Follow This

Happy New Year!

I’m super busy this week, but I hope to put up my final part of my favorite 2010 videos series later this week.  I’m re-writing it (ok, I never finished writing it) because of some fun conversations and performances at Lindy Focus last week.  But I can’t make any promises because I’m taking care of the new bosses.  Then some time after that I’ll put up some thoughts about Lindy Focus.

In the mean time I thought I’d point out the cross blog conflagration over Bobby White’s ill worded analogy about following.  (btw, how’s that MFA program working out for you, dude? Just kidding)  It triggered a lot of thoughtful and interesting responses.  It’s cool to go through them if only to see how well connected the Lindy blogosphere is these days.  Go Team!!

It also proves my theory that you can generate a lot of attention by talking some s#!t, even if it is inadvertent.  I’m just glad that I’m not the one drawing the fire this time around.

I don’t have time to add anything substantive, but I will point out my own semi-relevant old posts on the matter:

In addition I strongly recommend that you guys take a very critical look at the Invitational Lindy Hop Jack & Jill from this most recent Lindy Focus because there’s a lot of stuff happening in those clips that is very relevant to this discussion.

Have fun!

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11 Comments

  1. jackthevampire said,

    January 5, 2011 at 1:08 pm

    Hey Jerry—

    You asked about the original post: It went out with the Jam Celar email the week before, so it’s on the blog:

    http://thejamcellar.com/blog/2010/12/21/more-morally-ambiguous-than-naughty-vs-nice/

  2. DL said,

    January 6, 2011 at 3:21 am

    Wow, I’m surprised I missed the whole storm of comments. (Hopefully I’m not beating a dead horse, but…)

    I pretty much want to say “This.” to all of Ann’s post. I also like Richard Power’s write-up on partnering: http://socialdance.stanford.edu/syllabi/partnering.htm
    Below are the more relevant paragraphs regarding following, but it’s worth it to read his whole page (which also has some interesting historical notes and thoughts on leading and partnering in general).


    The main reason I don’t like the term following is that it doesn’t accurately describe the role. Women do not “follow,” they interpret signals they’re given, with a keen responsiveness that is not passive.

    As with a language interpreter at the United Nations, a dancer’s ability to interpret signals requires intelligence and experience. Guys, if you want to make a good impression on your partner, show her that you respect this intelligence and experience. How? If she does something that you didn’t intend, recognize that she still made a valid alternate interpretation of the signals you gave her. She didn’t make a “mistake”.

    […]

    The follow role is mentally and physically active, like the flow state in sports.

    We admire the football player who zigzags brilliantly through the field, completely aware of his surroundings and responding instantly to each moment, rather than the one who uses brute force to steamroller straight into the opponents, or the one who slavishly follows a game plan which is no longer working. The nimble, intelligent player is in the flow state of relaxed responsiveness, paying highly active attention to possibilities. Ideally, both the lead and follow roles in couple dancing do the same — paying highly active attention to possibilities.

  3. Michael Seguin said,

    January 7, 2011 at 1:50 am

    I’ve read through the the various links that Jerry recommends, and it seems to me that the Lindy Hop scene is running the risk of over-intellectualizing something that is, at its best, intuitive. You can tell this is happening when people stop writing in simple English and begin peppering their sentences with vague and meaningless jargon, the sole purpose of which is to impress (or confuse) without engaging in the difficulties of actual communication.
    To illustrate this principle, I will henceforth inform every follow I dance with that:
    1) She (or he) is an autonomous creative agent, for whose role I have a deep and abiding respect.
    2) Her role is in no way different from my role, because, as a feminist/postmodernist/BA holder/survey course taker, I am thoroughly aware that any distinction in “roles” is fundamentally a methodology of oppression (or some such shit).
    3) I view our relationship for the next 3.5 minutes as collaborative and, although I am by misogynist convention styled “a lead,” I categorically repudiate, abjure, and discountenance the notion that this appellation refers in any way to my gender/sex/sexual orientation/taste in furniture. These things are arbitrary and we may switch at any time.

