Sunday, February 17, 2019

Standard Chartered Hong Kong Marathon 2019 -- running Full Marathon under adversity

Pre-race

When the registration for the marathon was opened, I just had a new job, and was concerned whether I had free time to practice before the marathon. However, I succumbed to the peer pressure and signed up for the full. I felt that I should run the full marathon in Hong Kong at least once. I knew about how boring the route was, but I should at least try it.

As expected, I could not even find time to run due to work and dance. My first half-marathon run was only a week before the race, which I could complete. Yet, it was just like my last full marathon -- well under-trained.

Then, I started coughing since Monday, and did not stop even on the race day. I got some Chinese herbal medicine, and it only soothed my coughing at times. I was really not sure whether I could even complete the race this time.

The day before the race, I bought 2 packs of power gel. I also had a lot of noodles in that evening to stock up a lot of carbohydrates. The weather forecast showed some conditions that were favorable to the runners, and some were not. The good things were that it was going to be cloudy with a few patches of rain, and stayed at around 19C, making the weather a bit cooler. Also, it was a bit windy, which may cool down people, although energy may be spent to withstand the wind. The bad things were that it was humid (RH 85%-95%).

During the race

Hong Kong marathon is notorious to be tough. The following shows the height profile of Chicago Marathon, one of the six Marathon Majors in the world. The height difference between the max and the min is only 10 m.


Near my school in Illinois, I ran the Illinois Marathon, which is also flat (height difference between the max and the min is 26 m.


In Hong Kong, the height difference between the max and the min is 120 m. This already makes Hong Kong a bad place to do PB (personal best) or PR (personal record).


Being sick while being under-trained, and tackling a hilly marathon course was something that did not happen to me before. I thought I would be conservative with my pacing. Yet, in the first half, I was running fast while controlled (at <5 min/km). This included the time when I climbed the ramps of the bridges.

I think I also did the following:
- I ate one gel at 10k mark and another one at 20k mark.
- I went to the portable toilet once, at about 25k mark. This wasted me in about 1.5 minutes.
- I only drank sport drinks at supply station, and only drank it when I felt dry on my mouth.

In the end, I finished it with a time that I was satisfied (3:43:34). Certainly not my PB (it was the last Illinois Marathon, 3:34:XX), but at least I could manage to finish it. I did "hit the wall" near 30k mark, and my muscles almost cramped in the last 2k.

GPS data: https://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/3389791699

Post-race

Besides a finisher medal, I think what I could get after the race was little. There was only a banana, a bar of chocolate, and a bottle of distilled water. This was opposite to the other 2 marathons that I did in the US, where unlimited pizza and pasta were provided, and some might even provide locally-brewed beers.

Even though my legs were sore after the race, I could still dance in the afternoon. The structure of my body must be really strange!

In the end, I still think that the Hong Kong marathon course has too long motorway sections, so the cheering people could not be seen in my of the places. Adding that the course is steep and food is provided only at later points of the course, I don't think I will do a full marathon in Hong Kong again. After all, I don't think I will have time to train for marathon anymore, so I could not think about running a marathon in the near future.

Sunday, February 3, 2019

Crossover 2.0 -- A swing performance session that is more than just a performance

An experiment within experiments

Early September, 2018

That amazing Europe trip was over. I had to go back to the reality. Fortunately, I found a job at this time, but it also means that I needed to learn new things about this job.

I knew about the Crossover 1.0, the one that I would like to join but I was mostly in Europe during that session. Now the Crossover 2.0 began, and I would really like to see how a final product of a performance was made in the end. The organizers, Y and J, emphasized that this is not a class but an experiment. The format may be interesting, so I would really like to join. After all, swing dance performance is unfamiliar to me before this class.

Seeing that T and L also had a performance class, and I got some peer pressure in joining this class, I thought why not just do an experiment -- do both, use Tom and Lou's class as a control (since that class is just traditional routine teaching), and compare on both sides. So I did. Watching both sides as if there is a competition is fun.

Time commitment

In the very beginning of Crossover 2.0, I was already asked for the schedule of the next 4 months, the acknowledgement that I should not be absent more than one weekly session in a month, and the commitment into this session. It was fair. I felt that having a whole group to perform a routine takes about this amount of time, based on my experience in the US.

