to experiment with heeled shoes. Wedges or chunky heels are your best bet. Pros: Can really change the look of your dancing, preferable for some styles like balboa Cons: Takes a bit of practice if you don’t normally wear heals, will have an effect on balance
  • Sole Hacks: These are temporary solutions–none of them ideal but good to be aware of. Earlier in the revival dancers often put gaffa tape on the bottom of their shoes to make rubber soled shoes a bit more slippery. It is cheap and effective! Though you do have to keep an eye on them to make sure the tape doesn’t start to wear down and get sticky. Also once you’ve put tape on the bottom of your shoes there is no going back the sticky gunk doesn’t come off easily. Socks over shoes–some people seem to make this work in a pinch but it is a VERY slippery option. Talc–you may see some dancers put talc on the floor to make it more slippery. As a general rule, if you are sharing the dance floor with other dancers who have not consented to the use of talc PLEASE DON’T DO THIS. It changes the floor for everyone, and not everyone want’s to slide around like Bambi. Change your shoes not the floor.

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Look the Part

If you want to go for an authentic vintage look. Here is a rundown of authentic swing era shoe styles.

For Men: Leather suit shoes are your best bet, two toned brogues are an authentic 30s style. Plimsolls are also an authentic vintage style for men and women as revealed in our last style feature.

For Women: Women’s shoes came in lots of styles in the 20s-40s. Heels were the norm for going out but flats are not inauthentic as there were sports shoes available with a very small heel. Iconic styles from the swing era include mary janes, oxfords, brogues, T-straps and wedges.

The Vintage Dancer website is a great resource with lots of photos of clothes and shoes from different eras.

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Where to Shop

First Shoes: If you’re just starting out we highly recommend picking up a pair of cheap plimsolls from Primark. They are an excellent first dance shoe! If you want something a bit fancier Keds and Toms and also great for this style.

Shoe retailers popular with lindy hoppers in the UK:

www.remixvintageshoes.com

www.slideandswing.es

www.swingdancestore.co.uk

https://www.swinggear.co.uk/

The DIY Option: In our experience, even some of the more reputable brands of dance shoes can be very pricey and at the same time not very well made so another good option is to make your own bespoke dance shoes. Find a pair of shoes that are comfortable and have the look you want on the high street or wherever you normally shop for shoes. If the sole is already appropriately slippy then you’re done! If not, take your shoes to a cobbler who will be able to grind them flat if they are too textured, or resole them with suede, leather, or whatever you want (Cobblers are awesome). Voila the perfect dance shoe!

 

 

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California Routine–Are you up to the challenge?

Our last course of the year is a very special one–we’ll be teaching the California Routine! A classic lindy hop routine, choreographed by the legendary Frankie Manning, it draws on all of the fundamentals of lindy hop, including 6 beat, 8 beat and Charleston footwork. Once you know this routine, you will see it everywhere! Most lindy hoppers learn it at some point so it’s an easy impromptu performance piece. Whether you want to do more performing or you’re just looking to challenge yourself, this course is a great way to do it!

We will need to move quickly to get through the routine in four weeks so there are a few prerequisites. You will need to be familiar with basic 6 beat moves (tuck turn, passby, bring back), swingouts, and tandem Charleston. The version we do on the course will have some flashy moves but no big aerials so that we can focus on the dancing (for those that are interested we’re happy to help you add aerials in later!).

California Routine Course
Wednesdays, 21st November – 12th December
8:30 – 9:30pm at The Dance Studio Leeds
£30 for the 4 week course

Email swingdanceleeds@gmail.com to book your place

Here’s a sneak peek of what the California Routine looks like (with aerials)

 

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Kieron Finn on Vintage Fashion

Last month we picked up some excellent tips on vintage hair and make up from the Someday Sweethearts. This month we’ve got a second installment of vintage style for you from one of our lovely local dancers–Kieron Finn! Kieron has been a fan of vintage fashion since he was a teenager, starting with mod 60s fashion and then moving on to earlier eras. For a lot of people it’s lindy hop that inspires an interest in vintage fashion but for Kieron it was the other way round.

Breaking News Keds Are Legit!

I definitely learned a thing or two speaking to Kieron, the biggest being that canvas plimsolls are 100% authentic footwear for dancing lindy hop! They’ve been around since 1916 and were what Whitey’s Lindy Hoppers wore initially to practice and perform in. So wear your cheap plimsolls with pride and stop worrying that they don’t go with your outfit! For more details I’ll refer you to this excellent post on Swungover.

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How to Dress for the Savoy

  • If you want to find inspiration for clothing tips, search the internet for photographs of what people actually wore and find a style that suits you.
  • Wide legged chinos with a cuff and double pleats are an accurate and practical vintage style of trousers. The pleats give you movement room and the wide legs assist in ventilation.
  • Button braces look more authentic than clip on braces. Hot tip: If your trousers don’t have brace buttons, all you need to do is sew 6 buttons on the waistband.
  • Waistcoats are traditionally worn with the bottom button left undone.
  • If you wear a tie, wear a tie clip, in between the 3rd and 4th shirt button.
  • Single breasted suit jackets with the traditional 3 buttons follow a similar rule for being buttoned, starting from the top, working down, the rule is “sometimes, always, never.”
  • If you want to stick to Savoy Ballroom rules, suit jackets are to be kept on, as a mark of respect for your dance partners. Note: this is an extremely warm option.
  • If you can’t hack it with a jacket, it’s good manners to wear an undershirt if you are wearing a shirt without a jacket or a waistcoat. This helps to minimise sweat transference to your partner when dancing.
  • Shirt sleeves, if they are rolled up, should be rolled below the elbow.

