Sunday, August 14, 2011

Lindy Hop Portugal Saga - Part 2

Portugal is fortunate to have Abeth as their instructor and Abeth is fortunate to have Portugal. She works hard as their teacher, they work hard as her students. Trust me, I've seen some amazing old footage of some of their current best dancers - Diana, Hugo, Ana Margarida.
She has brought in some of the world's best lindy hop instructors- Skye and Marie, Thomas and Alice. Portugal, though it's sometimes a financial struggle, shows up to learn. She also manages to capture wayfaring leads to Portugal for short visits- Dave, Marc-Andre, Gontran and myself. She's picky and selective with whom she has teaches, though. Not every wandering minstrel gets to teach there. If I recall correctly, I passed the initial inspection thanks to my youtube channel and I'm sure Lexi Keeton. Abeth is protective of her lindy hop cub.

My first Porto visit stands out even more for its contrast against Galway's swing scene. Tiffiny Wine and I just taught a one day workshop there. Her and her boyfriend, Jason Stingl, went to Barcelona afterward, I went to Porto. We had an excellent time in Galway. The people are great, socialable, very hospitable, and they applauded a lot (this rarely happens at the Mercury Cafe classes). Their dancing is a bit old-school much like Denver pre-2004. Portugal, however, was current and up to date with international trends. It felt a bit like Denver. Again, kudos to Abeth's hard work.

This meant I had an easier transition into Portugal's scene. It wasn't seamless, but it was relatively smooth. It's delicate entering into someone else's domain especially in a foreign country. You have language and culture barriers. I'm not the most socialable creature. But since I would be here three months, I had to jump in and tread Portugal's lindy hop waters.
Treading was easy with my supporting cast. Daniel got me doing indoor rock climbing. Niko, my Argentine flatmate, introduced me to CuevanaTV. Monica introduced me to useful and naughty Portuguese phrases. Guedes wanted to train parkour. Helena was a great tour guide. Dalia introduced me to aguardente. Carla had a vast English sci-fi and fantasy book collection. I could speak fluent and rapid English with Abeth, formerly of San Francisco. David was my long lost Portuguese twin (somehow). Carlos offered me rides. Diana repaired my shirt. The list continues on.

In the midst of this, I taught 10 hours or more a week. Teaching more hours depended on team practices or a random workshop. Other dance hours were consumed planning classes, workshops, training, or choreographing. A few new ideas occurred when I was there.

First, we decided to change Level 1's swingout. Eventually, the more intermediate levels are taught rocksteps, stylings, on the 1,2. In essence, the stretch/release lindy hop component. Not so with Level 1. This changed soon after I arrived. It slightly disrupted Level 1 but they toughed it with us since this was a fundamental alteration to their basic.
 This video comes from their Atlantic Swing Festival Performance. Abeth and I added to the original choreography taught by her and Gontran when he was in Porto. It was a great way to reinforce patterns taught during Gontran's workshop and then material we had been teaching in Level 1.

A second change was no stretching before class. Abeth loved to stretch the dancers before class, but I rarely (very rarely) participated. I am used to dynamic and active stretches before parkour, crossfit, and aerials, but this languid stretching was neither. We talked together and brought in another lindy hopper with outside active interests who agreed with me. Stretching does not help your muscles before physical activity, but classes generally had a warm up. Warm ups were either charleston, 8 ct rhythm, jazz, or general dance based.

Third, was the first formal Portuguese lindy hop aerials workshop. Several dancers had been practicing aerials on their own before. They would learn from youtube videos, workshops they attended outside Portugal, a gymnastics coach, or from DVDs I shipped Abeth. In fact, some of these dancers finally realized I was on some of those youtube videos they watched. Abeth and I taught one Porto aerial workshop, I ran one Porto beach aerial practica, and taught another aerial workshop in Lisbon.

Finally, and this trickled down from Level 4, we got the leaders to catch the follows more solidly on the swingout's 3,4. It was surprising for Abeth to hear me tell her she was light because the Portuguese leaders made her feel heavy. So, we played with incoming and outgoing momentum, catching follows with lats and legs, and being athletic. I'd like to think the follows trust their leaders with their momentum more and the leaders are more grounded, but that's for them to say.

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