Live to Suck

Sarah Breck and Dax Hock were on the television show “Live to Dance” recently.  Unfortunately for them, Dax injured his back before their performance in the semi-final round. However, I think it probably was for the best because it gave the judges something to talk about other than the dance itself.

Seriously, they talked about the injury, the music selection and the energy of “The Lindy Hop,” but no one talked about the dancing itself.  And does anyone else find it insulting that they didn’t even acknowledge that Sarah was even there?  After all that, do we really want to hear their opinion of our dance?

Because of the injury, there were no aerials or stunts, just straight up social dancing. Make no mistake, this was a very good performance.  Could have it been better?  Probably.  I thought their debut performance together last year was at least.  Ultimately, I don’t think it would have made any difference.

In every appearance of Lindy Hop in a major media outlet before this, there was always some sort of complaint or excuse about its presentation. Too many aerials or tricks, dancers not good enough, or they were just not real Lindy Hoppers .

Well, we finally gave it to them this time. Professional level Lindy Hoppers just dancing  probably the best example choreographed social Lindy Hop you’ll ever see on network television. In the end, only one judge really liked it while one disliked it and another was ambivalent.

Given the way the show has been billed with Paula Abdul giving verbal blow jobs even to terrible dancers, you know you’re in trouble when the best she can muster is “meh.”

Believe it or not, this was actually way better than I thought it could have been.

I’m hearing the chorus already: “Maybe if Dax wasn’t hurt.”  “Maybe if there were some aerials.” “The judges just don’t get it.” Etc.

I think we just need to readujust our expectations of the way people perceive our dance.

It’s not that most people don’t get Lindy Hop. They get it well enough just fine.

They also just don’t care.  Get over it.

I like to wax poetically about our dance as much as anyone else , but it really isn’t for everyone as evidenced by the fact that most of your friends, family, and co-workers wouldn’t be caught dead in a beginner swing lesson no matter how many times you invite them.  That we got one third of the judging panel to like it is a way better percentage than I would hope from a random selection of regular viewers.

If it’s any consolation, the ratings for “Live to Dance” are falling faster than a thing that falls really fast on something that will make it fall even faster. At this rate, if by some miracle the show doesn’t get cancelled before the finals, there won’t be anyone watching it anyway.

Despite that, I know it’s a bitter lesson to swallow: That no matter how much you are true to yourself or how much effort you put into something, everything won’t always go your way.

You won’t always get that job you applied for.  That guy you gave your number to won’t always call you back, and your “friend with benefits” won’t fall in love with you no matter how many times you sleep together.

And not everyone is going to love your chosen form of American Vernacular Jazz Dance. That’s life. After you cry yourself to sleep tonight with that knowledge, go live the rest of it.   Then get some dancing in.


  1. Greg said,

    January 21, 2011 at 12:26 am

    That’s because real social dancing is about the way things feel to the couple, not about how it looks to an audience. The only reason we go crazy watching good dancing is because we are totally in there with them, feeling how amazing that dance would be, how musical it is, wishing we had just done that.

  2. Brett said,

    January 21, 2011 at 12:52 am

    As far as the judges are concerned I completely agree. What did surprise and impress me though was the audiences reaction. Despite the lack of aerials and relative “flash” they gave a standing ovation. Maybe the judges didn’t get it, but I think the audience did.

    Of course we’ll see what happens when the votes roll in, but even that only shows who the viewers liked best and doesn’t mean that the they didn’t appreciate Dax and Sarah’s performance.

    As far as other Lindy Hop performances on other shows, I seem to remember the Lindy Hop community being far more critical than the judges and hosts on the other shows.

    I think the only thing that can be concluded about last night’s episode is that “Live to Dance” isn’t worth putting a lot of stock into. But it can’t hurt to expose more people to quality Lindy Hop.

  3. craigsparks said,

    January 21, 2011 at 8:22 am

    Its nice to hear an honest assessment of the show, and of Dax and Sarah. The two of them have really represented this dance I love better than I’ve ever seen it on T.V. before, but they aren’t the perfect saviors of lindy hop either. One thing that often occurs to me when I see lindy on these types of shows is that this is a super difficult dance with a very specialized skill set. I often think that the average viewer just doesn’t fully get or appreciate that. Nevertheless, its an entertaining dance to watch, especially in a pair as polished and thoughtful as Dax and Sarah.

  4. Rachel Green said,

    January 21, 2011 at 10:42 pm

    Here’s the thing: For there being three judges, there wasn’t much real dance criticism being made to anyone on that show. Did anyone watch the first couple who’s form of dance was completely unidentifiable because all they did was fancy lifts and they were praised like gods for it? That says a lot more about the show and about Paula Abdul than about who likes or cares about Lindy hop, or any other dance for that matter.

