Monday, December 16, 2013

Aerials and Airsteps!

 Join Henry and Kirsten for the last BCH class at Summerfield Church!


Henry and Kirsten Boeh are excited to get your feet off the ground with BCH's last class at Summerfield -we'll be jumping with some  air-steps and aerials! Warm up the winter weather and learn how to successfully perform frog jumps, the kip, and a jump dip.

Please note, these moves are not appropriate for social dancing, and require jumping and lifting. If you would feel more comfortable with a familiar lead/follow that you trust, you may want to come with a partner for this class. Rotation will be optional. 

Dress for success in clothes that let you move easily. Consider bringing shoes that are comfortable to jump around in.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

This Week: Sass and Spunk with Trevor and Kirsten

BCH Monday Night Classes, 7:00-9:00 pm
Summerfield Church - 728 Juneau

All Levels and Ages Welcome!  $8/$5 Students

Lindy Sass and Spunk

If you've ever watched Trevor Williams dance, you can't help but smile at his crazy antics and creative moves. Leads, if you are looking to make sure your follows love to dance with you, you don't want to miss this class! Follows, fear not, we've got something special planned for you too. Kirsten Boeh is excited to share the secrets of killer swivels with you. Get ready to have a great Monday night filled with fun, sass and spunk!

Next Week

Henry and Kirsten Boeh are back teaching together to get your feet off the ground. For BCH's last class at Summerfield, we'll be jumping with some  air-steps and aerials! We'll be teaching some really fun moves that just might turn your world upside down. We don't get the chance for classes like this very often in Milwaukee, so take advantage of it next week!

Please note, these moves are not appropriate for social dancing, and require jumping and lifting. If you would feel more comfortable with a familiar lead/follow that you trust, you may want to come with a partner for this class. Rotation will be optional. 

BCH Classes in January:

We are moving!
Join BCH in January at our fabulous new location at UWM's Peck School of the Arts. Our new studio is in the Mitchell Building, Room 335 (3203 N. Downer, on the corner of Downer and Kenwood).

Best of Both Worlds: Mixing Elements of Blues into Lindy Hop
Tory Bahe and Trevor Williams are starting 2014 off with a bang. Join them at our new location on Monday nights in January to bring the best elements of blues dancing into your Lindy Hop.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

December's Grab Bag of Lindy Awesomeness

This December, Brew City Hops is presenting 3 weeks of lindy-hop awesomeness! Classes are held 7:00-9:00pm on Mondays. $8/$5 students

December 2: The one and only, the incredible Lian Tarhay from Madison, WI will be guest instructing to share with you some tips and tricks she wished she had known earlier in her dancing. She'll be covering turns, body matching, leading/following steps vs triples, momentum & stretch. This class will be great for dancers of any level, you don't want to miss it!!!!

December 9: Trevor Williams and Kirsten Boeh will be teaching some great new lindy moves that we promise you haven't done before. You've seen Trevor tear it up on the dance floor, this is your chance to steal some of his signature swag.

December 16: Ever been wowed by aerials and air steps when watching competitions? Ever wondered how they did that? Hank (Henry Boeh) and Kirsten will introduce you to the world of air steps with some flash, and maybe a tish of trash. -Please note that this class will require some athleticism, and moves taught are not appropriate for social dancing.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Movin' it to the Blues -- Blues Dance Workshop this Saturday!

Get ready for a weekend of blues!  Don't forget the Harvest Blues Dance on Friday night (November 22) and spend the following afternoon with Chicago's Bob Bednarz and BCH's Tory Bahe.
Photo courtesy of Braden Nesin
See more of his work at


Saturday, November 23, 1-4 pm 


Riverside Park Urban Ecology Center (1500 E Park Place)

How much?

$15 in advance (email torybahe [at] gmail [dot] com to secure your spot
$20 at the door

What we gonna do? 

Hour 1:  Back to Basics We'll start our class in close embrace -- make it comfy, make it move, and make it your own.
Hour 2:  Movin' It Rock bluesy solo movements in your own dance.  Put them together with a partner to expand your vocabulary and make our dancing pop.
Hour 3:  Call and Response 
Express what you hear, play off your partners movement as well as the energy throughout the room. Bob is a blues music geek, and has a lot of great music knowledge to share. Click here to read a post he wrote for our BCH blog after his last workshop in Milwaukee.

I'm in. So how do I get there? 

Good question.  These classes will take place in the Community Room at the Riverside Park Urban Ecology Center.  There are two parking lots available; keep going west on Park across the bridge and you'll see one just to your left and one a bit farther on to your left (just keep going towards the big stone arch) if the first one is full.  Once inside the Center, head to your right just past the reception desk, then down on the stairs and straight into the Community Room.  See you there!

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Blues and Solo Dancing in November

Hey folks and sundry; Elise here!  Have I got some news for you...

Monday Night Solo Movement Classes

This month is very exciting - on Monday nights, we'll be going over the fundamentals of solo movement!  This means line dances, choreographies and snappy solo moves, but it also means improvisation techniques from the ground up.

Last week, we covered the entire Jitterbug Stroll, a groovy line dance choreographed by Ryan Francois.  This coming Monday, the 11th, we will round off the Jitterbug stroll and then lay down the complete Shim Sham, as choreographed by the one and only Frankie Manning!  Further and more complicated line dances await!

In improvisation, we explored Musicality in terms of structure, mood, and musical comments.  We had a lot of fun with interactive activities like "Find the One," "Mood Charades," and "Instrumental Simon Says."  We illustrated the structure of standard 32-bar form, and we explored using our movements to express emotions and musical phrases.  Coming up next week, the many wonderful uses of Contrast in expressive, musical solo dancing!

