December 24, 2013

New Book on Kindle!

Well hello everyone! I hope this Christmas Eve finds you warm, loved and snuggled away in lovely holiday glows - both near and far.

I have a lot to celebrate today. My husband has hit a major milestone in his career, I have a birthday and best of all... well... can you tell? I am ecstatic!
Announcing Touchdown!
Available Now on Kindle
Yes, my third book is here! And I am incredibly proud of it. It's not about swing - it's about everything. Living. Living life the way it was meant to be lived - whole, happy and incredibly joyful.

Even in adulthood. It's possible! Oh, and I did throw a few bits of danger in there too. Adventure doesn't really qualify as adventure without a few dragons along the way, right?

December 19, 2013

#79: Behind the Scenes of a 'Walk Like an Egyptian' Practice Session

Behind the Scenes of Famous
WCS Routines
Not what we say about our blessings, but how we use them, is the true measure of our thanksgiving. -WT Purkiser

I really love today's quote. I've definitely lived through times where I wasn't using the gifts I was given, or spending time with the ones I'd been sent. Too often I have spent my life doing what was expected of me by others.

It didn't take much on their part. All they had to do was ask, and I'd go the extra mile for them. It didn't matter who they were, where they were from or even if they cared about me or not. I would do my best to answer their wants, needs, questions, etc.

What a waste those years were. How much more I could have accomplished! And how much more I could have enjoyed them.

December 09, 2013

Their Hype and Hipocracy

Unwrapping the Hype of the
Internet Giants
No, this isn't a swing post, but I'm writing it because I think it's more important than swing. Much, much more important.

For a while now I've been hearing our online community constantly rage against any kind of boundaries when it comes to the Internet. They want endless freedoms because, let's face it, there are no consequences for any of our actions on the Internet.

There are laws and boundaries that rule us offline. Traffic laws, state laws, federal laws not to mention tax laws.

But the Internet has none.

We can be lewd. We can be criminal. We can slander and sext and twitter away without a single solitary line or boundary in sight. And so can the companies we use.

They collect, collect, collect. They collect our data here, there and everywhere. Every single company that ever sold us on them because of their privacy standards has completely reversed those standards. Most have done it without ever telling us.

And when they do, it's hidden in such jargon that a professor of law would have to break it down for you. Or CNET. CNETcatches everything - if you know how to look for what they find.

December 05, 2013

The Monopoly

Another Audio Exposé:
The Monopoly 
Excerpt from Weekly WCS Note #78: New Audio Exposé! Released Oct 21st 2013. Updated and revised. 

"I am speaking for all of us. I'm the spokesman for a generation."
-Bob Dylan

Dear Readers, 
This is a major heads up. Big changes in the WCS community are occurring even as I speak. Alliances are being formed, friendships are being tested and loyalty is being expected. It's big. So, so, so, so BIG.

You need to be aware. Newcomers to legends - we much all be alert and aware. Changes like these can last for decades, as we have already seen. Today's new narration, The Monopoly, will give you AMAZING tools for understanding, as do the recent Boogie by the Bay uploads.

Be well, be safe, you're loved,

(plus The Art of War)

I am SO glad you guys are loving the new Audio Expos. I've been listening to them over the course of the week, as I've done chores around the house, etc etc. My, my, my! They sure are captivating! 

Today I'm releasing the very first exposé I ever recorded. The first! And that's for a very good reason.

I begin with a story about the US Open and the Art of War, and finish with the story about a Monopoly that's held one huge city in its grip for ten years, driving out all WCS instructors and dancers. I talk about the "Four Guys" in great detail. Maybe you'll recognize someone. Maybe you'll know all of them! (I later reveal their names in #84: Playing Monopoly.)

The one thing that's guaranteed is that it will most definitely prepare you for the people you'll meet and come across everyday in swing - at conventions, studios and dance nights. They say that knowledge is power. Be empowered. Click Here, and listen.



October 22, 2013

New Format! WCS Audio Exposés!

WCS Audio Exposés:
Powerful Stories, Memories & More
Two years ago... TWO YEARS AGO (I can't believe it's just two years!!!) I wrote you saying I was switching from my established Articles format and moving into something very different - a weekly format. One that was informal, off-the-cuff and rather wild...

