It seems to me that year after year it's during the holiday season that I end up either treating myself to something I've been lusting after for months, or I give a not-so-sneaky hint to my parents to clue them in on what would be a meaningful & practical gift. More often than not, those gifts have been dance-related. Big surprise!
Yes, I've saved up for my first pair of Remix, that perfect pair of high-waisted pants, and I've had my eye on a Trashy Diva dress for months, but I wanted to share some other items that have made a difference in how I practice, teach, and even live day-to-day. Maybe more folks in your life would like them too!
1. For Your Mind: Practice Swing
This book has been such a great resource! Written by Bobby White, it addresses the art & effectiveness of practicing, gives anecdotes about his personal experience, and proposes challenges for the reader (dancer) to try out.
This past year especially, I've spent more time than ever contemplating pedagogical aspects of dance, trying ideas out in the practice room, discussing with colleagues & students, and experimenting in classes (thank you to all I’ve learned from!). The book was a wonderful companion on the long train rides this summer in Europe as I internalized my experiences at dance camp, finding correlations between classes I attended, ways we practiced on our own, and recommendations made by Bobby. I've used the book as a check-point and idea generator, and could see how it could help many a dancer overcome roadblocks or plateaus by enabling dancers to do self-driven work in the practice room with Practice Swing as a coach. Better practice = growth!
2. For Your Heart: Jazz Step Playing Cards
Along the same lines, if you’re practicing by yourself and you hit a wall, what do you do? Bust out your Jazz Step Playing Cards is what!
Our good friend Mo raved about this concept that Ann Mony introduced to him, and we’ve created some sweet combos with our own homemade deck of cards in Rochester. Whether you work on transitions, let one step influence another, use the cards as tools to choreograph, or for an extra laugh, laying the names of jazz steps out like flash cards helps both the creative and technical process. Catch all Ann Mony’s drills (aka games) in her snazzy deck of cards. Psst… if you gift them to a practice partner, you’ll reap all the benefits in the practice room! (Yes, I’m buying these “for Doriel” ;) )
3. For Your Body: Foam Rollers
I have a love-hate relationship with my foam roller (it hurts so good!), but I know taking care of my feet really makes all the difference in my balance, mobility, and dance stamina. Plus, my Physical Therapist and yoga mentors recommend this care, and it has helped me to overcome a hard case of plantar fasciitis (more on this in another blog post, I’m sure!).
How I use rollers: I warm my feet up before Cardio Charleston with a tennis ball, and roll my quads, calves, hip-flexors, and lats out before or after I work out. When I’m on the road, I pop a ball & stick in my bag to make sure I can coax those achy muscles back to life after a hard night of dancing.
For feet in order of decreasing intensity:
Spiky dryer ball, golf ball, lacrosse ball, tennis ball, pinky ball. (Yes, there are specific rollers for feet out there, but no need to pay an arm & a leg, in my opinion!)
Portable: The Stick. Larger: look for rollers with steel bases (to last years), as foam degrades with use. Try rollers with divots to get in to all those hard-to-reach sore muscles.
4. For Your Soul: Jazz Music
A heck of a lot of good music has made it through my ears this year, and I’m thankful! The more Basie & Duke, the better, but for 2016, I’ve paid particular attention to some modern projects. If you haven’t heard of them yet, go have a listen!
Michael Gamble & His Rhythm Serenaders cut their first album, and man, it swings! We had the pleasure of working with Michael this year for Slow Dance Soiree, and you can even catch a few of those classy, slower jazz tunes in this set. *swoon*
Naomi & Her Handsome Devils just released their latest album “The Devils’ Music” this month. After hearing her first album everywhere I went last summer in Herrang, I’m glad there’s more fuel for the fire that is Lindy Hop classes!
Keep your ears and eyes open for the fruits of their labor: the big band revival project is culminating by bringing Chick Webb transcriptions to our generation, debuting at Lindy Focus. Here’s hoping for recordings and more big bands at upcoming events!
5. For Your Roots: Jazz Art
Imagery and expression from generations past grounds me to the historical roots this dance has. There are gorgeous prints that capture the life in this dance that I hope you enjoy as much as I do! Ryan Calloway’s original art includes limited edition prints of Lindy Hop & jazz legends like Frankie Manning, Ella Fitzgerald, and Louis Armstrong. Jazz art for your jazz loving selves!
What's on your list? Happy holidays, everyone!
Thank you to Talha Azhar for the photo!
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I'm busy working on my blog posts. Watch this space!