On the T and L side, the performance class was only 5 week long. I wondered if the whole routine could be learned in 5 weeks. In the 4th week, it seemed to me that only 70% of the routine was taught. It turned out that there were a lot of practice sessions after this class, and Thursday class becomes Tuesday practices. I wondered if anyone could no longer come for the performance because the practice day was moved.

From this, I learned that for the beginner/ intermediate dancers, a 2-3 minute long dance routine takes at least 4 months to learn, refine, and master.

From parts to whole

In Crossover 2.0, learning is not just traditional feeding -- instructors teach a routine, and students follow. It is more aligned with the value of jazz and swing -- the improvisation, or the creativity. It was promised that the final performance routine was created by everyone in the Crossover 2.0 group. In this way, the organizers were more like mentors than instructors.

Yet, how do participants, with just beginner or intermediate swing background, create the whole performance?

In the first few sessions, the organizers talked about different solo jazz steps and learned about them. The learning was not only about how to execute the steps, but also the characteristics of these steps -- do the steps move us sideways, in place, or rotating? What are their counting? The key point here was to understand the basic building blocks of a swing dance routine.

Then, there were sessions on piecing several solo jazz moves together to form a phrase in a song. Participants could experiment which combinations worked and which did not, and whether they fit into the music.

As it progressed, the phrases were being joined into the whole performance. There were times to study the position of each participant in the performance. There were times to look at the transitions between phrases. Doing these also mean refining the steps to fit the flow of the whole performance.

Overall, the Crossover experiment took a step-by-step and bottom-up approach in making the whole dance routine. Since participants experimented the steps, they all had contributed to the whole routine.

Role playing

In Crossover 2.0, participants were not always students. Each person had a chance to learn a solo jazz move, and tried to teach to other people. As an additional challenge, there was one occasion where no speaking was allowed for teaching, which was probably one of my favorite parts of the Crossover 2.0.

Somehow, I felt that this fits with jazz and swing again -- to improvise is to create, and we cannot always follow someone's steps in doing things in order to create. We were already used to spoon-feeding at school when we were young, and we are old enough to learn how to use what we learned to pass down to new people. Thus, besides the traditional passive learning mode of the steps and routines, the Crossover 2.0 also tried to give the idea that everyone could be an active leader in a swing scene at some point. You feel that you are just a beginner in dancing? Well, there are always first-timers that you know more than them. Thus, we all should learn how to teach.

Another role play moment was to be the stage coordinator. You sat at the center of the stage, facing the group of people that you know, who would present part of the performance to you. Could you give one feedback on what did well, and one feedback on what could be improved? It is rare for the participants to see the performance as a whole because we are so focused on doing our own steps right.

This is quite rare to see in a dance class -- about teaching how we can teach the others.

Team building

In Crossover 2.0, the participants were in a wide range of dance levels. Some were beginners. For this group, as long as the participants could commit to come every week, anyone could join at the beginning of the session.

Perhaps there were more small group exercises; perhaps the dance routine resulted in interacting with different participants at different parts; perhaps people know more to each other before joining; perhaps we committed to the schedule of the sessions; it seems to me that the participants in this group are closer to each other. After the performance, someone said they felt empty on not having this Crossover 2.0 anymore.

While there are friendship on the other side also, it seems to me that the relationships are more to the individual pairs, rather than as a whole group.

Conclusion

The Crossover 2.0 just gave one performance to the public and no more, while the other already gave three and might have one more. I was also not sure which dance routine looked better. Yet, I am sure that Crossover 2.0 is more fun to be in. The main point is the processes that lead to the final product, and not the final product itself. If there is a Crossover 3.0, I am in. I would also recommend other beginners to join.

Crossover 3.0, we will be back.

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

My story with people in Herrang Dance Camp (3) -- in the class

Classes are of course an important part of a dance camp. There are many world-class instructors coming to this camp to teach. For me, however, I think Herrang Dance Camp offers something unique, making classes a bit less of an importance. Thus, I signed up for the half session classes rather than full session.

