Zen Dance is a complete, detailed system of applying martial arts principles to dancing Lindy Hop.

This system takes any dancer -- follower or leader, at any level -- from the very foundation basics to advanced levels.

Why Combine Lindy Hop and Martial Arts?

Skeptical lindyhoppers often ask me, “Why is it so helpful to combine Lindy Hop with martial arts?” 

 

Think about it this way: 

 

Martial artists strive to practice a state of Zen, or "No Mind" moving and flowing like water, calm in the mist of chaos. We can also move someone who is bigger and stronger through time and space in the face of resistance by using their balance and momentum.

 

We practice using momentum, leverage, centeredness, connectedness, mental focus and awareness, and using all of these to our advantage.

The focus is on "Minimum Effort, Maximum Result."

 

Can you see how these same principles might be super useful when applied to dance?! 

I’ve noticed that dancers who learn these martial arts principles are better dancers! For example:

 

  • They are lighter and can respond faster on their feet.

  • Acutely aware of their surroundings, floorcraft and their partner’s movement.

  • They are more creative because they can move with less effort without thinking. 

  • They can integrate isolated dance moves into a powerful, cohesive, organic way, moving and connecting with their partners on a higher level. 

  • They can protect themselves and their bodies better when dancing with less skilled dancers.

  • They have fewer chronic injuries. 

  • Dancers become more efficient with their movements, and expend less energy. They feel lighter and “like butter” when dancing with their partners, and they get less winded too. 

  • Dancers become less reliant on learning new moves. 

  • Dancing is way more fun and your dance partners will love to dance with you. 

  • You will be able to lead and follow dance moves you might have not learned yet.

Sounds good, right? So how can dancers learn these principles? That’s where the ZenDance™ system comes in.

How does the Zen Dance System work?

Here are the principles:

 

With ZenDance you learn the physical in-person partnered classes, but you can also learn many concepts and drills at home without a partner. Everything Lindy without a partner, which includes Warm up, Body Isolation and Stretches, then martial arts-inspired Dance Kata exercises–katas are a set of choreographed movements that embody martial arts forms–they are repeated until they are perfected by the martial artist (in this case dancers). I also cover How to Listen to Music with Spotify playlists, Zen Dance™ Mindset, Expression and Syncopations, How to Avoid Dance Injuries and The Reveal–a deep dive discovery into all the drills above. Instead of using up coupled physical dance instruction time, we can learn individually and explore Lindy Hop with online Zoom discussions.

 

Then, with our in-person live classes we learn Re-Discovered Basics (7 Core Principles) derived from martial arts and applied to Lindy Hop: Awareness, Foundation, Frame, Momentum, Balance, Connection, and Power.

 

We practice integrating these principles into Lindy Hop basics until they have become muscle memory.

Once these principles are integrated into dancers’ muscle memory, we learn to apply

them to countless Lindy Hop moves through what I call the Zen Dance Hub System.

 

This is a modular system where I introduce you to 7 innovative and unique strategies for transitioning between moves:Tilt, Extend, Twirl, Hinge, Redirect, Anchor, Spring aka T.H.E. S.T.A.R.. The seven sided star that connects all the modular hubs and their dance moves.

Finally, I teach you to apply these 7 strategies to hundreds of combinations of classic and non-classic Lindy Hop moves. As you learn to transition from one move to the other in any combination, it frees you to create new moves and improvise with your partner on the dance floor, too!

The Zen Dance advantage is that through the process of learning:

(1) Everything Lindy

(2) The Re-Discovered Basics (Core Principles)

(3) The Hub System

You will also be able to learn a multitude of other expandible dance skills: syncopations, musicality, switching, stealing partners, floorcraft, switching lead and follow roles and more.

Instead of the years it would take you to learn Lindy Hop from outdated step lists, with Zen Dance it will take you weeks to level up your dancing.

As soon as you start to learn Zen Dance, you can expect to have more ease, flow, connection, creativity, and fun.

 

You will expend less energy, last longer on the dance floor, and have fewer injuries. Your partners will wonder at how easy and fun you are to dance with.

 

All this is sounding more and more intriguing, right? But you might still be wondering -- why is this system of layered learning Lindy hop so much better than traditional methods of teaching? Read on and you’ll understand why. 

Here is an overview of the whole Zen Dance system

Everything Lindy

Re-discovered Basics

The Hub System

Vr2 New Multi-Momentum Hub 060621.jpg

I use these diagrams to teach my group classes, and anyone who learns from me receives a set to supplement our dance instruction. 

 

Also, members of my Everything Lindy but the Partner Community has access to pdfs of the full set of diagrams, including explanation of how to use them to improve your dancing. Click here to join the community and get immediate access. 

