Egle & Arnas
Last June after the Summertime Swing Weekend we sat down with Egle and Arnas to talk about music, dancing and this wonderful thing we call swing.
The following is an abridged transcript of the conversation – and the inaugural edition of our Teachers’ Questionnaire.
ATS: What would you recommend to participants after a workshop as follow-up to lock in new material?
Egle: The best way is to practice at home.
Arnas: Probably to think about it.
Egle: It helps to think about it for sure, if you don’t have the option to go to the studio and dance. Thinking about it helps.
Arnas: Usually the most funny thing is that people take a lot of recaps during the workshops but they never watch it.
A lot of things we work on in class are based on the idea that the better you do on your own, the better you are gonna do with a partner, so there a lot of things you can think about and practice on your own.
Egle: I know some people take notes, write it down. Which probably works on a more personal level. You write down what’s working for you and what you thought about it during class. That helps to remember it better.
ATS: After a weekend of intense dancing, what do you do, to take care of your body, particularly your feet?
Egle: We do lot’s of stretching. But also also resting, because your muscles need rest.
Arnas: And sleep.
Egle: Yes, sleep. Sleep a lot. Not have any physical activity for a day. That works for me.
Arnas: We both, and some people in Vilnius are working on their bodies with massage therapy or physio therapy. Which is basically moving/bringing back your muscles to the positions they should be so you avoid cramps or spasms and compensation movements when your body is not working the way it is supposed to. Sometimes you don’t realize those problems exist. But it could happen any time, even if you don’t feel pain now. We are lucky to have a person in our scene who joined dancing and became our friend who was a medical student and massage therapist.
Egle: But he calls himself a reconstructional therapist. So what he does is reconstructional therapy. So it’s not an easy one. It’s not light on your body.
Arnas: In other words, the most painful experience you can have. But afterwards you feel really good. So especially after very long weekends, teaching many hours, traveling, especially Shag, we really try to see that guy. It’s an extra investment, but it’s a big investment in your health and your dancing.
ATS: How many pairs of dancing shoes do you have in use at the same time and how often do you need new ones?
Arnas:I usually pack one or two pairs, depending on the classes or the dance we teach, depending on the size of the festival. I usually try to have one pair for the classes and a pair for the parties. Sometimes I could work with just one pair. [Remove this, it’s the same: I have two active, I have maybe more at home.] I have one at the studio, one at home and then two active ones [for traveling]. So in total four pairs of dancing shoes [in use at the same time].
Egle: I have much more. But I usually travel with three pairs. But then I have heels, I have boots. It depends on the season too, if I have open toes or boots. I have more, but I’m not crazy, I don’t have so many.
ATS: And how long does it take you until you feel you need to switch to new ones – that you have danced them through?
Egle: If it has a heel – when I feel it’s not stable any more. But the others I have until they have a hole in it. It depends on the shoe. The ones I have now, I have been wearing for a year and a half now and they are still good. So I don’t know how long that will take. Because all the shoes I wear are leather, so it’s not so easy to wear them through. They last.
Arnas: In my case, I have all-leather shoes as well and I tried many brands of shoes for dancers. And without advertising any particular brand, some of them are better made than others, even though they are all leather. For the past two years I used to tear them up like one pair a year maybe. Because I wear them a lot.
ATS: Do you have any tips for dancers who have reached a plateau, to avoid frustration?
Egle: Pushing through.
Arnas: If you have a bad day, keep going.
Egle: I think in swing it’s pretty easy. If you feel like you have reached a plateau with Lindy Hop you can do Shag or Balboa or start leading (if you are a follower). Then it’s “Oh, this is totally a new thing”, but it’s still the same music, the same people around you.
Arnas: Even we have these moments. For some period of time you don’t feel inspired any more. Well, you go on through that.
Egle: Or maybe you need to take a break.
Arnas: Yeah, maybe you need a break. Or need to do something else. I usually listen to a lot of music. This is how sometimes I recover myself, getting lost in jazz. It helps me to get back and get inspiration.
ATS: What is it that you pay particular attention to when gauging the level of a dancer – for example during an audition?
What is it, that separates the Intermediate-Advanced dancer from the Advanced dancer?
Arnas: For me the most important thing is how people keep time. And time means the actual time with the tempo and the rhythm, if their body keeps the rhythm. How equally they actually match the music tempo-wise and rhythmically. Do they add something to that. It’s not about the actual moves or the amount of moves they do. It’s more about how they are aware and how they control their body.