Also coming up...

A Milwaukee Blues Dance!

Also on the radar for this month is Milwaukee's own Harvest Blues Dance, following up on the amazing fun and energy we had at this summer's Blues Revival!  Save the 22nd of November, the Friday before Thanksgiving, for your glorious blues enjoyment.

B-Fit Studios, 2nd floor of 219 N. Milwaukee Street.  Parking in a nearby lot on Milwaukee & Buffalo.

Friday, November 22, 2013
8:00-8:30 - beginner blues lesson with Elise and Justin
8:30-10:00 - tunes spun by local DJ Justin Raibolt
10:00-11:30 - further tunes by local DJ Henry Boeh

How much?
Cover $8

What else?
This is a potluck event, as befits the season!  Please bring snacks and drinks to share and enjoy!
This event is also BYOB, but only ages 21 and up allowed in.

Anything else?

Also A Milwaukee Blues Dance Workshop!

[Photo credit: Ben Hejkal Photography]
Don't put your calendars away - there will also be a Blues Dance Workshop, taught by Tory Bahe and Chicago's Bob Bednarz, on the day right after the dance (Saturday, November 23)!  More details will be posted as soon as we know. This will be one amazing weekend, everyone - I hope to see you all there!

Monday, October 7, 2013

I Charleston Video Project

I Charleston Video Project!

BCH Monday Night Classes, 7:00-9:00 pm
Summerfield Church - 728 Juneau
    Image from I Charleston The World
October Classes:  

I Charleston Video Project: Phase 1
The premise is simple: Groups of dancers from around the world are filming themselves doing the Charleston in front of famous places, and the time has come to put Milwaukee on the map! Join Victoria Bahe and Kirsten Boeh this month to learn short segments of Charleston choreography that we will incorporate into the final video project. Each week will stand alone, so come to all four weeks to learn all the pieces of choreography. Check out I Charleston The World, or their Facebook page for lots of inspiration!
         All Levels and Ages Welcome!  $8/$5 Students, $24 for all four weeks

How do I get involved?

We want this project to showcase the incredible scene we have here in Milwaukee, along with our beautiful and iconic local landmarks, but we can't do it without you! Each week, we invite you to grab a friend and a camera, and film your fine selves someplace in Milwaukee performing that week's choreography. Once you've got some tape, upload it to this Dropbox link:, bring it to class, or email it to Brew City Hops. Questions? Just ask!

Next month with Brew City Hops:
Remember those great solo jazz routines Elise Russell was throwing down for warm ups this summer? Check her out this November for a whole month of great solo work and get excited to improve your creativity and musicality!

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Summer Summary

It has been an amazing summer. I had so much fun teaching with Adam at Brew City Hops, and it was so great to see how much everyone worked and improved these past few months!  I also had a wonderful time writing these weekly blog posts.  I hope you all enjoyed this summer as much as I did!


For posterity, and for the curious, here are all of our class warm-up choreographies.  We didn't manage a class video of the last warm-up, but I recorded myself demonstrating it in case you would like to practice it at home.

June Solo Jazz Warm-Up

Slow Song: Four or Five Times, by the Chiaroscuro All Stars (featuring Joe Williams)
Fast Song: South, by Joe Salzano and the Blue Devils

Choreography starts right on the first beat:

Walk forward, walk back (x2) - (skip this when dancing to fast song)
Shouts x2, jump shouts, mess around (x2)
Tacky annie x2, badoom badoom tacky annie, hallelujah rocks (x2)

Boogie forward, boogie back (x2)
Charleston x2, hop-hop charleston, scarecrow (x2)
Lollies x2, kick-step forward, boogie down (x2)

Shorty george, apple jacks (x2)
Jazz sqare x2, jazz square with slip slop, fishtails (x2)
Fall off the log x2, fall off the log with twisty heels, running on a log (x2)

End with a lock-turn!

June Solo Jazz Warm-Up, Slow

June Solo Jazz Warm-Up, Fast

July Solo Charleston Warm-Up

Fast Song: I Like Pie, I Like Cake, by Gordon Webster (Live in Rochester, feat. Steven Mitchell)
Faster Song: Twenty-Four Robbers, by Gordon Webster

Choreography starts in on the first verse:

Hitchhiker's x3, knee-slaps (x2)
20's charleston x3, charleston turn (x2)
20's charleston with swoops x3, charleston turn (x2)
20's charleston with running on a log variation x3, charleston turn (x2)

Crossovers x3, double kicks (x2)
30's charleston x3, lock turn (x2)
Flying charleston x3, lock turn (x2)
Flying charleston with swoops x3, lock turn (x2)

July Solo Charleston Warm-Up, Fast

August Slow Solo Warm-Up

Slow Song: Sermonette, by Gordon Webster
Slower Song: Sweet Lorraine, by the Bechet-Spainer Quartet

Choreography starts in on the first verse:

Mambo step x3, paddle turn (x2)
Camel walk, shoe shine (x4)

Mooches x3, pimp walk (x2)
Kitchen dance, wax the floor (x4)

Low downs, hip scoots, low downs, slides (x2)
Monkey leaps, pivot around (x4)

August Slow Solo Warm-Up, Fast - Demo

It has been lovely, everyone!  I'll see you out and about this fall!

