I want to dance in a Slotted style

Regular reaches of my blog will know of my desire to be able to dance in the more modern slotted style, in addition to my traditional rotational style.  I’ve nothing against the rotational style of dancing – I know that most of us dance in that way, but the slotted style is a lot better suited to dancing to slower chill-out musc.

My Slotted dance journey started at a Southport Class

After a few false starts, I decided I would make a concerted effort to learn the techniques of dancing in the so-called Slot, where the lady follower is guided smoothly up and down a track on the dance floor.

My adventure to learn this smoother style of dancing was kick started at Southport last June, when I attended my first ever class with Caine and Danni, entitled Simply Slotted (see link to review below).

If I remember rightly they taught just four moves, but with every one Caine and Danni put the emphasis on the way the move should be executed in a linear fashion.  We were also taught how the man should always get out of the lady’s way, allowing her to gracefully move up and down the slot unimpeded.

Simply Slotted makes my Top Five List

Last year I visited a lot of classes for my blog, and realising I’d reviewed quite a few, I picked out my Top Five and had no difficulty in including Caine and Danni’s lesson (see link below).  Not only was the lesson delivered with a high level of professionalism, it also gave me the basics for the slotted style of dancing I needed.

Since that class I’ve gone on to do a number of SILC classes, and I’ve slowly put together sufficient moves to just about get through a three minute track.  I do repeat a lot of the moves, so I was excited to be back in the classroom with them both, knowing that I would be shown some different moves to add to my still limited repertoire.

Four Smooth Slotted Switch moves

The lesson was advertised in the programme as Switches, with the tag line ‘Smooth Slotted Switch techniques’.  It was also described as Intermediate minus – a rating that will always give a class a broad appeal, especially for people like me, who find some Intermediate classes a little intimidating.

It turned out to be just what I wanted as Caine, with Danni’s help, taught everyone four Switch moves.  Now, I shan’t even attempt to describe the four moves, but for those that might not know, I’ll try to explain what a Switch move entails.  Essentially it’s a way of redirecting a lady to travel down the slot in the opposite direction.

The basic Switch technique

Most people will know the basic Switch that is taught in Intermediate lessons.  The man positions himself behind the lady – they are both facing the same way.

The lady is moving forward along her slot.  The man uses both his hands on the lady’s shoulders and briefly stops her making more progress down the slot.  The man then pulls back on the ladies shoulders to get her to travel backwards, and as she moves back down the slot the man swings himself round to follow her.

Needless to say this is all done with gentle contact and as smoothly as possible.  It doesn’t really matter if you are still none the wiser, as this review is more about Caine and Danni’s teaching style and how their lessons are helping people get to grips with this more contemporary way of dancing.

This was a very popular class

I’m always amazed how many people make it to the classes at Southport, particularly after dancing late in to the night, and this was yet another very popular class.

What was more impressive, was that this class was up against one of the biggest of the whole weekend – Lyndsey Bennett’s  Let’s get ready for Swingers Hour lesson in the main Thunderbolt Room.

I suspect, the fact that we were at times spilling over the edges of the dance floor, was testament to the reputation that Caine and Danni have built up for their teaching of this smooth slotted style of dancing.  It was after all the reason I was there.

Let’s set the scene with some chilled music

Remember this lesson was primarily to give people moves that would help them to dance to slower music.  Here’s a classic chill-out track that Caine played to accompany the dancers as they tried out the moves.  Hopefully it help set the scene for the style of dancing the lesson entailed.

As you listen to Jennifer Hudson sing Spotlight, please understand that this was the kind of slow paced track that a year ago I found very difficult to dance to.  It’s not uncommon for people to struggle with this style of laid back music.  I suspect that was another reasons that this class was so busy.

Both Caine and Danni are mic-ed up

Caine led the lessons, but because Danni was also mic-ed up, she was able to give help directly to the ladies.  While Caine gave instructions on how the men led the moves, Danni was able to interject with help on the ladies footwork and positioning.

Caine and Danni deliver this dual teaching method in a seamless way, and it made for a fast flowing lesson with both the men and the ladies picking up the moves with relative ease.

Different points of contact

In my attempt to explain the Switch technique, I tried to illustrate how the man pulls back on both of the lady’s shoulders to change her direction of travel.

