Favorite Performances 2010: Introduction

I watch a lot of Lindy Hop clips.  And Balboa. And Blues. And Charleston. And even the dancey dancing.  I don’t watch very much else.  I stopped watching TV several years ago after my cable got accidentally cut off.  I didn’t have it turned on again after discovering how productive I became.  That didn’t last very long before YouTube hit the scene.  It took awhile, but now there’s a pretty steady stream of American vernacular jazz dance clips to kill my free time.

I originally thought I would do a weekly update of fun stuff I found, but I like to go beyond, “Hey look! This is eff’n kewl!” and provide a little context.  Theoretically this would have made my year end list easier to compile.  It didn’t take me very long to fall behind and I stopped about halfway through this year.  I still favorite videos on YouTube like a mofo, foolishly thinking that I would be able to at least search just those clips, but it doesn’t look like Youtube lets you do that.  At least this made going back through the year a little easier.

There really is no method to my favoriting madness.  The actual dancing in a video doesn’t necessarily have to be good for me to like it.  Given the volume of videos I see, I tend to appreciate effort more than execution. Random things will often jump out at me in a clip that have nothing to do with dancing.  I’ll even favorite videos of dancing I don’t like if only to watch it later to make sure I don’t.  I have some vague hope that I would help compile some sort of sociological/anthropological/psychological study/historical record of our scene. Until then I’ll have to settle for “Hey look! This is eff’n kewl!” along with the occasional wardrobe malfunction and people falling down.

Or in this case, thrown.

One thing that jumped out at me as I prepared these lists is how much outside factors that have nothing to do with dancing have an effect on the way you perceive a dance.

Check out this video of Giedr Paplaityte & Mindaugas Bikauskas performing in a showcase competition at this year’s Lindy Shock.

At about 1:00 in, something pretty hysterical happens, but you have no idea what it is from the angle of the video.  Now check out a performance of the same routine a couple weeks later in Poland

First take a second to think about the fact that the first video was taken in Budapest by someone from France and the next in Poland recorded by someone from Russia.  I think the couple is from Lithuania.  That’s kinda mind blowing right there.

Anyway, now we have a view of the performance from the front along with a full frontal of the hi-larity.  It’s a solid routine, but for me, something is still missing.

Now we’re back to Lindy Shock, but this time we have an up close, well lit, HD video.  What really nails the comb gag for me is how the leader no sells the sh!t out of it with his stone face expression.  But the flip side is that we see their faces for the whole thing, and honestly they look more than a little nervous and their movements a little tentative.  It’s still a good performance, but other than that one moment, the routine looks stronger from the side than it does from the front.

What the first video does have that helped it get posted by a few people I know on Facebook is a good shot of the crowd reacting to the comb thing.  So even if you can’t see it fully, the crowd helps sell it in place of the performers.

Check out these videos of Karen Turman and Andrew Thigpen’s Evolution of Lindy Hop at this year’ International Lindy Hop Championships.  What’s the difference?

For me, it’s the way Patrick Szmidt films it on the second video to include a part of the audience because their reactions help shape the way I react to it.  That’s why I’ll link to that particular video when I need to.  I would love to see video from the other side, of the audience reacting to that piece.  How much money would you pay to see a shot of Steven Mitchell reacting to being ayodi yodi’d at?

While we’re on the subject of ILHC, look at this video from the first one in 2008.

The Annie Trudeau & Max Pitruzella again in 2009.

I’ll let you in on a secret (which isn’t one if you were at both), but both events were in the same exact room.  It’s amazing what some better set dressing and an adjustment of the room lighting will do for a performance.

Now check out the differences in mood for these performances

Last I checked, there were about a dozen versions of The Silver Shadows’ Frankie95 performance out there, but I haven’t found one that’s perfect.  They all each have some weird quirk from the camera work to the video quality to the editing.  Th Lindyfest performance lacks the atmosphere of Frankie95, but it does make up for it by getting up close and personal to the dancers.