- Elise

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

September BCH Classes


Henry and Kirsten are back in September for a month full of Charleston! We'll be covering tandem and jockey Charleston, as well as making sure you've got great transitions to incorporate what you learn into your dancing. As always, all ages are welcome, and no dance experience or partner is needed.

Classes will be held 7:00-9:00pm on Mondays in September*
*no classes on Labor Day

$8/$5 students
Ask about punch cards for special deals!
If finances are making it difficult to attend classes, please don't hesitate to talk to your instructors. 


Have you been itching to learn how to Swing Out? Learn the fundamentals of Lindy Hop with Tory and Trevor on Monday nights in September. Please note this class starts at 7:30 pm.

Classes will be held 7:00-9:00pm on Mondays in September*
*no classes on Labor Day
$24 for all four classes

Location The basement of Summerfield Methodist Church on 728 Juneau Ave, Milwaukee WI

Thursday, August 15, 2013

The Best Dance Analogy

My favorite way to describe dance is by comparing it to language. Each dance style is like a separate language or dialect, and they inter-relate in similar ways. They are also similarly rich, complex, and full of expressive possibilities.

This is a great analogy to use with non-dancers, when you want to explain just why you'll spend three nights per week and hundreds of dollars per year doing what looks like, to them, a version of the hokey pokey.
But what is he trying to say?

Here are some of the ways that that this awesome analogy holds true:

Dance styles and languages each have unique syntax and vocabulary.  For dancing, these are moves, rhythm, and the order in which it makes sense to do things.

Both dancing and language take a finite amount of separate pieces - words or movements - and recombine them creatively in infinite different ways.

Both dancing and language are used expressively.  I originally got hooked on lindy hop when I saw people using it to tell jokes with each other!

Ever feel like this in class?
Learning a new style of dance is very similar to learning a new language.  When you learn, you start with vocabulary and grammar (moves and patterns). You spend a while learning how to shape your mouth (body) for correct pronunciation (posture, movement style). Learning at the beginning is rote and rather awkward, but with enough practice over a long period of time, you are able to start recombining the things you have learned and expressing yourself in the moment.

With both dancing and languages, classes are certainly helpful, but the best way to reach fluency is always immersion - for example, by living with native speakers, or by social dancing frequently with good music and skilled people.

You can have an accent in both dance and speech. If I dance, say, ballroom with any competent partner, they will almost certainly spot my lindy hop background from the way I move, connect, and respond to certain cues.

Once you learn one dance style or language, it is easier to learn another. Although, when you start learning a new one, your first style or language will probably creep in and disrupt the process a bit. I know I kept trying to rock-step when I first tried salsa.

Learning a line dance is very much like learning a rote poem or chant. You can use it to practice vocabulary and pronunciation, and then you can "recite" it alone or with other people for fun.
Wow, she must have dance-dissed him
pretty hard.

Dancing with a partner is very much like having a conversation with someone.  You can share moods and thoughts, respond to each other's communications, and in the process, learn a lot about each other. In both verbal and dance conversations, people can be overbearing, shy, subtle, casual, funny, serious, challenging...the list goes on!

I am frequently sad that with most new friends, words are the only way to get to know them. If only everyone could speak a dance language!

Thursday, August 8, 2013

One-Dance Challenges

Social dancing is a time for fun and relaxation, and it is also a time to test your dancing out in the wild (as it were).  You often learn more in a good night of social dancing than you ever do in a lesson.

Look - a herd of lindy hoppers sweeping majestically across the plains!

But if it seems like your dance development is at a standstill, or you're just bored with the old routine, why not mix it up a bit and give yourself a challenge? 

Here are a few One-Dance Challenges that I've always enjoyed, some of which were also instrumental in making me a better dancer:

1. Blind Following - choose a lead that you trust, warn them about what you intend to do, and dance the whole song with your eyes closed.  It's amazing how your following can change without visual cues!

2. Level Changes - in one song, find a way to creatively work in five separate floor-touches.  This will really work your balance and your musicality, especially if you haven't done much with different levels in your dancing before.

3. Free Hand Dancing - for one song, anytime your free hand is not actively required by your partner, keep it at or above shoulder height; the challenge is in doing this creatively and musically.  You will almost certainly make up a bunch of cool arm movements that you can use in later dances!

4. Active Listening - for one song, choose a particular prominent instrument and dance only to that instrument.  Whatever it does, you respond to, and when it does nothing, you remain neutral.  You'll be surprised how much you notice about the music as a whole!

5. Opposite-Hand Dancing - for one song, use the hand that you're least accustomed to leading/following with.  For follows, you might have to specifically request that the lead only use your left hand.  It can feel mighty strange but mighty freeing to try this!

6. Box Breaking - find a partner that you feel comfortable with, and for one song, creatively twist, vary, or otherwise mess with every single move that you possibly can, even the basics!  And this goes double for follows.  This will result in a bunch of silly awkward bombs and several golden moments of "that was awesome!"

7. Solo Jam - for one song, dance with nobody but the music.  Make it a real dance, too, and use your whole body and the space around you.  "Look ma, no partner!"

8. Matrix Dancing - with a willing partner, dance one song together without touching each other.  This can mean whatever you want it to mean, as long as you're still dancing together

9. Role Switching - with a willing partner, swap lead/follow roles either for the whole dance or at multiple times throughout the dance.  See if you can pull off any cool transitions.

10. Steal Dancing - with a willing group of people, have a song where you repeatedly steal each others' partners.  See how many cool steals you can pull off in unexpected ways!

A lot of these challenges are classics, and some of them you may have never heard of.  But in my opinion, these are things that everyone needs to try at least once, not only for the learning experience, but also - mainly - for the sheer fun of it!

