March 17, 2010

Blues Extravaganza Moments

Filed under: collabora, facebook — Tags: , , , , , , , — alsuren @ 5:59 pm

Went dancing (blues) over the weekend. I don’t want to end up duplicating Holly’s post so if you actually want to know what I was doing on the weekend, read that. I’m just going to talk about key moments that stuck in my memory (in roughly chronological order):

  • Friday night’s Wall of Blues, and associated turf war with the local drunkards.
  • Peppering of glass in the bottom of my dance shoes.
  • Being told repeatedly to relax by a drunk person who cornered me for a dance.
  • Ignoring her because she was drunk.
  • Being told repeatedly to relax by Damon and Bryn.
  • Hanging my head in shame.
  • Solo blues facing off against Christopher Allen.
  • Dinner in Brazilian place in the market.
  • Dancing in close-closed with someone who’s the right height and connecting well (feels pretty awesome).
  • Being taught a few embraces which improve the connection in closed.
  • Recognising some of them from the previous evening.
  • Closed embrace with Damon and a “Freakishly tall guy”.
  • The picture, care of Christopher Allen.
  • The prank, care of Asif.
  • £5 communal nachos which were better and more filling than £9 burger
  • First dance with Brin (baptism of fire for the evening).
  • Still having my jumper on (baptism of sweat for the evening).

November 19, 2008

Dance Pointers

I might have called this post “Dance Philosophy”, or “Best Practices”, but that would imply that I have checked it for self-consistency and so-forth. This is a set of beliefs/observations that I have about leading, and I am completely happy if other people don’t hold the same beliefs, but I will defend my beliefs if attacked (maybe “Dance Theology” would be more appropriate). I make no comments about which bits apply to following as well.

1) If you are having trouble dancing with a follow (of any ability), then a good solution is *always* to become a better lead.

1.1) Telling a follow that she’s doing something “wrong” is *always* the wrong thing to do.
1.1.1) In most cases, she can feel that something’s wrong, and so doesn’t need to be told.
1.1.2) You will (in most cases) be incapable of explaining it in words.
1.1.3) In most cases, it’s because you’re doing it wrong yourself.
1.1.4) If you can lead the difference between doing it “wrong”, and doing it “right”, then it will be more effective than words (see point 1).
1.1.5) Telling someone that they should *not* do something is dangerous. What you want someone not to do may be exactly what someone else wants them to do in some situation. If you can show people alternatives, and let them pick for themselves, this will reduce the number of people doing the “wrong” thing, without removing their ability to do so if the need arises.

1.2) If you find yourself wanting to “know” more “moves”, then this is a sign that your understanding of the things you already “know” is not strong enough.
1.2.1) It is more enjoyable to play with the subtleties of a few moves than a lot of different moves done in the same way.
1.2.2) If there are 7 independent layers of lead/follow (ask Andrew Sutton for a list and he will consistently produce at least that many (though they may not always be the same 7)) then you have at least 2^7=128 variations on each move. If you get bored with 2^7, then try 3^7 and so on.

1.3) If you are getting a lot of awkward moments, then you need to go back to basics.
1.3.1) If your connection is broken, you will be impossible to follow. If your frame is too weak then your follow will not be able to feel what you want her to do. If your frame is too rigid/jerky, it will break your follow’s frame. Similarly, if you break your frame by doing an awkward arm lead, then it will break your follow’s frame. If you have too little tension, your follow may not know when you want her to move (especially problematic with fast music). If you have too much tension, then your follow will feel too forced, and have no freedom to do her own thing (especially in slow music, and music she knows well). This is often referred to as a lack of responsiveness. All of the above things affect all of the above things
1.3.2) Having “just enough” control to reliably lead what you want is ideal. It is important to find out what “just enough” is for every follow.
1.3.3) If you are doing a lot of different “moves” then you both need to “know” them and get them “right” in order to avoid conflicts.
1.3.4) If you are doing lots of subtle variations on basic moves, then there will be no conflict if your follow ignores them. If there is a conflict, then your “subtle variation” is not a subtle variation.

To be continued, I suspect.