Oh, my. Did any of us think they would get this big? How much has changed, grown and expanded with their meager start? In the beginning I barely filled a page, and now I have to work hard not to fill twelve. We seen so much together. We've come so far, haven't we?

In just two short, fast years... where so much happened that I feel like it's been twenty! not just two.

That really says something about the power of these Weekly Notes. I hope this next chapter will bring the same excitement and discussion, because...

#69: The Lobby

From Weekly WCS Note #69:
The Lobby
A couple of years ago, I was asked to grab Annie Hirsch for an important meeting. It was hard. Annie was talking, if that's what you'd call it, with the parents of a 30+ year old guy in The Ten. I didn't know who they were at the time though. I just knew that this pair of parents simply wouldn't let Annie go. They were very insistent on telling Annie just how stupendous their son was. Very very insistent.

As I tried to pull Annie away, they practically grabbed Annie to keep her there. And as I heard all the glories of their son they were sharing, I realized who their son was. Annie confirmed it for me as we finally walked away. And even thought we'd broken away, Annie kept repeating apologies and frustration about them to me, their desires and the 30 year old son/boy/adult?

You see, even though their son was in The Ten, they still weren't happy. He hadn't won. He danced well, but he hadn't won. And they wanted Annie to change things. They pressured Annie, and Annie just felt so bad for them, so bad for them that Annie kept apologizing and agreeing about their son even after the, what I would call it, confrontation. Oh he was on the podium - placed second that day, and 2nd-5th for the last ten years. But that was not enough.

It was very very clear that this wasn't the first time these parents had done this. He's been around awhile. I hope by now you've realized that members of The Ten are frustrated that the same people keeping winning. Yeah, they are on the podium all the time, but all they care about is first place. Most are Nissies after all, but you have to admit... no matter what, most aren't going to win... and most never have. Those #1 spots are reserved.

I remember the year that the teachers who always win had to take five months off. So when the podium was announced for Classic at the larger event at the time, I half laughed and half teared up. I mostly felt ill. What had we become?

NO ONE up on that podium was happy. The winners? Who finally got to win for once? Went out to bow when their win was announced... and no one was cheering. The heads of the Church weren't up there... so why should they clap? And these weren't members of The Ten... so the definitely shouldn't clap! Who cares if they are world champions in ballroom and country? That means nothing in The Church!

I was so so embarrassed for this couple. To be so completely dissed and ignored by the entire ballroom upon winning. It made me squirm. But it didn't matter. They weren't happy either. They knew their win didn't mean anything.

And the other four couples on the podium? They weren't happy either - they all thought that they deserved the #1 spot now that the heads of the Church were gone. I turned to Nick and said, "wow - everyone up their looks extremely pissed." And they did. Good gravy. What a disturbing sight it was.

But back to this guys parents. As we walked away, hearing Annie feeling so bad and backed into a corner, all I could think was... Wow. This guys parents have been pushing for him? All this years? Really?!?! 

It really made me think. My parents? They introduced me to dancing... okay. But they've never seen me perform. They never attended the Open, despite it being less than an hour away, and they've never seen any of my routines. 

So, to think of my parents lobbying for me? They have NEVER lobbied for me - not in the slightest. Though it would've been nice if they'd showed up for even one of my performances, I would never have felt comfortable with them pushing the head of the WSDC to makes sure I place. Ew. Ew. Triple Ew!!!

So I tucked that little experience under my hat and moved on to other things that weekend. But I never forgot it.

Lately I've been thinking about this aspect again. It's begun rolling around in my head once more. The "parents" angle... hmmm.

Do you know? Almost every member of The Ten has at least one parent backing them... mostly mothers? Heck, the head of the The Ten's mother works for a member of the Council - and has for the last ten years. Haven't you noticed the mom's following them around? And I wonder, when the other "kid" I mentioned in The Church piece is not hired or treated well, did you know their dad or mom places a direct phone call to chew them out? Or that they are at the Open to make sure they are respected correctly?

About a year ago a mother of one of the All-Stars emailed a really nasty, disturbing and raging note. She wasn't on my email list, and her daughter is doing very well in Abstract, so I left it alone. You can't talk a Church member out of their beliefs.