And now let us end with an awesome and inspiring dance video which I cannot stop watching:

Lone Star Championships 2013 Invitational Jack & Jill Contest
(The first pair, Michael and Frida, won first place!)

Thursday, August 1, 2013

A Milwaukee Blues Dancing Primer

What is it?

I love blues dancing, and so do people in every major city in America and many across the world.  But what is blues dancing?  Let me see if I can explain...

Blues dancing, like blues music, is raw, gritty, and expressive.  It is characterized by strong connection - between partners, between the dancers and the music, and even connection within the body of each dancer.  It is characterized by musicality and creative improvisation.  It is characterized by deep pulse, natural relaxed body movement, and physical eloquence.

It is difficult for me to describe in words.  The best thing I can say is that after a very good blues dance, I feel as if I've had an internal massage.  I would be happy to hear and publish others' descriptions and experiences of blues dancing, so please comment if you have one!

Some people are probably wondering if blues dancing is related to swing dancing, or tango, or any other dance.  I have observed a large overlap between lindy hoppers and blues dancers, and between west coast swing dancers and blues dancers, but a large portion of the blues scene is exclusively, or mainly, blues dancers.  I know of a number of moves that seem to be inspired by Argentine tango, but after trying to follow Argentine tango, I would guess that blues dancing is only loosely related if at all.  Blues dancing is entirely its own genre, even if it has inspirations and overlaps with other styles.

Some people are probably wondering where blues dancing came from.  There seems to be some controversy over whether the close, slow dancing done in rent parties during the early Swing era can be called blues dancing.  If so, then the modern incarnation is a revival of the early forms of dancing done to blues music, and if not, it is a dance that evolved in parallel to the swing revival of the 80's and 90's.  Either way, it is definitely still evolving.

Some people are probably wondering why we don't just cut to the chase and call it "sexy" dancing, because that's basically all it is, right?  Well, I and the entire international blues community beg to differ.  

From the awesome blog/tumblr
Declaration of Lindependance
There may be many elements of blues dancing that look sexy, but very little of it is actually as sexy as it seems from the outside.  Most of the time when I am dancing blues, I am feeling athletic, musical, and connected.  And most of the time when I am watching blues, I am captured by the expressiveness, the aesthetic, and the amazing things that people can do with the medium. People come to blues dancing for all different reasons, but most of them stay for the incredibly rich dance experience that they find.

Enough of the what.  Let's move on to the why.  And for that, I leave it up to the greats.

Why do it?

Damon and Liz Stone give a blues demo: 

Joe and Nelle give a slow drag (style of blues) demo: 

A mesmerizing blues performance to "Stormy Weather": 

A fast blues dance contest at BluesSHOUT! 2011 (watch it till the end - it gets crazy!): 

Where do it?

Had enough?  Me neither.  Here's where you can find blues dancing if you live in Milwaukee:

1. Madison has a very healthy blues scene, headed up by MadCity Blues.
  • They are holding a beginner Blues Bootcamp on Sunday, August 18th, $20 if you register online.  This is perfect for any level of dancer!
  • They are also holding an awesome Tri-State Workshop Extravaganza on August 23rd-25th, with incredible instructors and two nights of social dancing.  Registration is now open for a ridiculously low $50; you definitely don't want to miss it!
2. Chicago has two monthly blues venues, both very popular hotspots for dancers of all levels:
  • Bluetopia, on the last Friday of every month, located at the American Tango Institute at 325 N. Hoyne.  Lots of very friendly dancers here, and occasionally live music!
  • CodeBlue, on the second Friday of every month, located at the Enso Karate Dojo at 412 S. Wells.  Both blues and lindy are danced and DJ'ed here!
If you want to carpool to any of these, post on the Brew City Hops Facebook page and we'll have a carload in no time.

3. Milwaukee's blues scene is making a start!  So far, we've had one Blues Revival Dance - keep an eye out for another one as the weather turns cooler.

Also, Henry Boeh and I are finishing up a beginner's course, called Blues Dancing II, with Milwaukee Recreation.  Anyone is welcome to register and drop in for the last few weeks; you will fit in at whatever level!

Last, but most definitely not least, please keep an eye out for awesome live blues bands performing in the area - one of the best things to do is get a group of friends together and jam out to live music!  If you know anything, please post it at the Brew City Hops Facebook page, and we'll come out and jam with you like wild things!

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Ten Epiphanies of Dancing

We've all had that moment: one new piece of information, or one slightly different phrasing, suddenly makes everything fall into place.  Understanding dawns and the world makes sense!

Epiphanies are awesome.

I especially love having epiphanies in dancing, because you can immediately put them into practice and feel the difference they make.  The right metaphor at the right time can open up your dancing like a cheat code in Donkey Kong.

The thing you have to remember is that as much as you feel like you suddenly understand everything, it is not the end of learning.  It is a leap of understanding, but not a conclusion.  And furthermore, while mentally "getting it" is important, the real key is putting it into practice.

Here are some of the most valuable epiphanies I've had about dancing.  This is a pretty personal post, so they might not work for everyone, and they might even be completely wrong - I'm still learning!  But maybe they'll help you too, or at least entertain you.

1. Stay Behind the Beat.

In jazz and blues music, the beat isn't a sharp, instantaneous thing - rather, it's a process, a "swoosh," like a heartbeat.  There's an early part, a middle, and a late part to each beat.  The best place to dance is slightly behind the beat, just a little bit late.  This can be challenging to put into practice, of course, since most of us have tried to be ON the beat our whole lives.

