Karen is cool because she writes. I am lame because I don’t. Still, way cooler than Thigpen though. Read the rest of the series here.
In 2004 I finally started getting back into what was going on in the national scene thanks to Chance Bushman. By then the DVD compilation “Cakewalk to Lindy Hop” was circulating amongst many of my friends and I was exposed to clips like Shorty George in “After Seben” and Whitey’s Lindy Hoppers in “A Day at the Races.” I’m sure I had watched these before at some point, but it wasn’t until then that I started to really understand them and appreciate the historical significance. We were all getting back into Charleston and dancing “raw”, so these two clips were really fundamental for learning partner Charleston stuff. Andrew and I knew we had to start the evolution routine with Shorty George, so we chose this clip, leading into the “Day at the Races.” We specifically chose Leon James’ and Norma Miller’s spotlight because it was goofy and we also wanted to make sure to pay tribute to them as individual dancers.
Showdown 2004 was a really pivotal time for my investment in lindy hop. Another huge moment that I would have liked to include in the choreography was the 120 special team routine to “Harlem Congo.” Featuring Kevin and Carla, Todd Yannaconne, and Owen and Laura Donnelly, and Katie Jacobson, this was the first team routine I’d ever seen that was precise, energetic, creative, and FAST. They incorporated hip hop, new aerials, humor, and great fast swingouts all in the context of an overarching Hellzapoppin’ feeling. It was so beautiful I could barely film it because I just wanted to watch it with my real eyes. I had caught the bug again and after a 15 minute conversation with Elliott Donnelly, was convinced to go to Basie Ball in NYC and get more of this fast dancing goodness.
Basie Ball was the first time I’d ever heard of Mama Lu Park’s dancers. The show on Saturday night was already mind-blowing—a troop of awesome little kids in piano key leotards just killed “Jumping at the Woodside,” then the Harlem Hot Shots came out and powered through a fantastic fast routine, complete with original Rhythm Hot Shots costumes, and finally the old-timer Mama Lu Park’s gang came out and destroyed the crowd with some old school dancing to Hand Clapping. I was sitting in the crowd on the floor and at one point Sugar Sullivan did a waterfall and the whole crowd surged forward screaming with delight. I thought I was going to get trampled for a second. These guys lit the entire room of 1500 people on fire.