Category Archives: practice

Taylor Hatala Admiration Not Envy

Not sure where in my social network this video of Laurence Kaiwai’s choreography to Nicki Minaj’s Anaconda came from, but thank you friend. Apparently that’s 11-year-old Taylor Hatala front and center at the end of a choreo class, just crushing it. I have Taylor Hatala admiration, not envy, I swear.

Which of course sent me down a rabbit hole of Taylor Hatala hip-hop dance videos.

Ricki Cole’s choreo
“Act Out” by Audio Push

Taylor Hatala admiration!

Matt Steffanina’s Choreo
“Problem” by Ariana Grande

Taylor Hatala admiration!

David Moore’s choreo
“I Don’t Know” by Meek Mill
Make sure you watch past the credits, there’s two post-class choreo performances there, one to Chris Brown’s “Down.”

Taylor Hatala admiration!

I was chaining these performances (and more; The list just goes on) and trying to figure out what I was feeling. Envy that this young girl had the opportunity to have gone through so much hard work at such a young age? No, maybe that it was in something so immediately applicable in life. My 200 yd butterfly skills haven’t come up recently. But wait, dance happens to be something I appreciate at this point in my life, but just 8 short years ago (When Taylor Hatala was 3!), I definitely wouldn’t have thought of dance as something “immediately applicable in life.” In fact, I’m not even sure that phrase is really true about dance.

It’s admiration. Really. She’d definitely worked harder than I at dance over the past 8 years, and it shows. It’s awesome to see the results. She’s got space to improve too, watch pro Sophia Aguiar do the routine to “Down.”

Oh, you want a non-staged, no cut, classroom version? Once at the top, and again at 2:40.

Clean, right? The isolations are just amazing. And of course it’s not a fair comparison. I’m really struggling with this. It’s not fair to project a career, practice, or skill development onto an 11-year-old. I hope she’s having as much fun as it looks, and that it stays fun.

Ten-thousand hours of Deep Practice
Master Coaching
Ignition

I’ll be keeping an eye out for further videos and inspiration.

Oh, Lindy Hop content? How about that killer scoot at 30s of the last video? Reminds me of the scoot styling that Stefan Durham did in this J&J. Especially at the beginning. But also that tremendous scoot at 1:16, even though it doesn’t have the windup on the same plane. Unrelated: Jo Hoffberg is still amazing.

Novices Should Practice Footwork

After chatting to people about their raw novice phase of dancing I’ve found myself saying something again and again: Practice your footwork by yourself.

Why?

  • When you’re in the raw novice stage, there are two mysterious things about dancing, the footwork rhythms and lead-and-follow.  You need a partner to practice lead and follow.  You don’t need one to practice footwork rhythms.
  • You’re maximizing the value of your instructor-led class time, whether that’s private lesson time or group class time.  You can focus on the things you can only learn in person (how the lead and follow should feel, how your body position should be, dance frame).
  • You need to know the footwork well enough to be able to do it without much thought.  That takes time and repetition.  Make that time and repetition work for you, not against you.

What?

If you know the footwork rhythm that you’re going to practice, you’re fine.  But if you don’t feel you quite have it solidly in your head, it’s worth asking the instructor to demonstrate the footwork for you while you video it.  Make sure you video the feet!  Ask the instructor to demo the rhythm at slow to medium tempo a few times with numerical counts and a few times with words.  And make sure you get the name of the rhythm that’s being demo’d at the top of the recording.

How?

  1. Play whatever music you have handy, though mid-tempo swing will help other aspects of your dancing.
  2. Do your footwork rhythms to the music.  In place, without moving.
  3. You can stop after 5 minutes.
  4. Repeat every day for at least two weeks.

When you’re in class or on the social dance floor and you don’t have to worry about your footwork rhythm, you can work on other important things.  That will speed up your improvement a lot.

And don’t forget this exercise as you climb the skill ladder.  You can use it with every new footwork variation you pick up along your journey.

Have you ever had a problem learning footwork?  What process did you use to get through that block?

Slowing Down Practice

Spoke with a guy a few months ago after watching him practicing Shag.  Now, I don’t pretend to be a terrific Shag dancer, but I like to think that I’m a terrific learner.

I helpfully volunteered my advice, which is a terrible, terrible thing to do.  But I like A, and hoped he could take my advice in the context that I meant it: wanting to see him succeed.

Once we’ve learned basics, it’s easy to get trapped in a place where we want to make those basics extremely dynamic, extremely fast, or extremely stylized.  In my mind, it’s too easy to focus on the end goal (in A’s case, the speed of the music he wanted to dance too) and not enough on a good path to the goal.

I came across a story about how Ben Hogan (widely regarded as having one of the best swings in pro golf, ever), would practice his swing:  slowly.

I even like the quote in the description of this second clip:
“Fast playing is not based on fast practice. It’s based on flawless execution at slow speed.”  — Daniel Bonade – World class clarinetist


Speed can cover up the technique problems in movement.  Can I perform my movement perfectly at very slow speeds?  Once I’ve corrected gross problems at slow speeds, I move on to performing it at close to normal speeds.  Then a bit faster.  But I try as hard as I can to perfect my movement at each speed level before speeding things up again.