Lessons in Jazz Appreciation from Lindy Focus

This is the promised follow up to the A Word on Swing episode about the most recent Lindy Focus. It’s very late and I only completed it recently because I was reminded of it after writing a bit about current music in my last post suggesting bands for Frankie100. What follows is probably the least technical illustration of what makes classic jazz great for dancing as well a behind the scenes look at the behind the scenes video about Lindy Focus and A Word on Swing.

Check out the show notes for this episode on “A Word on Swing.”

Lindy Focus was by far the most fun I’ve had listening and dancing to live music. For comparison, I think that in terms of sheer numbers and talent, Frankie95 was a beast I don’t think any event should dare try to emulate ever again. 15 bands in five days including a number of featured musicians was an over the top spectacle that was harder to juggle logistically than necessary. Plus the conflicting styles of some of the bands didn’t always create a happy balance for many of the attendees.

In contrast I think that the approach to the live music at Lindy Focus presented a diversity of sounds and genres that still maintained a unity of vision that made for a more cohesively fun week of music. But you can see and hear more about that in the latest Episode of “A Word on Swing” above.

I listened to all the music I recorded at Lindy Focus on virtual repeat the entire time I edited together the show. I sort of wish I had recorded more, but it was a dance event after all . . .

Lindy Focus 64 025

There is no spoon.

I did spend a lot of time analyzing almost every frame of every second of these videos. Combined with all the interviews I’ve been doing with musicians, I’ve learned quite a bit. It’s like auditing a graduate level class on music appreciation. I thought that I would share some of the interesting/awesome things I noticed. Read the rest of this entry »

Musicians We Should Hear at Frankie100

Frankie100 is a year away and so goes the wild speculation about what it will be like. A recent comment on Facebook got me to thinking about the possible live music for this thing. Music is  the main ingredient for any dance event, but at something like Frankie100 where you’re expecting the bulk of the existing Lindy Hop population to attend, there are a lot of “considerations,” to put it politely, that you have to keep in mind.

I should note that even though I worked for Frankie95, I don’t have any intention of working for Frankie100, so I’m not working from any insider knowledge of that particular event. This is just blatant fan speculation on my part. Read the rest of this entry »

Favorite Videos and Parting Thoughts on 2012

I had so many favorites this year that I had to spread them out over several posts, (music, news, blogs, video notes, videos, videos and one more) but this last one is reserved my personal favorites and some random musings.

In putting these year-end lists together, I am reminded why I don’t bother to claim anything resembling journalistic objectivity on this blog. A lot of things I post about here and on the Facebook page involve people I know personally, and in some cases, very much so. Fortunately, I know some very talented people.

I met quite a them a few years ago when DC was a freakish nexus of Lindy Hop. It never ceases to amuse me to see the lineup of instructors at an event in some random part of the world and remember when that was just a Tuesday night. The funny thing is that no one really had being a fancy pants dance instructor on their radar. Andy still works the full time job that got him to DC. Nina had plans on being a fashion designer, and Skye was planning on getting his Ph. D  and becoming an educator. Some people kept their eyes on the prize. The Dreyer twins, Alex and Austin, came to DC to cook, and both worked in a French restaurant just a few doors down from my place. I used to imagine them busting out a random tap routine on the bar. Sometimes I would walk by and slow down, peering through the front window of that place, hoping that would be the night it finally happened. Eventually, Alex made the next logical leap to actually cooking in France. Skye still got to be educator, just not the kind he envisioned a few years ago.

Jazz Roots Dance Festival Paris 2012 – Skye Humphries & Alexander Dreyer

That’s my long way of explaining why I have I stupid grin on my face when I watch this video. Most people are see a jazz performance in Paris, while I’m thinking of late nights in a living room on 5th Street. Read the rest of this entry »

Flashback with Ramona Staffeld “Rockin in Rhythm” with Todd Yannanacone

(Note: Ramona Staffeld & Todd Yannacone’s 1st Place Pro Classic performance at The International Lindy Hop Championships was the most shared video off of the Wandering & Pondering FB page. It also happens to be one of my favorites of this year. Not long after that, Ramona contacted me to continue with her series here on this blog, but rather than go back, I convinced her to write about her most recent performance. She enthusiastically agreed, but I failed at life by losing track of the post she sent to me. I remembered it while prepping this year’s round up and rather than blathering on about it myself, I present to you Ramona Staffeld in her own words.)

