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”
Another interesting trend during this period was the growing number of people, regardless of style, who worked intensely on partnering mechanics. Again, this is where crossover events had a major effect. Even if a Lindy Hopper would not appreciate the music or the general aesthetic of West Coast Swing, there could be no denying that WCS during this time period had a much more superior grasp of connection than was generally known in Lindy Hop at the time. Since WCS dancers were seen as superior dancers because of that grasp of technique, it led many people to focus on that. As with many other things dancers were doing at this time, it was eventually worked on to an extreme.
I actually commented on this trend at the time in a thread on SwingoutDC.com bemoaning the decline of risk taking in the dance community:
“I’ve been thinking lately that the swing scene has become very introverted. It used to be all about the aerials and the big crazy charlestons. The pendulum has now swung in the opposite direction where everyone is so focused on connection, musicality, and technique. It’s gotten to the point where being even remotely flashy is frowned upon by hardcore dancers.”
This movement capitalized on the lack of faster music to maximize the understanding of connection. However, combined with the laid back sounds prevalent in the “groove” music played at the time, this focus on connection produced what a fellow dancer called “sleepy robots;” very withdrawn and reserved dancing.
I think the refinement of technique contributed somewhat to what was going on at the competition level (discussed in the next section), which then filtered back into the social dance.
Ironically, probably the prototypical connection focused, “groove” dance was performed by two of the genre’s most ardent detractors, Justin Zillman and Jenn Salvadori at the 2000 American Lindy Hop Championships.
They were primarily known for their work in reviving the Southern California vintage stylings in the 1990’s and would go on to be one of the prime movers in the “Old School” revival. Like many others they never invested anytime in seriously teaching “groove” styling although they did work intensely on Lindy Hop lead and follow dynamics which they chose to showcase at that year’s ALHC.
Performing to Oscar Peterson’s “Moten Swing” they contrast their previous vintage inspired performances with what I can only describe as an extremely laid back intensity. It reflects the approach to later jazz by modern musicians in that most of the energy is drawn inward, but instead of falling into the trap of shutting out the audience, they are able to bring viewers into their intimate world. At times Justin does accelerate ahead of the beat and to produce explosive movements punctuating the end of phrases which Jenn counterpoints with a patient, yet very emphatic sass that she lets loose when Justin “quiets down.”
For an interesting comparison, people can look at Justin Zillman’s performance with Caitlin George (Now Caitlin Wellman) in the ALHC 2002 “Strictly Lindy” division.
Here the DJ, Reuben Brown, lays down Count Basie’s “Topsy” which starts off very mellow for the first eight 8’s before the band screams into the “b” section, and then finishing off mellow again. Keeping with the music, Justin and Caitlin dance fairly small echoing Justin’s approach in 2000. Then the whole band kicks in, and suddenly they are taking up three times as much room as they were before while still doing the same basic moves. The simple act of looking up instead of down makes a huge impact in presentation. Rather than drawing the crowd in, they reach out and pull them by their collective collars without resorting to the competition clichés of pointing or otherwise directly acknowledging the audience. Their enthusiasm causes everyone around them go crazy from the burst of energy before Justin and Caitlin take it back down to close their shine.
Despite the tempo differences, there is not very much difference in Justin’s approach to either dance. However, it was common for arguments to erupt on discussion boards at this time over what was kind of music was better for Lindy Hop or to let people truly express themselves.
 “Dance Qualities” discussion thread and poll on www.SwingoutDC.com started by “Tobias” aka Tobias Karlssen on 6/18/02 last accessed 8/13/07 http://www.swingoutdc.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=419 last accessed August, 2007
 “Swing Apathy” discussion thread on SwingoutDC.com posted by JSAlmonte aka Jerry Almonte aka the author of this paper on 8/8/02 last accessed on 8/13/07 3:26 pm. http://www.swingoutdc.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=588 last accessed July, 2007