If someone wants to expand this onto a wiki somewhere, please do so. I’m thinking that each of the points should be the title of a page, with each page being a stub with a “Consider first” link pointing to its parent, “Consider also” links pointing to its siblings, and “Consider next” pointing to its children. It would then be possible to flesh out each page with an “Examples” section.

October 21, 2008

Lindy Exchanges

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , — alsuren @ 12:02 am

Okay… I haven’t blogged about Edinburgh yet, so I might as well write something about both exchanges.

In terms of general style of dancing, I’ve been mostly sitting out of anything fast, because there can be less playing in fast lindy, and it becomes a test of your fast swing-outs (which are a completely different move from normal ones) rather than an actual conversation between the dancers and the music. Also, it’s possible to make the same song seem either fast or slow depending on what emphasis you put on which parts of which basics. I could do a blog about why I hate soil-dancing fast lindy, but that will have to wait. The only good fast lindy dance I had was with Meg, who usually needs really heavy connection, because she [almost always] delays the hell out of the start of swing-outs, so that she can come in at a stupid speed and force a heavy connection. It didn’t seem like it took any extra effort at all to do fast swing-outs with her than normal ones, because she just dropped the delay, and came in at the same speed.

At Cambridge, since going to lots of Tango lessons, and not much Lindy, I had the aim of being as subtle as possible, while still leading whatever. This had some good responses, especially from Heather, who said that I seemed responsive to what she was wanting. I was also trying to play with the feel of the basics I was doing to fit the feel of the music, after the musicality workshop (though generally without changing the footwork too much, since that would require a lot of bal-like-fu). My next challenge on the lindy front will be to incorporate the subtleties of the rhythm/melody into a standard basic like the swing-out. I do suspect that in order to get it followed, I might need to change the footwork in some noticeable way.

I think that a special mention needs to go to Erika. At Edinburgh we had some random fun dances (including one in which brownies and ice cream were consumed, if I remember correctly (I’ve decided that I can feed myself better when leading than following [blues])) but nothing that made me go “wow” any more than the dozen or so other amazing dancers at the exchange. Then, on the Sunday night, there was a blues after-party with a little alcohol and tea, and I nabbed a few dances with her. At some point she led some smooth blues on me, as an “I really love this kind of thing” demo, and she managed to make me do something with my arse that I may never understand. I gave it a shot at leading too and there was definitely a lot of melty. I was very tempted to just keep dancing with her forever, but I knew that attempting to do so would probably result in less dances in the future. I also became aware that the more I danced with her, the more likely I was to do something stupid (made even more stupid by the fact that I had consumed a variety of beers, ciders, and chilli that evening). I remember thinking that I wasn’t in much control of anything: Everything I led was dictated by a mixture of what she was [/we were] already doing and what the music was doing.

In Cambridge, on the Friday night and early (before one) Saturday night, we had strings of really playful dances. I felt like there weren’t more than a handful of basics that weren’t twisted and stylised somehow by one of us [insert reference to Andrew Sutton’s ideas on levels of leading and following], and there were a good few bluesy-flourishes thrown in too. I actually offered her all of the remaining dances of the night at one point, and would have done so if I hadn’t signed up to help out with the refreshments for the next hour. By the time I started looking for her again, she was pretty engrossed in dancing with James (another Edinburgh dancer). I spent the next half hour or so variously trying to pretend that I wasn’t supremely jealous (and didn’t, in fact, have a massive crush on her) and sleeping, so that I could help out with the packing up at 6 like I’d stupidly offered to do. I think I may have refused a few dances in that time which I never managed to get back (and at least one from Holly, who I felt like I had danced with at least half a dozen times that night anyway). When I eventually got my blues dance with Erika, it was dreadful. Probably a good thing, as it meant that I could more happily let her get back to dancing with James, and have a few decent dances with other people myself.

On the Sunday of Cambridge, we had some decent dances again. I caught myself leading slow tuck turns (in the same way) more times than I might have liked, but honestly, who cares: at least they turned out as slow tuck turns and didn’t morph themselves into one-footed pivots [mentioning no names]. I just love it when you feel like you’re picking up on everything in your partner’s body[/mind], as well as the music. Due to my being all bunged up and probably infectious, and breaking some of my own terms, I think that Erika came firmly under the heading of “I know this is a really bad idea… why do I want it so much?”

