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WCS Bootcamp with Keith Armbruster and Jena Smith - opinions

 
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nadreck



Joined: 13 Jun 2006
Posts: 18
Location: Calgary - Ramsey

PostPosted: Tue Jun 13, 2006 - 7:13 pm    Post subject: WCS Bootcamp with Keith Armbruster and Jena Smith - opinions Reply with quote

We are considering signing up for the West Coast Swing bootcamp that they are running in the fall. Has anyone done West Coast Swing with them? Has anyone participated in one of their boot camps?

What do you think of their teaching?

I am new to West Coast Swing but from what I have seen the learning curve is a little steep and this seems like a great way to cram a fair bit of the curve in at once.
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Laurie_Shafer



Joined: 20 Nov 2005
Posts: 29
Location: Calgary, AB

PostPosted: Sat Jun 17, 2006 - 11:26 am    Post subject: Keith and Jena's Bootcamp Reply with quote

Jim, I believe Keith and Jena are one of the most progressive couples in WCS dancing in Calgary. They continue to learn from the best and bring that knowledge to the Calgary dance floor. The concept of the Bootcamp is to instill the basics of WCS and with a good foundation the sky is the limit when it comes to your personal experience and creativity with the dance. My understanding of the Bootcamp is that the guys will focus on leading the 22 basic moves in WCS which will enable the guys to comfortably lead any caliber of female dancer. This is very empowering for you. I would totally recommend the Bootcamp to all levels of WCS dancer because without a good foundation the house eventually falls apart or needs reinforcing. Better to build a strong foundation in the first place. My husband and I have taken group and private lessons from Keith and have always come away feeling we got good value. If you want to chat more give me a call at 252-9614
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nadreck



Joined: 13 Jun 2006
Posts: 18
Location: Calgary - Ramsey

PostPosted: Sat Jun 17, 2006 - 12:22 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks Laurie, the only other question I would have I figure should be available here for all to read too, is what sort of music do they teach with/to?

In any case it sounds like Keith impressed you. I will be interested to bring this thread forward and put in some comments when I have some first hand experience.
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shiden_kai



Joined: 16 Jul 2005
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PostPosted: Tue Jun 20, 2006 - 6:34 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

nadreck wrote:
Thanks Laurie, the only other question I would have I figure should be available here for all to read too, is what sort of music do they teach with/to?

In any case it sounds like Keith impressed you. I will be interested to bring this thread forward and put in some comments when I have some first hand experience.


It will probably be the usual mix of WCS music that is being played these days at the Friday night dance.

Keith and Jena are excellent instructors. I don't think you will regret taking the classes. We need more/lots of people to take the classes so that there can be a pile of people ready to dance come fall.

Jena is probably one of the nicest followers you could dance with in Calgary.

Ian
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nadreck



Joined: 13 Jun 2006
Posts: 18
Location: Calgary - Ramsey

PostPosted: Wed Jun 21, 2006 - 8:05 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks Ian. We spoke with Keith and Jena last night as well and they indicated that they would teach musical interpretation with a very wide range of music. Which is what both of us were looking for. I know I often find it difficult to learn a new dance if I can't understand how to relate the right rythm from the music to the dance.
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shiden_kai



Joined: 16 Jul 2005
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PostPosted: Wed Jun 21, 2006 - 3:36 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

nadreck wrote:
Thanks Ian. We spoke with Keith and Jena last night as well and they indicated that they would teach musical interpretation with a very wide range of music. Which is what both of us were looking for. I know I often find it difficult to learn a new dance if I can't understand how to relate the right rythm from the music to the dance.


West Coast Swing is an interesting dance when it comes to the music. So many different speeds and moods of music are available. If you are fairly new to WCS, I wouldn't spend too much time worrying about whether you are "interpreting" the music.....that comes later when you are really comfortable with the basics of the dance.

