AIR Pt. 4: Unintended Consequences

This is part of a paper I wrote entitled “Artistry In Rhythm: Dialogue Through Dance in the Lindy Hop community.”  Previous and future posts can be found by searching my blog for the category “Artistry In Rhythm”

The Law of Unintended Consequences

Minnie’s Moochers both exemplified and popularized various trends in the Lindy Hop community at that time.  Those related to the music, the events, and the dance itself.  These trends fueled each other through the late 90’s and early 00’s at a time when the modern national Lindy Hop community was coming together and bringing in large number of new dancers because of the increased popularity of Swing around the country.  As a result, the community was absorbing ideas at the same time that it was coalescing, and was struggling to reconcile these ideas with what was passed to them from those who came before.

Crossing Over

As noted previously, the Moochers performance contained a number of different influences.  In addition to their individual dance backgrounds, they were also influenced by the events that they could attend.  Outside of some workshop weekends, there were very few weekend events completely devoted to Lindy Hop.  Before ALHC, high profile Lindy Hop was only available as a small part of primarily West Coast Swing crossover events such as the American Swing Dance Championships[1], the Virginia State Open and the US Open.  Naomi Uyama recollects:

“I remember a time, just a year or so after I started (around ’99/2000) when all of us were passing around Carolina Shag clips, and then a few years later (around 2001) when we were pretty west coast crazy. The majority of big events we went to were crossover competitions, not lindy hop only, and I remember all of us crowding in to watch the other divisions.”[2]

It is from these events that Lindy Hoppers were exposed to the much more mature communities of other dances such as Hustle, DC Hand Dance, Carolina Shag, and of course, West Coast Swing.  The exposure was a double edged sword though because it often times it seemed that Lindy Hoppers were being treated as if they were the little kids trying to sit at the adult table.  This feeling was not without merit since, by and large, the skill level of the vast majority of Lindy Hoppers was nowhere near that of the dancers that made up those other communities.

It is probably because of those feelings of inadequacy and because Lindy Hoppers were allotted very little time at these events, that many of them became influenced by what they saw and experienced in terms of showmanship, technique and even music of these other dances.

Here’s a look at Minnie’s Moochers “Love Me or Leave Me” routine at the North Atlantic Dance Championships.  A couple of the team members have referred to it as the “westie” version.  It’s not radically different from the ALHC performance, but there are several key adjustments that give it a slightly different flavor.

Let’s Get Together

The other interesting development in events was the rapid evolution of Lindy exchanges.  The first exchange occurred in December of 1998.  It started with a group of Chicago dancers visiting San Francisco just to hang out and dance.[3]

This gave birth to the idea of having entire dance weekends devoted completely to social dancing with no workshops, performances, or competitions.  They were a way for dancers to get together in a very casual way.

However, there was a downside as Janice Saylor, a marketing specialist and a long time Washington, DC swing dance event organizer, noted:

“Workshops are becoming more expensive because fewer people are taking workshops. Most people have a certain amount of disposable cash to spend on non-essential items. More are choosing to spend their money on exchanges and competitions rather than on workshops. (Ask any camp or workshop organizer how their attendance has declined with the growth of exchanges.) The cost of workshops is usually derived by calculating total cost divided by expected attendance. The lower your attendance, the higher the cost per attendee.

Exchanges are usually a lot less expensive than a camp or weekend of workshops. While your dancing may improve because you get a lot of quality dancers to dance with socially, it just isn’t the same improvement you get with quality instruction. The fewer people attending workshops, the fewer people are improving.”[4]

The most interesting aspect of exchange events is that they provided an informal forum for the transmission of creative ideas on the dance floor.  Since these were primarily social events, with no instructors or dancers setting examples by being rewarded at competitions, people were free to experiment with little fear of admonishment or constructive feedback.  The intensive dancing may have resulted in some improvement, but was equally likely to also reinforce bad habits.

It was in this experimental stew that people played with many ideas that they perceived Minnies’ Moochers were using.


[1] The demise of the American Swing Dance Championships in 1997 provided the impetus for not only ALHC, but also the North Atlantic Dance Championships promoted by Bill Cameron.  While ALHC was a completely Lindy Hop centric affair, Bill offered what was the largest and most inclusive swing dancing event on the East Coast.  One of the most important things that Bill did for the Lindy Hop community was to create Champion level competitions, two years before that level appeared at ALHC.  The gesture elevated the significance of Lindy Hop dancers as not even the Hand Dancers and Shaggers had such separate high level divisions.

