The reason why I like watching good dancing is because there’s so much room for interpretation of subtleties and details. You can watch the same thing over and over again, but still see something new. Bad dancing just just gives me a headache from the the static of unclear intentions.
My friend Ann Mony (who’s website is imminent according to my sources) pointed out an interesting tidbit at 2:00 in this recent performance by Frida Segerdahl and Skye Humphries at Lindyfest last weekend. At 2:00 she waves for Skye to come over and join her.
Ann was drawing a parallel to this performance of Skye & Frida at the American Lindy Hop Championships in 2006 where Skye forgets the choreography at 2:40. He starts to swingout when he shouldn’t and not only does Frida not follow him, but she signals him to come back and laughs it off.
In the Lindyfest performance, it doesn’t look like there’s a mistake occurring. Frida is just doing that just to do it since the change in choreography from the original for that transition seems to flow pretty well. Plus she doesn’t hold out her hand to be led until right before they actually swing out. I think if he really needed to be there at the point where she waved, then she would have held her hand out earlier. Here I think it’s a nice little flourish which makes the dancing just a little bit more fun.
Frida is more clever with her hands than most people are with their whole bodies. Go back a little bit on that Lindyfest video and check out Frida’s left hand at 0:38. It’s a nice little acknowledgment of the little flub from the first time they performed that routine at the International Lindy Hop Championships about six months ago.
I’ve noticed that she does little things like that in a few other Silver Shadow routines. Check out the Shadows’ performance in the 2007 Ultimate Lindy Hop Showdown at 0:50 on the right where Frida waves at Andy Reid to join her.
In case you thought that was a one time deal, she does it again in the ALHC performance that same year at 1:37.
She’s not the only one on the Shadows that does this sort of thing. Peter Strom did it in this routine from the Savoy Ballroom 80th Anniversary in March of 2006. Check him out at 2:01 signaling the guys to break off from their circle and again at 2:10 to Andy as if they’re just making this up as they go along.
There might be a practical reason for it, but it also helps give the impression that the routine is improvised rather than a choreographed. It’s actually not too far from the truth.
Naomi once told me that she sometimes regrets that the Shadows aren’t a performance troupe in the same way that the Harlem Hot Shots are. The Hot Shots are able to practice and perform regularly which allows them to get into choreography over time and own it with their movements. I mentioned before in my post about Jordan Frisbee and Tatiana Mollman that Fred Astaire used to say that extensive rehearsals were the key to the spontaneous look that he was able to achieve with his partners especially Ginger Rogers. “You know it sort of well that it just becomes part of you.”
The Shadows live all over and only are able to get together shortly before they have to perform. Then they have few chances to repeat routines unless it’s under the same circumstances.
That Savoy 80th Anniversary piece is a good example of this. The routine was already choreographed on short notice. Frida was only able to run through it with the others Shadows a few times right before they actually did it since she was the last to arrive in New York City from Sweden with the rest of the Hot Shots that weekend. In order to make up for the roughness of the routine, the Shadows’ collective plan was just to dance with as much energy as possible because they wanted to do a good job in front of all the Savoy veterans. Skye later told me that he almost threw up afterwords from exerting himself so much through that piece.
Here’s the only other performance of that routine at the 2006 Midwest Lindy Fest for comparison’s sake.
Finally, take a look at each subsequent performance of Frida & Skye doing their famous “Twenty-Four Robbers” routine. It’s a pretty light and fun routine to begin with, but you get the sense that both dancers get more and more relaxed and have even more fun with each performance as they get used to doing it.
The first video is from the Ultimate Lindy Hop Showdown in September, 2007. The next at ALHC a month later. Then in Grenoble in the Spring of 2008.