Well, that’s just it right there. Who it is you are dancing with is one of the key ingredients when making and performing a piece. Off and on the dance floor, Todd and I have respect, friendship, and a sense of humor towards each other. It is the people parts that give a good foundation to work and learn. Fun and silly are priorities, and most of all, being authentic.

Our creative process was a shared dialogue of ideas and excitement. Nothing was too outrageous or unworthy of the time it took to give it a try and then make a decision. Open mind, open heart. Having a shared aesthetic and general taste made for a smooth flow, too. Read the rest of this entry »

Video Dance Highs of 2012

This is the big list. You’ve already seen highlights in music, blogs, and news. I broke off a separate post for two over achievers last week, and I’ll do two more for my personal favorites before the holidays end. I tried to cull this list down to a reasonable level. It’s still almost 100 videos, but I decided that that would be a shame to cut it down any more since there was a lot of good stuff this year. It’s already hard to choose highlights from the 64 routines, 63 separate couple spotlights, and five jam style contests at this year’s International Lindy Hop Championships, and I already mentioned how I favorited about 1000 Lindy Hop related videos on YouTube this year alone. Not making matters easier is how Facebook and YouTube both conspired to make the way I organized last year’s highlights impossible this time around.

This post is a combination of popular videos on YouTube, videos that generated a lot of chatter or “likes” on Facebook, or some other performances I enjoyed and thought were overlooked. As much as I’d like to say something about all of them, there is a lot of them. Besides, I think most of them can speak for themselves. Read the rest of this entry »

2012 Lindy Hop Video MVP’s

In reviewing dance highlights for the year, I noticed that two dancers kept popping up repeatedly. Rather than have them clog up the other lists, I thought I’d break them out into a separate post.

A Leaf on the Wind That Will Blow You Away

Out of all these performances, there’s one story that stands out about Laura Glaess for me this year. Too early on Friday morning at ILHC in August  I had to be up to take care of some issues in the ballroom. Floor trials started shortly after and a few brave and sleep deprived came in to rehearse their routines for the weekend. Laura ran through her Pro Classic routine with Mike Roberts and her Pro-Am with Dominique Pomeroy. In between, she and Mike also gave pointers to the Cleveland juniors. We got to a point where no one else wanted to do a run through, but Laura was still ready to go. She bounced up and down like a puppy and asked us who wanted to dance next, at which point Mike, Dominique, Mike Marcotte, and I collectively looked at the ground and shuffled our feet. Normally I wouldn’t turn down the opportunity to dance with Laura, but it was that damn early. Man was not meant to get up that early to dance, but that woman is.

This video is something I edited together from footage I took that morning and evening.  This video starts off with footage from Patrick & Natasha’s video because I was never ready whenever they started to dance, but you’ll see them go to town from a bunch of angles as the video progresses. One of the things that I learned to appreciate about this performance after watching it several hundred times is how well the choreography flows and compliments the music.  They don’t do anything too obvious, but it all still makes sense. They also do a great job of matching the very gradual increase in intensity of the song without outpacing it. Read the rest of this entry »

Can’t Stop The Signal: Notes on Swing Dance Video Developments in 2012

ILHC 3656

This was originally going to be part of my wrap up of 2012 noteworthy news, but there are so many video related developments that I decided to break this section out into its own post.

A columnist for at the Washington Post recently made the case for forgetfulness in an age where technology doesn’t allow us to forget. The gist of his thesis is that we naturally forget things so we only remember enough to distill important lessons from life experiences. That way you don’t stab your cousin during the holidays every time you flashback to that wedgie they gave you at the prom. Thanks to Facebook, Twitter, and blogs, theoretically you’ll be able to remember every tiny detail of your life that you commit to the ether. He argues that this isn’t necessarily a good thing because it could hinder our ability to not dwell on the past and move on with our lives. We would be better off if sites created some sort of algorithm that automatically deleted status updates and tweets and such over time.

I was with him until he brought up that last suggestion. As someone loves reading about history, the idea of purposefully throwing away visceral reactions to events great and small sounds criminal. Maybe the vast majority of these posts are too self absorbed, tedious, or ironic to be of any academic use, but they are all valuable in their own way.

