In reviewing dance highlights for the year, I noticed that two dancers kept popping up repeatedly. Rather than have them clog up the other lists, I thought I’d break them out into a separate post.
A Leaf on the Wind That Will Blow You Away
Out of all these performances, there’s one story that stands out about Laura Glaess for me this year. Too early on Friday morning at ILHC in August I had to be up to take care of some issues in the ballroom. Floor trials started shortly after and a few brave and sleep deprived came in to rehearse their routines for the weekend. Laura ran through her Pro Classic routine with Mike Roberts and her Pro-Am with Dominique Pomeroy. In between, she and Mike also gave pointers to the Cleveland juniors. We got to a point where no one else wanted to do a run through, but Laura was still ready to go. She bounced up and down like a puppy and asked us who wanted to dance next, at which point Mike, Dominique, Mike Marcotte, and I collectively looked at the ground and shuffled our feet. Normally I wouldn’t turn down the opportunity to dance with Laura, but it was that damn early. Man was not meant to get up that early to dance, but that woman is.
This video is something I edited together from footage I took that morning and evening. This video starts off with footage from Patrick & Natasha’s video because I was never ready whenever they started to dance, but you’ll see them go to town from a bunch of angles as the video progresses. One of the things that I learned to appreciate about this performance after watching it several hundred times is how well the choreography flows and compliments the music. They don't do anything too obvious, but it all still makes sense. They also do a great job of matching the very gradual increase in intensity of the song without outpacing it.
As good as Laura is with Mike, she can run with anyone else. Anyone that can do this repeatedly and well is a force to be reckoned with.
This year she demonstrated that she’s one of the most versatile dancers in the scene as you can see through her choreographed couple performances above; in social dance competitions at the Lone Star Championships with Todd Yannacone and at ILHC with Kevin St. Laurent; solo dancing with Jo Hoffberg; and in two team performances at Lindyfest and with the winning Team at ILHC.
Certain dancers move with certain characteristics. There’s Jo’s sassiness, Naomi’s class, or Ramona’s hippie butterfly style. Laura displays joyful power in her dancing that is impressive to watch every time.
Big Brother is Watching (And Will Dance with You)
I tend to put most leads on what I call the Humphries-Yannacone Spectrum. On one end are those that work on their own sense of personal quality of movement. On the other is their ability to come up with musical combinations of partnered patterns. Obviously, everyone tries to work on both, but very few can do both very well. If I were to add a Y axis to this chart, I would measure ability to partner. By that, I don’t mean a person’s ability to match tension or use counterbalance. I’m talking about the ability to interact with another person on a personal level.
We used to refer to Peter as The God of Thunder because . . . well . . . look at him. He’s eight feet tall, shoots lightning out of his eyes and fireballs out of his arse. However, I think he’s more like Gandalf these days. Aside from the fact that we all look like hobbits next to him, he’s like a friendly old wizard inviting you on an adventure. That adventure is different from the one he just had during the last song with another dancer and will be different from the next one with someone else.
Peter’s super power is simply recognizing that the other person in a dance is a unique human being. It's just simply paying attention to your partner and acknowledging that you are not alone. It’s a skill that I wish more people (leads and follows) would work on more because it’s easy to do your own thing every time with a different person. Some people who are considered great dancers get away with it all the time. However, by connecting to someone in an individual way, Peter displays a knack for creating a partnership that can be greater than the separate dancers.
Plus it helps that he has a hell of a sense of humor and a willingness to throw himself under a bus to make the other person look good.
It may also be due to him being so damn tall. Otherwise how do you explain him navigating through the ILHC Invitational J&J all skate and into this steal dance?
Even though Peter won every single Jack & Jill he was in this year, he knows that winning competitions is not a measure of how good a dancer is. Being considered a good dancer is more about what you can bring to the spotlight on a consistent basis even if that spotlight is just coming from one person.
Peter’s ability to pay attention isn’t limited to his partner. He always knows where his is and what’s going on. This is my favorite video out of this bunch. In this dance at Midwest Lindy Fest, Mary Freitag is great and Peter dances with her well, but what gets this for me is the short little point sequence starting at 0:31. It’s cute by itself, but it’s also a direct acknowledgment of longtime dancers Allen and Rudy Hall who were dancing long before Peter came along and were in the audience that night. That knowledge didn’t get him any points in the judging, but it was a wonderful way to salute a friend and valuable contributor to the community.
The hoary dance cliché goes “Dance like no one is watching.” I think this is terrible advice because in Lindy Hop, there’s always at least one other person watching and if you’re going to have a good partner dance, then you damn well better be paying attention back at them.
At the very least, don’t take yourself too seriously.