Sunday, June 23, 2019

2019-06-22 Sprint Orienteering in Shenzhen suburb -- Xin Qiao Village (新橋村)

More than a year ago when I was in the US, I shared the following sprint orienteering map in China with the orienteers in Chicago:


My friend said, "how special is that? It is just navigation around buildings."
My reply, "see how similar each building is in the video, and you need to sprint within these forest of buildings."



That was the course that made me amazed on how fun sprint orienteering can be in China.

Today, I signed up a sprint orienteering in China that surpassed the difficulty of the above course.  Before starting, I already wanted to say that today's course is not about pure speed, but about who can balance the speed and map reading accuracy.  When reading the control description sheet (clue sheet) and seeing so many symbols for buildings, I feel excited that there will be a fun course today. In a sprint orienteering course in China with village terrain, building corners will give a lot of navigational challenges.

The surrounding areas at the start hinted that today's sprint orienteering course will be in a village terrain, which can be a lot of fun in terms of navigational challenges when running with speed.


In the end, I read a course that needs mental focus almost everywhere, which is my expectation.  This course is probably harder than the one that I showed above, since 1) building pattern is not a simple grid in this map, 2) the pattern is rotated in this map, 3) there are many dead ends.


Field conditions:






To tackle this kind of courses with speed, it is important to apply several orienteering techniques, so that I can simplify the map, and run fast and locate myself accurately:

1) Thumbing and Map Folding: 

You do not want to lose track of which alley you are in, and you do not want to make parallel mistakes (two features that are close to each other and look similar, and one confuses one feature with another).

2) 3S - Slow, Set map, Select

a) Slow: when to slow down, how slow (or even complete stop)
b) Set map: needs to do it automatically every time, using the building grid system
c) Select: go forward? move back? turn left? turn right?

3) Decide to do Coarse or Fine Orienteering

a) Coarse orienteering: Control 5-6 -- Go back to the main road (handrail) and run
b) Fine orienteering: Control 6-7 -- Slow down while moving within the alleys, counting intersections and collecting obvious features (e.g. open lands, permanently closed areas, wide paved areas) along the way.  These features may also be attack points to the control.

4) Catching Features

A wider alley or road or even a fence at an intersection can be your catching feature to signal that you go too far.

5) Traffic Light

E.g. Control 9 -10
a) Green: run back to the road, turn left, keep running until the road starts to narrow, then turn right, run straight until seeing a wide area
b) Yellow: turn left to go in one row, then turn right
c) Red: look carefully for the control, almost arrive


6) Route choice

Like any sprint courses, which route is shorter? Which route needs many 180-degree turns, which makes you slow down? Which route needs more fine orienteering, which makes you slow down? There are many route choices along this course.

7) Aiming off

E.g. Control 9 - 10

When running on the road, I do not turn right to the correct alley and do not know when the control will pop up (due to so many alleys to count, see figure above, blue line). I turn right one alley earlier, so that I can use the open land to know when I get close to the alley that contains the control, and I know I need to turn left for one block first, and then turn right, since I went one alley earlier.

8) Recovery Technique

At one level, it means when I know I make a mistake of navigation, where I am at.  At another level, it is about intentionally not exactly know where I am to gain speed in running, and then find out where I am when I get to a large path or road.

E.g. Control 20 - 21

I may select running back to the wide road to gain speed in running. I can also choose to ignore most features within the village alleys and gain speed by running inside through a more direct route.  Then, at obvious feature (e.g. end of T-junction), where I most likely am.  I may judge by the length of the blockage (the length of wall between two alleys, or by obvious features around.  I find out where I am, and know that when I run to cross the main road, which intersection I am at.

Window training course is the kind of recovery technique that I am thinking.  There are "black boxes" between the controls.

I don't quite care what is inside in the white area. I do need to know where I am when I get to the main road
Below is my Go Pro video of running the whole course:


The real-time route analysis can be find here:

My biggest mistake is probably Control 1.  When waiting to start, while I saw most people running straight, I saw a few ME runners turned left to an alley.  I would like to see why, and I did not mind challenging navigation in the beginning, so I tried, and found that this route choice really did not have any advantages.  It was too late to change, so I navigate slowly for this control.

There were several areas in the map that can look clearer.  Some alleys should be exaggerated a bit to meet to minimum width requirement in orienteering map, so that some important information (e.g., a wall blocking the alley) can be shown.  The purple lines for the course should also try to avoid covering the alleys, since it is hard to tell whether the alley can be passable.  There are several controls in the later part of the course where straight line route is impossible due to walls and buildings (e.g. Controls 13, 16, 19, 22, and 23).

I did not expect a second place today.  I think the true elites can finish 4 minutes faster than me.


After the race, there were lunch around round tables:


I look forward to another village sprint orienteering in China!  It is a great place to train orienteering techniques so that one's physical ability to run can be used fully in a sprint orienteering course.

