Giving Thanks

I’m thankful for quite a few things this weekend.  First off, I’m thankful for all the kind words from everyone concerning my grandfather both online and off.  A good chunk of my family went to the Philippines for the funeral, which I couldn’t make, but  I’m also thankful to my extended Lindy family for providing a warm substitute.

Especially to Naomi and her family for hosting me for yet another Thanksgiving.  Also To Nina and Michael for hosting a fun post Thanksgiving dance party complete with a dramatic late night reading of soft core erotica by Nina.  If you ever wonder who is the crazier of the two, Michael is always game for a competition

My favorite part of this video is the way it slows down for the couple of seconds at the end; just enough to capture the look of horror on everyone’s face except for Michael’s, whose look I can only categorize as pride.

At this point I guess Nina is used to hanging with the crazies.  Inspired by the above video, Andy Reid reminded me of this one from ALHC 2002. Read the rest of this entry »

Connection Collision

I’m going to start off with this new clip because it amuses me to no end.  All building on a point I was making last week.

Nina Gilkenson & Nick Williams at a recent workshop in Kansas

Two of the best dancers in the world, not necessarily used to dancing with each other and showing it.  The story is all on Nina’s face.

Just for comparison’s sake, here are a few recent examples of them dancing with more regular partners. Read the rest of this entry »


My grandfather was a simple animal farmer.  He raised chickens and pigs for a living , and there are still some roosters still wondering around.   They didn’t crow, but they looked like they were taunting me to let me know that they could at any moment.

Selling eggs and piglets is how he and my grandmother sent my aunts and uncles to college.  He was a hard man.  His main condition to his children was that they didn’t fraternize with the opposite sex until they were done with their education.  It didn’t stop most of them, but he did bust one of my aunts.   Upon discovery of her relationship, he gave her $100 (US)  and a blanket, and promptly disowned her.  He mellowed out years later, and eventually built her a house next to his.

A few years ago, my mother’s brothers and sisters (there are 10 total including my mom) decided to build a huge house on my grandfather’s land for him to live in and all of them to retire to.   Grandpa objected at first, but his animal farming business went bankrupt after his health started to decline.  He’s not doing very well these days, but he’s at home because there’s nowhere else to take him.  He spends most of his days sitting on the porch in his wheelchair.  He doesn’t remember very much anymore.  My mother tells me that one of my aunts just finished a three week stay with him and he couldn’t remember who she was or that she was even there.

My grandfather’s English was never very good, and he’s now near deaf and blind.    People still talk to him, but it usually involves repeatedly yelling, point blank into his ear.  After numerous attempts to identify me, he asked how old I am.  I told them and they loudly relayed that information to him.  After about a minute, he turned in my general direction and and said in very clear english, “You’re old.”

I swear he had a glint in his eye, the same one I remember as a kid when he visited us in the states.  My parents would normally speak in their home dialect, but they switched to English during an argument when he was there.  I looked over the dinner table, and saw a little twinkle in his eye that seemed to tell me that he knew more than he let on.

I wrote that last Spring during my visit to the Phillipines.  I wish I had more to say about my grandfather, but I only met him a few times and I pretty much used all the interesting stories I know about him.  I’m sure I’ll hear more of them over the holidays.

As I waited Manila Airport for my flight out to Japan, I got some food from a small store attended by a young woman.  From my incredibly privileged position, I couldn’t help but think how much it must suck to be up hours before dawn cooking for travelers in such a cramped space for not very much money.  As I thanked her for my food, it occurred to me that she was relatively lucky compared to many of the people I had met there, living in poverty with little to no means of creating a better life.

I was able to visit my grandfather one more time before I left.  This time around, he wasn’t very mobile and couldn’t leave the bed.  Despite everything happening to him physically and mentally, he still recognized me which is remarkable since he didn’t recognize much of anything by that point.  I could say I’m lucky, but a lot of that is because of the efforts of him and my grandmother to put most of their 11 children through college.  Without that education, it would have been very difficult for my mother to come to the states where she would raise me to sit around and blog about Lindy Hop.

I spend quite a bit of time on this blog talking about the visual aspects of dance, but hardly anytime talking about the physical aspects of touch in social dancing.   I noted in a recent post on Yehoodi that talking about dance has only become practical recently because technology now allows people in different places to see the same thing.  This is part of the reason why I don’t address that physical aspect of touch.  I just don’t feel I can do it justice with words.

I thought about this as I sat next to my grandfather isolated from the chatter around us because neither of us could participate in the conversation, albeit for very different reasons.   At one point I put my hand on his arm because it was the only way I could let him know I was there.

The last thing I did before I left was hold his hand one more time.  I consider myself very lucky for that opportunity.

Rest in peace Grandpa.

O ULHS, Where Art Thou?

