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Rob & Dawn Shrewsbury, Orlando swing dance instructors


Archive for the ‘Advice and Help’ Category

Pandora – Sharing and Tips

Posted on March 30th, 2011 by
Swing and Big Band on Pandora

Swing and Big Band Station (click to listen)

Let’s face it, swing and big band music has all but disappeared from the airwaves. For years, I searched online for good stations, and was mostly frustrated. Well, not to sound cliche, but the Internet has changed all that. Pandora is perfect for those of us who love niche or “dated” genres such as swing and big band.

In case you are behind, Pandora uses the music genome project to build custom stations tailored just to you. Basically you tell it the music you like and it finds music similar to that to play along with it in a station. In a nutshell, it compares your music tastes to others and “magically” makes a playlist on the fly. This is great for people like me since I want to hear the music I like, but I also want to hear “new” music (or at least music new to me) in the playlist as well. I mean iTunes and iPods are great, but I also love to hear different tunes in the same genre as my collection. After all, that’s how I find great music to put into my collection in the first place.

Pandora is all this and more. Best of all, you can share your stations with others. For example, click on the icon (above right) to hear one of my stations. It’s tailored to my tastes, so it’s mostly classic swing artists. However, I left it open enough so I get to hear stuff new to me every so often. As a result, it’s more of a “listening” station and not necessarily a “dancing” station. Feel free to use it as a starting point for your own station.

I don’t claim to be an expert on the genome project by any means, but I have learned a few things about Pandora over time. It is very possible to narrow down a station too much. If you do, you tend to hear the same songs over and over again. There seems to be an art to creating a station that both encompasses your tastes, sticks to a genre, but plays a variety too. Here are a few tips:

  • When starting out, don’t give Pandora just one artist or song to start with. Make use of the “add variety” feature on the station. Add in other artists and songs within that genre that you like too.
  • Don’t overuse “thumbs up” and “thumbs down”. If you rate every song, your station will just get more and more narrow until it only plays just the songs you like. Might as well just pull the iPod out at that point.
  • Having said that, make sure you do rate the songs you really do or don’t like.
  • Think twice before you hit the “thumbs down” button. Just because you don’t like a particular song, you don’t send the wrong message to Pandora. For example, I don’t like bebop jazz. However, it occasionally pops up in my swing station. I don’t give a thumbs down to, say, a Count Basie bebop tune, but I will give a thumbs down to an artist more known for bebop like Max Roach.
  • If you want a good “genre based” station, treat it like a regular radio station. You are going to hear some songs you don’t like or don’t like as well as others. You wouldn’t call and complain to the station for that. However you would if they strayed out of format (time to use the “thumbs down”).

Hope this helps! Be sure to follow us on Facebook and I’ll post some of my stations there every so often.


Categories: Advice and Help, Music Tags:

Using “underpinnings” for vintage shape

Posted on November 12th, 2010 by

I just came across this great article that talks about how you can use modern shapeware/foundation garments to achieve a vintage body shape with your clothes. The author interviewed the stylist for the show “Mad Men”, a modern show set in the 1950’s. She talks about how to measure yourself to get accurate measurements and how to achieve the smooth, curvy shape of decades gone by. I personally know there are many many shapeware options available these days that help us achieve what ever body shape we desire.

Dancing to get fit in the New Year

Posted on January 13th, 2010 by

Many people’s resolutions this year includes getting fit and shedding some unwanted pounds. Rob and I are no different in this area. We too are suffering from the result of too much “joy” and “holiday cheer” enjoyed this past Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday. Aside from our clothes fitting a bit tighter than normal, our lowered fitness level became all too obvious to us when we danced a mid-tempo Collegiate Shag at this past Saturday’s dance.

While many people will be hitting a local gym to work off the extra weight, we are going to incorporate dancing into our weight loss plan (along with eating better). Even done without a partner, Collegiate Shag and Charleston make great dances to get the heart pumping. Moving your body to music you enjoy also makes getting the 30 minutes per day of suggested cardiovascular exercise easier and more fun. Not to mention all that practice will surely show on the dance floor with smoother, more relaxed footwork and body movement. Just remember to stretch your leg muscles before and after dancing to prevent any injuries and stay hydrated.

Don’t forget that our series classes are a great way to get a guaranteed 1.5 hours of movement per week while meeting other great people looking to learn dancing, move their bodies, and/or do something new. The 2nd and 4th Saturday swing dances at Whirl and Twirl are additional opportunities to get moving, hear great music, and have fun.

So no matter how you plan to drop those unwanted pounds, here’s to a slimmer, fitter, 2010 🙂

A short how-to guide on buying vintage

Posted on October 6th, 2009 by

This is a great and short article on how to buy and wear vintage clothing and jewelry. Just wearing vintage clothing is one thing, dancing in them is another. This point is something that we dancers have and will probably always grapple with when buying true vintage clothing. The wear and tear that dancing takes on clothes in general is rough, but then consider older fabric, thread, and fit and now you are talking a whole different story. But I hope this article at least helps you with buying vintage items in general. And yes, a good tailor is indispensable (anyone know of one btw?).