Monday, May 20, 2019

World Orienteering Day in Foshan, Guangdong Province, China

Back in the days in the US, my first several orienteering experiences were done by first renting a car, and then drove 2-3 hours to the orienteering events.  Then, I got a used car to do these orienteering road trips.

Those old days were lived again now in China. We drove 2-3 hours from Hong Kong to Foshan to attend the World Orienteering Day event in China.  World Orienteering Day lasts for a week from Wednesday in May, and now it was the fourth year having this day.

It was a hot and humid day. In the morning there was a 5km long sprint orienteering, where orienteering happened in a park next to a river.





The long sprint was not too hard, but there were quite a lot of yellow-green areas (forbidden areas) to check while running.  It was quite easy to pick a route that was tempting to cross the yellow-green areas.



Some areas were quite open, and we can call those legs "Foshan No Shadow Leg".

There were also several legs where choosing the right route will save a lot of time:


Yet, the great competition today was the maze orienteering battle.  The organizer set up two mazes that were mirrored, and placed controls that were mirrored. Then, two people ran the mirrored courses in the maze.



Moreover, this was a team of 3 competition, where order of team members is decided by the team in each round of competition.  Each team had at least two opportunities to play: the bracket has winner and loser sides. If a team lost for the first time, the team will be moved to the loser side. If the team lost again in the loser side, the team is eliminated.  It was important to decide the order of battles carefully, since the member assignment cannot be repeated for 3 rounds.

I heard that my battle in the first round was very close, and I lost by 1 second.


Then, Gilbert lost again, leaving Kin no opportunity to play.


After the final round, we were allowed to try the maze courses. Kin and I battled against each other for one course.




After orienteering, we had a good dinner in Shunde.




Then, we drove the rental car back to Shenzhen. The rental car kept overheating during the drive. Luckily, we found some ways to keep the rental car from overheating.

It was a great orienteering day today.

Monday, April 22, 2019

搖擺舞DJ (swing DJ) -- 新手入門指引

這篇長文,是專給一些學了搖擺舞(swing dance)一段時間,學完又經常去搖擺舞會跳舞的人士。似乎你已經對搖擺舞有興趣,又想知道多一點或想進步。又或者,你開始發覺你對搖擺爵士樂(swing jazz)有少許認識,想接觸多一點。

總之,你不是完全的搖擺舞新手,而向中級組進發的人。

是的話,這個搖擺舞DJ(swing DJ)新手指引是給你看的,你可以繼續閱讀下去,尤其是第一部︰總論。即使你可能害怕第一次去試做搖擺舞DJ,也許第一部會給你一些改變你想法的內容。

因為是新手入門,這個指引只講純搖擺舞DJ的舞會,不談有現場樂團(live band)演奏的搖擺舞DJ。

以下將用問答形式寫出:

第一部︰總論

我從來沒有做過DJ,搖擺舞DJ是否很難的?

DJ給常人第一個印象是:有很多音響知識要知道,很多電子東西要學。又要按這個掣那個掣,又要混兩首音樂一起,似乎專業人士才能做到。

可是,其實搖擺舞DJ最基本做到以下東西就可以了。
  • 收集可以可以用來跳搖擺舞的音樂
  • 設計一個用這些音樂砌的播放列表(playlist)
搖擺舞DJ可以很簡單,最主要的支出是音樂的收集。軟件,初手只用iTunes已經很足夠了。我們不用混音,不用加甚麼音響效果。你播你現成有的音樂就可以了。

搖擺舞DJ有甚麼規則要遵守?

想強調,以下的內容大多都是建議,不是規矩(除非是特別為某個舞會而訂的)。如果你有理由去違反以下的建議,你可以違反一下。

不過,我認為以下是唯一一個大方向的規則(或精神)需要遵守︰
搖擺舞DJ的存在目的,是吸引在舞會的人站起來,出去跳搖擺舞
有間線的字,我會想講多一點:
  • 吸引在舞會的人
搖擺舞DJ不是播給自己聽的,是給別人去跳舞的。一個好的搖擺舞DJ要有一些服務他人的心,是否當時有太多新手?會否人們跳得上氣不接下氣?音樂會否太細或太大聲?搖擺舞DJ是要因應這些情況的。如果連續幾首音樂都沒有人出去跳舞,搖擺舞DJ可能要轉播另一些音樂了。
  • 跳搖擺舞
搖擺舞DJ當然是播跳搖擺舞的音樂。不過,很多時初手DJ未必知道哪些音樂跳到,哪些音樂跳不到。放不是跳到搖擺舞的音樂,有經驗的舞者可能就不跳那首,初學者就可能學壞東西,想試著跳但好像又有點兒怪怪的。搖擺舞DJ,是有一些責任去把關活動本質是一個搖擺舞的活動的。

為甚麼要花時間做搖擺舞DJ?對我有甚麼好處?