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Where Kieron Shops for Vintage Duds

http://www.chestercordite.com
Makes very good quality clothing, especially his repro spearpoint shirts.

http://www.froggywentcourting.co.uk
Has a great line of knitwear, accessories and caps. He always makes sure he gets his items made in the uk.

https://simonjamescathcart.com
Is worth checking out for his regular 50% sales. There’s no point paying full price. The polos are good for dancing, but only at the sale price.

https://www.saintsavoy.com/en/
These make amazing dance shoes in male and female styles. They are quite expensive, but very good and with good vintage styling.

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Is Lindy Hop for You?

Our city of Leeds hosts a lovely diverse and vibrant Lindy Hop community. These lovely dancers make a start for a wide variety of different reasons. Some people take up swing dancing because of a love for vintage fashion, some are fans of swing music and trad jazz, some people come in looking for a fun way to get more exercise, some come in search of a new hobby or a new challenge, others are looking for new ways to connect with their partner or make new friends. These are all fantastic reasons to take up swing dancing!

You’ll see a range of ages on the dance floor, from 20-somethings to 60-somethings, in all shapes and sizes and all colours of the rainbow. If you want to find out if swing dancing is right for you the best thing to do is pop along to a class. For a list of beginner lessons and drop in classes have a look here. Another great option is our Fundamentals Course:

Learn the basics of Lindy Hop in just 4 weeks!

This course will give you a solid foundation in fundamental lindy hop moves and techniques, ideal for people who’ve never danced before. With small class sizes you will meet a lovely group of people, meaning you’ll have friends to dance with when you come along to a social dance or drop in class.  It is appropriate for absolute beginners and anyone else who wants to re-visit their basics in a structured learning environment

Course Details:
Wednesdays 26th Sept – 17th Oct
6:30-7:30pm
at Dance Studio Leeds
cost: £30 for the 4wk course

Pre-booking and payment required in advance
to register email: swingdanceleeds@gmail.com

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A Lesson in Vintage Glamour from the Someday Sweethearts

You don’t have to be into vintage style to to enjoy vintage dancing but we thought we’d do a couple of features on how to acheive a vintage look for those who want to give it a go! We got in touch with Nina Elkin, Artistic Director of the Someday Sweethearts, to ask if she had any top tips to share. Her response: “Oh…I have more then one” 

The Someday Sweethearts are a chorus line dance troupe based in San Francisco that perform routines inspired by 1920’s, 30’s and 40’s. The group was started back in 2014 by Gaby Cook (and originally called the Sweet Sixteen). They are still going strong today. Part of their mission as a group is to promote all women in lindy hop and support the growth of female performers, community leaders and choreographers.

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Signature Sweethearts Style

Their version of vintage style is about what looks good for performances rather than about being 100% historically accurate. Depending on what they are performing the Sweethearts have three general looks:

1920’s Flapper: Smoky Eye Makeup, darker red lip color in cupids bow, Finger Waves / Marcel Waves in the front.

1930’s Chorus Line: 1-3 Pin curls in the front. Bun, Gibson Tuck or Chignon in the back. Neutral earth tone eye makeup & red lip color with a hint of pink in it.

1940’s USO Show: Victory rolls in front, Bun, Gibson Tuck or Chignon in the back. Neutral earth tone eye makeup & bright fire engine / victory red lip color with full lip.

What do the Sweethearts keep in their hair styling kits?

  • Bobby Pins
  • Setting Lotion for Hot Iron
  • Setting Lotion for wet set
  • Curling Iron
  • Hair / U-Pins
  • Rat Tail Comb
  • Bristle Brush (for smoothing)
  • Hair Spray
  • Pomade
  • Marcel / Duck Clips : for 1920’s Marcel Waves / Finger Waves.
  • Dry Shampoo (A must for extra texture & body)

Videos, books and other resources they recommend:

Top tips for Vintage Makeup:

For performance/vintage look the Sweethearts to go with earth tones for 30’s-40’s and smokey eye for 20’s. NO SPARKLES. Vintage make up was matte. They recommend this website for research: Vintage Makeup Guides

Their makeup bag includes:

  • Matte Foundation
  • Concealer
  • Primer (for eyelids – Urban Decay Primer. The colorless one)
  • Powder – loose (clinique)
  • Blush – with bright pink / orange tones
  • Matte eye shadow – e.g. Naked Basics by Urban Decay
  • Eyeliner – (brush tip marker)
  • Lipstick – Besame! Vintage makeup shop, LipSense in a red lip for a non-smear option
  • Makeup Fixer (Mac Pro Fix Plus)
  • Brush Set

 

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Learn the Tranky Doo Thursdays in September!

Get these dates in your diary because we are excited to announce a series of Thursday night classes on the Tranky Doo, 6th, 13th and 20th September! The Tranky Doo is a classic vintage jazz solo routine from the 1940s. For some interesting factoids about the history of the routine and clips of a variety of performances of it go here.

We wanted to feature this little video because this simple class recap has long been the most popular video on our Youtube Channel. Dancers around the world are still finding it really useful for learning this great classic routine. Here’s your chance to learn this fabulous routine from Rob IRL (in real life) over the course of three weeks!

This will be offered as a short course of 3 classes. If you haven’t done much solo jazz before don’t worry–book on for all 3 classes and we’ll go at an easy pace with lots of repetition. If you’ve learnt the Tranky Doo before and want a quick refresher feel free to just drop-in for one or two classes.

Learn the Tranky Doo 

Thursdays, 6th, 13th & 20th Sept 2018
8:30-9:30pm

at Dance Studio Leeds

Cost: £15 for all 3 classes (pre-booking required)
or drop-in for £7 per class

Email swingdanceleeds@gmail.com to book your place!

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