However, the minute I learned to dance behind the beat, I realized how much more relaxed and easy my dancing was.  I seemed to have so much more time to take every step, and my moves fit much more comfortably into the music.

Maybe not this relaxed, though.
2. "Don't Anticipate" Means "Stay Behind The Lead."  

Just like staying behind the beat, staying slightly behind the lead takes some practice to get the hang of, but it results immediately in clearer, easier following and a more relaxed dance.  It blew my mind how much difference this made!

3. Dance From Your Core.  

This is one of those little, valuable ideas that keeps on returning to be a new epiphany to me.  So far, I've learned to keep my abs and back muscles engaged, to think of stepping as moving my body instead of my feet, and to think of all of my movements and connections in relation to my center.  The more I learn about dancing from my core, the more control I have over my dance and the better it feels.

4. Flashy Dances Are Not Necessarily The Same As Fun Dances.

Most people start dancing because they want to learn those big flashy moves As Seen On TV.  But some of my happiest dances have been with people who barely know how to rock-step, and some of my most disappointing dances might have looked like Dancing With The Stars from the outside.  

The thing is, while big, impressive moves can be fun to accomplish, they aren't the be-all, end-all of dancing.  They don't necessarily feel as good as they look.  And a dance that consists of one person showing off flashy move after flashy move doesn't really give you much space for creativity, musicality, and back-and-forth between partners. 

Flashy dances have their place, of course… 

5. Most People Enjoy And Prefer Fun Dances, Regardless Of Skill.  

This is what I remind myself of when I'm super intimidated by the person on the other end of my arm.  They're probably not out to judge my skills - if they're anything like me, they just want to have fun and jam out to music.  Bringing an attitude and sense of humor to the dance is much more valuable than bringing really polished moves.

And thus the Fall Off The Banana Peel was invented!
6. A Mistake Played Off As A Move Is Usually An Awesome Move.  

This is true even if everyone knows it started out as a mistake!  Crazy, right?  It's one of my favorite parts of being a lindy hopper.

7. The Music Is Your Partner, Too.  

When my inspiration runs dry, it's usually because I've stopped listening to the music.  The music, after all, is where all the energy and meaning comes from.  What is it doing, and how can I respond to it?  If dancing is a conversation, what can I say about the music?

8. It's Okay To Say "No" To Any Dance (Politely).  

For the sake of my body's health and well-being, I am so glad to have realized this.  

9. A Refusal To Dance Does Not Mean "I Hate You Forever."  

It usually just means they need a drink of water and a rest.  I've found that taking it personally never really pays.

10. When You Feel Like You Suck Is When You're Learning.  

This little nugget has carried me through a great many dark times of awkwardness and frustration.  Feeling like you suck often happens when your ability to judge good dancing exceeds your ability to dance.  Basically, it's a result of seeing exactly how you could be better - and I've learned that you just have to keep on dancing toward it.

Level up!

Thursday, July 18, 2013

To Do List For This Weekend

Hey folks, just a quick post to let you know of some awesome things going on in Milwaukee!

Blues Revival Dance on Friday

Here is an example of blues dancing:

Here is a rough measure of how easy it is to learn the basics:

Here is how happy you will be if you come to the dance:

All levels are welcome to dance the night away at our long-anticipated Blues Revival Dance!

When: Friday, July 16, 8:00-11:30 pm
Where: the Cocoon Room at 820 E Locust St
Cover: now only $5!
Beginner Lesson: 8:00-8:30 pm with Elise and Henry
DJ: Justin Raibolt

BYOB and snacks; ice will be provided!

Shakespeare in the Park - FREE!

Here is an example of Shakespeare:

Here is a rough measure of how awesome and brilliant his work is:

Here is how amazed you will be with the quality of this weekend's free performance:

FREE! Shakespeare in the Park
Optimist Theater presents "As You Like It" by William Shakespeare
Thursday - Sunday, July 18-21, 8:00PM
Kadisch Park - 308 E. Lloyd St. (across the river from Trocadero/ Lakefront Brewery); Parking available at COA - 909 E. North Ave.

BCH Instructor Adam Baus is the music designer in this production; he chose, designed, and even composed a number of the music selections.   Come early, seating opens up at 7PM, and bring a blanket- along with any food or drink you'd like to enjoy during the performance.

See you all out and about this weekend!

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Line Dances From Easy To Hard

During my year in Malaysia, I stayed at a remote, jungle-ridden boarding school about a hundred miles from the nearest dance scene.  How could I possibly stay fit and keep up my dance skills?  Why, by learning all sorts of line dances in the privacy of my apartment!

Swing line dances are packed with awesome jazz moves, rhythms, and footwork.  Learning them will improve your dance vocabulary as well as your technique and body control.  And even better, the next time you hear that song come on at a social dance, you don't have to stand back and clap anymore - you can jump right in with everyone else!  Here are some of my favorite swing-related line dances, from easy to hard:

The Shim Sham

Choreographed by Frankie Manning from the original tap version, this dance is a classic and quite accessible to beginners. It features a section of partnered dancing at the end during which a caller traditionally calls out "freeze!" and "dance!"

Frankie Manning and Erin Stevens perform the Shim Sham:

Patrick and Natasha offer a series of instructional videos linked to this demo video; a great resource for learning this line dance at home!

The Jitterbug Stroll

This line dance was choreographed by Ryan Francois and is usually done to a recording of "Jitterbug Stroll" in which Steven Mitchell calls out the moves in his unique, groovy style.  It features several classic jazz moves and is also simple to learn thanks to its repetitive nature.

