WEST COAST SWINGBeyond Six Counts

by Joanie Fuller

Yes, it's time to discuss Skippy, and I don't mean peanut butter. I mean Skippy Blair.

I have tried to avoid the fact that she teaches something I need to know, because I had a feeling it would be something "deep." But I can no longer avoid her, I’ve come to a point now where I need the deep stuff and she knows what it is.

The first concept I don’t like to hear about is that "center" stuff. Oh, how I hate it. Follow your center, move your center first, feel your center. Puhleeze! First of all, it’s pretty mushie around that center of mine and I’d rather NOT "feel" it. I really don’t think that’s what Skippy means. Sometimes when I dance, I do feel that it’s all coming together and just like she said, right from my center. But then suddenly I lose it, and with that loss goes the almighty connection ... which is another concept that I just figured out. You remember, the "flashlight" gig?

My perception of the "beyond" stuff is what Skippy Blair teaches. I took her Motion Study Workshop in Buena Park at the Jack & Jill O’Rama. I really thought at the time it would be another bag of elusive concepts that would take me years to master, but it wasn’t. And I was pleasantly surprised. We in California are so fortunate that we have all these wonderful teachers so close to home. Skippy taught for a bargain price (free), a one-hour class which usually takes three hours.

Skippy is a noted authority on movement and the relationship of movement to music. Her Motion Study classes help improve posture and include exercises that are known to slow down the aging process. Who wouldn’t want this! Forget the facelift!

After a couple years of already being in "motion" myself ... I am learning now that I have only touched the surface. My "motion" isn’t always the RIGHT motion. Just another testimony to my original concept -- does this dance have to be so DIFFICULT!? I can hear my hubby saying, "I don’t want to think about it that hard" so he’s still two-steppin’ sans the arm twirls.

The workshop was great, and all of us need to hear this stuff. Actually, we need to hear it more than once or twice because as we advance through these stages some of the difficult concepts become easier as our skills improve. Skippy teaches how to isolate parts of your body, how to make every move come from within (you remember that center thing I have so much trouble with), and just not from the limbs. After we were done, I really felt like a dancer. I knew I had it in me, but never thought of using it! Which proves WC is an extremely creative dance. It takes so much thought. Knowing how to use these tools could certainly change your dancing not to mention MINE. Such intensity! Whew -- what time’s lunch?!

For me the most interesting concept we discussed was ‘spreading your toes and feeling the floor." Keep in mind that you may be shopping for extra wide shoes in a couple of years ... kinda like those little old ladies at the church you attended as a kid. Did you ever wonder what happened to their feet? Well, keep pressing!

Seriously, pressing your toes helps you to balance and be one with the floor and helps you place weight on necessary parts of the foot for various reasons. I’m going to run right out and buy a new pair of dance shoes with lower heels. I’ve found that high heels cause your movements to look graceful and lovely. But, since we all know that MEN created those heels just to get back at us ladies for being smarter, it’s now time to go back to what is practical and painless! FLAT SHOES, especially for practice, save the feet!

With flat shoes I can really feel the floor. For practicing they’re the best! I find I can spin "mo’ bettah" and still be graceful! There is better protection for "da feet" and you’re more able to walk on your "little puppies" the next day after any late night soiree!

Take heed though, one Skippy workshop isn’t enough. I remember doing this same workshop earlier in my West Coast Swing dancing career and it just didn’t sink into my thick skull. With the bombardment of all that information available so early in our dance careers, it’s really difficult to absorb everything. If it were easy, we’d all look like Laureen Baldovi or Sharlot Bott.

This time it slid right into my head and stayed. It CLICKED! Don’t get me wrong, I can’t DO it, I’m just remembering it! Duh! Along with teaching the steps to a routine called "Synco-Motion," Skippy shared her passion for dancing with us and in one short hour tried to elicit the passion from our hearts into our muscle memory (remember that term)? Her soft voice, positive advice, and passion are so convincing, it makes you feel like your goals aren’t as elusive as you thought.

After the workshop, Skippy handed out a sheet with all the steps to the "routine" neatly typed and offered a video with the same routine, which is really an exercise. Knowing that this technique will improve my dancing, I’d rather dance with Skippy’s video than to sweat to the "Oldies" with that curly haired guy. It’s much "mo’ bettah" to exercise while achieving our dance goals. Exercise is one of the perks that goes with this insanity. Yay! Something positive and free -- no "mo’ money" spent at the gym! I know I’m still a "baby" at this West Coast Swing dance, but boy, it sure is intense and at the same time fun and rewarding.

HGH