    With this exciting drivel in mind, I would like to thank Jerry for consistently high-quality posts that require knowledge rather than parade it.

  4. Mary X said,

    January 7, 2011 at 3:16 am

    Michael,

    Your response is venomous. I do not understand why the conversation of domination/subordination as it relates to gender roles/identity/sexuality in dance elicits such a negative reaction. Can you elaborate on why you are so angry about this topic?

    -Mary X

    • Jerry said,

      January 7, 2011 at 9:57 am

      It probably has something to do with the fact that he’s a grad student. In classics no less. I think angry is the default in a program that literally has no future. btw, thanks for the kind words Michael. Good to see you’re using your academic training for something useful like commenting on a Lindy Hop blog.

  5. Michael Seguin said,

    January 7, 2011 at 2:01 pm

    Mary X,
    Jerry is right. I spend all of my time watching people engage in indulgent theoretical parroting. I don’t mean to say that the entire conversation consists of such stuff, but I do mean to say that when people approach a subject with a prepackaged vocabulary lifted straight from whatever school, they inevitably undermine their own purpose.
    Let’s take the issue of gender roles. Feminist/gender theory is loaded with great stuff, and I enjoy reading the people who founded what later (and very unfortunately) became schools.
    What irks me is when obviously intelligent people become followers (pun intended). Rather than making the admittedly difficult choice to think through a subject, they mindlessly apply techniques developed by others. This causes trouble because the theories and techniques in question were often put to use in different contexts, and all contexts are not alike. This doesn’t mean that they don’t apply to dance, just that we need to be careful and clarify our terms. In fact, the safest bet is to use your own terms, because then you can be certain that you are actually thinking and not parroting.
    Most importantly, the urge to apply alien theories to new subjects can be unforgivably pretentious in the worst sense. It seems reasonable to assume that not all readers are conversant with academic cant. They don’t necessarily understand the writing, but they are browbeaten into respecting it in the same way that I take all of mathematics on faith–because it sounds awful fancy. Dancing, even when you bring “gender roles” into the mix, is not so arcane that we need to freight it with jargon. I would bet good money, for example, that the majority of this blog’s readership could not really pinpoint the difference between sex and gender. If we’re trying to communicate, we need to think about the audience, not the sound of our own voices.
    In terms of pretentiousness, these kinds of conversations always make me laugh when I apply the beginner test. There is a whole range of dancers out there, many of whom simply enjoy rock-stepping all night, or doing traditional lead-follow Lindy Hop. If we begin bombarding the dance with theory of any kind, we run the risk of alienating people who are out to have a good time and couldn’t care less about their status as “creative agents,” whether or not they are being “dominated” by someone they just asked to dance, or whether they are playing into the hands of the white-male boogeyman.
    This strikes a cord with me, because I spend a lot of my time working on the local dance scene, and when I finally get some of these kids to come to an event or interact with the fancy-pantses of the dance world, I have seen them turned off by pretentious, pseudo-academic dance geekery. The beginners are not only the life-blood of the scene, they keep us honest.
    Lindy Hop criticism (just saying it makes me laugh) is pretty much virgin territory, and I would like to suggest that before it gets sucked in to the stultifying, homogenous dreck of theory and academia we make a concerted effort to speak to as broad an audience as possible and think as carefully as we can about a subject we all presumably love.
    Lindy Hop will never truly be a “street dance” again, but that doesn’t mean we can’t do something to keep it well on this side of boring institutionalism.
    Jerry,
    Given that I will never get a job in my field (and, with the way things are going, wouldn’t want one if they offered it), I guess posting on your blog is the next best thing. Wanna give me some money?

  6. Sarah said,

    January 7, 2011 at 3:13 pm

    I really don’t know what Michael is talking about. It’s like he and I have been reading two different discussions. I am reading very easy-to-access posts in simple English, all of which are pretty light-hearted and not filled with the academic pretentiousness he sees. His only contribution to this discussion so far has been the opposite of all that.