Here are a group of fun-loving dancers doing the Stroll:

Someone had the great idea of using this line dance for a flashmob in the Taipei Airport:

And here's an instructional video that breaks it all down (somewhat upright and ballroomy in style, but very detailed and clear):

Doin' the Jive

This line dance was choreographed by the great Mike Faltesek, who also recorded the song that it is done to (with the Careless Lovers swing band). Almost every phrase in the lyrics refers to a particular move in the dance. For this reason, a previously unnamed slow-motion, high-stepping shimmy is now called the "smarty party" (in the first video, at 1:07).

The dance crowd at Stompology VII do the Jive together:

An instructional demo video to help you learn it at home:

The Tranky Doo

This is a classic line dance, revived from an old movie clip ("Spirit Moves") in which Al Minns, Pepsi Bethel and Leon James demonstrate what is then titled the "Trunky Doo". The moves in the modern version remain largely faithful to this clip, and it is usually performed to the same music that was dubbed over the clip, the "Dipsy Doodle". However, dancers today often offer their own unique styling on its classic moves.

The original Trunky Doo movie clip:

Mike, Casey, Stefan, Bethany and Peter perform the Tranky Doo with their own unique variations:

An instructional video of the Tranky Doo, counted out slowly:

The Big Apple

Like the Tranky Doo, the modern Big Apple line dance was revived from an old movie clip ("Keep Punching"). This version was choreographed by Frankie Manning and performed by Whiteys Lindy Hoppers, back in their heyday, based off of a dance craze in New York by the same name. It is unique in that it is performed in a large circle instead of a line, only breaking out of this formation toward the end of the dance.

The original Big Apple routine (the routine ends about halfway in, but the movie clip goes on for some more dancing and a bit of plot):

Patrick and Natasha offer another great, detailed web of instructional videos for the Big Apple, linked to this one:

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Following: The Invisible Art


I once had an argument with a dancer who thought that following was far easier than leading.  He had no experience in following, but was nevertheless very sure of his opinion.  As he said, leads have to direct the dance, plan each step, and move both people around on the floor, and follows only have to do what they're told.  Leads spend the whole time pulling and pushing, and follows spend the whole time just being pulled and pushed.  Following is so passive - how hard could it be?

I can't even tell you how much that got my goat.

Following is far harder than it looks, and if you doubt me, I dare you to try it.  First of all, good follows do much more than just go along for the ride - they are active participants in the dance conversation.  And second, even when a follow simply does the things that are led, there is a world of skill involved in doing this right.

Learning Curves

This graph may or may not have been completely
and utterly made up.
It is generally harder to learn to dance from scratch as a lead than as a follow.  When you are still figuring out how to move your body, it can be extremely tricky trying to figure out how to move someone else's body at the same time.

However, after this awkward beginning stage, intermediate leads and follows tend to have an equally difficult time improving their respective skills.  I've heard that it gets even harder for follows as they get more advanced.  The good part is, the rewards are even greater - the better a dancer you are, the more fun things are possible on the floor!

Let's go through some skills that we follows need to learn to make the dance seem so easy for the leads:

Follower Skills

Musicality, Rhythm, and Footwork - just like leads have to learn!

Frame - how to keep different parts of your body connected and consistent in relation to one another, without use of rubber cement or welding materials.

Connection - an engaged, relaxed responsiveness that allows a lead to communicate with your body's motions.

Posture - balance, athletic bearing, and internal cohesion; how to dance from your core.

Vocabulary - just like leads, follows need to learn moves.  And the more things that you know how to do with your body, the more creative options you have each dance.

Zen - the ability to slow down your mind so that it doesn't interfere with your dancing (i.e., not anticipate, which is much harder than it sounds!).

Variations - how to put flair into regular moves when they are led on you (still without anticipating them!).

Newton's Laws of Following - how to maintain the same direction, speed, and amount of rotation that you were last given, even if you have no idea what the plan is and you are anxious about running into a wall.

Adaptive Following - how to get back on the correct foot with your partner, how to decide what to do when a lead is unclear, how to follow someone who doesn't stay on beat, how to abort a variation gracefully, and how to adapt your dancing style to your lead's style.

Defensive Following - how to protect yourself with partners who yank, twist, flail, fling, stir, vice-grip, shoulder-lock, throw-dip, attempt to twist your body into unnatural positions, and/or don't pay attention to their dance surroundings.

Active/Interpretive Following - how to bring your own style, musical interpretations, and moves to the dance in a way that doesn't interrupt the lead/follow dynamic, but engages your partner in a musical conversation.

Following is non-gender-normative!

More About Active/Interpretive Following

This week at Monday Night Musicality, we are going to have a Follower Takeover class.  We will explore ways that follows can step up and be an active part of the dance conversation.  If we think of leading as an invitation, then good follows should bring something to the party!

To clarify, there is a difference between backleading, adding variations, and active/interpretive following.

Backleading is the equivalent of making up a lead that never existed - "I want to turn now, so I'll pretend that you led a turn!" - or ignoring a lead that was given - "You led me straight forward, but I'm gonna go diagonally instead!"  Backleading should be destroyed with fire, unless it is in clear self-defense.

Variations are the equivalent of taking a lead, following it faithfully, and tacking a little cherry on top.  They are fun, and they generally don't affect the connection much or require any attention from the lead.  "Yes, I will absolutely do that turn, and I'll even throw a kick or two in there!"