Then, exactly one year later, her daughter took off her shirt in a Jack & Jill and danced in her lace bra for her spotlight dance. Got points for it and everything.

I expect her mom was proud.

There are SO many stories surrounding the creation of The Ten and the WSDC and the Points... and I just can't believe now, looking back, how many parents were and still are, involved. And if it's not parents, it's uncles, nephew's, siblings, etc. If you don't see their parents at events, you at least see them online or texting other dancers... making sure they travel, teach in their town, etc, etc, etc.

Mothers. Fathers. Lobbying for their kids. I guess that happens in other sports, but in our case, Annie listens, acts, and even talks down their competition to the judges.

Thank God my parents never put Annie in a corner and told her to make sure I got the No. 1 spot. I might have been a member of The Ten.

And that's just the scariest future I could imagine.

I am a lucky lucky girl.



September 09, 2013

The Rock Step

Previously released to my Weekly Note subscribers. Sign up here to join.

"Instead of standing alone in the face of challenge or temptation, they check to see which way their friends are going."
-Charles Stanley

I hope this quote really resonates with you. We've been hitting some anniversaries along the way here, and I'm suddenly aware of how and where things are right now.

I really do wonder how much happier we all would have been if those who have been complaining for all of these years about "this isn't swing," "that isn't swing," "the music" "the music" "the music!" had actually followed through with some kind of action. We would've settled for a minute pinky-lift, right? SOMEthing, anything, right?

But all of them, when they've had, what? their like, 3 MILLION opportunities to actually act on their complaints? They've followed their "friends" instead, even when they knew that 'they' weren't real friends at all.

They played dead. Dropped like a donkey and laid there, motionless. They played dead.

I have a list a mile long now with the names of teachers, promoters and ED's that swore the dance was dying, but who chose to play dead instead. Like, 3 million times now.

You are the brave ones. I love what you're doing! I like what you're saying! Quite inventive you all are too! Things I never would've imagined. Good for you.

Now, here's a little treat for your feet!

Swing's Rock Step
If you've purchased the upgraded and updated collection of Weekly Notes, good for you. You'll be on the same page with me already on this. Because in that book, I really expand on the subject of the Rock Step. It was in the Note called Triple Threat, I believe. Anyway, in short, I learned a lot while researching WCS's history - talking to people, dancing with people, listening to people, reading about people and, of course, watching a million videos.

It was while I was watching those millions that it dawned on me. They were all doing Rock Steps. Emphasis on were.

Because (now bear with me here!) 

-ONE single teacher called for the elimination of Rock Steps. 

-This teacher was and still is on the Board of Directors of the World Swing Dance Council. The WSDC. That's right. I said it. The teacher who called for the elimination of Rock Steps was, at the time, on the WSDC board... and still is.

-This teacher called for it, you guessed it, at the exact period in history when Points were enforced.


Talk about timing.

If you read Setting Dancers Free, you'll see that I didn't connect those dots back then. I just said a single teacher said they should be eliminated, and puff! they were gone. I remember wondering while writing it, how the rest of the teachers in the USA got behind it when it was a CA teacher's idea - but now I realize the judges were told to look for that, so only those dancers not doing it were placed. Teachers got wise, and felt like they had to teach "to win."

And so began the end of WCS. Especially at Point events.

I believe I should clarify something - the teacher originally said, and still does, to the best of my knowledge, "why do a Rock Step when you don't have to?" Well, she may have put it that way, but the word didn't spread that way. I remember exactly where I was, what spot on the floor I was dancing and who I was dancing with when I was told: "We don't do that anymore." I was like, "okay" and stopped. 

I didn't ask why or how - I just did it. I didn't realize what I'd be missing.

If you delete a Rock Step?
You delete a bajillion patterns.

For example, this lovely beast:

Traditional Tandem West Coast Swing (Bontemple, Shermoen, Sharlott, Shirley) 1987

I'd forgotten about this fun little trade-off wheel people used to dance - in jams, shows and showcases. I loved it, and after a few moments of finding and watching this video... it all came back to me! I loved watching this danced... right up until, yup. You got it. Points. The end of the Renaissance of Swing.

Some call this partner pattern Four Play (a bit of a pun), or Traditional Tandem, etc etc. I don't care. 

I just think you should learn it.

