Flashback with Ramona Staffeld: Partnering with Finian Makepeace at ALHC 2000

This is the third installment of a special feature that I’m doing with Ramona Staffeld. We’re looking at some very old school clips of her past performances and getting her reactions.   The first one was from the 1998 American Lindy Hop Championships and the last was of Ramona dancing with Frankie Manning at Midsummer’s Night Swing at Lincoln Center in 1999.  This one is of her competing in the Junior division at ALHC 2000.  Everything after the video below is written by her with a few hopefully helpful edits from me.   Have fun!

Well I’ll be darned, I had totally forgot about that piece. Once again I am humbled by prospective. We so easily forget what we have accomplished in the past, the accumulative body of our work. It’s so easy to focus solely on the future, what we think we should be doing, what we want and dream, loosing sight of the gratitude for what has come before. It is from this place that I am moved by this clip.

That piece was such a product of our inspirations at that time. We idolized the Carolina Shag dancers. Looking back, I understand now how important it is to have someone to look up to and, essentially, copy.  As an artist, my inspiration comes from involvement. We were heavily involved in a stylistically diverse community.

As for the dance itself, my first thoughts were of it’s lack of difficulty and it being so slow, but the more I watched the more I saw the value of our movement. Moving slowly takes a lot of control and relating that to another person ( as we do in partner dancing) is like breathing in time with them and the music. This brings me to the most important point for this piece. Finian and I were so in tune with each other, we danced the same dance. Our dramatic natures fit perfectly. He believed just as much as I did, and I can say that honestly about all of the other Moochers. Our connection as dancers was based on a common vocabulary, but even more in what we valued and our love of music.

Watching Finian dance makes me smile and giggle. He always had this humorous style that worked every time. I loved partnering Finian because he took whatever we were doing very seriously; especially being funny. His natural charisma was always turned on. We were acting and dancing, story telling. His way of being encouraged my way of being. During those formative years of adolescence we egged each other on. In this way he is a part of me and my movement.

One of my favorite moments in this number is when I wrap myself around him, he picks me up, and we spin. He took such good care of me. When we practiced together, it was respectful and always brimming with ideas. His attention to detail matched mine. We cared about what our heads were doing and what lines we were making with our arms. His work ethic from track and field matched mine from my early days of figure skating and then ballet. Our passion was fundamentally the same.

Clearly I could go on and on. It seems the last point has something to do with sensuality and romance. I personally have always loved this song. It was the rhythm and the intensity of Nina Simon’s piano playing that transformed me every time I heard it. What’s so gorgeous is how seemly simple the lyrics are, although when you look through the peep hole, you see a whole world behind it. This song and this choreography are perfect examples of how I have always enjoyed and found great pleasure in simple movement. Complicated does not necessarily equal greatness. Or maybe it’s not so much simple that I’m talking about but the space. I have always valued space for breath and life to happen in dance and music. That way, it never dies.

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