Wandering & Pondering has a new home

After 4 years on WordPress, I decided to consolidate all my interests including this blog onto my new site:


Please click the link above to find the new home for this blog and update your links and RSS feeds because this site will no longer be updated and will eventually close.

Have no fear, because all will not be lost. I’ve exported everything to the new site and was able to update most of the dead links. You’ll find the first post on the blog to be a handy summary and guide to all my writings.

The adventure will continue . . .

A Very Selective Defense of “Man of Steel”

Did you see Man of Steel? I did. I liked it well enough for a summer blockbuster, but as usual, the Batman movie was way better. All of them. This is as it should be. Below is not a full review of the movie, but a discussion of a very specific issue that occurs in it. It’s super big spoiler, so if you haven’t seen the movie, you should stop reading. Instead, since you are a good person and have already seen The Dark Knight Rises, you should go check out the podcast I did with Mr. Swungover, Bobby White about that far superior movie.

Spoilers below the video

Read the rest of this entry »

Lessons in Jazz Appreciation from Lindy Focus

This is the promised follow up to the A Word on Swing episode about the most recent Lindy Focus. It’s very late and I only completed it recently because I was reminded of it after writing a bit about current music in my last post suggesting bands for Frankie100. What follows is probably the least technical illustration of what makes classic jazz great for dancing as well a behind the scenes look at the behind the scenes video about Lindy Focus and A Word on Swing.

Check out the show notes for this episode on “A Word on Swing.”

Lindy Focus was by far the most fun I’ve had listening and dancing to live music. For comparison, I think that in terms of sheer numbers and talent, Frankie95 was a beast I don’t think any event should dare try to emulate ever again. 15 bands in five days including a number of featured musicians was an over the top spectacle that was harder to juggle logistically than necessary. Plus the conflicting styles of some of the bands didn’t always create a happy balance for many of the attendees.

In contrast I think that the approach to the live music at Lindy Focus presented a diversity of sounds and genres that still maintained a unity of vision that made for a more cohesively fun week of music. But you can see and hear more about that in the latest Episode of “A Word on Swing” above.

I listened to all the music I recorded at Lindy Focus on virtual repeat the entire time I edited together the show. I sort of wish I had recorded more, but it was a dance event after all . . .

Lindy Focus 64 025

There is no spoon.

I did spend a lot of time analyzing almost every frame of every second of these videos. Combined with all the interviews I’ve been doing with musicians, I’ve learned quite a bit. It’s like auditing a graduate level class on music appreciation. I thought that I would share some of the interesting/awesome things I noticed. Read the rest of this entry »

Musicians We Should Hear at Frankie100

Frankie100 is a year away and so goes the wild speculation about what it will be like. A recent comment on Facebook got me to thinking about the possible live music for this thing. Music is  the main ingredient for any dance event, but at something like Frankie100 where you’re expecting the bulk of the existing Lindy Hop population to attend, there are a lot of “considerations,” to put it politely, that you have to keep in mind.

I should note that even though I worked for Frankie95, I don’t have any intention of working for Frankie100, so I’m not working from any insider knowledge of that particular event. This is just blatant fan speculation on my part. Read the rest of this entry »

Updates to the Wandering & Pondering-verse

Believe it or not, I am working on a few different posts, but writing is coming slower than usual these days. I was never a very quick or succinct writer, and now I’m bogged down with my new twin obsessions of video making and photography. Discovering that using a camera involves more than pointing it and pressing a button has been both the most rewarding and frustrating things I’ve done recently, but at least I’m getting a better grasp of what I’m doing (and not doing.)

DCLX 2013 Sunday 154

This picture is from this past DCLX where I also undertook a pretty ambitious video project of coordinating three other camera operators to try to capture the triple bill of Bria Skonberg, The Boilermaker Jazz Band, and DC’s own Blue Crescent Syncopators all playing on one stage. I even got to sit down and do an interview with the very talented Ms.Skonberg. I’m just starting the process of going through the footage to put together something . . . fun? Educational? Yes. Hopefully.