In fact, I think you should learn it NOW!

I mean, the people in this video are all in the Hall of Fame. They were and are influential and they were all highly successful on the social floor and the competition floor. These are REAL WCS Champions!!! And won't you look at that! They had fun doing this little wheel, and guess what! It's ALL real WCS!!!

In the introduction to my first book, I list the Basic Steps of WCS. One of them was the Tuck-Out... and oh! hey!!! Look! That's what they are doing. The Tuck was the first thing to go when that 'someone' killed the Rock Step. It looks really fun, right?

Right! Because it's 

Okay - so I want you to learn this tandem up above because it will burn pure WCS right into your bones. That's right - the eight count whips, the six count tuck outs, the anchoring, the underarm turns - ALL of it is straight WCS and straight WCS basics!!!

I know you can do. I know you want to do it!

Because the best antidote to non-swing?
is the sweet foundation of pure 100% West Coast Swing
coursing through your veins.


August 28, 2013

Free at Last: The 50th Anniversary of "I Have a Dream"

The 50th Anniversary of the
"I Have a Dream" Speech.

It's the 50th Anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.'s  "I Have a Dream" Speech. I hold this dear anniversary very close to my heart, for many many reasons.

First and foremost for me, however, have been these last few years -  for his bravery in times of the most horrific backlashes from a society who did not want to "let freedom ring." He kept writing and kept speaking anyway. His heart burned for his followers and for those being hurt by the same people who were attacking him.

He wrote anyway.
He fought anyway.
He spoke anyway.

When things were ugly, when I feared for my safety or for my husband's, when the voices of my beloved dancers were drowned out by the most disgusting, disturbing, hateful and downright terrifying words, anonymous phone calls, death threats and violence upon my family and at my home... I found myself looking for a way to stay strong, stay focused and feel loved.

I am telling you this outright and straight forward. I found my strength, energy and passion could only be restored, my flickering flame could only be re-fueled back into fire... by the writing and lives of two men. Only. And Martin Luther King Jr. was the foremost of those two.

When I was hurting? I turned to his words.
When I was doubtful? I turned to his words.
When I was scared? I turned to Martin Luther King Jr.

A man who was so deeply rooted in the Truth, whose foundation was so deep and so strong... that he did not waiver. He did not stop.

Our nation has housed the most outrageous (at the time), free and whole-minded men and woman, but for me, I found my solace in Martin Luther King.

I dedicated my second book "To my forefathers, who did not waiver. And won." This is one of the forefathers I was referring to. 

He did not waiver.
And though it cost him all he had and was....
He won.

I tip my hat to you sir, I bend my knee to your bravery, I raise my hands in wonder at how strong your flame always blazed, and I will never be able to truly say, truly word or truly honor the blessing of your words.

They have saved me. They have saved our nation. They have saved our people. "Let freedom ring" indeed. Happy 50th Anniversary to a speech by a man I could not have lived as I do without. 


May 09, 2013

Your WCS Survival Kit

The Full Year of Notes
Now on Kindle
The Weekly Notes are finally on Kindle. Think of them as your WCS Survival Kit. You'll need it. Wherever you go. Promise.

Oh, and I changed a few names. So if you hear them used this weekend, then you'll know who they're talking about. Told you. It's a WCS Survival Kit.

Over and Out,
Your Good Luck Charm...


April 24, 2013

#61: April's Fool - A WCS Story

Don't be a fool!
Weekly Note #61
Where sickness thrives, bad things will follow. - Tolkein

This is the Note everyone needs to read. Everyone. It changed the world in one single day. Read on...

I have changed the two dancers' names in the story to protect their identities. This is a true story, from start to finish. A real life "Aesop's Fable," if you will. Read on...

(aka APRIL vs. MAY )

This is a story about April and May. Two women, two dancers, two attendees of a recent new WSDC convention, only in its second year. April and May also share another quality; they are both in the Novice division. They both signed up for the Novice Jack & Jill and they both danced to the same music on the dance floor.  But this is where their similarities end. Let's get to know them, shall we?