Active/Interpretive Following is the equivalent of taking a lead, or the space around a lead, twisting it into something really cool, and throwing it back to your partner like an invitation in return.  It often affects the connection in such a way that the lead knows that something different is going on.  "Yes, I will absolutely turn, and my turn is going to involve this rhythmic variation and some slowing, because that's what I hear in the music!"

The main way that active/interpretive following is different from backleading is that you are fully responsive to all of the things that your lead is giving you.  However, instead of simply following them straight up, you are riffing off of them like a jazz musician riffing off of a melody.  You are dancing out your own personality, your own interpretation of the music, and your own invitation to your lead to engage with your ideas.

When this goes well, it becomes a back-and-forth conversation, even a duet of musical interpretation.  You never leave the lead-and-follow framework, but instead of being constrained by it, you use it as a foundation for your creative interaction.

Then the song ends, and you stare at each other and go, "That was AWESOME!  Let's do it again!"

An Amazing Video Of Some Amazing Following

Mikey Pedroza and Frida Segerdahl dance in a Jack & Jill finals at ILHC 2009.  A very insightful post from another dance blog, Dogpossum, goes over the great following moments in this video in detail - check it out!

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Origin Stories: Two BCH Dance Teachers

This week, we present the bios of the two Brew City Hops summer teachers - where they come from, what they love about dancing, and what they do when they're not dancing.  

Adam Baus

Adam Baus, 33, started Brew City Hops in the spring of 2005.  With the help of fellow BCH instructor Tory Bahe, he sponsored his very first dance at the Urban Ecology Center, and has been committed to providing the best dance experience for today's Milwaukee lindy hoppers ever since.  With the help of many other people in the dance scene, he has sponsored over 40 events, from late night dances, to the Milwaukee Lindy Hop Summits in the winters of 2010 and 2011.  He has also sponsored non-swing dance events: the Pirate Thriller Crawl, and the Winter Dance Card Formal.  

An ardent champion of good music, he has enjoyed many opportunities to DJ at places like the Down & Over, The Bayview Brew Haus, Hot Water, Chicago's Fizz, Madison's Jumptown, the Purdue Lindy Exchange, and various other events.  In January of 2009, Baus began the BCH Monday night classes with partner Becky Brodie.  He took a break from the rigorous teaching schedule in June 2011, and is thrilled to be teaching with Elise for the entire summer of 2013.  

Away from the dance floor, Adam is a pianist by trade.  He set up his business when he moved to Milwaukee 10 years ago, and still devotes most of his time to teaching private students, mainly in Shorewood.  He is an active performer, and is currently the music director for a dinner theatre in Port Washington, along with being the music designer for Optimist Theatre's "As You Like It"; Shakespeare in the Park- being performed at Kadisch Park (across from Lakefront Brewery) in July.  It's FREE, and he would love to have you come hear his selections and compositions.  

Adam is most recently the winner of a Tommy award for his musical direction of Shorewood High School's production of "Spring Awakening".  Just in this past school year, he has performed in "Phantom of the Opera" (Dominican HS), "Girl Crazy" (Cedarburg HS), "Bye, Bye Birdie" (Reagan HS), "Godspell" (First Stage Young Company), and "Candide" (Milwaukee Opera Theatre).  He is also the accompanist for the Marquette Staff Chorale, Cedarburg HS Vocal Jazz, and the Ronald Reagan HS Music Department.  He is a regular performer with the "Four Guyz in Dinner Jackets", and has done work with the Skylight Music Theatre, Combat Theatre, Off the Wall Theatre, and many other schools and performing groups.  

Pirate Thriller Pub Crawl 2012
Building on the event planning experience gained from Brew City Hops, Baus because the designer and director of "The Amazing Milwaukee Race" in 2010, and is getting ready to sponsor his 6th big Milwaukee scavenger/ clue hunt urban race experience in August 2013.  You can check out the race at  

Adam attribute's a lot to his success as a person to many of things gained in learning how to lindy hop.  "Believe it or not, I was a relatively shy person when I first came to Milwaukee.  Perhaps not shy, but socially scared.  I was generally intimidated by everyone, especially women.  The incredible confidence one gains in learning the dance, and then being able to go up to any woman in the room and ask her for a dance cannot be measured.  The ability to walk up to another guy and just introduce yourself and not feel awkward or stupid doesn't happen any more.  I love being able to connect with another person and with fun music.  I've had some incredible travel opportunities, and have friends all around the world thanks to learning to swing dance."

Baus can tell you the best thing to come about from dancing was meeting Lizzy on the dance floor in 2010.  During the last song at the Winter Dance Card Formal last December, he proposed and the two will get married in May 2014.

Elise Russell

Elise Russell, 25, started dancing because her mother forced her into ballroom dance lessons as an awkward teenager.  After a summer of smugly showing off her basic East Coast steps in her hometown scene, she sauntered off to college at University of Rochester and promptly got her mind blown by the wide world of lindy hop.

Since then, she has been devouring as much swing, lindy hop, charleston, balboa, blues, and solo jazz as she could find, first through the University of Rochester Swing Club and Rochester's local Groovejuice Swing organization, and then by traveling to many wonderful dance events nearby.  

Here are some highlights of her dance career:

- Taking a Musicality workshop that incorporated an actual live band - a feature of Rochester's annual Steven & Virginie weekend event, which is highly recommended!

- Getting to dance with Steven Mitchell, lindy hop legend, at a workshop after-party.  It was a funk song, and it was amazing!

