We all go through ups and downs in our dance journeys, but sometimes the right thing for someone to do is to step away from the dance. At the start of this year, Catriona Wiles – champion dancer, teacher, event director, and emcee – decided to end her career in West Coast Swing. To better understand her decision, and the arc of her journey, Eric sat down with her for an honest, heartfelt, and forthcoming discussion. She talked about her start in West Coast Swing, how the dance started in the United Kingdom, and how she became a community leader in England. She shared the story of how she and Paul Warden started their partnership, how they choreographed routines, and why their partnership ended. She also shared her thoughts on the scene in Europe and what she hopes for the community. Finally, she explained why she’s decided to retire from West Coast Swing, how she’s feeling now that she’s made the announcement, and what she hopes to do with her free time. It’s a very authentic, revealing conversation that highlights some of the challenges of being immersed in our community.
With a new disease, COVID-19, spreading rapidly around the globe, social and physically interactive activities like partner dancing become higher risk for transmission of the illness. More people are being infected, and more are likely to get sick in the months ahead, so it is important that we as dancers do our best to minimize our risk of exposure – and to minimize the risk of transmission to others. To better understand the virus and what we can do to protect ourselves, Eric sat down with Dr. John Blaska, a heath care professional based in Minneapolis. John explained the science of the disease, how it spreads, and how to protect ourselves from it. Since John is also a dancer, he was able to talk about how dancers and event directors can respond to the situation and minimize the risks of exposure and transmission. Then Eric chatted with Brandi Guild, who shared her own concerns about attending a major dance event before going on a family vacation, working as a dance instructor, and potentially exposing those who may be more vulnerable in our community. Her perspective provides some considerations for casual dancers and professionals alike, so we can make better decisions for ourselves and those around us. Hopefully this episode provides some good information and perspectives so we can all protect ourselves and our community from a rapidly spreading illness.
World Health Organization (WHO) Advice for the Public
World Health Organization (WHO) Q&A on Coronavirus
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) – Coronavirus Disease 2019
Dr. John Blaska’s Hygiene Tips for Dancers
CDC Interim Guidance for Large Community Events
Coronavirus 2019 Outbreak Map from Johns Hopkins University
Last Week Tonight with John Oliver: Coronavirus (YouTube)
In the second part of this conversation with Kelly, the conversation first shifts to a discussion of degendering competitions. Eric and Kelly share their own experiences competing in Novice in their non-traditional roles, and their views on the limitations in the current WSDC rules. Eric then asked Kelly about judging swing content at the Open this year, and she shared how she came up with the swing content app and worked to prepare for the Open. She also talked about the dancing at the Open, why she’s hopeful for the future, and how people can and should get involved in providing feedback. Throughout it all, Kelly is thoughtful, kind, and balanced. Regardless of where you stand on the issues, this conversation provides some good perspective and insights.
US Open Swing Content Judges Process & Procedures (PDF)
US Open Swing Content Definitions (PDF)
Perspectives on degendering competitions: Kelly Casanova (blog)
Perspectives on degendering competitions: Editorial (blog)
We are so fortunate to have people in our dance community who have not only have accomplished so much but continue to give of themselves to better our dance and our community. Kelly Casanova is one of those generous souls, and Eric was fortunate enough to sit down to learn from her years of experience as a competitor, teacher, and judge. In the first part of this conversation, Eric asked her about her beginnings in the swing world and what the scene was like at that time. They chatted about the Bay Area community and how it changed over time. Kelly also shared her experiences winning the Classic division and Jack & Jill division at the Open, and she revealed why she stopped competing. Then they discussed the event she created, Swing Break, and why it didn’t last long, which led to a deeper discussion of what this dance is really about. Kelly is knowledgeable, insightful, and very authentic, and she offers a lot of wisdom and food for thought.
Everyone of us who dances West Coast Swing had to learn how to do this dance at some point. To get good at the dance, we need to continue to learn and develop new skills. And along the way, we need teachers who impart knowledge and nurture our abilities. Learning and teaching are such an essential part of what we do as dancers, and they can shape both our understanding of the dance and how we do it. To learn more about learning, Eric sat down with Kris Swearingen, Champion-level dancer and middle school English teacher, to talk about how people learn and how to teach. They chatted about Kris’s background and experience as an educator. They discussed a framework for understanding how people learn as well as how people differ in their learning abilities. Kris shared how he develops his students in the classroom and how he applies similar techniques to teaching dance. Eric asked Kris what he would like to see from teachers in our West Coast Swing community, and they ended with a conversation about how people can be better students of the dance. Whether you’re a student of the dance, a teacher, or just curious about how humans work, this conversation will enlighten and give you a new perspective.
Bloom’s Taxonomy – Vanderbilt University Center for Teaching
Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol Dweck (Amazon.com)
“Mind Over Matter: Attitude and Mindset” on nakedbasics.com (blog)
A Mind for Numbers: How to Excel at Math and Science (Even If You Flunked Algebra) by Barbara Oakley (Amazon.com)
The Inner Game of Tennis: The Classic Guide to the Mental Side of Peak Performance by W. Timothy Gallwey (Amazon.com)
Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard by Chip Heath and Dan Heath (Amazon.com)