[2] “Nature vs. Nurture” MySpace blog by Naomi Uyama 8/23/2007  http://blogs.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=blog.view&friendId=82763234&blogId=302643848 last accessed August, 2009

[3] San Francisco Lindy Exchange website http://sflindyexchange.com/Weekend/ last accessed July, 2007

[4] Posted by “dcswings” aka Janice Saylor on 11/14/03 at 1:01 pm on “Too Many Exchanges?”  discussion thread on SwingoutDC.com http://www.swingoutdc.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=2380 last accessed July, 2007

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The Law of Unintended Consequences

Minnie’s Moochers both exemplified and popularized various trends in the Lindy Hop community at that time. Those related to the music, the events, and the dance itself. These trends fueled each other through the late 90’s and early 00’s at a time when the modern national Lindy Hop community was coming together and bringing in large number of new dancers because of the increased popularity of Swing around the country. As a result, the community was absorbing ideas at the same time that it was coalescing, and was struggling to reconcile these ideas with what was passed to them from those who came before.

Crossing Over

As noted previously, the Moochers performance contained a number of different influences. In addition to their individual dance backgrounds, they were also influenced by the events that they could attend. Outside of some workshop weekends, there were very few weekend events completely devoted to Lindy Hop. Before ALHC, high profile Lindy Hop was only available as a small part of primarily West Coast Swing crossover events such as the American Swing Dance Championships[1], the Virginia State Open and the US Open. Naomi Uyama recollects:

“I remember a time, just a year or so after I started (around ’99/2000) when all of us were passing around Carolina Shag clips, and then a few years later (around 2001) when we were pretty west coast crazy. The majority of big events we went to were crossover competitions, not lindy hop only, and I remember all of us crowding in to watch the other divisions.”[2]

It is from these events that Lindy Hoppers were exposed to the much more mature communities of other dances such as Hustle, DC Hand Dance, Carolina Shag, and of course, West Coast Swing. The exposure was a double edged sword though because it often times it seemed that Lindy Hoppers were being treated as if they were the little kids trying to sit at the adult table. This feeling was not without merit since, by and large, the skill level of the vast majority of Lindy Hoppers was nowhere near that of the dancers that made up those other communities.

It is probably because of those feelings of inadequacy and because Lindy Hoppers were allotted very little time at these events, that many of them became influenced by what they saw and experienced in terms of showmanship, technique and even music of these other dances.

Let’s Get Together

The other interesting development in events was the rapid evolution of Lindy exchanges. The first exchange occurred in December of 1998. It started with a group of Chicago dancers visiting San Francisco just to hang out and dance.[3] This gave birth to the idea of having entire dance weekends devoted completely to social dancing with no workshops, performances, or competitions. They were a way for dancers to get together in a very casual way. However, there was a downside as Janice Saylor, a marketing specialist and a long time Washington, DC swing dance event organizer, noted:

“Workshops are becoming more expensive because fewer people are taking workshops. Most people have a certain amount of disposable cash to spend on non-essential items. More are choosing to spend their money on exchanges and competitions rather than on workshops. (Ask any camp or workshop organizer how their attendance has declined with the growth of exchanges.) The cost of workshops is usually derived by calculating total cost divided by expected attendance. The lower your attendance, the higher the cost per attendee.

Exchanges are usually a lot less expensive than a camp or weekend of workshops. While your dancing may improve because you get a lot of quality dancers to dance with socially, it just isn’t the same improvement you get with quality instruction. The fewer people attending workshops, the fewer people are improving.”[4]

The most interesting aspect of exchange events is that they provide an informal forum for the transmission of creative ideas on the dance floor. Since these are primarily social events, with no instructors or dancers setting examples by being rewarded at competitions, people are free to experiment with little fear of admonishment or constructive feedback. The intensive dancing may result in some improvement, but is equally likely to also reinforce bad habits.


[1] The demise of the American Swing Dance Championships in 1997 provided the impetus for not only ALHC, but also the North Atlantic Dance Championships promoted by Bill Cameron. While ALHC was a completely Lindy Hop centric affair, Bill offered what was the largest and most inclusive swing dancing event on the East Coast. One of the most important things that Bill did for the Lindy Hop community was to create Champion level competitions, two years before that level appeared at ALHC. The gesture elevated the significance of Lindy Hop dancers as not even the Hand Dancers and Shaggers had such separate high level divisions.

[2] “Nature vs. Nurture” MySpace blog by Naomi Uyama 8/23/2007 http://blogs.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=blog.view&friendId=82763234&blogId=302643848 last accessed August, 2009

[3] San Francisco Lindy Exchange website http://sflindyexchange.com/Weekend/ last accessed July, 2007

[4] Posted by “dcswings” aka Janice Saylor on 11/14/03 at 1:01 pm on “Too Many Exchanges?” discussion thread on SwingoutDC.com http://www.swingoutdc.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=2380 last accessed July, 2007

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