RIP MJ

The world lost an excellent artist today. Michael Jackson was a visionary in his music and dance. I must admit I am not his biggest fan, but I am sorry for the loss.

He touched us all

Frankie Manning and Dawn Hampton by OpeningMinds on Flickr

Frankie Manning and Dawn Hampton by OpeningMinds on Flickr

Frankie Manning passed away this morning. My Facebook news feed is full of tributes. As well it should be. Most everyone in the swing world recognized what a treasure he was, and took every opportunity to learn from him and dance with him. I will never forget how joy exuded from him with every dance, and even with every word he spoke about dance.

Ninety-Five years well lived.

Let us remember WHY we dance. Why he danced. As Jojo Jackson put it (on her Facebook page) “What a sad and beautiful day. hats off to you frankie for a life well-lived. if i could only peek into heaven right now, it must be one hell of a party.”

The Legend

Just shy of his 95th birthday, the legendary swing dancer, Frankie Manning, fell into a coma today. Doctors have given him a few days tops. He and his family could use your prayers and well wishes. Thank you.

http://www.frankiemanning.com/

A letter to my dance class, before the second week:

Hey there soon-to-be swing dance sensations! This is Amberlynn, your teacher.

I’m gonna talk a bit in this email, so that I don’t have to waste time in class talking. I’d rather you use your time dancing, obviously.

I’d say it’s probably a safe bet that I’m the youngest one in the class, wouldn’t you? Therefore, it may be rather hard for you to take me seriously when I do things like cheer and holler, “That was great!” Well… good for you. I’d prefer you not to take me very seriously. However, If you’re not going to take me seriously, than please apply the same courtesy to yourselves. Let me share a little story to explain what I mean:

One day, two dignitaries were in an office working out a very serious agreement. Just when they were about to resolve a long-standing conflict, a poor shoeless man burst into the room pounding his fists, stomping on the floor, and screaming at his head of state.

“Kindly remember rule no. 6,” his leader said to him. The man immediately calmed down, and left the room.

Soon, a woman, tears streaming down her face burst into the room. She stormed up to the man, stuck her finger in the center of his chest and growled a threat.

Again, the man politely said to her, “Kindly remember rule no. 6.” Like magic, her demeanor softened and she left the room.

In awe the visiting dignitary asked his colleague, “Please share! What is rule no. 6?”

With a smile on his face the first man replied, “Don’t take yourself so seriously.”

“Ah! And the other rules?”

“There are no other rules.”

Most of you signed up for this class because you thought it would be fun. (A few of you were dragged here because your significant other thought it would be fun… and home life would NOT be fun if you didn’t give in once in a while.) If you take anything in this class too seriously, the fun will disappear. Remember, it’s only a dance… and remember Rule no. 6… I’m willing to bet that even those who are attending grudgingly can have fun.

Will you play this game with me during class tonight? Will you pretend that you are in a wonderful class, full of amazing potential friends, and that you have the ability to learn to dance like nobody’s business? Hey, I’m young. I like games. Besides, based on how well you all did the first week, I expect it won’t be much work to get there. (What fun is work, anyway?)

One last note: If you are going to play this game with me, keep in mind that it’s not the type of game where others have to lose for you to win. The more you help others win, the more we all win. (Sorry I’m sounding so cheesy, but it’s true.) So, think about what you can do to help others. I’ll give you one hint… (No, it’s not a hint… it’s some strong advice from one with many years of dance teaching experience) Telling your partner they’re doing it wrong is NOT helpful. (Leave that to Erik and I, please.) Patience, encouragement, and not taking any of it too seriously, on the other hand, is likely to be very helpful.

See you tonight,
Amberlynn

Please Pardon Our Dust…

We’ve had to move The Dance Primer over to free hosting on WordPress. There are, of course, glitches in the moving process. Please pardon our dust while we settle it. It may take a while as The Dance Primer has been put on the back-burner of our priorities for now. We do hope for a future revival. See you then!

Dancing Pregnant

Can I even write about this? Can I do it justice? I feel I must try. (Inspired by a post by Melena at African.Dance.Drum.Life!)

**

Dance speaks differently to each of us, and through each of us. Different songs and rhythms pull different bodies in different directions. A good standard jazz tune can’t keep me in my seat. A bad country song will find me not only leaving the dance floor, but the room, too. That’s just me.

Add pregnancy.

Talk about an addition! This amazing occurance does such new and strange things to our bodies and minds that dancing becomes a completely new experience all over again – and new again in a completely different way when a different pregnancy comes along.

When swinging and floating in the arms of my love, it’s heavenly. We’re reminded we’re not alone when a belly bumps between us, and we giggle. He forgives my unsteadiness, missed steps, tiredness… as he recognizes my body is a new skin each time I’m on the dance floor. We work so hard at finding and moving from our cores, as dancers… but when our core is filled with an entirely new being that “finding our center” becomes profound and sometimes overwhelming.

The dancing I love to do most is social – it cannot happen alone.  “I want to dance with the pregnant lady,” someone shouts across the floor! I’m dressed in an adorable little cherry covered dress with my belly popping out all over the dance floor. Only, the one who shouts out never does ask… and neither do any other single men. An aspect of the dance has ended – the flirtatious curiousity of exploring new dancers. I feel lost for a piece of the dance I love. It doesn’t happen to my husband. He still asks/gets asked by the single girls too. But only a small handfull of men see me anymore, though they smile appreciatively at the belly. Others remark, “Oh how cute!” and “I want to dance when I’m pregnant.” Do they have any idea what they’re saying?