Half session has the following advantages:
- Classes start at 3 pm at the earliest and end at 7:30 pm at the latest. Thus, I can stay in the dance party longer. On average, I left at 3:30 am, and then I could still get a decent amount of sleep. I could get 8 hours of sleep if I wake up after noon time.
- It is cheaper.
- There is no need for audition, but the half session class is supposedly at the int/adv level.


Yet, I think I miss some cool stuff in the full session. I think in the full session, all the lindy instructors stated in the weekly schedule would be eventually met. Not in the half session, though. I was expecting to see Skye in the Week 2 half session, but it did not happen. Thus, I sometimes looked into the tent in the early afternoon to see his way of teaching.

According to those who took the full session, the full session also had at least a class of African dance (because jazz dance comes from this), and a class of swing history from the Herrang's point of view. As a person who would like to know more about the history of swing dancing, I feel that I miss a bit by just taking the half session.

This does not mean the half session is bad, though. Somehow, the classmates in the half session were pretty good. The swingout basics of the follows were mostly solid. Not surprisingly, they were the people that I often danced to in the dance parties. Normally, as a lead, I would meet more follows in the class than the other leads. This time, however, I also got acquainted with several leads. Besides Phillippe from Switzerland and Drew, I met Ivars that is from Latvia. I had his photo swimming in the middle of a lake.


The interactions with instructors in Herrang are quite different from the other workshops. They not only appeared in the classes and dance parties. They were around everywhere during the class breaks. One of my favorite instructors in this camp, Katja, could be met several times in a day in the Ice Cream Parlor (ICP). She seemed to need coffee every day before teaching the classes. She might get my attention because her red hair style is unmistakable. I eventually got to dance with her in two different days! Skye was another instructor that I randomly passed by a lot. He gave me an impression of humbleness. When he danced, his upper body gave me attention, since he seemed so relaxed with the movement.

In Week 3, there were more instructors that I could recognize. I somewhat feel that it was too bad that I could not take classes in Week 3. Peter, Naomi, Remy, Pamela, and Ramona were teaching. Laura was also there, although she was just enjoying the dance parties. I sometimes watched briefly on how they taught the classes. In the dance party, I also watched their dance style characteristics.

By the way, in the Herrang Dance Camp's audition, students first dance with several people, and they rate each other the dancing ability. The score for each student is calculated, so that a rough draft of the level cutoff is made. On the second day of the audition, the instructors come in to fine-tune the levels in each group. Normally, there are only 3-4 people being moved up or down the levels, meaning that peer audition is quite effective.

Sunday, August 19, 2018

My story with people in Herrang Dance Camp (2) -- at the ice cream store

There are several places that one can buy food in the Herrang Dance Camp. One place is called the Ice Cream Parlor (ICP), which sells not only ice cream, but also snack foods and drinks. It is also a place to buy WiFi access for an hour, a day, or a week, in case there is such need. This place is next to many tents where the classes are taught, as well as most of the general accommodation. Thus, many people visit ICP every day.

On my first day in Herrang, I would like to get WiFi for a week, since the phone card that I bought was 30 days, but my trip was a week longer than that. I did not believe a food place would sell WiFi password, but I was told that this place sells it. Eventually, I got a week of WiFi for 150 SEK, which I think buying a phone card elsewhere should be a bit cheaper.

It is also a time to look at the price of stuff in Herrang (in 2018). All prices are in SEK (1 EUR = 10 SEK = 9 HKD).


I think the price for most of the snacks and drinks, while a bit expensive to my standard, are still acceptable. The prices of the coffee drinks are actually not too expensive. Yet, look at the prices of the ice cream (cup/ cone). They are really affordable!

So, I got my first 2-scoop ice cream on the first day of the camp. "Hallooo!" the cashier said casually with a bit of happy energy. I asked about the price of the WiFi password. I also learned about an ice cream card that cost exactly 5 rounds of ice cream (2-scoop?), but card owner can wait outside, as an express lane, for ice cream. I thought I probably would not have ice cream every day, so I did not get the card. The cashier then showed me the list of ice cream flavors. After I learned about the choices and got the ice cream, we introduced ourselves. At that point, I did not quite remember her name, but I only remembered she is from Lithuania. I thought: perhaps I could learn about swing dancing opportunities in Lithuania, since I would be there later in the trip.

