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. 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.
We ended up stringing together about 25 clips, however we originally had a much longer list of stuff we wanted to include but time constraints were an issue. We pared it down to the bare minimum and it was still almost a minute over the 4 minute time limit for showcases at ILHC. So we just decided to go with what he had and not worry about the rules, we just wanted to put something different out there. Basically, this choreography is about honoring the creativity and innovation of our friends and heroes, showing one perspective of the journey of lindy hop since the 1920s, while acting as a manifestation of all of the countless hours spent watching footage over the years.
Andrew and I are extreme footage-watchers. I’ve always been glued to the screen since I started dancing in 1998–I watched “Swing Kids” every day with my very first dance partner in Orlando when I worked at Epcot Center that summer. We would try and break down the aerials in a very unsafe way, and I remember him talking about a cool turny-pivoty move they did which was probably Robert Sean Leonard’s bastardized swing out. After dancing all summer at Atlantic Dance, I came back home to Minnesota where my friend Hilary Davis and I started really getting into the dance after meeting Mike Faltesek, Amy Johnson, Andy Siegel, Chris Evans, Erin Lundeen, Peter Kirwin, Nick Hommez, Laura Johnson and eventually Peter Strom at the Wabasha Street Caves in St. Paul. Mike and I lived in the same dorm for a few months and we would meet up at lunch and grab a boombox and my Big Bad Voodoo Daddy CD and go rock out some East-Coast and aerials in the beautiful ballroom in the basement, right along the Mississippi river. It was in that same ballroom that I took my first lindy hop workshop with Eileen Goreen of Land of Loons and subsequently with the Rhythm Hotshots’ Eddie and Eva. We were honored to watch them perform part of their “Jumping at the Woodside” choreography–I was completely blown away.
That year my college roommate and I watched “Swingers” literally every day and wore out the videotape (Yes, pre-DVDs and youtube!) Andrew and I chose to include the song “Go Daddy O” more as a tribute to the Neo-swing era, this being the quintessential song. The dancing in this scene in the movie wasn’t particularly moving for me at the time (I was more into young Vince Vaughn and his awesome dialogue: “How’d you do that twirly whirly sh*t?), however this song was the jam, trust me. Andrew and I knew we needed to choreograph some stock East-Coast moves, such as the pretzel and some cheesy dips, so this was a no-brainer.
We also wanted to include the Gap Ad because the song was very recognizable and everyone had been affected by the ad, not just swing dancers. Later I learned that two of my favorite people, Kim Clever and David Frutos, had actually choreographed a lot of the moves used in that ad. I’m glad we were able to at least indirectly include Kim and Dave in our routine since they have really contributed so much to swing dancing in California. “Swingers” and the Gap Ad really got swing dancing back into the mainstream.
Although I mentioned the impact of “Swing Kids,” we wanted to stick with just two very recognizable moments from that era, and “Go Daddy O” had a lot of potential goofiness while the Gap Ad was just so huge at the time. We really debated about putting part of the “Sing sing sing” sequence from “Swing Kids” in there, but our routine was already over 5 minutes long.
 We referenced Judson Laipply’s choreography a little bit throughout our routine during some of the transitions between clips, eg the stretching in the beginning, the nonchalant brushing our shoulders and jeans bit before Mama Lu Parks, the eye-brow smoothing gag before Go Daddy O, and the body roll into the shoulder brush during the Todd and Emily reference.