Egle: For sure. For me I’m looking for how comfortable it looks. If it doesn’t look comfortable it means something isn’t working, maybe the rhythm is not there, maybe they don’t know how to hold each other. Yeah, for me it’s rhythm and comfort.
ATS: What is the most important thing for you to pass on to your students? If there was just one thing they could take from your workshop, what would it be?
Egle: Oh, that’s a tricky one. I never thought about it. I think freedom of dancing, for me.
Arnas: Being in the moment. Being and enjoying the moment means enjoying yourself, enjoying your partner, enjoying the music and what you do.
ATS: What do you value most in a Lead/Follow?
Egle: Comfortable dancing. For me really that’s the thing. And of course relating to the music. It doesn’t need to be anything fancy for me. It could be the simplest most basic moves, done to the music … and with me, in a comfortable connection.
Arnas: Probably the ability to adjust and support. Adjustment of balance. Not only to each other but to your own wishes as well. You could have a wish to express something or to add something but you wait to find a good moment to do that. And that moment could be not only in time, but in situation – let’s say I’ve tried to do something and I failed, but you help me fix it. [Let’s remove this part, it’s very unclear: I feel this part I am initiating this I share a lot of what I do and then I appreciate that you give me this time in exchange for giving me something back as well – but not at the same time. More of an exchange, I say something, then you say something, but not actually at the same time. But it could also be a nice thing if we talk to each other at the same time, maybe saying the same thing, but that does not always happen of course. So it’s that kind of adjustment and balance when it just happens.] [What I actually meant is: When dancing with another person I value the most the freedom to fail and explore while still staying connected – sometimes you get lost, sometimes your partner gets lost or surprised, but we find a way together to actually enjoy the music and be with each other.
ATS: Aside from regular classes, workshops, socials, and practice sessions, do you have any other tips for students to improve their dancing?
Arnas & Egle: Listening to the music.
Arnas: Listen to the music you dance to. You need to like it and you need to understand it. The patterns in music are pretty clear when you listen to them. You start to expect and recognize things. And you start to hear musicians quoting other parts in other tunes or other musicians. It becomes a lot easier to create something on top of that.
Egle: That is also a thing I like for my partner to have. The musicality, but in the way they understand the songs. Then if I understand the song and we both understand the song it looks like we are dancing to the music.
Arnas: Whenever I feel a lack of other inspiration I tend to watch clips to see maybe the Oldtimers dancing, or contemporary dancers sometimes. Just to see what is happening.
ATS: How do you measure your own progress as a dancer, over all and when working on new moves or refining your technique?
Egle: For me it’s mostly watching and comparing videos. Seeing what I don’t like about my dancing, so I can think about it when I dance and fix it. And then see after a while if I changed or not. That’s the easiest for me.
Arnas: There are stages, depending where you are as a dancer. In the beginning not many like themselves on video. Not many people are filming themselves to become more aware, or even look at the mirror.
Egle: But I think it depends on where you come from. I am used to having the mirror in front of me all the time and look at myself and the videos. People who do sports do that too, they film themselves.
Arnas: For me, I would add to Egle’s answer that now, I try to find in a video what I like, how my arm is moving, how my feet are moving, is my body actually adding to the rhythm my feet are doing, it could be different aspects I am focusing on. It also depends on where you are in your dancing. It could be just basic technical things. Also, it’s important to realize how am I feeling while performing or just social dancing, while others are watching or not, so in every moment I would feel myself.
ATS: Do you still have off-days where some things that normally go smoothly won’t work and if so, how do you deal with it?
Arnas: There is always THAT day.
Egle: I actually invite somebody who is very happy and I just dance with that person. I have this one funny dance, I laugh, and then I don’t dance anymore.
Arnas: It usually happens with team trainings or team routines. You know, you have the excitement in the beginning and you all meet and create and share, but there is gonna be one day when everybody is hating each other and they are arguing over something. Not because of personal things but because you are tired and somethings won’t work or maybe you feel dissatisfied with things. In general you can be satisfied with how things are going, it’s just one of those days. So I would actually take a break. That day, if you feel it and the energy is down there, maybe just go for a drink. Maybe skip this training and come back to it tomorrow.