I was wrong about my ice cream consumption in Herrang. There was no rain in Sweden for at least 2 months. Wildfire and water shortage warning were announced during the Week 2 and 3 camp period. It was hot every day during daytime. Moreover, ice cream can provide me inexpensive sugar before taking classes at around 4 pm. I did not really need to eat breakfast. Lunch was sometimes just snack food, also provided by ICP. Thus, I visited ICP very often each day. Sometimes it was snack for lunch, but I got my ice cream every day. It was 2 scoops earlier, but I got 3 scoops later on. I also tried different flavors each day, always in a cone.

My everyday ice cream allowed me to look at the life of the staff in the Herrang Dance Camp. That cashier, who greeted customers in a playful way, was there most of the time. I could then remember her name: Ruta. She seemed to work almost all the time in the ICP during the open hours, which was around 11:30 am to 7:00 pm. Before coming to the camp, I saw the option of signing up as part of the camp staff. A week of work as a staff can mean waiving some cost of the classes and dances in another week. Yet, staff needs to commit for at least a week of time. Seeing that I had to leave early in Week 3, and I would like to enjoy the camp fully in Week 2, I did not sign up to be the staff.

I tried to relate names with what they do to remember, so I mentally called her Ruta the Ice Cream Server. One day, I was with the ice cream and checked the laundry service. A female staff there told me that the ice cream was too enticing, and she would not help me to wash laundry if I brought the laundry with ice cream. I later knew that she is from Italy and her name, and learned what they did every day for the laundry service. FYI, I don't think the camp has public washing machine for the participants to use. Yet, the laundry service helps people to wash, dry, and fold clothes, for a fee by weight. I think it was 4 kg for 60 SEK. So, I mentally called her as the laundry helper.

Staff, including instructors and DJs, seemed to have perks that normal camp participants do not have. They have a special area for dinner (known as the Hell's Kitchen). They have staff classes, probably on Wednesday when the cultural activities mean a break for the staff (I saw one of my favorite instructors taking classes on Wednesday when I was wandering around). There is an afternoon staff party each week to appreciate the hard work of the staff.

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Back to the ICP, I later found that there was another staff that guarded the cashier also called Ruta. She is also from Lithuania, and told me that the name is a name of a flower. So, how can I identify them? The two have the same name, same country of origin, and same occupation in the camp. They do look different, but I do not like to use appearance as an identifier. So, Ruta 1 and Ruta 2? I probably cannot read out their last name (past experience: look at Pamela's last name), and calling the full name is too formal anyways.

For the rest of the dance camp, I could meet either one of the Rutas, or both, when I wanted to get food in the ICP. Besides ice cream, I tried the banana bread with different varieties; I tried Herrang Slap, which is espresso with lemon juice, and sleepy people should really wake up with this drink.

Then, there is anti-cold juice:


This is a great product to sell because a dedicated dance camp goer will never get enough sleep. Thus, it is easy to get sick due to prolonged sleep deprivation. I love the ingredients in the juice. When I get sick, I like drinking ginger tea to help me to recover. People in Europe seem to know the anti-cold ability of ginger.

At some point, the two Rutas could recognize me as a regular customer, and gave me recommendations of the ice cream flavors. Once, when I got a cone with three scoops, I got an extra cone. When the ICP had fewer customers, we talked about events happening around the camp.

Did I see them in the dance? Yes, but not often. I believe the day work already tired them out a lot, so they sometimes came and sometimes not. If they come, they will also not be able to stay for too long, for tomorrow is another day of work. Once I danced with them, however, I think they have probably been to many dance events, perhaps even winning competitions. "Beyond my ability to harness their following potential" was the phrase that I wrote before with someone else, and this probably applied to them.

I not only met them in the whole Week 2, but also in Week 3. Before I left, we exchanged Facebook and had some pictures together. One of them even met Sinclair from Singapore. I bet I would meet Sinclair sooner or later, and I would pass down words to him.

Ruta 1

Ruta 2

The evening before I left the camp (Week 3 ,Wednesday), I wish I could use my GoPro camera to take a video around the dance floor, and with one of the Rutas. I forgot that the room is dark, and I forgot I should change the ISO setting (or EV compensation) to make the video look brighter. Thus, I got a really dark video that is hard to watch. Now, I wonder if video editing can brighten up the video a bit. I also wonder if she would like to watch it or not.