I'm obviously biased, but this is a "great" dance. Like any other dances tho, you need to put more time into it then just lessons. Getting out every Friday night for the last year and a half has made me much more comfortable with the dance and is allowing me to start to "hear" the music and start to fool around with the music. I think that my favorite thing about the dance is that it can be danced anywhere.....at a wedding, at your company christmas party, at a bar (especially if they are playing blues, which is becoming quite common here in town). It's an extremely versatile dance.

So get out there and social dance a lot once you start taking lessons. By the way.....there are other good WCS dance instructors around too. A fellow named Dale does beginner and intermediate classes at the Studio on Friday nights before the dance (which is over for now...the dance). He is an excellent teacher. If you ever see any classes being offered by Lisa McIntyre.....take them! She is a fantastic dancer and teacher when it comes to WCS. Another couple is Richard and Cindy Timko.....excellent dancers and teachers. And probably the only "true" pro in town here when it comes to WCS is a fellow named Atlas Griffith. He's from the States, and was involved in the WCS circuit down there for years. He doesn't do much in the way of teaching at the moment, but keep an eye out for him.

Ian
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nadreck



Joined: 13 Jun 2006
Posts: 18
Location: Calgary - Ramsey

PostPosted: Wed Jun 21, 2006 - 6:40 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

shiden_kai wrote:
West Coast Swing is an interesting dance when it comes to the music. So many different speeds and moods of music are available. If you are fairly new to WCS, I wouldn't spend too much time worrying about whether you are "interpreting" the music.....that comes later when you are really comfortable with the basics of the dance.


That may be for many, but I doubt if I would make much progress at all with the basics if I can't figure out how they go with the music. I have a great deal of difficulty with learning just by counts. If I can't figure out how the counts go into the music I will constantly stop and start when music is playing trying to resynch myself, or even just questioning it.

Anyway, luckily for me they have said they will be working on that aspect of it. Most of my experience is with salsa, with a little ballroom latin and country.
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shiden_kai



Joined: 16 Jul 2005
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PostPosted: Thu Jun 22, 2006 - 8:22 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

nadreck wrote:
That may be for many, but I doubt if I would make much progress at all with the basics if I can't figure out how they go with the music. I have a great deal of difficulty with learning just by counts. If I can't figure out how the counts go into the music I will constantly stop and start when music is playing trying to resynch myself, or even just questioning it.



Perhaps we are talking about different concepts. If you are able to
"interpret" the music while dancing the 6 count and 8 count basic
WCS moves after 12 weeks of instruction, then my hat will be off
to you!

Ian
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nadreck



Joined: 13 Jun 2006
Posts: 18
Location: Calgary - Ramsey

PostPosted: Fri Jun 23, 2006 - 8:44 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

ian wrote:
Perhaps we are talking about different concepts. If you are able to "interpret" the music while dancing the 6 count and 8 count basic WCS moves after 12 weeks of instruction, then my hat will be off to you!


You are probably right about the breakdown in semantics here, the term 'interpret' was Keith's when I spoke with him. I would explain what I meant (not necessarily what Keith and Jena mean in the context of their course):


  • Being able to recognize phrase starts in a variety of types of music.
  • Being able to resynch within the basic steps when you are off for one reason or another
  • For non musical types like me, being able to pick the most appropriate tonal or percusion 'voice' in a given piece of music to follow as my metronome to the beat
  • Understanding which basic moves work well with a variety of common forms of break found in the music in question.
  • Learning how to react to tempo and key changes


Now I don't expect to master all of those, but honestly I can't start to dance without a addressing a good part of that without ending up just standing there on the floor with a dumb expression on my face when the music does goes one way and my feet another.

To put it in an analogy with mathematics, I am never able to truly apply a particular branch of math until I can, at least with some coaching, understand how that math was derived. I think of it as having a 'vector' memory rather than a 'raster' one, I remember all the decision points that went along with reaching a conclusion I don't particularly remember the operators or values in a formulaic way or in other words by rote. It is my handycap when it comes to learning.
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shiden_kai



Joined: 16 Jul 2005
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PostPosted: Sat Jul 1, 2006 - 3:18 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

nadreck wrote:



  • Being able to recognize phrase starts in a variety of types of music.
  • Being able to resynch within the basic steps when you are off for one reason or another
  • For non musical types like me, being able to pick the most appropriate tonal or percusion 'voice' in a given piece of music to follow as my metronome to the beat
  • Understanding which basic moves work well with a variety of common forms of break found in the music in question.
  • Learning how to react to tempo and key changes


Now I don't expect to master all of those, but honestly I can't start to dance without a addressing a good part of that without ending up just standing there on the floor with a dumb expression on my face when the music does goes one way and my feet another.



