The State of the Lindy Online Disunion

[Note: I added a section about Bug’s Question of The Day into this post because of an oversight on my part and because its hard not to talk about online communication in the dance scene and omit one of the most popular sites right now. I also posted the additional section into the comments in case you don’t feel like reading the whole thing again.]

From the wall of the Facebook page for this blog:

Dear Jerry,

I have never been this into facebook stalking someone I don’t even know. Thank you for all of the amazing posts.

Sincerely,

Miranda

Wandering & Pondering – JSAlmonte

You’re welcome. Now you know how I feel stalking an entire community.

-March 18, 2011

When I first started dancing, I became as obsessive as the next person and devoted much of my waking hours to learning how to get “it.” When I wasn’t doing it, I was researching it online. But back in the early aughts, internet resources weren’t organized or accessible. Video was rare, and sometimes only after an eternity of downloading a couple of megabytes before searching for the correct codec for one of a half dozen possible media players that could process it. There were a few websites offering tips, but mostly they were instructors just giving you enough to convince you to take lessons from them.

Discussion boards were the main places to go, and I hit those with a vengeance. All three of them at the time: Yehoodi, Jive Junction, and SwingoutDC. When conversation didn’t keep up with my curiosity, I delved into their archives looking for just about anything related to the mechanics of the dance. I ended up copying and pasting over 100 pages worth of posts, which I still have somewhere, divided into various topics such as styling, musicality, technique, etc. I still regret that I didn’t properly annotate all those posts detailing the early thoughts of people like Peter Loggins, Justin Zillman, Jenn Salvadori, and so many others.

Even back then, I don’t think that many people realized how much information by knowledgeable people was out there. The hard part was wading through all those posts trying to figure out who knew what they were talking about and who was BS’ing. Fortunately, living in DC, I had the luxury of being in a scene with a lot of people who knew their stuff. From there I figured out what their usernames were and then observed how they related to other online personalities. Who they deferred to; who they gave props to; and who they conflicted with.  Then figuring out the real names and then tracking down VHS tapes of their dancing as the final litmus test of their knowledge.

That’s what separates the Lindy Hop online community from others. Any schmoe can type all day about whether Kirk is a better captain than Picard (although my money is on Sisko), but the best way to know who can dance the dance is to see for yourself or even feel for yourself in person. To truly be a part of a social dance community like ours, you have to get out from behind the keyboard and show up to the dances.

…………..

It didn’t take long for discussion boards to pop up for every city. Sometimes they had more than one depending on their local politics. I learned a lot about dancing and the culture in general that way.

However, it’s a popular myth to say that those boards lost importance as social networking tools because of Facebook. In fact, most boards were fading long before even Friendster became popular. In part nine of my Artistry In Rhythm paper, I noted that a Yehoodi thread in 2002 about the North Atlantic Dance Championships was one of the last times many high level dancers converged on an online discussion topic en masse. Even by then, many of those dancers were avoiding online forums.

The simple fact is that talking about dancing is difficult. Those dancers most knowledgeable about it simply lacked the time and patience to deal with the more aggressive and/or obtuse posters. They were the first ones to start leaving, and as time went by, more and more people followed sensing the diminishing critical mass.

I’ve also noted how important The Ultimate Lindy Hop Showdown was in allowing people to record their own dance footage. Combine that with the ever increasing easiness in distributing that footage online-culminating in the introduction of YouTube in 2005-and it made it easier for dancers who knew what they were doing to simply demonstrate their stuff on the dance floor rather than write about it.

So discussion boards faded; many of them closing outright. The thing that has surprised me the most is how long it has taken for Lindy Hop related blogs to take off.

When I started this blog just under 2 years ago, there were only a handful of blogs out there, and most of those have stop publication since then. However, within the past year, maybe even the past six months, the Lindy blog-o-sphere has exploded. Read the rest of this entry »

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