Before the O-Ringen Hong Kong team came to the camp to pick me up, I got my last ice cream in the ICP, and bid farewell to them. Once again, who knows when I will come to Europe again to dance.

My story with people in Herrang Dance Camp (1) -- in the general accommodation

On my first day in Herrang, Phillippe and Vicky, from the scene of my hometown Hong Kong, were already there. Since they are experienced about the camp, I learned about some rooms for general accommodation are quieter than the others. I also needed to queue up early to get the room that I wanted.

The room for general accommodation looks like this.


Basically, this is like living in a hostel, where many people live in the same room. It is also not expensive, 500 SEK per week (1 SEK = 0.9 HKD = 0.1 EUR in July 2018). The general accommodation is unisex.

Phillippe from Hong Kong showed me the room that is supposed to be quiet. I chose the bed next to the window without good thinking. In the following days, I had to sleep with the rising sun at 3 - 4 am.

Yet, this is probably my only complaint. Power outlet was next to me for charging the phone. Best of all, the people who stayed around me gave me great Herrang experience.

Above my bed, there was already a girl staying there. We introduced ourselves. Her name is Ella. She is from London, already stayed in Week 1 of the camp, and she will stay for the entire Week 2 also. When I introduced myself, I once again felt that "John" is too generic, so I switched back to introduce myself as "Wangki" -- you know, "Onekey".

Every day from 9 pm - 10 pm (except Friday), there is a daily meeting of the camp. Yet, a better name for the meeting is probably "the Daily Show of Lennert". It is far from a boring list of announcement. Instead, a long-time organizer of the camp, Lennert, hosted the "meeting". On top of announcement, there are interviews and performances, some with great surprises. On the first day, I was with a new friend to attend the meeting.

On the next day, there was another guy from Switzerland joining this company. His name is also Phillippe. His general accommodation was far away at the marina, which is about 1 km from the main facilities. Thus, he rented a bike for a week. He had the same class schedule as me, which was the half-time session lindy. The key for the half-time session is that the classes would not start until 3 pm at the earliest, so we could party more in the evening. It is of course less expensive than the full-time session. Besides, one does not need an audition to enter the half-time session, but it is expected that the class is at the intermediate-advanced level.

Since this next day (Sunday), Ella, Phillippe (from Switzerland, same below unless stated otherwise), and I always attend the general meeting, standing or sitting at the back of the second-floor ballroom. After that, we usually either attend the Library Talk or the Crash Courses together. Throughout the day and the evening, we often sat together, and talked about what we had learned and what we had done. Of course, we danced during the evening parties.

We became closer friends each day. Phillippe asked me suggestions on where to fly to after his Week 2 in the camp. He said he would like to go to Singapore. I told him it is a good idea, since the world is hot everywhere anyways, so going to a city near the equator is not too bad in comparison. Plus, I told him about the inexpensive and good food there. In the end, he got his ticket to travel to the SE Asia.

Wednesday is the cultural activity day. According to Lennert, Wednesday used to have masquerade party, but low number of people dressing up for the masquerade led to a change to the cultural activity day. On that day, the two swing VIPs (how I called those who are old enough to live through two ages of swing dancing), Sugar and Barbara showed us a routine that they did in the Savoy Ballroom (?), the place where the dance was evolved. After the one-hour lesson, there was originally a plan to take recap video of the routine. Even Phillippe from Hong Kong asked me to get the recap because he was leaving. Yet, the two VIPs became the photo booth with the students, and eventually there was no recap from them. Since Ella also learned the routine, we asked someone to take a video of us dancing this routine. Thus, we both had the routine with ourselves performing it.

On one occasion, the original plan was to take a Crash Course of a fast dance routine, Mama Stew. Yet, it became watching the World Cup semi-final, since England was in it

We also got pizza together in the evening party. The pizza was sold out fast, and it could take 30 - 60 minutes between the order and the pizza. Pizza became our dance breaks.