    Dax and Sarah’s appearance on this show not only exposed real Lindy hop to millions or thousands or twelve people, it also gave a shout out to the existing Lindy hoppers by giving a grounded, real social dance performance. It was musical and clean and beautiful. Maybe I’ll care more about what the judges say when they get real ones.

    • January 24, 2011 at 1:01 pm

      I agree, I think the exposure is important. Someone’s going to look at Sarah and Dax’s performances on this show and decide they want to learn how to do this. I think about where I would be today without the Gap khakis commercial…I probably wouldn’t be swing dancing.

  5. January 24, 2011 at 9:35 pm

    Honestly, I did not think it was a wow performance; I’ve seen many Lindy routines I thought were more interesting than this one (although honestly I am still searching for a Lindy routine that impresses me as much as the best of Jordan Frisbee’s West Coast routines). It’s easy to say people don’t “get it,” but I think often people who are really into something expect everyone to see the same small, technical things they see, when really it’s about how entertaining it is. I didn’t see that episode of Live to Dance but the only other routine I watched from it on YouTube, White Tree Fine Art (who I suspect may be the couple mocked by one of your other commenters), was vastly more interesting to watch.

    I don’t think the problem is audiences get Lindy but don’t care. Put a 20-year-old Frankie Manning on stage and people would go crazy for him. For that matter, put Dawn Hampton and John Dokes on stage *now* and people would be really entertained. The truth is, competitive Lindy Hop now rarely has the excitement it did in the early days (I once saw a video of Frankie in Hellzapoppin’ intercut with some Harlem Hot Shots routine that showed the difference between raw excitement and prissy technique).

    In other words, the problem is not that people don’t care about Lindy Hop, the problem is they don’t care about what is currently being done in Lindy Hop. I still believe that the right performers doing the right routine would get a huge reaction. Nothing against Dax and Sarah, who are very talented, but that was not a routine that any reasonable person would expect to blow away anyone outside of a Lindy competition. And even at a typical Lindy contest it would probably not have been the most entertaining routine there.

    • February 1, 2011 at 3:11 pm

      @Charles: You know Dax was injured, right, and couldn’t do all the things that would have made it exciting?

      @All: We all know that the injury destroyed their chances. The injury took out all the “pop” that brings an uninformed audience into the dance. Being the dynamic dancers they are, I really feel that they were cheated of an opportunity to put their best foot forward, so to speak, and so were we.
      As a national community we’ve been trying to represent ourselves andd our dance on these shows since they started. Rarely do we get a partnership that is both a great connection with a layman’s audience as well as a connection with each other and the Lindy Community. Sarah and Dax could have brought this to the lime light. It’s a shame that their first routine was only granted 43 seconds of airtime, but nobody foresaw the injury.
      I feel we need to keep trying, to continue to sent our best dancers into the [inter]national spotlight. No, it may not be what the judges and the audience are looking for, but eventually it’s going to stick. I leave it to our best to sort out what it takes, but we shouldn’t give up — nor take it personally.

      • February 1, 2011 at 4:00 pm

        @Shawn, yes, I know he was injured. But the original post was saying this was still excellent Lindy, in spite of Dax’s injury, and that the result is a sign people just don’t appreciate Lindy Hop. Whatever the reasons for this performance turning out the way it did, my point was only that this is not the performance you use to decide that the public really just doesn’t get Lindy.

      • Jerry said,

        February 2, 2011 at 5:24 pm

        I have a much longer reply in mind, but life is in the way right now. In short, I actually think that this is the performance you use to decide that the public really just doesn’t get Lindy because it is more representative of what we do on a regular basis. I’m sure Frankie and the rest of Whitey’s in their youth would kill on this show, but that would not be representative of what 99.99999% of the current lindy population is capable of. Nor are most of us ever even in a position to execute anything more complicated than a frog jump on the social dance floor, never mind re-create Hellzapoppin.

        Sarah and Dax operating at less than 100%, just swinging out is exactly the kind of thing the vast majority of people will do when they learn Lindy Hop. Actually, most of us can’t even hope to do it as well as they did. My point is that once we get over our own fanboy/girl reaction to our dance, it’s easy to see why it would not appeal to so many others.

        However, this is not a bad thing. A further (and much lengthier) explanation is forthcoming. Hopefully sooner rather than later. Until then, feel free to discuss some more.

  6. February 2, 2011 at 5:55 pm

    I don’t believe there is any partner dance that, done as a basic dance, the way people do it socially, would win a major national TV talent contest. To say the public doesn’t like Lindy because they’re not impressed by a bunch of swing outs is like saying people don’t like Argentine Tango after they failed to vote for a couple that simply walked around the floor and occasionally did an ocho. Performance is not the same thing as social dancing. You wouldn’t see something like this ( on the social dance floor, but it’s very entertaining (and would have garnered more votes).

    Performance dance is social dance on steroids, and putting social dance against performance dance, social dance doesn’t have a chance. But that’s true of *any* social dance, not just Lindy.

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