The Zen Dance™ Advantage

 

The Zen Dance advantage is that through the process of learning (1) Everything Lindy without a partner (Online Zoom). (2) (Physical Classes) the Core Principles and (3) the Hub System, you will also be able to learn a multitude of other expandable dance skills: syncopations, musicality, switching, stealing partners, floorcraft, switching lead and follow roles and more.

Instead of the years it would take you to learn Lindy Hop from outdated step lists, with Zen Dance it will take you weeks to level up your dancing.

As soon as you start to learn Zen Dance, you can expect to have more ease, flow, connection, creativity, and fun.

 

You will expend less energy, last longer on the dance floor, and have fewer injuries. Your partners will wonder at how easy and fun you are to dance with.

 

All this is sounding more and more intriguing, right? But you might still be wondering why is this system of layered learning Lindy hop so much better than traditional methods of teaching? Read on and you’ll understand why. 

Zen Dance™ Solutions

to common lindy problems

For years I have observed how people dance Lindy Hop at the social dance clubs around the Bay Area. I love to watch people dance. Dancers mentioned that I danced differently than any other lead and that follower could follow moves they didn’t know. I wondered why? By observing how others danced, I could explain the differences. I started noticing some common problems on the dance floor. 

These problems fit into 6 key areas:

1) Learning Dance.

2) Lack of Frame.

3) Unstable Foundation.

4) Roles of Lead and Follow.

5) Improvisation.

6) Syncopation and Styling.

7) Lack of Creativity on the Dance Floor. 

I started experimenting with my dance partners, and students in the classes I started to teach, and I discovered that the Zen Dance solution created powerful results on the dance floor. 

As I observed people dancing, I noticed 7 key problems that my martial arts-inspired training could solve. 

The 7 key problems

1) Limits of Traditional Dance Instruction

OBSERVATIONS

In my experience learning traditional methods of dance is a longer process of learning. each instructor teaches core basics differently, sometimes contradicting each other and constantly reinventing the wheel without any consistency. 

ZEN DANCE SOLUTION​

Traditional instruction has its  limits and normally doesn’t  have many applications to other concepts. There are universal principles that exist that can be applied to all movements.

RESULT

The advantage of Zen Dance are universal principles that automatically apply to other aspects of dance. Aerials & Dips, Stealing and Switching, Dancing with multiple partners at the same time, Floorcraft, Leadership and these concepts can be applied to all sports, arts and thought.

2) Lack of Frame

OBSERVATIONS

Dancers are having problems communicate to each other because of what I observe as a lack of frame. Having trouble moving partner or responding to lead transfering rhythm and momentum to partner

ZEN DANCE SOLUTION​

There are specific ways to communicate to your follow or lead using your frame to communicate subtle movements. Frame is the critical key to movement between partners. It is also the way to transfer power and momentum.

RESULT

These unique principles of frame when utilized in dance increase your power, momentum, connection, balance, and foundation without undue strength of effort for follow and lead.

3) Unstable Foundation

OBSERVATIONS

Being off balance, leads are using a high center of gravity, (Arm leading), follows are being pulled off balance

They can’t generate enough power, not body leading or following. They are not grounded or using the floor.

ZEN DANCE SOLUTION​

Arm leading creates too many variables in your dance that means the distance between you and your partner varies each time you move. Adding too much extraneous movement as you dance and throwing follow and lead off balance.

RESULT

Using Zen principles of simplicity you will get rid of all the variables (extra movement) in your dance making it more consistent, easier and efficient

4) Lack of Balance Between the Roles of Lead and Follow

OBSERVATIONS

My observations on the dance floor is that some leads have a tendency to lead too much without giving follows a voice in the dance conversation. Leads also get thrown off or frustrated if the follow doesn’t follow their lead. The lead, using too much arm strength to lead.

Follows hijacking the lead by improvising with styling creating a discourse in the conversation or momentum  instead of moving through the flow of the conversation.

ZEN DANCE SOLUTION​

Critical to dance is the role of lead and follow. Each must stay in their role for the relationship to work. Both roles are EQUAL. One is not easier than the other. They are different in concept. Leading entails planning ahead, understanding the dance space and the delay in the follow’s response. Following is Zen in motion, being able to adapt to changes in movement in an instant. Staying connected to your lead, music and intuitive being intuitive to both

RESULT

Zen Dance™ emphasizes how valuable the roles of dance are. Staying in those roles are important to the dance. At a higher level the roles will blur a bit because it becomes a conversation. As musicians can know from years of playing when to improvise a solo without stepping on the other musicians riffs, waiting for their turn and the right moment to chime in. Same in dance, being so connected in the dance conversation they know when to improvise without talking over their partner or having a monologue.