It’s probably also worth observing that Gill looked stunning in her saturday night costume, but since we were busy pretending not to know each other, I didn’t say anything. I’m sure there will be pictures on facebook for the curious.

In terms of health, my shoulder went to hell again on the sunday when we were at the pub. I think it was probably just one dance that was the last straw, after a weekend’s punishment. I really need to go easy on it over the next few months, and do all of the exercises that my physio showed me. I suspect that it may mean ducking out of troupe, which is very annoying, as I really wanted to be part of an ADC show before I left. I guess this gives me yet another reason to focus on Tango.

May 13, 2008


Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , , , , — alsuren @ 9:57 am

I don’t need to talk about the blues dancing workshop, because a) it was obviously going to be amazing and b) rob has already blogged about it:

The other important event of the weekend was that my mum and dad came up. They have a van, which is a complete tax dodge, but nevermind. This means that I will have no trouble getting my stuffs back home in the holidays. They also brought my eeepc.

Now the eeepc does live up to its name: it’s very [squ]eee and quite [w]eee. There are a few little gems about it: the charger is like an oversized phone charger, for example, and there’s a light on the webcam that tells you when it’s being used. The user manual is pretty priceless. Version E3509, which I found and mirrored here:
gems include:
“The solid-state disk drive’s head retracts when the power is turned OFF to prevent scratching of the solid-state disk drive surface during transportation” — 1-5
The finger in 1-7 pointing to the power button
Section 5 contains some really useful hints for optimising windows XP for low disk usage. It seems that you can get windows (without office obv, and no backup partition) into about 2GB. The Xandros they have installed contains a complete recovery partition and OOo, Konq and Firefox, Kontact and Thunderbird, and webcam utilities etc. and leaves you with ~ a gig (can’t remember, and I need to run: will add the real number later.)

The only peeves I have are the windows-like “single user, who’s able to do pretty much everything” feel, and the large quantities of bespoke that have been piled on (you can’t set konq to do tabbed browsing, for example, and they’ve renamed *everything* apart from firefox) Also, it took Tom K to show me where the ~ was, after 5 minutes of my complaining.

So yeah: might be installing xubuntu if anyone can lend me a decent sized usb stick or remind me where my old 1GB SD card went. kthxbi

April 6, 2008

Private Lesson

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , — alsuren @ 9:58 am

In Body related news, I think my back is strengthening up again. Mostly because I’ve been doing lots of dancing. I expect that by the end of LLX, I’ll be up for aerials and whatnot.

I had a private lesson with Gerald yesterday. We did a lot of body control and posture stuff, which was good for me. It took a lot of time to get started, because my posture is really quite bad. I’m not sure whether we genuinely fixed it, or whether it was a case of “That’s as good as it’s going to get. Let’s move on.” The idea of splitting your body into two sections and controlling them separately is useful. It lets you be aware of where they both are makes it easier to notice when you break your core, and feed back this information to correct it next time. Everything else we did really stems from there.

In my understanding, it seems that when you’re dancing basics, there are 3 things that you should be monitoring: your chest section, your pelvis section, and your partner’s chest section. Once you can be sure that you’re controlling your own sections, you should notice when one of them is not where you want it, and feedback (subtly) on the next basic, to correct.

The really intriguing part of the lesson was the end: When we were finishing off, I was quite quick to say “I have my cheque book”, which was a little “I have just bought that time and knowledge off you” of me. His response was difficult to interpret: He was very reluctant to take money in payment. Now I initially thought that this was because he didn’t want to take money from a student, but I’m not so sure: He asked me if I could teach *him* anything that would be interesting to him, so that it could be a knowledge exchange. When I eventually managed to force some money on him, I felt like it wasn’t nearly as much as the lesson was worth to me.

The exchange showed me that we seem to share a few important ideas: “Knowledge is worth more than money, so any exchange involving money will always be unfair.” Also: “It’s better to come off worse in a deal. That way, the other party will always feel the need to repay the debt.” The thing I *didn’t* realise was that he did a PhD in computer vision and augmented reality (this came out when I was trying to think of things I could teach him). Not only that, but he did a couple of years in industry before doing it. Now I was planning to do about 4 years in industry before going for a PhD, but I can see why it might be a good idea to do it after 2. I think I have even more respect for him now.