I just found out about Darlene Gist earlier this year when she posted a video of herself performing a Lindy Hop routine on Dance Fever in 1986. Dance Fever was the “So You Think You Can Dance?” of the 80’s.  This was before the internet and cable TV was still in its early stages. Millions upon millions of people probably saw this performance. Yet hardly anyone in the current Lindy Hop scene knows about Darlene. Compare that to now when you only need a few thousand views on a YouTube video to be considered “Lindy Famous.”

Read the rest of this entry »

Lindy Hop News and Noteworthy 2012 Edition

Stuff happens a lot in the Lindy scene these days. As much as I post on the FB page for this blog, I still miss quite a few things. Thankfully there’s a multi-headed beast trying to keep on top of it all. Even if you can’t follow 100 blogs or so, then at least Dance World Takeover has been posting things to get your learn on while Yehoodi has been staying on top of the more “mainstream” swing news.

Despite that, there’s still quite a few things that don’t get as much publicity as it should. I know simply because a lot of it is just sitting in my queue right now. I don’t get to them mostly because of time. Having a full time job can be a pain in terms of keeping up with vernacular jazz dance. During Hurricane Sandy, while the whole East Coast of the US was locked down, I tried to post links every 30 minutes just to break the monotony of being stuck in my apartment. Even with all the time in the day, I found myself barely keeping pace with the volume of links to sort through, review, write short copy for and post.

I’ve had dreams of a full scale swing news site, but now more than ever, I’m certain such a thing would require full time involvement of at least one person, maybe more. Even an army of volunteers would require someone to keep on top of them all. Anyone interested in stepping up?

So with all that in mind, here are a few selected highlights from this past year. Read the rest of this entry »

2012 Swing Music Mix Tape

BMJB Mobtown 061

I’ve assembled some of my favorite musical moments into this handy dandy playlist that you can use as a soundtrack for your life. Consider this an alternative to all the holiday music you will be (or already are being) bombarded with in the next few weeks.

We have come to that season where I compile my favorite videos from the past year. I already got the blogs out of the way with the last post.  I’m discovering that the dance videos is going to be a bit more problematic since there were so many great highlights in the past year, and it’s not even over yet. Anyone who tells you that Lindy Hop is in any sort of decline, isn’t paying attention.

Since the dance videos will take awhile, I’ll start off by giving you a little mix tape for 2012. In picking out these performances I realized that I am heavily biased towards those I experienced in person. Video isn’t a completely fair representation of a performance, especially since live audio recording has yet to catch up with the leaps and bounds that video recording has made in the last few years. However, it’s still good enough to relive moments, or at least get a taste for those that you missed.

It’s interesting to hear how some musicians have a love/hate relationship with YouTube videos. Aside from the never ending entanglement of intellectual property issues, it’s surprising to hear their criticisms or even outright embarrassment about some performances, particularly ones that people rave about. Read the rest of this entry »

2012 Blog highlights and the List O’Blogs

Note: This post compliments my previous compilations of dance blogs done in 2009 and 2011.

I know a lot of people who don’t like blogs on principle. I have quite a few friends who don’t like dance blogs in particular. I usually just nod and smile because I don’t need to ask them why. After all, I see most of them on a daily basis. Notice I don’t say “read.” There are a ton of them not counting my non-dancing related reading, and there just isn’t enough time in the day to keep up with them all.

Still, culling this year’s list of active to semi active blogs was a little sad because of the number of blogs that have fallen by the wayside within the last year. However, without doing any statistical comparisons, I think it’s about typical for the average lifespan of any blog, dance related or not.

I think criticisms of blogs are the same reasons why I enjoy them, which is basically that anyone can have one. It’s not hard to garner a following if you blog enough and sound like you know what you’re talking about. I’m a perfect example of that. Who the hell am I? I had a solid year of constant blogging, and despite my severe drop off in productivity here, this site still gets an average of 100 hits a day. My friends like to make fun of me for being well known in a dance for reasons not related to my dancing.

The really funny thing is that what irks people is not the criticism, which is few and far between, but actually what gets praised and passed around. Once you get to a certain level or age, you pretty much know what you like or what you look for in certain things. So it annoys people when the masses get enthralled by a performance or dancer that they think, for a lack of a better term, is bullshit. Read the rest of this entry »

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