Recognizing phrase starts is interesting, but not what I would consider essential for the beginning WCS dancer. One of the problems with WCS and phrases in the music is that most of the WCS songs you encounter will have 4 or 8 count phrases, but many of the moves you do are 6 count. So within two moves, you are already out of sync with the phrase if you intend to "hit" the music on your "one". Eventually, when you can recognize the phrases, you have to pretty much be able to "hit" on wherever you are within the move you are doing...unless you become the master of "setting up" your moves a few phrases ahead. I don't see too many dancers in Calgary that are able to do that. I do it every now and then, but it's always sheer blind luck....and I have a good chuckle about it.

Resynching within the basic steps.....just takes practice, practice, practice and lot's of foot faking (grin).

As far as the metronome thing, I've always found most WCS music easy to pick up the beat. I have a very hard time with Salsa. If the salsa music has that cowbell instrument....then it's slightly easier for me.

Learning to react to tempo and key changes. I can't say that I've danced to any WCS music that actually changes tempo during the song. I've heard some, but who would actually want to throw that at social dancers. Quick way to clear the floor, or confuse people. Now we do dance to all sorts of different speeds. At first, the slow songs are more comfortable, but eventually, the slow songs and fast songs take the most concentration in order to do a reasonable job.

Oh, and don't forget about your connection. That's really what makes the dance what it is. So you can add that to your list of things to think about while dancing.

Hope to see you out dancing in the fall!

Ian
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nadreck



Joined: 13 Jun 2006
Posts: 18
Location: Calgary - Ramsey

PostPosted: Sat Jul 1, 2006 - 7:09 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

shiden_kai wrote:

Recognizing phrase starts is interesting, but not what I would consider essential for the beginning WCS dancer. One of the problems with WCS and phrases in the music is that most of the WCS songs you encounter will have 4 or 8 count phrases, but many of the moves you do are 6 count. So within two moves, you are already out of sync with the phrase if you intend to "hit" the music on your "one". Eventually, when you can recognize the phrases, you have to pretty much be able to "hit" on wherever you are within the move you are doing...unless you become the master of "setting up" your moves a few phrases ahead. I don't see too many dancers in Calgary that are able to do that. I do it every now and then, but it's always sheer blind luck....and I have a good chuckle about it.


It means to me not being able to start or restart the dance if I can't find a beat to "come in on".

shiden_kai wrote:
Resynching within the basic steps.....just takes practice, practice, practice and lot's of foot faking (grin).


To me I need something more to be able to do that.

shiden_kai wrote:
As far as the metronome thing, I've always found most WCS music easy to pick up the beat. I have a very hard time with Salsa. If the salsa music has that cowbell instrument....then it's slightly easier for me.


Given the range of music you can use for WCS, I think I am likely to find styles that are more difficult for me than Salsa, however I had to learn this for Salsa, Bachata (ok that one is dead easy), Foxtrot, Samba, Waltz, Two Step and so on. And consider this to be an essential part of interpreting music to be able to dance, and also essential to getting 'back on track' when I eventually (read often) step off the beat.

shiden_kai wrote:
Learning to react to tempo and key changes. I can't say that I've danced to any WCS music that actually changes tempo during the song. I've heard some, but who would actually want to throw that at social dancers. Quick way to clear the floor, or confuse people. Now we do dance to all sorts of different speeds. At first, the slow songs are more comfortable, but eventually, the slow songs and fast songs take the most concentration in order to do a reasonable job.


