One of my intentions this year is to work on three elements of my dancing: musicality, vocabulary, and style. By vocabulary I mean working vocabulary, and by that I mean how much I can remember and use when I’m out on the dance floor. I’ve spent the last several years developing my lead, which in the partner-dancing world is like your accent. My dancing is a lot like my Spanish: My accent is great but my vocabulary is like a three-year-old’s. I don’t mean to denigrate myself by saying that; being able to lead well is really important. Maybe it’s more like being able to make specific sounds clearly and intentionally than like an accent. This may be taking the dancing-as-language metaphor too far, but I think learning to social dance is a lot like learning a language.

Anyway, I’ve just started learning some choreography with my friend and teacher, Karly, thinking it’s the best way to increase my working vocabulary. (This is her, upside-down, dancing with Russ, a guy from Portland.) Swing dancing is almost always improvised, so I’ve learned very little choreography and I’ve found it quite challenging when I have tried it, remembering what to do next, and it’s reminded me of how I feel on the dance floor, racking my brain for something interesting to do. I imagine that learning this choreography will help my musicality and style, as well. It’s a dance by two of my favorite swing dancers, Todd Yannacone and Naomi Uyama. They are improvising, not doing choreography, but what they do is so musical! The song (a great one, by Duke Ellington) is moderately fast but they look relaxed and they hit the quirky little rhythmic phrases in such an effortlessly cool way, like the hit at :45, and the bu-bu-bum-bum at :55. I also like how they flow between Lindy (the circular stuff), Charlseton (the kicky stuff), tandem Charleston (the back-to-front kicky stuff), jazz steps, and just screwing around. And I love how much fun they look like they are having. They obviously know and really like the song and like dancing with each other. Here it is: