A Swinging start to the New Year

A slightly belated new year’s post but since it’s currently now Chinese new year, it does seem a bit appropriate to post this now as opposed to never!
So from a bluesy house party in fairly formal clothes at the start of 2016, then ending up in a pyjama party in a south east cuisine restaurant which held a swing party seems like a very appropriate finish.

Upon arriving in China one of the biggest hobbies or “connections to home” I’ve kept maintaining has been dancing. Mostly because over the past two years it has probably been the core reason for how I’ve managed to get out of my shell more and more. I rarely saw dancing as any means of self-expression, although probably more recently I suppose my view on that is changing. It was more a convenient way of becoming more technically proficient at listening and reacting to music. I was intrigued with how other dancers interpreted music and managed to make it pop, particularly when you specifically make the genre swing and add the improvisation element in, there’s just something magical about it. Since both the dancers and the musicians have to play on whatever happens in that moment. The musicians have to keep to a recurring theme but obviously add their own melodies and takes to the song without making it too complicated for a dancer to follow, then the dancers have to make almost a best guess at how a melody is going to travel. Will both their sequences be relatable to one another but also to a crowd watching. Funnily enough when I was back home practicing with clarinet melodies, my father told me, “Triplet runs last longer than you think, be prepared.” Which looking back now does remind me of many occasions, where by not listening to the music intently, took me away from both the conversation with the music and my dancing partner. It’s almost a gradually learned instinct to start thinking many bars ahead of the predicted melody and mentally preparing your body to work around an invisible music score which only through time you get the gist of. Whether the score is in ABAB or AABA, you soon learn to predict those changes in melody as the song progresses.

So during this pyjama party I was given the opportunity to participate in a Jack and Jill:

Jack and Jill is a format of competition in partner dancing, where the competing couples are the result of random matching of leaders and followers

J&J competitions are intended to test social dance skills, whereas fixed partner competitions test performance dance skills

Initially entering with my girlfriend, the random matching occurred and we were cast with different partners as opposed to what we originally prepared. (Although we just prepared each other for any improvisation to be welcomed when dancing) however in the end we were matched against each other. Then more silliness, bouncing and dancing too fast to know what’s going on resumed. In the end myself and my J&J partner Scarlett managed to win 1st place which did really feel like a lovely way to finish my 2 years of swing dancing.

The most intriguing part about it all was how much it made me think of the “social dancing” timeline of a dancer. That even if you’ve taken classes on the side, really having that foundation knowledge in compensating and dancing with a variety of partners helps pave the way for creating more memorable and enjoyable moments on the dancefloor.


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