Guest Post: The Evolution of “The Evolution of Lindy Hop” Pt. 6

Karen continues her personal dance clip tour.  I got a message that Thigpen is buying booze somewhere.  Read the other parts here.

After Basie Ball in 2004, I started to officially travel like a crazy person for dancing.  I went to the Rhythmic Arts Festival (San Diego), Swinger’s Ball (Chicago), DCLX, Midwest Lindyfest, Camp Jitterbug, Herrang, and the San Francisco Exchange.  I was thus primed for ULHS 2005, the first year it was in the amazing Varsity Theater in Minneapolis.  In my opinion this event represents a marked change in the consistency of good lindy hop.  There were so many epic moments this year, and I think a lot of that is due to Todd Yannaconne and Naomi Uyama teaming up, along with the Silver Shadows making their debut with Frida and Todd  in the mix.  Todd and Naomi brought everyone to their feet in the fast division, then the premier fast competition, by doing really intricate footwork and Charleston variations to the Wolverine’s ridiculously fast “White Heat”—and they even danced on the beat.

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Billie Holiday Inspiration

Social networking.  It works bitches.  Especially when you’re friends with people who really know their stuff.

Case in point, Rob Moreland, a Lindy DJ from North Carolina, posted one of my favorite Billie Holiday songs, “No Regrets” on his Facebook profile.  Rob said he heard it from Michael Gamble, a fellow southern DJ.  I first heard it played by Mike Marcotte here at a dance in DC.

I just think it’s a lovely, bittersweet tune which if you know anything about her life, seems to be Billie’s emotional default.

Rayned Wiles then inspired a few other fellow DJ’s to post their favorite Billie songs by offering this lovely gem, “Stars Fell on Alabama.”

I don’t think Billie Holiday really got that much play when I started dancing.  I’m not sure why that’s so because there is quite a bit out there that can be played at a dance.   It’s easy to overlook the earliest parts of her career especially compared to the quality and volume of everything that followed.  even the author of linear notes in the first CD I ever picked up of her debut work was not shy in his derision of this period.  But as you can hear, there’s a reason why she got noticed.

After Rayned posted his response, I took this as a challenge to post my favorite Billie song. It reminded of the times I used to DJ with Rayned, Mike, and others at the old K2 Dance Studios.  We would rotate in and out, sometimes alternating sets that lasted between an hour and sometimes as little as two songs.

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Guest Post: The Evolution of “The Evolution of Lindy Hop” Pt. 5

Karen is cool because she writes.   I am lame because I don’t.  Still, way cooler than Thigpen though.  Read the rest of the series here.

In 2004 I finally started getting back into what was going on in the national scene thanks to Chance Bushman.  By then the DVD compilation “Cakewalk to Lindy Hop” was circulating amongst many of my friends and I was exposed to clips like Shorty George in “After Seben” and Whitey’s Lindy Hoppers in “A Day at the Races.” I’m sure I had watched these before at  some point, but it wasn’t until then that I started to really understand them and appreciate the historical significance.  We were all getting back into Charleston and dancing “raw”, so these two clips were really fundamental for learning partner Charleston stuff.   Andrew and I knew we had to start the evolution routine with Shorty George, so we chose this clip, leading into the “Day at the Races.”  We specifically chose Leon James’ and Norma Miller’s spotlight because it was goofy and we also wanted to make sure to pay tribute to them as individual dancers.

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Guest Post: The Evolution of “The Evolution of Lindy Hop” Pt. 4

Karen Turman keeps blogging so I don’t have to.  Read the other parts here.

Between 2001 and 2004 I’d taken a break from the hard-core dance life and was a casual local dancer for a while, enjoying only events in Minnesota such as Midwest Lindyfest and ULHS, thanks to Amy Johnson.  I was still hanging out and practicing from time to time with Mike and other friends, during which time he very proudly showed me a clip of the “Mad Dog” routine from ALHC 2002, or NADC, I can’t remember which.  Everybody I’d ever heard of or seen in any competition was in that clip.  And despite the poor quality of the video, it was still possible to feel the incredible energy and rawness of the dancing.  This was the first time I’d really seen people successfully bust out fast dancing with aerials and all around ridiculousness.

(ed. note: The clip Karen is talking about is probably from Danvers New Year’s Eve Dance Extravaganza 2002-03 which made the rounds via Mad Dog’s website.  I’ve also included the original performance from ALHC 2002)

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Guest Post: The Evolution of “The Evolution of Lindy Hop” Pt. 3

Karen keeps writing, so I keep posting.  Oh, and Happy Birthday Thigpen.  More or less on time.  Read the previous posts in this series here.

Back in 1999, every Sunday we would all go to Lindy by the Lake in the Lake Harriet Bandshell, DJ’d by Jesse Miner, now of San Francisco.  We would all do the Shim Sham to that really cheesy song, not “T’ain’t what you do,” but “Wanna learn the shim sham?”  I thought it was the greatest thing ever.  It was like a show, we’d just all line up and do it on the bandshell stage to all the people passing by.  I’d actually already learned the tap version of the shim sham because I’d been a tap dancer for years before I started swing.  Andrew and I also definitely wanted to include the shim sham as a more modern and community-oriented Frankie reference.   To be fair, Frankie would have used “T’ain’t what you do,” which is a way cooler song, but we were going for silliness here.

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Greatest Hits Pt. 2: The Hits Strike Back

This is why I don’t post off the cuff that often, because I forgot a whole section of thoughts I wanted to include in my last post.  I talked about why DJ’s can and have to play lots of unfamiliar stuff.*  Simply because if they don’t then everyone stagnates.  The dancing, the music, your breath, your mom’s breath etc.