“The irony is that vintage is actually what all of the new stuff in stores is made to look like anyway. In a world where everything’s accessible and ubiquitous, vintage is the way to personalize your look.

Read more…

A roundup of vintage style tips

Posted on May 5th, 2009 by

vintage-coupleWith the annual USO dance coming up in a few weeks, we thought it would be helpful to post a roundup of tips on how to dress vintage. Think of this as a quick links starting point on how to go retro for the USO. Before you get your start, you might want to browse around the web to get an idea of what WWII era fashions were like. You may even want to check out some cool 40’s era recreations (ladies and gentleman’s styles) for inspiration. Likewise, a quick start is to check out the retro clothes on However, don’t feel you have to spend an arm and a leg and don’t think you are limited to vintage shops and recreations. With a sharp eye, you can land some cool stuff in ordinary local stores. With this economy, your best bet may be to spend quality some time in thrift stores. You might even land some actual vintage threads. However, be careful wearing real vintage to dance in, they might just end up being actual threads by the end of the night.

The biggest question we get from the ladies is how to do their hair. Dawn has recently written a review of a new vintage hairstyle book. But you’re thinking “doesn’t vintage hair styles take forever to do?” Well, not necessarily. She’s also posted a video sent to us on how to do victory rolls in 5 minutes… and with the number of hits that page gets, it must be good advice. Speaking of videos, the wonders of YouTube can be a huge help with finding vintage hairstyle tutorials.

For the guys, you have it easy since men’s fashions don’t change much through the years. However, it can be tricky if you are going for the subtle differences that will set you apart as retro. Be sure to check local menswear shops for some cool wide leg pants. You can usually find these at urban menswear stores (think dressy hip-hop stores often found in malls). If you are going for casual, you can sometimes find stripey shirts and socks in stores like Target and Old Navy. If you are looking to dress vintage WWII military, well… that can be a hobby in and of itself. Uniforms can be rented, however, you may want to check eBay or your local Army/Navy surplus store.

Have a tip on dressing vintage? Post a comment and share!

New vintage hairstyling book

Posted on January 9th, 2009 by

Vintage Hairstyling: Retro Styles with Modern Techniques
by Lauren Rennells

I got this book about 3-4 months ago and haven’t really had the time to do much with it other than look it over briefly. I finally sat down and started reading the instructions on how to do some of these great looking vintage do’s using modern tools and I must say, I’m eager to try some of these styles out! What I like about this book is that the author does a great job laying out everything you will need for the hairstyle. As with anything, practice makes perfect. But any help making techniques like pin curls more understandable and possible is a hit in my book. A description of the information in the book:

The book begins with the basic elements and works its way back to advanced techniques. Chapter one describes the tools and products used throughout. Chapter two offers detailed instructions on creating different curls, including the pin curl, the basis for many vintage hairstyles. Chapter three breaks down the proper way to comb the curls for the effect including creating fingerwaves, victory rolls, pompadours, and waves from pin curls. The fourth chapter of the book provides step-by-step start-to-finish detailed instructions for 25 different hairstyles created with different hair lengths and textures. The final 2 chapters provide ideas for hair accessories, makeup and nails to finish the look.

Read more…

I hope this gives you the skills you need to recreate the great vintage hairstyles that you have probably seen and wished you could do on yourself. All it takes is the willingness, determination, and patience to keep working at it. Before you know it, you’ll be able to whip your hair into a beautiful retro do (in 15 min. once you really get it down pat) that will have people oohhing and aahhhing :->

Advice on vintage fashions for men & women

Posted on May 21st, 2008 by

The Memorial Day weekend dances are fast approaching (this weekend already) and I thought it might be helpful to provide links to some sites that cover fashion and hair for the periods being featured (20’s & 30’s Sat. night, 40’s on Sun. night in Tampa). Keep in mind that some or most fashions might look great, but not be very realistic for dancing.

No matter how you decide to dress up, when it comes to the hairdo for the ladies, I highly suggest you try doing it one night before the night of the dance. Doing it once before will give you an idea of how long it will take and what problems you might run into. With that said, below are links broken out by fashion and hair for the 20’s, 30’s , and 40’s eras:

20’s Fashion

20’s Hair
There is much more information available for women’s 20’s styled hair, just do a search on “finger waves” in Google and take your pick 🙂

30’s Fashion

30’s Hair

40’s Fashion and Hair

For men, you can find men’s vintage style wide leg pants at Adam’s Men’s Wear in the Seminole Town Center Mall. You can typically find wide leg pants in specialty menswear shops that carry more trendy/edgy men’s suits. You may have to sort through the bright colors to find the vintage look, but men’s dressy fashions haven’t changed that much over time. As for the 20’s/30’s style driving caps, fortunately those have made somewhat of  a comeback in recent years and you can find them at many stores like Burlington Coat Factory and occasionally even at Target.