Meet April. She's 25, but only looks 15 when she isn't at a convention. Mostly this is due to the way she holds herself. She wears torn jeans, baggy t-shirts with deep dipping V's so that you can see different parts of her bra from time to time because she holds herself "tucked in." She wraps her arms around herself, tucks her shoulders forward and down so that when she talks, she appears smaller and less pushy, no matter what she's actually saying.

March 14, 2013

More Answers, More Words

New Weekly Notes...
on Their Way!
Yes, you heard right. A brandnew Weekly WCS Note will be hitting your inbox this coming Monday... and the Monday after that... and the Monday after that! And if you've been around long enough, you know what that means! If you're not a member yet, click here to sign up for free!

Looking forward to sharing!

February 08, 2013

#60: Swing Into Spring with Joe & Lisa

Christopher Joe & Lisa Cortez
(Now Schaupp)
History is a vast early warning system. -Norman Cousins

It's time to tune you in on what's been going on these last few weeks. In between working on my third book and doing some long overdue accounting paperwork, I've been taking breaks to upload never-before-seen videos up on my YouTube. I was only a teenager when I started collecting WCS videos, so being picky was already a good quality for someone on a teenage budget.

So I don't have all the videos of all the years I danced, but I do have a number of videos that I hand picked as the ones I wanted to watch and study. I've uploaded a bunch on my YouTube Channel. (Have fun checking them out! Included is the couple featured below, Scott & Amy - talk about fast and furious!)

But as I got older, I could afford more tapes, and so, in 1997, I was able to buy a couple of the US Open tapes. Thank God I did. As I'm watching them unfold in my video editor, I'm realizing just how much changed that year. It was an incredibly pivotal year in West Coast Swing.

Scott & Amy from St. Louis in 
Showcase Finals
Many did not return to the floor after that year. Many of our brightest stars quit WCS completely, and those that didn't still quit doing routines and competition in it. I can't blame them now. I just wish I'd had the insight they did back then.

Of course, back then I was so young... loving every minute of this fast, amazing & thrilling new dance I'd found. And I LOVED the music... I learned so much about so many artists and era's that I'd never been exposed to before. I was so busy enjoying everything, I never thought that anyone would want to change anything.  I don't think I'll ever make that mistake again.

Anyhow, as I was scrolling through the 1997 Classic Prelims, I ran across one of my favorite West Coast Swing routines of ALL TIME. I froze. I couldn't believe I had it!!!! And I made sure to upload it first, before all the others, and then my husband and I went on to watch it nearly twenty times in the next three days.

Because that's what HOT West Coast Swing does. It makes you watch. And learn. And learn. And learn...

The more I watched, the more I realize it literally outlined, danced and demonstrated every darn point I made in Routines 101, especially the book version. Phrasing? Check. Individual personality? Check. Dancing? Triple check!!!

I can't believe how many of her syncopations I've taught in my classes over the years. I can't believe how many of their patterns I danced on the social dance floor for years and years. I can't believe how many six count patterns, musicality "within" the beat instead of ignoring it, and... well... joy this routine has.

The first thing my husband pointed out was the community. Can you see how those watching are soaking every single movement in? Do you see the incredibly large range of ages in the background? Can you see how powerful Lisa is? How powerful Christopher is? How much they are simply enjoying each other out there... enjoying real WCS, and inviting everyone else to enjoy it with them? The swing "family" radiates off the screen.

There's so much to soak in while watching this video. So much you can copy and learn from. About everything. Watch for yourself:

And that was just prelims!!! Here's a little WCS trivia for you: in finals Lisa replaced her black pants with a matching blue skirt and... get this... her shoe buckle came undone! in the middle of the routine. The foot she kicks with! And did she stop? No sir... she kept right on dancing. A pro indeed. We talked about it for years.

When I posted Christopher Joe & Lisa Cortez's routine, it went a bit viral - a number of e-newsletters used it, etc etc. As such, I received more emails than usual upon its release. And almost everyone asked, "why isn't this danced anymore?" My answer? "I don't know, but I sure do miss it." (Okay, so I do know, but it's not fun to really think on.)  I miss dancing these patterns. I miss dancing to good dance music. I miss how men loved it when the women rocked it, and I miss how awesome it was when I danced with a man who took pride in his lead - who didn't rely on the woman to compromise. I miss powerhouse dancing. And I miss the joy of the swing family. It's the exact opposite today at WSDC comps. A total 180. What a loss.

