Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Happy Birthday Frankie Manning!

May 26, 2013 marks Frankie Manning’s 99th birthday. In celebration of Frankie's birthday Ewa Burak and Lennart Westerlund, two of his students (and also two of our wonderful teachers from last year’s Swing 'n Swim summer camp in Greece - read more about them in my post Swing 'n Swim III - Our Teachers) invite us to learn the following dance routine, film it and share it with the world. Follow the link Global 99 Choreo for more info and for the steps. Here's Ewa & Lennart performing the routine:

Organised by the Frankie Manning Foundation. The event expired on June 15th 2013.

If you want to learn more about Frankie, have a look at my blog post Frankie Manning 1914-2009, press play on the Frankie Manning Swing Mix on the right hand side of this blog to listen to some of the tunes Frankie used to dance to, and by all means, go on amazon and buy his wonderful biography Frankie Manning - Ambassador of Lindy Hop.

Cover image via http://frankiesbirthday.com 

This is a video filmed and edited by my friend Rena with the contribution of the Athenian Lindy Hop Community. We really liked being a part of the celebration for Frankie's 99th birthday. Check out more contributions from around the world at the site above.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Ali & Katja

This blog has always been more of a notebook of Lindy Hop history and Swing music with a few exceptions when it came to sharing with whoever reads this, special experiences, like being taught the Lindy hop by exceptional teachers. This is one such exception. 

Two weeks ago my fellow Lindy hoppers and I had the privilege to be taught by a couple of very unique teachers and I promised I would make a special mention on my blog. I have been very busy with work and only now do I find the time, but it’s never too late to say good things about people who really deserve them. I’m not exaggerating when I say that we had one of the finest Lindy Hop workshops in our short dancing education history, since almost all of my classmates had the same positive reactions. Ali & Katja who were invited to Athens, Greece by a group of dedicated fellow Lindy Hoppers, were pleasant, funny, helpful, precise when it came to explaining, and exceptional in teaching us technique. My personal experience in most workshops is that I am taught interesting moves but I somehow seem to forget them within a week’s time. I'm thinking now that it's probably because we are not always taught technique so the moves we learn sort of lack the ground that will keep them rooted in our heads. With Ali & Katja, however, who persist on technique, and so skillfully inject it in you, the moves they teach become the unavoidable result of their technique. Now you may like their technique and you may not; that's personal taste. However, it seems to me that in the context of a workshop maybe it's not that important to be taught a bunch of moves, but to be taught HOW to move.

It was not an easy workshop for us Intermediates because technique is the hardest to master and as is the case in all workshops we were working in a fast tempo. However, not once did I feel that we were hurried to complete a predetermined schedule without having absorbed the material first, and that, I think, has to do with the expertise of the teachers who know how to structure a workshop, who know where to persist, who know how much to convey and in what way; who know how to teach. Period. And I have immense respect for good teachers; because there are a lot of talented dancers out there, but few talented teachers. 

For me being a good teacher, apart from skill has got a lot to do with respecting your students and by respecting I mean approaching them not from a place of authority but from a place of fellowship and genuine desire to share your knowledge. Ali & Katja are very accessible in that sense. I felt that they were two of our friends who had come to impart their knowledge, instead of two big shots that have come to 'bless' us with their talent; and I liked that. The workshop's title was "a non-profit workshop for the community by the community" and I really got a sense of community during this workshop, partly thanks to the organizers and partly thanks to our teachers. 

I would definitely recommend taking a workshop with Ali & Katja and I would not think twice before taking another workshop with them myself! You can hire them for a workshop at their web site http://swingstep.tv/ and you can follow them on Facebook: Ali&Katja on Facebook

See them in action here: 

I like their simple, smooth, elastic dancing style…those polymers sure work ;)

Here you can see them dancing with students at a special evening organized in the context of the workshop. Live performance by The Speakeasies Swing Band (the best Greek swing band, as far as I am concerned) and video by our dedicated swing events photographer Athena Liaskou.

I asked Ali & Katja if I could share the class recaps on the internet and they said it was fine by them, so here are my two videos from the Intermediate Level: 

Also, here are links to the two videos of the Advanced Level shared on YouTube by a fellow hopper: Ali & Katja Advanced Day 1, Ali & Katja Advanced Day 2

A big thank you to Ali & Katja and a big thank you to our organizers Avgoustinos, Vassia, Orestis, Venia, Fotis, Nicoleta, Kanellina, Maria, Christophe for making this one of the most fulfilling Lindy workshops so far. Hope you have more planned for the future...See you on the dancefloor! 

Photos © Athena Liaskou
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