Categories: Advice and Help, Dawn's Stuff, Vintage Tags:

How to do “victory rolls” in 5 min.

Posted on December 12th, 2007 by

For any woman who has yearned to do their hair in a sweet vintage style, this video clip tells you how. I have not yet tried the technique myself, but after doing battle with my hair on many an occasion, I can tell you that this should work pretty well. The lady in the video, as you will see, has somewhat short hair that does not look very thick and she is able to make it work quite quickly.

What I love about this technique is it does most of the hard hair work in one fell swoop and just some clean up pinning is required from there. The lady does not go into detail at all about how to roll your hair and it does not appear to me that she rolled her hair before showing the technique. If you have time and want to play with rolling your hair to get more body, that’s always helpful in doing vintage rolls… especially for those of us that have thick, heavy hair or a lot of hair.

What I have done before when I need to do a quick vintage ‘do is just spray the heck out of the areas of your hair that you are going to style and that will add some body and stylability to it. Don’t spray it so much that it’s stiff or unbrushable per se, just has some “grit” to it. “Dirty” hair or hair that has any styling product in it is much easier to style quickly than clean hair is. Between this and the technique that this lady shows you, anyone can do a vintage do in mere minutes 🙂

Happy styling and thanks Shelley for sending me the link to this clip!

Update: Looks like the original video embedded below may not be working anymore. However, YouTube has many more vintage hairstyle tutorials.

Categories: Advice and Help, Dawn's Stuff, Vintage Tags:

Motion Sickness and Dancing

Posted on November 13th, 2007 by

Over the years, we’ve run into a few people (from all age ranges) who are highly prone to motion sickness. The turning and moving of dancing would effect them and at times limit what moves they could do. Fortunately, there is a very effective remedy for this! After watching a Mythbusters episode where they put motion sickness “cures” to the test, we started recommending ginger tablets to people. Ginger is all natural and can be bought at almost any heath food store or even in the vitamin section of most grocery and drug stores. The people we’ve recommended it to take it shortly before dancing and have reported back that it works great! In almost every case, they’ve said that the effects of motion sickness while dancing are pretty much gone.

Gotta love simple home remedies! 🙂

Categories: Advice and Help Tags:

Dance Orthotics

Posted on September 17th, 2007 by

Dancing can sometimes be hard on the feet. The more you get “hooked” on dancing, the more time you are spending on your feet. As with any activity where you are on your feet a lot, you eventually start to feel the effects at the end of the day (or night). You may experience tired or sore feet. These effects can be amplified if you have a high or low arch like Dawn and I do. This can result in any number of aches and pains. The good news is, much of this is easily fixable.

If you are going to dance a lot, we always recommend getting a good pair of dance shoes. Comfortable shoes are going to make a big difference in how your feet feel at the end of the night. For most, the right shoes will work wonders. If you lean towards a high or low arch, new shoes maintain a good structure that will help. However, as the shoes break in, they will loose their ability to maintain the arch and you’ll start to feel the effects again even though you have nice comfy shoes. It’s not realistic to get new shoes every few months, so in this case, it’s best to get some kind of insert.

Inserts can work wonders! While they aren’t a cure-all, they are pretty darn close for most people. The best way to see if this will work for you is to go to the local store and get a pair of Dr. Scholl’s inserts. Dance in them for a while and see if you notice an improvement. You might want to try a few different kinds to see what works. The good news is Dr. Scholl’s are pretty cheap so it allows you to experiment. You may want to stay away from the gel kind as they won’t offer much support and may make your feet hot while dancing. Keep in mind that inexpensive inserts like this don’t last long and wear out fast. Also, they take a one-size-fits-all approach and may not be ideal for everyone. In my case, I had to modify the inserts to build up the arch and even then, they didn’t last long.

The ultimate is getting a orthotic (insert) that is customized for you and is built to last and take abuse. A few years ago, Dawn and I went to Good Feet (there is a store in Orlando off Sandlake Rd.). The staff there gives you personalized help and fits an insert just for you. While it takes a bit to get use to a more aggressive kind of insert, both Dawn and I have found them to work wonders. Sure, we still get tired after a number of hours on our feet dancing and teaching, but the effects are minimal and there are no aches and pains. Best of all, the inserts last. We’ve had ours for years and each pair work like they day we got them. I will warn you; they are expensive! However, if I factor in the number of Dr. Scholl’s I would have bought over the years, I’ve by far come out ahead by getting the Good Feet inserts. If you are looking to save, focus on the “Maintainer” family of inserts since they are the best for dancing and exercise. While their plan of different inserts for different activities is nice, let’s face it, it’s the more active activities you need inserts for.

Categories: Advice and Help, Reviews Tags:

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