Questions & Answers

Naomi Uyama once told me that she sees two different kinds of performances.  Those that ask questions and those that make statements.

I thought of that when after I told I Karen and Andrew that I thought (and still do think) that the routine that they performed in the Lindy Hop Showcase earlier this week at Lindy Focus should win.  Andrew responded that they didn’t perform to win.  They just wanted to say something to their friends and anyone else that would see them. I really think that’s why I love watching them dance.

I’m afraid of a lot of things in life, but I’m comfortable enough with my masculinity to admit that my crush on both of them got that much bigger because of that.

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Weekly Video Highlight: The Silver Shadows’ Secret Origins and Korean Variety Show

I hope everyone is having a great holiday.  I’m off to Lindy Focus in Asheville, NC tomorrow with a sizable DC contingent.  You’ll recognize us when we roll in with the giant DC flags tied in between the cars in our convoy 😉  I recently realized that this will be the first event that I haven’t worked or DJ’d in over 4 years, so I’m really looking forward to it.  I’m tentatively planning on updating from the event since I’m just down there for the evening dances.   Until I post something, hopefully these videos will tide you over.

This first video from the Korean Lindy Revolution 2009 by way of YouTube user hiyama80, was reposted recently on the YouTubes, so I thought I’d post it here too.

btw, I fixed the Jam Cellar video link in the “Carla Heiney & The Boilermakers on So You Think You Can Dance” post.

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My Personal Favorite Lindy Moments in 2009

I had a conversation with my friend Ann earlier this year where we discussed what our greatest moments in our lives were up until that point.  She then told me that she expected Frankie95 to be one of those moments.  She brought this up since I was one of the people working on the event.  No pressure at all.

It was during this conversation that we realized that “greatest” doesn’t necessarily have to have a positive conotation.  Hitler had the greatest impact on the course of the 20th century, but I’m pretty sure we’re not going to build him a monument anytime soon.

With that in mind, “greatest” is probably a better word to describe the ultimate point of this post than “favorite.”  Although, I do have more than a couple favorite moments from this year.

One of them would be stumbling upon a jazz quartet playing in a hole-in-the-wall café in Harlem.  I had been awake for 36 hours straight on a whirlwind trip into New York City to work on Frankie95.  I was exhausted, and was looking forward to crashing at my friend Joy’s place, but the sound of jazz gave us pause as we walked from dinner.  The person running the place beckoned us in.  It was early, so we were the only people there, but those musicians had the spirit in them, like they were playing to a packed house at the Savoy Ballroom.  I hadn’t slept in almost two days but I didn’t want to leave.

Two weeks later I sat on the top balcony of the Manhattan Center watching everyone do the Shim Sham on Saturday night of Frankie95.  I’m not sure how Ann was feeling at that point, but this qualified as one of my greatest moments.  50 musicians on stage playing for over 1600 dancers from over 40 US states and 30 countries.

On one hand, I was in awe of what we had done to get to that point.  “Did we really do this?” was all I could ask myself as I watched that sea of dancers pulsing together as one.

On the other hand, I had the strong urge to punch someone . . . anyone in the face.

A noted Lindy Hop historian, who almost did punch someone in the face that weekend, told us later that almost everyone involved with Frankie’s 80th birthday had completely dropped out of the dance scene more than a decade ago.  After what we went through for Frankie95, I completely understand why.

I’m not sure what the attrition rate will be, but even before the weekend was over, I had a number of people say to me that even though that was one of the most moving experiences of their lives, they were probably never going to help out another Lindy event ever again.

I can’t blame them.  You put that much heart into something, you’re practically dooming yourself to unreasonable expectations.

I was so scarred that I spewed out almost 40 pages of thoughts and frustrations just to work things out.  It was therapeutic, and helpful in motivating me to start this very blog.  It also helped me organize my people-I’m-going-to-punch-in-the-face list so I won’t do it at random at some unexpected moment.

I could have sworn off working events, but I obviously didn’t thanks to some very good friends.

If it wasn’t for them, then I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to dance with Ramona during Peter’s soul set on the last night of ILHC.  Like most events that I work, I didn’t dance very much that weekend until then.  When I finally got to dance, I made . . . *ahem*  . . . creative use of Ramona in an inspired moment.  I’m tempted to use both of the words “favorite” and “greatest” to describe those dances.  I have a feeling that she would agree since a few days later she opened a gchat session to me with the line: “That slap on the a$$ is going down in history!”

Thank you Ramona.

I guess I should thank Tena, David, and Elliot for dragging me into Frankie95.

I’ll definitely thank Tena for talking me off the ledge right after that and also Nina and Sylvia for keeping me around for ILHC.

Thank you to Skye, Ann, Naomi, Abigail, Crista, Mike, Peter, Diane, Luke, Kristin, Sarah, Shannon and all my friends for your support this year.

Thanks to Gretta, Jeff, Bobby, Kate, Andy and everyone who comes every week to the Jam Cellar.

Thanks to everyone who comes to hear me DJ.

Thanks to all my compatriots in the trenches at Frankie95 and ILHC.