Here is a picture of the Friday Savoy Night, the last night of the week:


Good things eventually come to an end. On Saturday morning, they left the camp by different bus. I also needed to move my luggage to another place to stay for Week 3. We had a farewell photo:


This did make me feel a bit sad. It is really great to have friends around during a week-long workshop. Now, we do not know when our paths will meet. Going to Europe is a trip too long for me.

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Besides, next to my bed there were also 3 Americans. Two of them are from Oregon and one from Hawaii. The closest swing scene that I have been to near these states is probably in San Francisco or in Seattle. I met Drew (the guy) more often, since we took the same half-time session of classes.



There was also a German girl who lived near me. I now forgot the name. Nevertheless, we sometimes talked about the classes and danced together.

I feel that if I go to Herrang for a week in the future, I will definitely choose general accommodation again, since I had a great experience with this housing option. General accommodation is a great place to meet new people and may forge friendship (classes are of course another place to meet new people, but I will not discuss this further here).

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Your name, happened in trail orienteering

It was my first time to be in the World Trail Orienteering Championship (WTOC), experiencing how a trail orienteering competition at a world-class level looked like. This year, in 2018, WTOC happened in Daugavpils, Latvia. This is the second largest city in Latvia.

Background about the competition procedures

In Day 1, there was a model event to demonstrate how the two types of competitions, Pre-O (precision orienteering) and Temp-O, were organized. The Pre-O consisted of a timed control (TC) and a main course. The main course has a number of multiple-choice questions, represented by the flags placed in the field. The questions are always in the form of "which flag correctly corresponds to a point at an orienteering map". TC is used for tie-breaker: if several people answer the same number of questions correctly in the main course, whoever answers the TC the fastest (with penalty time for wrong answers) wins.

In this model event, the TC was before the main course. Before reaching the TC, some staff members managed queuing up of the competitors. At the queue, the competitors are not supposed to see any flags of the TC. The first person at the queue is then led by a staff member with an umbrella to the TC station. The umbrella staff is supposed to use the umbrella to block the view of the flags, while leading the competitor from the queue to the TC station.

Once the competitor reaches the TC station, there are three staff members blocking the front view, and another staff member guides the competitor to be seated, asks for the answering sheet, and lets the competitor choose whether to answer the questions by pointing or by speaking, and whether the question maps are bounded or not. The three staff members can then walk away to reveal 5 flags of the TC. A staff member then says this familiar line with finger: "there are 5 flags: alpha, bravo, charlie, delta, echo. Time starts now." The competitor can then open the question maps from the top to the bottom, answering which flag corresponds to the center of the circle in the map. After answering all the map questions, the total time is recorded. The staff member confirms the answers by the competitor with the record. The competitor can then leave the TC and go to the start point of the main course.

Things are simpler at the main course. Competitors just need to record the answers for each question on the map. The staff in the main course just makes sure the competitors do not get off trail and not into any restricted paths. In between some controls, there is one-way section path to forbid competitors from going back, which is also guarded by the staff. There is also a time limit of the main course, which is timed by the electronic punch. Overtime means deducting number of correct answers for the competitor in the main course.

Back to the main point

After the model of Pre-O, there is a model of Temp-O. Temp-O is basically a series of TC stations, with the difference that there are 6 flags, and there is a possibility of a zero answer -- none of the flags are correct. Thus, the procedures for the Temp-O station is almost exactly the same as the TC station.

When waiting in the queue, the staff members with the umbrellas, who were all girls, were talking to each other. Of course I had no idea what they were talking about, since they probably all talked in their local language. Then, a competitor behind me asked one of the umbrella staff why her finger was bandaged. She seemed not to be able to reply in English, so she gave a breaking sound while pointing at the fingernail -- you know, nail arts.

These umbrella staff members worked at rotation: one staff moved a competitor to the TC station, while another was standby to cover the next competitor in the queue. These umbrella staff seemed to decide who covered the next competitor, and they looked at me. Perhaps I was acting like rotating myself, and they were giggling by themselves. One of the staff then took out a phone, asking me to take a selfie with her. This was spotted by my team manager, who commented "focus on the competition". Yes I would, but I was not person who initiated the selfie. She was then the umbrella staff for me to get to the Temp-O station. At this model temp-O station, I got 1 out of 4 questions wrong and used 40 seconds in total. Not very fast, but at least I was recovering from the dismal results when I was in Lithuania.

