Size Matters and other Annual Ruminations

I started this blog three years ago because there wasn’t much Lindy related to read online. I thought I might as well start my own site. Much has changed since then, and now everyone has something to say.

I think that’s great. Some people don’t think so. I’m discovering how little faith my friends have in free speech for the masses. I’ve been accused of being a bit of a populist though. One thing I’m realizing is that what I’m looking for in online discussions is probably not going to materialize because it comes down to the fact that our scene isn’t that big.

Of course you have to ask, who are we including in this definition of “scene?” If we counted everyone who has ever taken a Lindy Hop lesson, then you could say tens maybe even hundreds of thousands of people. But you know most of those people never stick around. Do we count those people who just call themselves swing dancers? Those people that do a lot of side by side Charleston, but view any other moves using more than 6 counts as a foreign concept? Do we count the Blues and Balboa communities? I’m sure some people would object to including anyone that can’t swingout, but if that were the main criteria for being a member of this community, then we’d have to kick out most of the people who call themselves Lindy Hoppers.

Do you count all those local dancers that come out every week, but never travel or are not even interested in the latest YouTube clips of Skye & Frida? Do you count those dancers that made the finals of every competition they entered six years ago, but now only come out to the local dance once in a blue moon?

I think about these things because I get the impression that many people, especially those newer to Lindy Hop and its associated dances treat it like it’s much bigger than it is. And out of those people, a few of them seem to think that they can get away with things as if no one would notice or call them on their bullshit. Read the rest of this entry »

Lindy Hop in 2011 Review

I was distinctly unproductive on this blog this year, so I’m going to make up for it by commenting on (almost) everything in one shot.

In looking up all the videos and blog links on this blog’s Facebook Page for other posts I noticed some things and was reminded of a few more. Obviously, this can’t be a comprehensive recap of the entire Lindy Hop scene, but I think it’s still pretty amazing that all this information is in relatively easy reach. Read the rest of this entry »

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.



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 »

Guest Post: The Evolution of “The Evolution of Lindy Hop” Pt. 5

Karen is cool because she writes.   I am lame because I don’t.  Still, way cooler than Thigpen though.  Read the rest of the series here.

In 2004 I finally started getting back into what was going on in the national scene thanks to Chance Bushman.  By then the DVD compilation “Cakewalk to Lindy Hop” was circulating amongst many of my friends and I was exposed to clips like Shorty George in “After Seben” and Whitey’s Lindy Hoppers in “A Day at the Races.” I’m sure I had watched these before at  some point, but it wasn’t until then that I started to really understand them and appreciate the historical significance.  We were all getting back into Charleston and dancing “raw”, so these two clips were really fundamental for learning partner Charleston stuff.   Andrew and I knew we had to start the evolution routine with Shorty George, so we chose this clip, leading into the “Day at the Races.”  We specifically chose Leon James’ and Norma Miller’s spotlight because it was goofy and we also wanted to make sure to pay tribute to them as individual dancers.

Read the rest of this entry »

A Year’s Worth of Wandering & Pondering in One Post

When I started my blog I read all kinds of nifty tips to make it awesome and get lots of people to read it.  Oddly enough, all of them fail to advise you to post something actually interesting.

This may sound a bit conceited, but I think most of the stuff I post here is pretty interesting to read.  Maybe not all of it.  Just 98%, give or take a couple percentage points.  I should know—I read it all the time, and I never get tired of me.

One fun tip talked about summarizing your blog’s content every once in awhile, so for all of you new readers here who keep searching for Skye’s non existent website or information on a certain convicted lindy hopper’s sentence*, here’s a handy dandy guide to all the other stuff you’re missing.  Or if you’ve already read them, here’s your opportunity to go back and relive the pain and/or the glory. Read the rest of this entry »

Happy Birthday, Frankie!

What else is there to say?  This is from Frankie’s 88th Birthday Celebration in 2002.

My favorite DC memory of him where he took us to school.  In the midst of an improvised Big Apple during a jam, he jumps up out of his chair from the sidelines, stops the presses and shows the kids how its done.

And my favorite “new” video of him with his son Chazz Young.  I don’t get tired of watching this.

Learn more about him at his official website:

Frankie95 Highlights and Observations Pt. VI

Part six of my Frankie Manning’s 95th Birthday Festival recap with BONUS found footage of the Hellzapoppin recreation from the Sunday Show in addition to the regular grammatical edits from the original post.  You can see a compilation of the rest of the videos from Sunday here on my site.    This note was originally posted on June 23, 2009.

I grabbed a radio and headed upstairs to check out how everything was progressing. That’s when I found out that we were in more trouble than at any other time in the festival.

It was a little before 6:00 pm, our scheduled time to open the house for everyone to get their seats, and the Frankie Show crew had not made much more progress from where I had left them a couple hours earlier on my printer quest. I figured that the house doors would be delayed in opening, but no one knew for how long. 20 minutes? Half an hour? Longer? They were still figuring it out. Read the rest of this entry »

Visionary Project Interview with Norma Miller

With all this talk about Frankie, I don’t want to overlook one of his surviving peers from the old days, Norma Miller.   Fortunately, I randomly found the recently uploaded clips of her doing an interview with the Visionary Project.

Here Norma gives some interesting background on Hellzapoppin’.  It’s a very sobering reminder that those days weren’t just about dancing.

Read the rest of this entry »

Frankie95 Highlights and Observations Pt. V

Part five of my Frankie Manning’s 95th Birthday Festival recap with a few grammatical edits from the original.  You can see a compilation of videos from Saturday and on Sunday here on my site.    This note was originally posted on June 23, 2009.

George Henik reminded me that the Saturday night didn’t end with the live music. Anyone paying attention will note that the Saturday late night was the only time when we featured an extended DJ set. The reason was simply because we didn’t want to put the pressure on musicians to try to follow the show that preceded it that night. However, I think we left the night in the good hands of Jesse Miner and Rayned Wiles.

They kept the crowd going so well that they didn’t want to stop dancing even after they left the ballroom after 4:00 am. This was obviously not late enough for the 100+ dancers who loitered in front of the Manhattan Center until someone got the bright idea to just start clapping hands and get everyone dancing again. Read the rest of this entry »

Echoes of a Revolution

In 1965, long before coming to Capitol Hill, future Congressman John Lewis led 600 people on a march from Selma to Montgomery Alabama to question Governor George C. Wallace’s role in subverting black voting rights in his state.  Wallace is the same man who less than a year before famously declared “segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever.”

Having already been beaten several times from participating in the Freedom Rides and numerous other marches throughout the South, Lewis crossed Edmund Pettus Bridge into a wall of state troopers.  So bent on conflict, those officers had already donned their gas masks and had their billy clubs at the ready.  They had every intention of kicking Lewis’s ass.  Not only did he and the marchers keep going forward to meet them, but they did so with no intention of fighting back.

Congressman Lewis still bears scars from that day now remembered as Bloody Sunday.

The role of the song in that video in that powerful moment is one of many stories retold in the documentary Soundtrack of a Revolution whose main focus is the role of music during the Civil Rights movement.  Seems like music would be a minor thing within that epic struggle against institutionalized prejudice and hate, but this film illustrates how it was an important thread that bound people together in a time when they couldn’t afford stand alone. Read the rest of this entry »

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