Thanks to everyone who has visited and even read my blog since I started it six months ago.

Special thanks to Judy, Chazz, and especially Frankie.

Finally, thank you Mom and Dad.

I wish many of you a Merry Christmas, the rest of you good holidays, and everyone a Happy New Year!

-jerry

Favorite Performances of 2009: Other Dances in the American Vernacular Jazz Dance Tradition

Next to last installment of my favorite videos from this past year.  Check out the other posts for Lindy Hop couple routines, Lindy teams, and social dance clips.

Adam Boehmer at Midwest Lindyfest

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Favorite Performances of 2009-Social Dances

Continuing on from my favorite videos from this year.  Check out my previous posts for Lindy Hop couple and team videos.

The title of this one is a bit of a misnomer.  Most of this is competition or performance social dance, but its all still unchoreographed improv dancing at least.

The Pro Lindy finals Camp Hollywood

Check out the right side towards the end during the all skate as two of my new favorite Southern California dancers, Kim Clever and David Frutos whip out 10 consecutive kips, sort of referencing one of my all time favorite moments from the year before where Nina Gilkenson and Mikey Pedroza brought the house down with 10 swingouts in a row.

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Favorite performances of 2009-Lindy Teams

Continuing on my favorite performances from this year.  Here are my favorite team performances.

The Harlem Hot Shots at the Old Skool Battle

This is part of a whole series of clips posted by YouTube user susannedr.  I have no idea what the context is other than that it seems to be part of some program where they dance against a hip hop crew, but there aren’t any videos of the other team.  Still, these are some inspired performances by the worlds best Lindy Hop team.  This clip in particular combines everything that the new generation of Hot Shots can do individually and as a team.

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The Lindy Loggers

We’re at a pretty quiet time in the Lindy Hop world as there are no major or minor events happening until Lindy Focus and Snowball right after Christmas.  This is probably a good time to get caught up on your online Lindy reading.

The Lindy blogosphere is surprisingly larger than you think.  When I started this post I thought I was just going to describe a handful of sites, but once I was done compiling URL’s I came up with over 50.

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Favorite Performances of the Year-Couple Routines

2009 was a bittersweet year for Lindy Hop and its assorted and associated dances.  It marked the passing the person that most embodied the spirit of the dance, Frankie Manning.  However, I think he would have been proud of the kind of dancing that he inspired throughout the world.

I just want to highlight some of my favorite performances from this year.  I’m going to break this up into several parts starting with coupled routines, then teams, unchoreographed  dances, and finally performances in other related dances.

There’s no specific criteria for these picks.  Just a some of my favorites, stuff that resonated with me for some reason or another.

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Lindy Hop and the Future Historical Record

Kelly Porter, a dancer out in Seattle, WA, is going forward with an idea that is long overdue.  She is encouraging people to talk to their older relatives about life and dancing in the early half of the 20th century and is creating a web site designed for anyone to share this information.  The site is called Jazz Era Voices, http://www.jazzeravoices.org/

This archive will be a place where you can upload oral histories and the photographs of your loved ones who remember dancing and music in the 1920’s, 30’s, 40’s and 50’s, and so share the wealth of their stories with the world.

The passing of Frankie Manning this year serves as a reminder that many first hand eye witnesses to that time won’t be with us forever.

Here is the important part: this archive will open for submissions on the 10th of January 2010, and it will close to submissions on July 21st, 2010 (what would have been my grandfather’s 88th birthday). The reason for the short time frame of the project is simple: people tend to put things off until tomorrow if they can, and as I learned from the case of my grandfather, we do not have an infinite amount of time to ask for these stories. After the archive closes to submissions I am investigating the possibility of collaborating to put together an online exhibition based on the materials collected. I will also be using this space along the way to talk about the things you send in and keep you updated on news relating to the project. In the coming weeks details of how you can contribute will be posted here, and I encourage you as you see family and friends over the coming holiday season to talk about the project to those close to you who might have memories to contribute.

I think this is a great idea, and I applaud Kelly for starting this initiative and making it easy for anyone to participate.  I’m sure she’ll have more information on her site soon, but until then I can recommend a couple of online resources that could be useful to any would be interviewers out there.

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AIR pt. 15: Yin & Yang

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”

When asked, Fred Astaire liked to describe his dancing as an “outlaw style” because he didn’t want to be confined or limited.[1] However, competitions by their nature tend to do exactly that due to the narrow focus on winning rather than creative expression. That pressure tends to curb intellectual and creative honesty as Lucy Dunne talked about after NADC 2002.  Compounding this problem is the fact that the majority of performance opportunities available in the Lindy Hop community were mostly limited to the competition events.[2]

The irony is that many people generally fear being judged.[3] This causes them to fall back onto well worn tropes such as pointing at the audience, and generally avoid taking big artistic risks in their performances.  History illustrates that that aspect of being judged has always been part of American vernacular dances and is unlikely to go away.[4] Regardless, I think that this fear contributes to the previously noted pattern of one way communication that comes from the top to the rest of the community.

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