5) Improvisation

OBSERVATIONS

When dancers improvise to the music observe lots of styling but not what I see as connection. I see mostly visual leading and following (Example, I see you do something and I do something). I don’t observe a constant, continuously physical connection with each other.

ZEN DANCE SOLUTION

Improvisation is rellient on a physical connection that can be felt immediately by lead and follow. Using the right elements of frame lead and follow can immediately communicate with each other in space. So connected that movement is felt before it is seen. Visual styling is secondary.

RESULT

These lessons will allow you unhindered freedom of movement and inspire your creativity with the music on the dance floor. Two dancers coming together to create a third more powerful creative entity, greater than the sum of its parts.

6) Lack of Syncopation and Styling

OBSERVATIONS

Followers don’t get a chance to syncopate or improvise because the leads hold on to the follow until count “6” . As a result followers and leads don’t know how to syncopate

ZEN DANCE SOLUTION​

Syncopation relies on the lead understanding the swingout space that the followers need to syncopate. If the lead holds on until count “6” it gives no room for followers to improvise, or style

RESULT

Zen dance will teach you how to give the follow space to syncopate by using body leading instead of arm leading so the follow is not thrown off balance. You will also discover multiple swingout variations and styling options.

7) Lack of Creativity on the Dance Floor

OBSERVATIONS

When I watch Lindy Hoppers dance creativity seems limited to styling on the social dance floor. I do see some creativity in competition, but not as much as there could be. There is not much out of the box thinking when it comes to new moves or ideas. When the original Lindy Hopper danced didn't they create new moves all the time?

ZEN DANCE SOLUTION​

The nature of martial arts movement is to move with "No Mind". Following is the equivalent of moving Zen or flow, reacting in the moment with no preconceived ideas like water in it's advanced state. For a lead it's more difficult to move with "No Mind" because leads are use to thinking of the next movement. With Zen Dance™ a lead can achieve the state of Zen of "No Mind" with practice, because every move is connected with each other in three dimensions and not in a linear fashion.

RESULT

Lead and Follow can move with less or no thinking because they are not thinking of steps anymore they are focused on movement. Freedom of movement leads to flow, flow leads to creativity, creativity leads to artistic accidents and that translates to unlimited improvisation.

The Zen of Lindy Hop or Zen Dance, what does it mean?

It's the essence of dance down to its simplest form, stripped of all the extra added variables. What Count Basie's musical expression and piano playing is to Jazz is what Zen Dance is to Lindy Hop. Simple in form and consistency of flow and movement, effortless music, effortless dancing.

 
Fast vs. Efficient Learning

We have all experienced the pressure and desire of wanting to learn fast. Putting pressure on ourselves to, "Get it right!"which is antithetical to fast learning. A better term for Fast, is Efficient learning. Efficiency speeds the process of learning. Teachers or coaches with extensive experience understand the mistakes they've made and can streamline the process efficiently for you, but you still must invest the time.

Remember, learning dance should not be stressful or cause anxiety, that is what a job is for. Lindy Hop should be fun, joyful and creative!

In Zen Dance I teach Layered Learning

Instead of being overwhelmed mentally and physically by multitasking by learning too many things at once. Zen Dance teaches in layers building foundational concepts and building on each step until it is integrated. Fine tuning beginning concepts constantly until they become advanced with consistent principles of movement.

Movement Before Steps

The difference between traditional dance methods and Zen Dance is moving from 2D  to 3D learning. Traditional dance focuses on steps. Learning is rigid and linear, they aren't efficient in teaching you how to dance. They often leave both leads and follows  in their heads thinking about the moves they are trying to execute. 

How can you enjoy something you love like Lindy Hop if you have to constantly think while you dance? It is not a natural way to learn and dance. 

"Movement before Steps" is a Zen Dance philosophy cultivated from martial arts practice. Zen dance is circular by nature and is an organic way to learn dance.

Unlearning Old Habits

A dancer will always default to what they know. To progress there are three old martial arts saying I follow, "Emptying Your Cup" meaning, you must be willing to let go of what you know to fill yourself with new learning, the next saying is you must "Steal the Technique", meaning to make something your own it can't be handed to you. You  must have total will and desire to embody a technique or it has no value. The third is, "Fall down Seven times, get up Eight" there will be times of frustrations and disappointment when learning, the important thing is to always keep trying and not give up.

Visualization

Zen Dance uses a technique of visualization. In martial arts it is utilized to practice or rehearse a confrontation in your mind. Your mind cannot tell the difference between rehearsing physically or mental repetition, in dance it is the same, the difference is we also have music to help solidify the movement and remember choreography. By visualizing yourself dancing to music and as an advance dancer will help you become a better dancer.

Zen Dance Philosophy