So we come to the problem of “What can you teach a man who has spent N more years exploring the same stuff you’re interested in?”

The only thing that I’ve thought of so far is that I might be able to teach him some linux crap: He knows C/C++, but uses windows XP on his laptop. He doesn’t use java or C#, so he’s unlikely to be locked in by the same stuff that Alex is screwed by. It might be that he already uses it, but needs windows for iTunes, or it might be that he simply doesn’t use it (for whatever reason).

In the first case, I could show him around Amarok, and tailor my moodbar project to him (he has trouble picking songs that have the right tempo, and he said that it would be useful). In the second case, I could probably tweak a distro for him, and show him around. I expect it would be OpenSuse, or Hardy with instructions to just do security updates, because Ubuntu’s upgrade process has fucked up too many of my friends’ installs.

In other news, I found a way to get around my problem of having no access to external servers on which to play teeworlds: Set up my own on :D. If anyone fancies a game: prod me, and I’ll fire it up again. Because it registers itself on the internet, you get lots of random players joining, which is cool. I might see if I can mod the server to gather some statistics. See if I can train a bot or something. That way, if attacks me for running an IP server on PWF, I can say that it’s a research project, relevant to my course.

February 21, 2008

Long Day

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , — alsuren @ 3:02 pm

I am now completely dead. Interview day with IBM from 9:15 until about 3, then back into London for dinner and dancing until 10-ish. Wearing the same shoes the whole time.

Interview wasn’t an interview really: more of a test-day. Don’t know why they didn’t start it later, so we could have just gone on the morning train.

Tried to scav dinner off my mum, but apparently she’d taken the day off, Dad too. I’ll have to ask them about that. Ended up eating in wagamamas instead. Not too bad, if I hadn’t eaten the semi-raw red-onion.

Dancing was jitterbugs, marble arch. There’s SO MUCH SPACE. Even my dreadful floorcraft didn’t trip over anyone. I think my dancing became a little Roland-esque at points. Not sure whether that’s a good thing or what. There were a few familiar faces (Carol(?), Cleo :D…). For some reason, I was half-expecting to see J there, but no joy.

Now there’s a stupid bus replacement service to cambs, so I don’t know when i’m getting in. (answer: 1:00-ish)

February 19, 2008

Dancing, guush

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: — alsuren @ 3:26 pm

Since last Monday, after Salsa, I’ve been yearning for a decent jazz/blues dance with someone. Something with lots of Guush (sp?). I went to the speakeasy yesterday, and had a load of amazing dances. There were a few new student-types there, who seemed really up for the whole learning random charleston moves thing. I also had a really nice dance with Mirjana. I can’t really explain it, but there was definitely guush. I was talking to her body, and I didn’t notice what her feet were doing to support her (she could have been floating for all I knew). I think maybe it was just that neither of us were really thinking, so it was just a nice relaxed dance: not too much crazyness, and only a few subtle “there’s the break” style pauses etc.

I had a brief discussion with Rosie about Salsa, and at some point during the night, I worked out why I spin her so much (yes: it is me leading it): I think it’s because I don’t feel safe leading her in swing-outs. In Salsa, I guess you want to be made aware of every part of the other person’s body (so I can understand how heels might make it easier), but in Lindy (for me, at least) it’s nicer if you don’t notice the footwork. That way, you can feel the other person’s centre without too much noise. Once you have that, you can add in smooth variations, and you have my perfect dance. I guess if you’re thinking of shoes that are perfect for dancing, they would be the same shoes that you’d play run-outs with your little cousins in, (but with a bit of slide, so that you don’t have to lift your feet too much). Maybe I should find out what size shoe Rosie takes, and duct tape some plim-soles for her… Maybe I should bring some duct-tape for Alex as well.

Also, was reminded that Lara can *definitely* move her body while blues dancing. I suspect that I may not have been the best lead there, because I was thinking more about what she was doing than what I was doing.

The only thing that was missing was a Gill :(. Hopefully she will get better in time for next week.

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