    1. A hostile comment here about how stupid we all are.
    2. A comment that tells us our discussion isn’t worth having, and accusations that our thoughts and feelings are not our own. By saying that we’ve merely regurgitated someone else’s thinking and not actually addressing the topic at hand, he deflects attention away from the ideas and toward the people writing them. People he does not know.

    Discussions that question the status quo are important to the community and the individuals in them. If someone feels he or she is above that discussion, he or she can abstain from commenting or choose to comment in a way that isn’t nasty. No one else has been nasty. It’s safer to make fun of people than it is to engage them. But when you’re finished being mean, we still don’t know how you really feel about leading and following and you could have turned others off from sharing their own thoughts and feelings about Lindy Hop and their experience in it.

    I really hope that others reading these discussions are able to come at it more positively, give the ideas a chance, and consider how their own experiences fit in. This doesn’t need to a conflagration, or an argument (and it hasn’t been so far). And the implications of change in the dance will only go as far as people choose to change their behavior. This discussion does not constitute a threat to Lindy Hop, but rather an opportunity to look at ourselves and analyze our own behavior. People, art forms and Lindy Hop cannot continue to be better unless these discussions happen sometimes.

  7. Rachel Green said,

    January 9, 2011 at 3:36 am

    Me thinks these responses from michael were perhaps intended for the previous blog?

    Plus, the Internet is meant for scathing comments of all kinds. I welcome Michael’s comments with a biohazard suit and lava resistant gloves.

    • Rachel Green said,

      February 4, 2011 at 3:46 pm

      This comment wasn’t posted by me. It must’ve been one of my friends commenting on my account by accident. Just a clarification!

      • Jerry said,

        February 4, 2011 at 6:10 pm

        Wait a minute. How do we know this last comment wasn’t posted by someone other than Rachel? Now I can’t trust anything posted on this site any more. Dammit!

  8. Alex M said,

    January 13, 2011 at 2:44 am

    There is a vast difference between the validity of a model and the validity of the application of said model. Analogously, there is a vast difference between owning knives and stabbing somebody with knives; a useful tool can be misapplied. That said, one can attack the application of an approach with a strict scope; I think nuclear engineering certainly shouldn’t be applied to lindy hop, but that doesn’t mean I think nuclear engineering is invalid or that the pursuit of enhancing lindy hop culture is not valuable.

    So, regarding the topic at hand — is the lead/follow dynamic inherently patriarchal, gendered, or otherwise wrong in the jargon of whatever framework our context is? Maybe. Does it matter? Well, dancers are enjoying themselves, so who’s to say if there’s something wrong, as long as everything is consensual?

    There’s an opportunity cost here. If we’re analyzing dance, that’s time spent not dancing. I’ll venture to propose that the dance floor is not only the best teacher of dance but of the societal dynamics that accompany it as well. I don’t think there’s any harm in spurning blog-quality academic critiques, as they’re unlikely to develop an expansive and coherent model of lead/follow dynamics or say anything that hasn’t been said hundreds of thousands of times since enterprising university sophomores first started scratching each other bloody in a clamor to fellate Derrida the most thoroughly. The most rigorous approach I’ve seen so far has been a few paragraphs and then a YouTube clip. That is complaint, not analysis by any stretch.

    The heart of the issue is that one could certainly apply [feminist | postmodern | neorealist | futurist | what have you] critique to lindy hop, but should one expend the effort to realize that possibility? One could also apply a critique of choice to digging holes. Perhaps the lexicon of culinary arts is too gendered; why is it that a heated pan is always referred to as passive, as lacking agency — as a recipient of ingredients, rather than that which actively facilitates their joining? That could very well be an important question. There are lots of potentially interesting questions that could be examined in the light of certain academic approaches. Can we sufficiently deconstruct the lead/follow dynamic to such a point that we achieve a revelation about the way we approach partnered dance? Go write a thesis on it; I’d read that. If the subject deserves academic approach and intellectual rigor, then it should be expounded upon in an environment more befitting than the, uh, blogosphere, as it were.

    Anything besides that is talking just to get heard, this post not excepted.


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