如果你有興趣繼續鑽研搖擺舞,搖擺舞DJ不只是服務,而且對日後跳舞的進步有幫助。

搖擺舞和音樂感(musicality)是分不開的。到了跳舞的中級組,你會學到一個swing out一個turn,可以有無盡的變化(variations)。其中一個原因,是搖擺爵士樂裡面有時有些著重位,有時拍子有少許改動,有時音樂突然會停下來(break)。雖然不是一定要做,但很多時我們想跳到一部分如音樂的結構一樣。要明白這些結構,就要聽多一些搖擺爵士樂。

亦因搖擺爵士樂在美國30至40年代是高峰期,現在要去聽,就要主動去找。做搖擺舞DJ,就是鼓勵你去找這些音樂去聽。做搖擺舞DJ,是為日後有音樂感地跳舞而鋪路。

第二部︰裝備

如何搜集音樂?

萬丈高樓從地起。我的第一首在哪裡找?我有以下不用錢的建議:
  1. 問人,正在DJ的人。他們可能會給你一些音樂。
  2. 用下面網址,可免費下載經典年代(1930至1950年代)的搖擺爵士樂:
http://jazz-on-line.com/

可能你會問,這會否侵犯版權。雖然我不能提供法律意見,但據我所知,起碼在香港,版權是該聲音紀錄後50年就會屆滿。所以,這些60年代前的音樂很大機會可以給公眾使用。

不過,用方法2的話,要對什麼音樂跳得到舞有認識。在開始階段,請試找以下表演者的音樂︰

Count Basie
Duke Ellington
Ella Fitzgerald
Chick Webb
Lionel Hampton
Cab Calloway
Fats Waller
Benny Goodman
Artie Shaw
Tommy Dorsey
Harry James
Glenn Miller

這些都時搖擺年代出名的表演者,能夠用來跳舞的機會較大。

不過最終,DJ要用錢買音樂的。經典年代的表演者可以在Amazon和iTunes上網付費下載到。另外,近10多年有樂手重新模仿從前的搖擺樂去出CD。一些較出名的如下︰

Jonathan Stout
Gordon Webster
Michael Gamble
Glenn Crytzer
Solomon Douglas
Hot Sugar Band

新的搖擺樂團,只要知道他們的名字,上網很易找到。而且,有些網址收集新搖擺樂團出CD的資料,例如https://swingdjresources.com/(只限英文版)。他們的音樂售賣平台除了iTunes和Amazon,更可能在CDBaby(https://cdbaby.com/)或Bandcamp(https://bandcamp.com/)找到。不過,這些樂團如有CD,都可能會上網提供付費下載的位置。

要用多少錢?通常每首US$1。新搖擺樂團的音樂,要買它們,因為這些樂團都要食飯,我們要支持他們。

如果純粹是去找音樂,還有以下方法:

  • 都是問人。如果你在舞會聽到一首你喜歡的音樂,你可以問當晚DJ是什麼。
  • 另一方法是用一下手機應用程式SoundHound或Shazam,手機聽一段音樂,然後就會幫你找歌名。有時會用得著。
  • Spotify和YouTube (不過,有機會會找到不是用來跳搖擺舞的音樂,要小心篩選)
選音樂有甚麼要注意?
  • 最最最緊要,是可以用來跳到舞的。
  • 有些歌名有swing字,但不代表它可以用來跳舞。例如,neo swing和electro swing,有經驗的DJ是不會播的。這和音樂太快和音樂結構有關。
  • 不要只顧著儲新樂團的音樂,要有經典時期的音樂。一來要傳承搖擺舞的歷史,二來多數來說,舊歌是好過用新歌跳的。這裡不解釋為什麼,兩面聽得多了,你可能會知道為什麼。
  • 音樂通常要適中速度,在Lindy來說,通常是120-190 BPM。之後會講到如何記下BPM。
  • 音樂最好不要太長,每首2至4分鐘最恰當,因為可製造多些與不同人跳舞的機會。
  • 不必在意要找到別人沒有的音樂,有的而跳到的話當然是好,但DJ不是一味播新東西。有時播回一些出名的,一來初學者可以知道哪些經常播的,培養口味,二來出名的通常可以吸引多些人跳舞。
  • 引申到︰揀音樂不要偏食,有新有舊,有快有慢,有動有靜,有出名有少聽。大家口味不同,就什麼都有些遷就一下吧。不過,這些每首的特質要記下。下面會講如何記下。
  • 同一首歌可以有不同表演者甚至不同年份的版本。只要跳得舞的就儲下吧。
  • 儲下音樂前,請把全首聽一遍。有時開頭很swing,但中段就失蹄了。另外,除非全隻CD都swing,否則買音樂通常都是一首一首地買。
  • 之前說過,以上全是指引,有理由的話不一定要遵守,但是…
  • 最最最緊要,是可以用來跳到舞的。
最少要找多少首才可DJ?