But my local clubs are my joy. I hear they are yours too. As well a few non-WSDC events. Some of those are doing incredibly well. And when you hire amazing pros like the ones above, who were smart enough to get out of the WSDC regime when it turned on our dance, you will find joy too. The joy of dance, the joy of swing, the joy of... red hot West Coast Swing!

From Weekly WCS Note #60: Swing Into Spring with Joe & Lisa (once 'Spring and Swing.') Released April 2013.

January 10, 2013

The History of Strictly Swing

How & Why the Strictly
 Swing Category Came to Be

Think you know the history behind Strictly Swing? Think again! Get educated and show off some fancy moves for your friend while you're at it. Let's go back behind the scenes, shall we?

Strictly Swing, I mean, Street Swing made its first debut at the US Open in 1993. Other names for this same division that were used at other events include Just Dance or Strictly Swing, the former eventually taking hold, though it was resisted for quite some years. The goal of this new division was to add an avenue for others to compete outside of the 'routine' divisions. 

You see, for its first decade, the US Open was a routine based competition. Showcase Division, Classic Division, Teams Division... all were based on routines. And back then, routines took A LOT of work. And the competition was incredibly fierce. To put on a good showing rather than risk extreme embarrassment (no one cheered for bad dancing back then, no matter who was out there),partners would agree to partner for the Open up to a year in advance, and then work hard and train hard that entire year to be ready for "the big show."

After all, there weren't a lot of other events to choose from, and that's about how it should be for the size of the demographic that's drawn to real West Coast Swing. But it made the competitions just that more fierce.

But I'm thrilled with their addition of the Street Swing category. You could pick your partner, but you didn't pick the music. Kenny Wetzel's music was used, and get this... only 15 spots were allowed. When those 15 spots were taken, they closed the registration. Other exciting factors? ANYONE could sign up. 

Any skill level that dared could register themselves, as long as they did it before anyone else. But once they did, the pressure was on. Why? Because every single Street Swing couple had a spotlight dance. Back then, it was terrifying. You'd be in "the pit" as we called it, and two thousand dancers with extremely tough standards would watch you. They cheered for good dancing. And if they didn't cheer? uh oh. The silence would be deafening.

The idea behind the rules of Street Swing (Just Dance, Strictly Swing) was a) to give those who didn't find partners to do a routine with a place to compete (back then you could only enter one category) and b) to show off real swing. No tricks. No lifts. Just plain old West Coast Swing. And man, did the brand new category pay off, as you will soon see.

As I stated, all of the music in the videos below were luck of the draw, and yet, how amazing and well-phrased all of these dances are! The leaders knew what they were doing, let me tell you. I see so many videos posted of pros performing "demo's" nowadays... pros that have been partners for years... and NONE of them look as clean as any of these amazing dancers below.

All three of these videos demonstrate and awesomely high level of the Three T's: Timing, Technique and Teamwork. On the fly, their technique is awesome and their lead and follow is perfect. The men have power but so do the women. The timing, phrasing and syncopations are impeccable and the footwork is totally amazing. Clearly they practiced together beforehand, and were comfortable with each other... enough to perform under the scrutiny of the uniquely hard eye of this audience.

Get to know these videos well. It will help you identify West Coast swing during social dancing, Jack & Jill's and Strictly Swings. When you see a real West Coast Swing demo or couple today, they will look much more like these below, where all of the new West Coast Swing Essentials are clearly danced, and danced well. You'll notice how incredibly different all four dances are. The music is all swing music, but watch how the dancers' individuality is allowed to be displayed, all within the confines of the rules of West Coast Swing.

Now, it's time to enjoy! You can follow this link to my Street Swing Playlist, where the following dances will play automatically in a row for you on YouTube. Or just enjoy them below. Have fun stealing moves everybody! Watch and learn, watch and learn...

Ramiro Gonzalez & Sylvia Sykes
1995 Street Swing - 1st Place

Jason Colacino & Gina Amato Brown
1996 Street Swing - 1st Place

Christopher Joe & Melanie Roberts Dawson
1995 Street Swing - 2nd Place

Louie Juarez & Rosie Campos
1996 Street Swing - 2nd Place
(the original text sent out with these videos can be found here)