It’s incredibly hard to get the emotion of a performance or the excitement of the crowd reacting through a video.  Think about the way the crowd reacts to Frida Segerdahl & Skye Humphries and Annie & Max’s swingout duel at the end of last year’s Champions’ Strictly Lindy Hop division.  I still get chills hearing the crowd get louder with each swingout.  But it still doesn’t beat the memory of being there in person with the electricty in that ballroom cranked up to 11.

The thing that has really blown me away about videos from this year is enormous leap in video quality of YouTube clips.  That’s due to the fact that they removed limitations on length and file size of videos earlier this year.  This can be a curse as much as it is a blessing.

I love this video of Nina dancing with Nick for all the wrong reasons.  Mostly because of the expression on her face through most of it, which was captured with a super expensive camera getting high definition video so clear that I almost feel like I can reach into that screen and ask for the next dance.

Technology is getting pretty amazing these days.  Check out this video of Mikaela Hellsten & Oscar Markusson in competition last year from Norway (i think) which was broadcasted on Swedish television (I could be wrong, I’m just going on vague information on the YouTube profile)

I previously mentioned a paper I once read detailing why there used to be very little scholarship on dance compared to other arts.  Technology is helping to fix that.  In fact I don’t think it’s very bold to say that it’ll play a major role in the continued growth and development of the modern Lindy Hop community (along with Blues & Balboa).  There is a catch though.

Fred Astaire once famously declared “Either the camera will dance, or I will.”  As you can see, it’s relatively easy to make bad dancing look awesome.  Ultimately, I can only hope that the technology won’t distract us too much from the dance.

But that’s where the human element comes in.  I got a camera this year and I’ve tried taking a few videos myself.  I now realize how much a pain in the ass it is concentration it takes to film videos.  You need to constantly pay as much attention to the camera as you do to the performance.  My deepest thanks to guys like David(congratulations by the way), Patrick, and everyone else who takes the time to record, edit, and upload videos.

With all of that being unnecessarily said, I finally get to my original point which is to announce that I’m going to be putting up a series of posts highlighting my favorite videos from this year.  They’ll be divided up into 5-9 posts which will theoretically go up automatically while I’m away for the holidays (ah technology), so they’ll be plenty to look at over the next couple of weeks.

On a final note, I’ll be at Lindy Focus next week.  I hope to see more than a few of you there!

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10 Comments

  1. December 21, 2010 at 6:29 am

    Hey 🙂 Just a quick correction – The recording of Giedre & Mindaugas from Dragon Swing was made by me and I’m Polish, not Russian – although there are probably some Ukrainian recordings of this performance too 🙂

    • Jerry said,

      December 21, 2010 at 7:59 am

      My apologies. I actually meant the third video was recorded by someone from Russia. I think.

  2. Breanna said,

    December 21, 2010 at 11:13 am

    I’m hoping we get to dance at Lindy Focus. I’ll spend my daytime hours nerding out about the clips you put up 🙂

    • Jerry said,

      December 22, 2010 at 1:26 am

      Lookin forward to it!

  3. Tonya said,

    December 21, 2010 at 11:35 am

    You should check out all of the amazing numbers from the jump session show that are posted on YouTube. Just search jump session 2010.

  4. Freddie said,

    December 21, 2010 at 6:08 pm

    I totally agree how much lightning can change the impression caught on film. That also includes shooting angle, here’s two clips of Thomas and Alice from the same event, taken a few meters apart. One looks really nice, one looks steril.

    • Jerry said,

      December 22, 2010 at 1:23 am

      Good point. Amazing what a small distance and different camera will do.

  5. December 22, 2010 at 9:16 am

    […] out the introduction to get an overblown description of what I take into consideration when watching […]

  6. January 7, 2011 at 7:49 pm

    I’m always interested in what people think makes for a better swing dancing video. I personally feel that zooming in on the dancers makes for a much more exciting video. Good lighting also very important (Take note: event coordinators). If you’re in a dark room, HD is meaningless – the video will be grainy. Editing between several cameras can make for a great video (and can make bad dancers look good), but it’s too time-consuming for amateurs like me. I think a single camera helps capture the view you would get being at the event, though you don’t get to see the crowd reaction. Thanks for posting your thoughts, Jerry.

    -Dave


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