- Founding and teaching a swing dance club on a cruise ship, as part of Semester at Sea study abroad.  Imagine doing charleston with the entire floor rolling up and down beneath you!

- Falling on her face during her first big birthday jam in Rochester - it's tough to keep track of your shoelaces sometimes.

- Attending Frankie95 in New York City, a celebration of Frankie Manning's life on his birthday just a few weeks after his passing.  There were over a thousand dancers attending; the event broke a few world records.

- Traveling through places like St. Petersburg, Kuala Lumpur, and Phnom Penh, and dancing with people who didn't even speak English.  Our mutual language was swing!

- Attending the International Lindy Hop Championships in 2010 and watching the entire crowd get rickrolled by Andrew Thigpen and Karen Thurman: 

- Lindy-bombing the National Mall in Washington, DC, right after the Rally To Restore Reason.  Also hitting up a Reddit party later that night, where she won +1 upvotes for dancing.

- Starting up two separate swing dance clubs while teaching English at a boarding school in Malaysia - one club for girls and one for boys, because the culture was too conservative for them to dance together.  The boys never even showed up to their club, but the girls' club was lots of fun!

- Spending eight days in Seoul, Korea, and dancing lindy hop and blues every single night.  It's true; Seoul has the largest swing scene on earth, and it was full of friendly, skilled people.

The Girls' Swing Club at the boarding school in Malaysia
- Doing a random, spontaneous Soul Train at a local dance in Baltimore, and again at a late-night party at Stompology in Rochester.  Soul Train is coming back!

- Informally jamming out on kazoo with jazz and blues musicians at several different dance events.  It turns out that playing music is as much of a rush as dancing to it.

Elise moved to the lovely city of Milwaukee in 2012 and has since had the privilege of dancing and teaching at a variety of locations, including the Down & Over, the Riverside High School Ballroom Dance Club, the MSOE Swing Club, Milwaukee Recreation, and Brew City Hops Monday Night classes.  She is very excited to be teaching Musicality with Adam Baus this summer, and knows that she will certainly end up learning as much as she teaches!

Aside from dancing, Elise has pursued singing, tall ship sailing, and a great deal of traveling.  She has a Bachelor's in Psychology with a minor in Music, and is currently taking classes with a eye toward Computer Engineering.  She has worked largely in childcare, teaching, and academic research positions, with a summer-long stint on Milwaukee's tall ship the Denis Sullivan.  She has lived on four different continents and three different boats, and still remembers how to hold a conversation in Danish.  She can also tie twice as many knots as your average Boy Scout.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Who Is Frankie, and Why The Big Deal?

If you are a swing dancer and you haven't heard of Frankie Manning yet, it is high time that you knew the story.  Every lindy hopper owes a large part of their dancing to Frankie, from his original pioneering influence to the ultimate revival of lindy hop.

Frankie Manning was a young dancer back in the original heyday of lindy hop, in Harlem in the 1930's and 40's.  He quickly rose to the top of the dance crowd at the Savoy Ballroom, due to his creative, athletic, and musical style.  One night, he and his partner Freda Washington entered a contest against their idol, the famous George "Shorty" Snowden, who invented the "shorty george".  They did a brand-new over-the-back move - the first aerial ever invented - which sent the crowd wild and won them the contest.

Frankie was soon invited to join the first lindy hop dance ensemble, Whitey's Lindy Hoppers, and he traveled and performed with them all over the world as their chief choreographer.  Some of their performances are immortalized in film, such as the Marx Brothers' A Day At The Races, or this now-famous dance clip from the movie Hellzapoppin' (dancing starts at 2:40):

But all of that is history.  Swing dancing eventually fell out of style, in favor of rock 'n' roll, and Frankie joined the Postal Service and faded from the public eye.  He fully expected that his performing days were over, and settled down into a relatively normal life.

Even if this were the end of the story, it would be enough to immortalize him in the annals of dance, but we're not done yet!

In the mid-80's, a pair of dancers named Steven Mitchell and Erin Stevens were taking lessons from Al Minns, a former member of Whitey's Lindy Hoppers.  After introducing them to lindy hop, he told them that Frankie was still alive and living in New York.  They called every Frank Manning in the phone book to find him.  When they finally contacted him, he was very surprised, but agreed to work with them, and the lindy hop revival was born.  It soon spread to every major city, as swing music came back into style and dancers flocked to learn from the master.

From 1986 through his death in 2009, Frankie Manning traveled the world teaching, choreographing, filming, and inspiring a new generation of dancers.  It is largely due to his hard work and charisma that lindy hop is as widespread and true to its original form as it is today.  He was a beloved and engaging teacher, a subject for many jazz and swing documentaries, and an award-winning choreography consultant for several productions including Spike Lee's Malcolm X.  His opinions on technique and style are respected to the point of reverence; arguments between dancers are often resolved with the phrase, "But this is how Frankie did it!"  

Not only was Frankie Manning a leader and innovator back in the original days of lindy hop, he was also a teacher, ambassador, and figurehead in the modern days of the revival.  He was a beloved, central character in the dance world, not only for his skill as a dancer and a teacher, but also for his happy energy and his modest, engaging personality.  Everyone who met him has a story, and the echos of his life are inextricably linked with the dance we love.

Here is a video of Frankie at age 89, leading his favorite line dance the Shim Sham, which he choreographed from the original tap version:

Everyone post your favorite Frankie anecdote or Frankie-inspired dance move in the comments!

If you want Frankie's story in full, check out these sources:

The Frankie Manning autobiography, Ambassador of Lindy Hop