However, I’ve come to realize that it’s easy to forget that most people that come to a dance very rarely listen to this music outside of the dance floor.  Many don’t listen to it at all.  The few that do probably just have those well worn hits that they really like, and they get excited to dance to those same tunes when good dance partners are around. Read the rest of this entry »

Greatest Hits

I DJ’d for for my friend Gretta Thorn’s (Now Gretta Thorn Stone) wedding a few weeks ago.  She’s one of the founding members of The Jam Cellar.  And even though there were a good amount of dancers there, she wanted to keep the rest of the guests comfortable, so me and my DJ’ing partner for the evening, Luke Albao ended up playing the the wedding party greatest hits for the night.  That’s the reason why the last song appears on the playlist below.

We had a lot of fun strategizing how to get from “Twist and Shout” to “Celebration” while working in a Madonna song in there.  We thought people might think we were being too cliche, but they were having too much fun to notice.  At the end of the night Nina Gilkenson told me that she hadn’t danced that hard in a long long time.  This coming from a woman who gets flown out to a big dance event every other weekend.   This got me to thinking about why those songs are popular and also about Lindy Hop’s own hit parade.

This week I DJ’d Jam Cellar’s New Blood Night. It’s something we do every once in awhile to get new people and old friends in the door.  Basically if you bring a person that’s never been there before, then both you and that person get in for free.

I decided to go retro with my set, dubbing it on Facebook as New Blood, Old Hits Night.  Most DJ’s have a stash of overplayed hits they keep in reserve if a night isn’t going for them.  I thought it would be fun just to wheel them out all at once especially since I haven’t heard a bunch of them in a long time. Read the rest of this entry »

Guest Post: The Evolution of “The Evolution of Lindy Hop” Pt. 2

More goodness from Karen Turman.  Thanks to Andrew Thigpen for correcting the title of the last post.  Bastard.  Read the rest of this series by clicking here.

Once all of us in Minnesota started really getting into Lindy Hop in 1999, Mike would mail-order videos of Camp Hollywood 1998, Can’t Top the Lindy Hop, Buck Privates, Groovie Movie and Hellzapoppin’ and we would all go over to his and Amy’s apartment (nicknamed the “Swing Pad”) and watch footage until our faces were numb.   The “Can’t Top” video had a special significance for me—it was the first time any of us had seen Frankie Manning, Steven Mitchell, Ryan Francois, Sylvia Sykes, Sing Lim, and Ron from London.

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Guest Post: The Evolution of “The Evolution of Lindy Hop”

As promised, Karen Turman is here to keep things interesting.  This is part one of many posts to come about her ILHC Showcase performance with Andrew Thigpen.   I’d like to thank Karen for letting me post this super interesting and very personal account of their labor of love.

In July 2009 Andrew came to Santa Barbara for the first of what would become many weekend practice sessions.  We had just performed our first choreography, fondly named “the Hoedown”,  at Lindy Focus, and were watching Judson Laipply in his Orange Crush T-shirt doing his  “Evolution of Dance” clip to get new ideas for it (he quotes “Cotton-Eyed Joe”).   We ended up just enjoying the clip in its entirety—then  I looked over at Andrew and said “What if we wore Orange Crush T-shirts and jeans and did the evolution of lindy hop?  Andrew immediately googled “orange crush t-shirt,” clicked “buy” and we started brainstorming.[1] This became a project we would work on for over 20 months.   Many people have been asking me about this routine, so I’ve decided to share my thoughts on the process from an autobiographical perspective (I’m thinking of John Cusack in “High Fidelity,” organizing his record collection autobiographically).   Reuben Brown has created a playlist on youtube of all of the clips, and Ben Yau has written a thorough blog based on the historical significance of each clip we chose.  I feel like most of us have our own stories about the significance of a lot of these clips, so here are mine.

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The Shape of Things to Come


I’m not going to be one of those people who is going to apologize for not updating his blog in awhile because really, I never promised you a regular posting schedule.  However, I do realize that a ton of people hit this site every day for some reason, so in order to satiate your thirst for knowledge and entertainment, stepping into the role of designated blogger for the next few posts is the lovely and gracious Karen Turman.

Karen made the mistake of sending me a little treatise about her now legendary “Evolution of Lindy Hop” showcase routine at ILHC.  After some badgering, begging, and pleading, I convinced her to let me post it on this very blog just because I think it’s super interesting.  Plus she doesn’t know it yet, but I want it someplace convenient so I can cite it for the stunning conclusion to my own “Artistry In Rhythm” paper.

I think Karen’s paper fits nicely with the themes we’ve been exploring here and I’m pretty sure you’ll enjoy reading it as much as I did.  I’m going to post it in several parts over the next few weeks so as not to hit you over the head with too much awesome all at once.  Plus I need time to format it and shove in some helpful videos.

Speaking of which, I’ll post some of my own videos of bands and dancers that I’ve recorded over the past few weeks to break up Karen’s dance geekery.  Somewhere in there I’ll try to comment on ULHS and find some other old posts to toss onto the site until stuff settles down in my own life for me to post regularly again.

I also want to give you a sneak peak into the ILHC LED Talks that happened this year.  The plan is to get them online to share with the community as soon as I can get them edited nicely and posted onto the ILHC website. If you have any expeience with such things, please drop me a line.

Overall, the talks were super informative and thought provoking.  I thought I’d share a snippet of an important discussion with event co-directors Nina Gilkenson, Tena Morales, and Sylvia Sykes where they discuss their vision for ILHC.

Video credit: David Soltysik

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