Hmm, this comes up to a topic that distresses me about dancing. The practice of turning great music into milktoast for the purpose of dancing. Just last night I was doing the rhumba to a rather sanitized "Light My Fire". I would really have appriciated the original with the guitar and drum solos despite having to deal with the problems. I admit I only have 18 months of dance appreciation vs 46 years of music appreciation, but still, I hate it when they make musak out of great music.

shiden_kai wrote:
Oh, and don't forget about your connection. That's really what makes the dance what it is. So you can add that to your list of things to think about while dancing.


Well it was only at the Salsa and Swing event a few weeks ago that I heard the term "connection" refered to. I understood it to mean the appreciation (and your ability to apply that knowledge) that you have for your partner's interpretation of the music.

shiden_Kai wrote:
Hope to see you out dancing in the fall!

Ian


Ditto
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shiden_kai



Joined: 16 Jul 2005
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PostPosted: Sat Jul 1, 2006 - 9:32 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

nadreck wrote:

It means to me not being able to start or restart the dance if I can't find a beat to "come in on".


Perhaps you are more versed in music then I am, but I haven't seen the need to "come in on" the exact beginning of a phrase of music. If, as the average WCS song appears to have, a phrase is eight counts, you might just start on the 3, do a 6 count pattern and be right back on the phrasing.
I will confess tho that I often wait a bit before starting...something just doesn't feel right....perhaps I'm hearing something instinctively that others just know.

nadreck wrote:


Hmm, this comes up to a topic that distresses me about dancing. The practice of turning great music into milktoast for the purpose of dancing. Just last night I was doing the rhumba to a rather sanitized "Light My Fire". I would really have appriciated the original with the guitar and drum solos despite having to deal with the problems. I admit I only have 18 months of dance appreciation vs 46 years of music appreciation, but still, I hate it when they make musak out of great music.




I guess you won't appreciate "Riders on the Storm" done by Snoop Dogg!
Actually a pretty good tune for WCS. If that "light my fire" is done by
Will Young (I think that's the artist that covered it recently)...I'm not a big
fan of that song.

nadreck wrote:


Well it was only at the Salsa and Swing event a few weeks ago that I heard the term "connection" refered to. I understood it to mean the appreciation (and your ability to apply that knowledge) that you have for your partner's interpretation of the music.



Ah, you were at the event. So were we, but we only made it to the last
part of the show, and then stayed for the dance. As far as your understanding of connection as it applies to WCS.....I wouldn't characterize it that way....tho at a higher level of dancing I think that would apply. When I say connection, I'm thinking more about the compression and stretch that the dance exhibits.....the "physical" connection that you maintain with your partner. I think it's the hardest part of the dance, but the most rewarding.

Ian
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nadreck



Joined: 13 Jun 2006
Posts: 18
Location: Calgary - Ramsey

PostPosted: Sun Jul 2, 2006 - 5:43 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

shiden_kai wrote:
Perhaps you are more versed in music then I am, but I haven't seen the need to "come in on" the exact beginning of a phrase of music.


Not necessarily the begining, I absolutely do need to know where the begining is to be able to know the difference between a count where I will never end up at the beginning and one where I will. Many dances have the option of different length patterns, and for those dances I need to know how many to do to end up back in synch. As well I need to know that I am on a multiple that will sometime work out rather than say starting on the 2 4, 6 or 8.

shiden_kai wrote:
I will confess tho that I often wait a bit before starting...something just doesn't feel right....perhaps I'm hearing something instinctively that others just know.


perhaps, but since I don't know it and I don't have the instinct, I need to learn it.


shiden_kai wrote:
Ah, you were at the event. So were we, but we only made it to the last
part of the show, and then stayed for the dance. As far as your understanding of connection as it applies to WCS.....I wouldn't characterize it that way....tho at a higher level of dancing I think that would apply. When I say connection, I'm thinking more about the compression and stretch that the dance exhibits.....the "physical" connection that you maintain with your partner. I think it's the hardest part of the dance, but the most rewarding.

Ian


Yes I took a few of the workshops that Kyle and Sarah put on, including one called "Connections Concepts" which is where I got the understanding that I have for the term "connection" in WCS.
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