I told about what happened to some of my teammates after the model. One teammate commented that Latvia has the highest female-to-male ratio in the world. Well, I did notice fewer guys when I got to the Baltic states.

The next few days

The story was not over. In Day 2 of the Temp-O competition, when I was waiting at a station, I felt that I met her again as the umbrella staff. She smiled back to me. She again giggled with another umbrella staff. Then, the other staff took another selfie with me, before entering the station. At that moment, I think another team member of mine spotted what had happened. Yet, he actually did not know what had happened at that point.

Something strange was happening. Perhaps I should ask. At the end of the competition, a lot of staff gathered, but I did not think I saw her. There was an opening ceremony, and heavy rain was started at the middle of the ceremony. I did not see her.

In Day 3 of the first Pre-O competition, I was a public race participant. I think I spotted her guarding at one point of the main course, since she once again smiled at me, and whispering and giggling with another staff. I wish we could introduce ourselves and perhaps get a selfie together with my phone. Yet, I could not bring a phone during the competition, and I should not do anything that disrupts the other competitors, such as talking out loud. Thus, I proceeded to the next question. Another team member of mine, who seemed to be sagacious to know what had happened, gave me a scary grin.

In Day 4 of the second model event, I did not see her at all, probably because the course was short and there was no TC station, and fewer staff was needed.

Your name...

Day 5, which was my last day in WTOC, was the second Pre-O competition. I also participated as a public race. Before starting, I saw her with the bandaged finger, at the registration with other staff members. I was also with my other team members. I mentioned to my team members that someone in the staff team seemed to show interest of me. Perhaps before the competition, my team could help me to take the picture of us. The staff was whispering in their language, and our team member discussed in our language. Finally, I asked her, and she was excited!

After the pictures, we got ready to start with a TC station. My team members cared that I did not ask her email or Facebook account. Yet, I got another chance.

She once again was my umbrella staff.

When waiting for the next person answering the TC questions, we got a chance to introduce ourselves. I knew her name, and I told her my name. Her friend once again talked in their language, and I picked up some words like "email" and "pen". So I said, "I would be happy to write down my contact, but I am competing and do not have a pen." She was then thrown with a water pen, and she asked me to write down my name. I did. I said she may search me on Facebook, but I think she seemed confused. Later, she asked me whether I have an Instagram account. I do, but when she asked, the staff in the TC station asked me to go in. Probably, she does not use Facebook (which is already one generation ago), but uses Instagram.

I did not have time to write my Instagram account name.

After answering the TC questions, she was gone. I had to continue the process of the competition by starting the main course of the Pre-O. After finishing the Pre-O, the staff was packing, and our team had to go back to the place to stay.

I planned to leave Daugavpils on the next morning because of a public foot-O race in Riga. My team members suggested me to come back for the banquet after the race, but it was too much of a hassle to travel between the foot-O race and Daugavpils, which takes at least 4-hour travel time one-way.

Thus, I was like the guy who wrote the wrong thing on the girl's hand, and God knows whether we will meet again. Looking back, this story was really like the climax scene in Makoto Shinkai's "Your Name".


Wednesday, June 27, 2018

我心目中的搖擺舞精神

本來我沒想到要鑽研下去跳社交舞。不過,當我觀察久了,發覺各種社交舞中帶和跟(lead and follow)的概念很有意思。當中搖擺舞(swing dance)的獨特之處,使我繼續留在搖擺舞的圏子之中。慢慢地,開始感到搖擺舞有一種精神在內。

以下我會列出我心目中兩個獨特的搖擺舞精神。下面的概念,或者較適合於跳了多個月或以上的人士作為參考。如果你是一個跳舞初學者,仍在搞清楚基本步法和如何帶舞,你可以只當以下的說話為你未來的目標。總之,你覺得跳舞好玩便可以了。