視乎你第一次DJ要播多久。如果是30分鐘,你多數會播約10首歌。不過,由於有些音樂會因某些理由而不能再播(例如︰之前的DJ已經播了),你起碼要乘兩倍。所以,只要你找到20 -30首歌在你的音樂庫,你就可以做30分鐘的DJ了。當然,DJ時間越長,最低音樂數量亦要提升。

不過,有心去找,20 - 30 首其實不難。特別是,如果問人,你可能已經有幾首開壇了。

用甚麼DJ軟件好呢?

開頭真的不用使用花巧的軟件。本人認為iTunes已經足夠。

為什麼?因為:
  1. 操作簡單,容易製造和修改播放列表。
  2. 具有輸入音樂庫資料的功能。
以上兩樣是DJ必須要用的。

另外,一些較高級的DJ軟件,如DjayPro或VirtualDJ,是可以倒iTunes的播放列表進去的。日後想升級就省卻一些麻煩了。

我不建議用Spotify,因為它沒有第2點:輸入資料。雖然,Spotify仍是一個找音樂的好途徑。

如何整理音樂庫?
  • 記BPM,我通常用人手做,用這個網頁:https://www.all8.com/tools/bpm.htm,然後記在iTunes。
  • 每首加comment︰用你最喜歡的格式。我通常會記下那首音樂是新是舊,是動是靜,有沒有人唱,拍子簡單還是複雜,有沒有特徵如break等。如果是Shim Sham,我會記下來。如果用來教新手的,我會記下。總之,要你當想找某一類型的音樂時,搜尋一下關鍵字就立即找到你要的音樂。
  • 評分星星都可以用來分類的,而且不一定是用來評好與不好的(例如︰一星是Blues,兩星是Lindy)。你自己想想怎樣去用吧。
其他還有甚麼要注意?
  • 要經常用硬碟備份音樂和音樂庫,萬一電腦出事,都不會浪費自己的心血。
  • 有時間的話,知道這些音樂的名字、表演者和歷史。它們可以為你擴大你找音樂的範圍。
  • 有DJ工作坊的話亦要支持一下啊。
第三部︰實際工作

如何選音樂?
如何安排播放音樂的次序?
如何令多些人願意跳舞?

有些有經驗的DJ很反對事前做一個播放列表。但對於DJ初手來說,我認為預先做一個播放列表的草稿是有用的,因為初手未必立即熟悉每首自己有的音樂。

不過,這個草槁千萬不要當作是最終版。不要以為按一下「播放」掣就當完成DJ的任務。DJ是要經常看舞池,看看有多少人跳,初學者的比率有多高,那些人是否疲倦。DJ是要因應這些情況去修改自己的播放列表的。例如:如果多新人,就播多一點慢而拍子簡單的音樂。舞者疲倦的話就放一放慢歌。

列表內音樂的次序,其實可能比有多少新音樂在列表中更重要。兩首之間的轉接是否自然?我通常會把類型相近的音樂放在一起。

如果你有看舞者的反應,而為列表作出調整,人們出來跳舞的機會便會大了。

有甚麼關於音響方面的要注意?

其實最重要是大細聲和高低音(如treble和bass)的大細聲。整體的大細聲,可以預先走到舞池中聽一下調較。高低音的大細聲就按正在播放的音樂而定。

沒有人跳舞,怎麼辦?

先看看出面,是真是沒有人來,還是本來有人跳然後不跳?如果是後者,自己就要檢討一下:是否之前的音樂太快,還是首音樂太難跳搖擺舞?然後,下一首播的音樂會相應地調校一下。如果是前者,那就不用太怪自己。不過,即使只有一兩個人跳,DJ都要為他們著想去揀音樂去跳。

有人想要你播某首音樂,你如何應對?

除非你有,而你又覺得是跳到搖擺舞的,否則通常都會拒絕他們的。

鳴謝

我要多謝6-7年在美國教過DJ工作坊的恩師,一次是Christian Frommelt,另一次是Mike (the Girl) and Dan Legenthal。他們基本上已經定了我現在做搖擺舞DJ的方法。

然後近年返到香港亦要多謝Phillipe,填補我更多歷史和DJ知識的漏洞。原來他做搖擺舞DJ是世界知名的,這是亞洲區搖擺舞發展的福氣。

延伸閱讀(英文)

https://thehomeofhappyfeet.com/swing-djing/
http://beeskneesdance.com/the-buzz-blog-getting-started-as-a-swing-dj/

------------------------------------------------

暫時寫到這裡停下。這篇入門指引可能日後會作出修改,所以如果大家對以上所寫有任何意見,請提出。謝謝!

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.

---------------------
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.