In the Switch moves that Caine and Danni put together there was a selection of different points of contact to control the ladies movement.  Again I won’t try to explain in detail, but let me just say that it showed just how many different ways there are to do a Switch.

Caine mixes in tips about slotted dancing

All four of these Switch moves were perfectly suited to the slotted style of dancing.  With this style of dancing it’s important that the man gets out of the ladies way, so that she can keep on her track.

With every move Caine was quick to stress the man’s need to leave a clear track for the ladies to move along, and as he did so he reinforced some of the techniques, about dancing in The Slot I’ve learned at other lessons.

We all need reminding about the basic techniques

Some people will pick up things very quickly, but most of us are slow learners.  By the end of a lesson we may feel we know the moves and techniques we have been taught, but can we remember everything at next week’s freestyle, let alone immediately after the lesson.

I will always forget something, so I love it that teachers like Caine and Danni still put in reminders about the basic techniques, even when they are teaching quite complicated moves.

It’s when you put the moves together the fun starts

After Caine and Danni’s instructions and tips, and trying it for themselves a few times, I think all the class seemed to grasp the individual moves.   The fun started when we had to put all the individual moves together.

I got all the individual moves quite easily, but when I was asked to put all four together, I forgot the second one.  It happens in all lessons, and I’m sure it happens to all guys at some point.

We are all in it together

My embarrassment at going wrong (I think it’s OK to admit being embarrassed) is made worse by the fact that I didn’t really know any of the ladies in the lesson.  What is nice about Southport though, is the sense that we are all in it together, and that we need to help and support each other if we are to improve.

I quickly remembered the second move, but then forgot the third move.  It’s always the way, but the ladies shrugged off my mistakes with a smile.  That understanding and patience is what makes Southport so special, and the lessons so well attended, no matter what the level.

The moves are designed to be slotted into your routine

Eventually I remembered how to lead all four moves, and I think that it was the same for all the guys in the lesson.  Caine was at pains to tell us that the moves work best when they are slotted in to your three minute routine, rather than done one after the other.

In the practice and dancing I did later I would sometimes mix in just two, but more often and not just one.  The thing was I now had four Switch moves to call upon, and I used them all from time to time over the weekend.  More importantly they have all stayed in my memory.

The weekend gives us a chance to fully upload the moves and techniques

Sometimes the moves that we learn in Intermediate lessons can quickly evaporate from our dance brain, but these moves were so do-able and more important memorable.  The beauty of a weekender like Southport, gives us opportunities to practice our new moves over and over again.

For the ladies it’s about recognising the signals that proceed these moves.  The round the clock dancing in The SILC Zone, and the fact that the ladies have the opportunity to dance with so many different partners, means that they are sure to be led in to this style of move.  This has to help re-inforce the techniques used in the Switch style moves Caine and Danni taught.

The proof of the pudding . . .

Doing lessons is one thing, but being able to make the moves part of a smooth flowing routine is the proof of a good lesson.   I will say this of my own dancing.

Having the extra four moves available to mix in to my slotted dancing meant that the routines themselves became a little more varied.  This in itself gave me a little more confidence to venture in to the SILC Zone, and as a result I did more dancing in this slotted style than I’ve ever done before.

Lessons like this are part of our dance journey

The fact that I did more dancing in the slot than I’ve ever done before at Southport has helped me no end.  I’m not there yet, but I’m getting there.

When we look back at our journeys to be better dancers we will realise the key stages of our development.  My own Slotted dance journey is made up of lots of lessons – Ashley Davis’ SILC in SIX classes last summer play a big part.

A conversation I had with teacher Joe Collins at Te Amo, about how SILC is just another technique that can be added to a slotted smoother style of dancing, was another important moment.  As was Steve Thomas’ two SILC lessons at Ceroc Perth’s Fresh Weekender.

Caine and Danni are part of my Slotted dance journey

Our dance journeys are made up of lots of lessons, plus the help and advice we get from teachers and fellow dancers along the way.  I’m sure that this lesson will form a small part of many peoples dance journeys.

So it was for me.  Just like their Simply Slotted Class last June, Caine and Danni have given me another little piece of the jigsaw that is my journey to conquer The Slot, and be able to dance to chill-out music in a smoother style that makes it a lot nicer for my lady partners.

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My Top Five Classes 2016/17