Although it doesn’t seem like there’s much going on here on this blog, I’m relatively busy updating across “platforms” as the kids like to say these days. This is quick run down of what I’m up to around the ether:

  • As always, the Facebook page for this blog is updated regularly. I aim for at least two posts a day (one article and one video) Monday-Thursday, one on Friday, and the odd weekend posting depending on what’s going down. Posts are usually links for and about the dance community around the world.
  • My YouTube channel is probably the next busiest with a new video every few weeks. It’s either an old dance video from the vault, or more often these days, something I’ve recorded. My most recent adventure to the wilds of The Mobtown Ballroom captured the elusive Laura Glaess and Mike Roberts cavorting to the sounds of the Boilermaker Jazz Band.

  • The Tumblr blog, New Old School Swing, hasn’t seen too much action, although I did post a couple of weeks ago about the epic Basie Ball Hellzapoppin contest in 2004.
  • My Twitter handle is J_S_Almonte, but has only seen links to new posts on this blog. I’m going to try to make it more of a habit of posting my 140 character thoughts.
  • Also, I have a vimeo page now. There’s only one video there, a short video I took at the White House in the aftermath of the 2012 US Presidential Election, but I’m going to post some of my more creative video projects there eventually.

  • I’m also contributing news items to Yehoodi’s Swing Nation, a weekly video show hosted by Manu Smith, Nicole Zuckerman, and Rik Panganiban (I refuse to refer to anyone by their Yehoodi usernames. That’s so last decade.) They talk about the current goings on across Lindy Hop and it’s extended family. I don’t actively participate in the production of the show, but I was a guest on one of the first episodes.

Speaking of news, I recently scouted out a possible new hotel for the International Lindy Hop Championships for 2014. The event gets bigger and bigger every year. We’re already past 500 registrations and on track to sell out this year. If you’re not registered, then I suggest you get on that like a duck in heat.

With all this talk of video, I should also mention that I’m honored to be part of the judging panel for this years Jazz Dance Film Festival. It’s really one of the more unique opportunities in our scene, so if you have any inkling of putting together a short video for this year’s festival, head over to the website and check it out. Putting together a short film sounds like a big deal, but you’d be surprised at how accessible they make it. At the very least, watch all the really cool videos from past festivals.

Other than a recent vacation with the family to the United Arab Emirates, I’m not travelling as much this year, so ILHC will be the next event I’ll be attending. I still DJ regularly around the DC-Baltimore area at exotic places like Chevy Chase Ballroom, The Jam Cellar, and The Mobtown Ballroom. If you can’t hang out at any of those places, then you can always drop me a message through the Facebook page for this blog.

Boom Heartedly,


Middle East Cruise 3462

“Morning Blues” with Julie Brown, a new “A Word on Swing,” and learning how to do them

This is the final version of a quick project that wasn’t.

I’ve mentioned before, that I got a fancy new camera last Spring; partly to take pictures, and partly to do video projects like “A Word on Swing.” I’ll probably end up doing more vlog/talk show/documentary type stuff, but I have been itching to do something more creative. Learning my way around a DSLR camera has been a bit of a process. Plus the more I learn about what goes into making really good videos with decent production values is pretty intimidating. Rather than let that keep me from doing anything, I just decided to eff’ it, and do something just to do something; hoping it’ll turn out well, but mostly to use it as a learning experience. Read the rest of this entry »

Favorite Videos and Parting Thoughts on 2012

I had so many favorites this year that I had to spread them out over several posts, (music, news, blogs, video notes, videos, videos and one more) but this last one is reserved my personal favorites and some random musings.

In putting these year-end lists together, I am reminded why I don’t bother to claim anything resembling journalistic objectivity on this blog. A lot of things I post about here and on the Facebook page involve people I know personally, and in some cases, very much so. Fortunately, I know some very talented people.

I met quite a them a few years ago when DC was a freakish nexus of Lindy Hop. It never ceases to amuse me to see the lineup of instructors at an event in some random part of the world and remember when that was just a Tuesday night. The funny thing is that no one really had being a fancy pants dance instructor on their radar. Andy still works the full time job that got him to DC. Nina had plans on being a fashion designer, and Skye was planning on getting his Ph. D  and becoming an educator. Some people kept their eyes on the prize. The Dreyer twins, Alex and Austin, came to DC to cook, and both worked in a French restaurant just a few doors down from my place. I used to imagine them busting out a random tap routine on the bar. Sometimes I would walk by and slow down, peering through the front window of that place, hoping that would be the night it finally happened. Eventually, Alex made the next logical leap to actually cooking in France. Skye still got to be educator, just not the kind he envisioned a few years ago.

