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.

Apparently as a young child I spoke Pangasinan, the dialect of the area from which my parents are from, with some fluency, but it’s something I never kept up with. While I don’t understand them word for word, I can usually get the gist of what they’re saying based on the context of the conversation, the tone of their voices, and their body language.  So I can usually keep up with their conversation to a certain degree, but only when I’m with them in person. After traveling to the Philippines this past Spring, I’ve discovered that I’m less facile with this ability with other Filipinos. It’s very specific to my family and my parents in particular.

The other side to this unspoken understanding I have with my parents is that we don’t communicate with each other very well verbally. They speak English, but only well enough to convey concepts in the broadest terms.  This limits the level of nuance we have in some of our discussions. I liken it to an advanced dancer dancing with a beginner. The advanced dancer can do some very obvious things like hold a person close to them or do an under arm turn, but trying to do a bunch of swingout variations consecutively would usually not work out very well.

I think that’s the reason why I’m conditioned to pay attention to people if I want to know what was going on. It’s also why I’m curious about the way people communicate with each other and why I have an affinity for analyzing and admiring dance.

Awhile ago I was involved in a discussion on Facebook with a number of friends who started Lindy Hop awhile ago, about 10 years on average, but don’t come out often now. They don’t connect very well with newer dancers and feel that there is something wrong with the way people are being taught now. My short answer to them was that they’re getting old. My slightly longer answer is that part of the problem is that  they’re disconnected from the current vernacular of the dance.

The Mini-Dip is one of the simplest ways to get a sure fire smile from the person you’re dancing with. The thing is that it’s not a led or followed in a conventional sense. People just know how to do it because Frankie did it, and he told everyone it was cool, and those people pass it on in classes and on the floor. Many people who have never learned it formally just know how to do it because they’ve been around long enough to see it done somewhere. It’s just something that is part of the culture of Lindy Hop.

It’s at the end of this video, but watch the whole thing to see Peter’s NSFW reaction to messing up.

Lindy Hop is littered with all kinds of stuff like that now and will continue to be the community grows and ages. (I’m a big fan of body rolls myself) It’s like developing inside jokes with your friends or your family. It’s an informal way of measuring your relationship with those people. And the only way to maintain that relationship is to be constantly involved with it. If you neglect it, the more likely you’ll miss those little asides, and have to work harder to see where the other person is coming from.

Check out this steal dance from this past Grenoble Swing Dance Festival featuring Alice Mei, Annie Trudeau, Max Pitruzella, and Thomas Blacharz.  It’s as much skill as it is people who have known each other for almost as long as they’ve been dancing.  Max and Tommy even share their own in joke before they start by referencing their earliest claim to fame that everyone there gets because they have seen the video.  In fact, if I’m not mistaken, I’m pretty sure they may they have first performed it at this event before the viral videos.


  1. November 23, 2010 at 12:32 am

    […] November 23, 2010 at 12:31 am (Dance, Lindy Hop) 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. […]

  2. November 23, 2010 at 2:22 pm

    […] hop and dance that I know of is the one written by Jerry Almonte.  Jerry’s two latest posts, Connection Through Culture and Connection Collision, touch upon a few themes similar nature to those I brought up in my post […]

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