I’d like to be as honest as possible on this blog. Because of that I tend to shy away from negative criticism of events or performances. The scene is pretty small, and I’m pretty aware that any kind of chatter is bound to have some impact on teachers being hired or events succeeding or failing. At the same time I don’t want this blog to be just about sunshine and rainbows either. So talking about other events especially competition events, (and ones I have not attended to boot) is a little dicey for me given my work with the International Lindy Hop Championships. I usually get around this by just commenting about videos, but in the case of the Ultimate Lindy Hop Showdown, its getting harder and harder to do that without putting those videos into some sort of context. Read the rest of this entry »

Connection Through Culture

My parents visited me this weekend which gave me a lot of time to think about a few things.   Dance related and otherwise.  My mother cooked dinner because she bought me this new fangled cooking machine and wanted to show me how to use it. And by show me, she just did everything herself as my dad and I watched a movie. Even though we were far away from where they raised me, I found myself immersed in familiar sights, smells, and sounds.

My parents speak English fairly well. My mother’s is better than my dad’s. But they mainly speak Pangasinan or Tagalog to get their point across to close friends and relatives or just to each other. It used to annoy me growing up. Not so much anymore. I’ve come to appreciate what it means to be able to fully express yourself in the most comfortable way. Read the rest of this entry »

Guest Post: The Evolution of “The Evolution of Lindy Hop” Pt. 9

And so it ends.  Read the rest of Karen’s video clip trip down memory lane here.

We had already set the choreography by Winter 2009, anticipating that we’d probably need to add a moment or two  from that year before performing it at ILHC 2009.  We chose to put a reference to the Silver Shadows’ Tribute to Frankie Manning from Frankie95.  This was the highlight of the entire festival for me, such a beautiful gift to honor Frankie’s memory.   It also served as a modern day reference to Frankie Manning and what he did for the dance community.  We knew we already had two Silver Shadows references for the ending, but we really didn’t think we could live with ourselves if we left this one out, so we just tacked it onto the beginning of that sequence.

Read the rest of this entry »

Jam Cellar: The Musical

A couple weeks ago I referenced the guest DJ show The Jam Cellar did for Yehoodi Radio a couple of years ago.  In addition to 10 of our only best DJ’s contributing their favorite songs to play at the Jam Cellar, the executive producer, Jesse Miner encouraged us to be as creative as possible with the program.

We didn’t need that much prodding.  Since a number of the Jam Cellar crew at the time were pretty musical, we decided to write and record our own theme song for the show.  Here it is in two parts.

The Opening Theme

For those of you who want to sing along at home here are the lyircs as written by Luke Albao and Naomi Uyama. Read the rest of this entry »

Guest Post: The Evolution of “The Evolution of Lindy Hop” Pt. 8

The penultimate chapter of Karen Turman’s autobiographical tour of inspiration.  Read the rest by clicking here.

In January 2008 Mikey Pedroza asked me to partner with him for a group routine with Laura Keat and Jeremy Otth for the Jump Session show at Camp Jitterbug in Seattle.  I was so flattered and excited to be included in the show.   Mikey really wanted to do a spoof on the groove era of lindy hop.  So he introduced me to a whole bunch of clips from 2000-2003 that exemplified this style very reminiscent of West Coast Swing, all using some serious micro-musicality.  Huge pants and body rolls were a must.  I definitely remember the UFO pants at Herrang 2000 and Janice Wilson’s class on body rolling in lindy with Jay Z’s “Big Pimpin” as the soundtrack.  The clip we kept going back to in order to steal moves was Todd Yannacone and Emily (aka Jo) Hoffberg’s “Love me or Leave me” routine from ALHC 2001.  At the time, I’ll admit that we were poking fun, but the joke was on us—that stuff was extremely hard to execute and Todd and Emily nailed it.   This clip has turned into one of my very favorites.

Read the rest of this entry »

Guest Post: The Evolution of “The Evolution of Lindy Hop” Pt. 7

Almost there.  Read more Karen awesome here.

ULHS 2006 was another epic event, especially the fast dancing division.  This was the first time that Showdown was really published via youtube, and that particular comp went totally viral and is now one of the first clips that comes up when you search for “lindy hop.”  We really considered quoting Nick Williams and Ria Dibiase and their incredibly innovative aerial inspired by a dance scene in the movie Idlewild, which garnered them first place in the coolest competition of the year.

Read the rest of this entry »

Believe It x2

It’s not too often that you get to hear the same band with the same personnel play the same song on the same recording date and give it two entirely different feels.

The band I’m referring to is basically a one time deal called “The Chocolate Dandies.” This particular aggregation recorded for Commodore Records in New York City over 60 years ago on May 25, 1940.  They made six recordings that day including two versions of “I Can’t Believe That You’re In Love With Me.”

The first version was brought to my attention twice by two separate people.  Skye Humphries first mentioned it to me last summer, and then I later heard Naomi Uyama play it while DJ’ing at The Jam Cellar one evening.

This is actually called “I Can’t Believe That You’re In Love With Me #2,” but I heard this one first. Shoot me.

It’s pretty slow at about 127 beats per minute, just barely skimming the line between being able to swingout to it and straight up ballad.  The thing that helps blur that line is the playing of the front men who will all speed up as often as they slow it down during their solo’s without changing the overall tempo.  This is a master class on how to swing.  The effect at this tempo gives the song a nice dynamic that keeps listeners and dancers on their toes without confusing them.  I think it’s just a gorgeous song to dance to.  Not pretty or cute.  I’m talking about the definition of beauty for the ears.

Read the rest of this entry »

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