Jazz Roots Dance Festival Paris 2012 – Skye Humphries & Alexander Dreyer

That’s my long way of explaining why I have I stupid grin on my face when I watch this video. Most people are see a jazz performance in Paris, while I’m thinking of late nights in a living room on 5th Street. Read the rest of this entry »

Flashback with Ramona Staffeld “Rockin in Rhythm” with Todd Yannanacone

(Note: Ramona Staffeld & Todd Yannacone’s 1st Place Pro Classic performance at The International Lindy Hop Championships was the most shared video off of the Wandering & Pondering FB page. It also happens to be one of my favorites of this year. Not long after that, Ramona contacted me to continue with her series here on this blog, but rather than go back, I convinced her to write about her most recent performance. She enthusiastically agreed, but I failed at life by losing track of the post she sent to me. I remembered it while prepping this year’s round up and rather than blathering on about it myself, I present to you Ramona Staffeld in her own words.)

Well, that’s just it right there. Who it is you are dancing with is one of the key ingredients when making and performing a piece. Off and on the dance floor, Todd and I have respect, friendship, and a sense of humor towards each other. It is the people parts that give a good foundation to work and learn. Fun and silly are priorities, and most of all, being authentic.

Our creative process was a shared dialogue of ideas and excitement. Nothing was too outrageous or unworthy of the time it took to give it a try and then make a decision. Open mind, open heart. Having a shared aesthetic and general taste made for a smooth flow, too. Read the rest of this entry »

Video Dance Highs of 2012

This is the big list. You’ve already seen highlights in music, blogs, and news. I broke off a separate post for two over achievers last week, and I’ll do two more for my personal favorites before the holidays end. I tried to cull this list down to a reasonable level. It’s still almost 100 videos, but I decided that that would be a shame to cut it down any more since there was a lot of good stuff this year. It’s already hard to choose highlights from the 64 routines, 63 separate couple spotlights, and five jam style contests at this year’s International Lindy Hop Championships, and I already mentioned how I favorited about 1000 Lindy Hop related videos on YouTube this year alone. Not making matters easier is how Facebook and YouTube both conspired to make the way I organized last year’s highlights impossible this time around.

This post is a combination of popular videos on YouTube, videos that generated a lot of chatter or “likes” on Facebook, or some other performances I enjoyed and thought were overlooked. As much as I’d like to say something about all of them, there is a lot of them. Besides, I think most of them can speak for themselves. Read the rest of this entry »

2012 Lindy Hop Video MVP’s

In reviewing dance highlights for the year, I noticed that two dancers kept popping up repeatedly. Rather than have them clog up the other lists, I thought I’d break them out into a separate post.

A Leaf on the Wind That Will Blow You Away

Out of all these performances, there’s one story that stands out about Laura Glaess for me this year. Too early on Friday morning at ILHC in August  I had to be up to take care of some issues in the ballroom. Floor trials started shortly after and a few brave and sleep deprived came in to rehearse their routines for the weekend. Laura ran through her Pro Classic routine with Mike Roberts and her Pro-Am with Dominique Pomeroy. In between, she and Mike also gave pointers to the Cleveland juniors. We got to a point where no one else wanted to do a run through, but Laura was still ready to go. She bounced up and down like a puppy and asked us who wanted to dance next, at which point Mike, Dominique, Mike Marcotte, and I collectively looked at the ground and shuffled our feet. Normally I wouldn’t turn down the opportunity to dance with Laura, but it was that damn early. Man was not meant to get up that early to dance, but that woman is.

This video is something I edited together from footage I took that morning and evening.  This video starts off with footage from Patrick & Natasha’s video because I was never ready whenever they started to dance, but you’ll see them go to town from a bunch of angles as the video progresses. One of the things that I learned to appreciate about this performance after watching it several hundred times is how well the choreography flows and compliments the music.  They don’t do anything too obvious, but it all still makes sense. They also do a great job of matching the very gradual increase in intensity of the song without outpacing it. Read the rest of this entry »

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