The emotional aspect now involved in dancing, I cannot begin to explain. Others’ remarks are both welcome, and painful. The social dynamic, a whole new aspect. And most of all, there’s the relationship between myself and the new life inside.

My first son (we did not know it was a boy until it was born) loved for me to dance. He would complain with kicks when the music and movement ended. “But I’m tired,” I might say. “I don’t care,” I could almost hear him, “keep dancing!” Practice for conversations we would have after he was born. “You will be a dancer,” I would think. “At least you will share my love of dance!”

Some people love being pregnant. Some people feel great. Some have it easy. I think the SOME must be emphasized here. I believe it is a very small SOME. I never expected to love being pregnant. I did expect the physical hardships.

I began ballroom dancing my senior year of high school, 1996. I auditioned after learning the basic Cha Cha steps, and made it onto our school’s first ballroom dance team. Rehearsals were very early in the morning, and our coach would bark at us about the littlest thing. I hated her. When I got the part in the school’s musical, being at school from 5a.m. to 10p.m. became too much, and I quit the ballroom team. Visiting later, I discovered the coach was actually a nice woman, and completely changed after her baby was born. She was just a grumpy pregnant lady.

What I did not want, more than anything, was to become that grumpy pregnant woman. Oh, well. I was most certainly grumpy while pregnant. But I don’t think I took it out on any of my dance students. Instead, dance was an outlet I could work through my grumps, and physical difficulties, and connect with not only my center, but with my child.

My first pregnancy was a sensual one. I was constantly in the mood for some real down in-it blues dancing. Constantly. Or Belly Dancing would do. Rolling movements… with a round body… is something else.

My second pregnancy was a compeltely different story. It was harder. I was VERY tired. I did not *want* to dance. I never looked forward to teaching my classes, or helping out at practicas. However, when I did start moving it was so much easier, suddenly. With the right partner, or the right song, or when I was teaching, I could forget about myself and my tiredness and enjoy life again. But it wasn’t easy.

And then came the point where I couldn’t dance. That was heartbreaking. I had never wanted to get up, and now suddenly wanted to, when I couldn’t. I would still go to teach my classes – and let my husband lead physically, while I would sit and DJ and instruct from the sidelines. I had many mothers among my students who watched out for me. When I would get too excited and start doing something with more energy they would begin joking about me going into early labor. (I have to say the months-worth of pre-labor I had helped the real labor go along vey well, I think.)

I feel this has been far to rambly, and not getting out what I’m trying to say. I wonder if I can answer something more directly. Here is something I want to answer from the post that inspired my dribbling now:

“A part of me was worried too though — that if I were a pregnant mother — I’d surely lack the discipline to wade through the sensual dance waters and instead, surrender to my usual explosive dance making.

I started to think how dance might hurt my future child and if I’ll ever learn the calm so necessary to be pregnant and dancing… “

I love your first paragraph. Oh, the worries and wonders of it all. There is no answer to this, except for experience, which will be different for you than it was for me, or any other pregnant woman. For your second paragraph, though – if you are in good physical condition, explosive dancing will likely not hurt your future child. I think the only way dance could hurt a future child is after the child were born… if dance had priority over the child, or if dance was forced upon an unwilling child –  both seem unlikely scenarios.

I do not want to force dance upon my sons, but I want them to experience the love that dance speaks to me. I would love to equip them with better and earlier experiences and training than I had – but only time will tell what I am able to do, and what they will desire anyway. My two-year-old seems to enjoy it so far, and with his nickname of Jazz, he’s unlikely to be able to escape at least knowing some dance or music.

I guess I have to conclude that dancing pregnant is magic, wonderful, painful, awful, and nothing all that special – all at the same time. It will continue to be a part of your life. Things change both entirely and not at all when you’re pregnant. Suddenly, people are blown away by you continuing your life with things like dancing, or even signing political petitions, or things you used to do every day without a second glance. You learn what your priorities really are, when you must make a daily decision to pursue your priorities… which sometimes may be hiding in bed doing nothing more than growing or caring for a new life.

-Signing off from the corner of the bed, next to my beautiful sleeping infant…

It’s a Boy!

My long haitus has taken us through the end of my pregnancy, and I’m very proud to announce the arrival of my son last Sunday! It will likely still be a while before I return to regular posting, but I hope to be back in the dance blogosphere soon.

In the mean time, my favorite dance competition show, So You Think You Can Dance, is back for season four. Tonya Plank reviewed the first round of competitions pretty well, and I commented with my own opinions. I do have to add, though, that my two favorites from the audition episodes were cut, and that made me somewhat sad, but the overall talent this season is high enough that I won’t boycott the show. :) I don’t remember the names of the two boys whos auditions I liked so well, but one was like watching Cary Grant, and Nigel even said so. I was sorry to see him go. The other was an extremely powerful contemporary dancer… I wish I had caught his name. At least both of these boys were so full of talent that they will very likely succeed in the dance world without the extra name/face recognition from SYTYCD.