1) 敢於創新

搖擺舞,有一些其他社交舞沒有那麼著重的東西。

當我體驗過標準和拉丁的社交舞,發覺著重的只是編舞(choreography)。先做動作一,再做動作二,全部已經排好了。兩人也許好像看起來一起跳,也許有經驗的亦知道帶和跟的原理,但我亦見個有些初學者,只是各人背了整套動作。也許兩個人看來跳得合拍,但為何不自己一個人去跳?社交舞的特別之處,就是兩個人之間的連繫(connection)。換句來說,跟舞的如何知道帶舞的做甚麼,和要自己做甚麼。做了動作一,如何知道下一步是動作二,而不是動作三或是動作一。為了跳編好的舞而忽略兩人間的連繫,有失社交舞的原意。

我覺得搖擺舞的創造空間比很多社交舞為高,這可能因為搖擺舞和搖擺爵士樂(swing jazz)的關係密切。爵士樂的精神是即興的創作(improvisation),亦正是搖擺舞其中的一種精神。頭幾課搖擺舞,老師應該會提到學了的動作不用順序地做,只要帶舞者能清晰地令跟舞者知道要做甚麼便可以。正因如此,帶舞和跟舞的技術非常重要。而且,搖擺舞者非常講究音樂感(musicality)。簡單地說,搖擺舞者基本上可以跳得像是搖擺爵士樂團的一部分。音樂暫停,我停,音樂有特殊拍子,我跳特殊拍子。另外,由於樂團各團手的旋律和拍子可能有異,搖擺舞者只能用一個旋律和拍子去跳,所以一首搖擺爵士樂可以有十萬個演繹形式。這種以音樂為主導的社交舞,是比較特別的。可能因為如此,搖擺舞不像標準和拉丁舞有固定的課程(syllabus),因為本身即興的搖擺舞不能受太多的規範。

2) 與眾同樂

搖擺舞,比起其他舞有更多與眾同樂的精神。

未懂跳時看別人跳,覺得別人很厲害,但沒有想過想學,因為很像很難。作為一個過來人,我可以肯定地說︰只要每星期肯抽到一小時去舞會跳幾首歌的舞,即使四肢不協調的人,都會起碼跳到。肯付出時間,人人都可以學會。不一定要跳得很棒,但最少不會覺得自己學不會。

一個最理想的搖擺舞團體,是不論跳舞經驗多寡、男女老少,都能夠願意互相切磋舞術。搖擺舞其中一個最重要的宗師Frankie Manning,可以說是搖擺舞精神的學習對象。他曾經在搖擺舞興起時紅極一時,但當搖擺舞在五十年代沒落時,很少人知道他的專業跳舞生涯,而他亦不願意和人說。即使在搖擺舞復興的年代(八十年代),他亦不太想標榜自己跳舞有多本事。雖然我不知道他為甚麼可以有這種謙卑,但我估計他的謙卑對搖擺舞復興有很大的幫助。

在我從前在美國跳過其他社交舞的經驗,搖擺舞似乎可以最容易大眾化。阿根庭探戈(Argentine tango)看來優雅得太高檔,Salsa、Bachata之類的拉丁舞又好像晚晚去酒吧那麼樣,但搖擺舞的跳舞場合可以很多樣化。有時搞在公園跳可以,在舞廳內高貴地跳亦可以。比起其他社交舞的圏子,搖擺舞的圏子似乎很為沒有經濟能力的人著想。上課有為未畢業的學生提供特價,本地人免費提供地方給去一個週末跳舞的外地人住,似乎只是在搖擺舞的圏子才會見到。

搖擺舞的圏子亦較易放手給有少許經驗的舞者從事其他義務,例如DJ和老師的訓練。

搖擺舞的圏子特別尊重平等和安全。雖然帶舞的通上是男,跟舞的通常是女,但在搖擺舞的圏子沒有限制,亦有較多女和女甚至男和男跳的情況。近年來,正因為Jack and Jill比賽(一個跟舞者和帶舞者隨機分配的比賽)的名字暗示只是男和女跳,忽略兩個女的或兩個男的跳之可能性,搖擺舞團體開始不叫Jack and Jill,改做其他名字(例如Mix and Match)。至於安全,舞池通常有指引減少身體上的受傷,和處理涉嫌性侵的方法。這些指引,其他類型的社交舞比較少見。
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我認為「敢於創新」和「與眾同樂」,是在搖擺舞的圏子特別需要捍衞的。至於如何實踐,下回再說。