Five Holy $#&%! Moments That Changed Modern Lindy Hop

A comment on Facebook got me thinking of moments in Lindy Hop. Not just good dances or dancers, but singular moments that make you reconsider every assumption you had about the dance.

Twenty-four Robbers by Skye and Frida or anything by Stefan Durham  and Bethany Powell are great performances as a whole, but I’m talking about a short sequence, a single move, or even a footwork variation that turned the entire scene on its head.

Everything that happened in something like the ubiquitous ULHS 2006 Liberation final isn’t the same because the whole thing rocks from start to finish. There isn’t a single defining moment.

Similarly, lots of aerials and assorted “flash and trash” can make a crowd jump or stop the heart for a few beats, but what separates the following moments is how they affected the Lindy Hop scene afterwards. In honor of one of my favorite websites, I’m presenting my picks in chronological order. Read the rest of this entry »

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 »


This is a little project I did because I recently bought a new camera, and now I am basically teaching myself how to use it in addition to learning photography and videography from scratch. It’s been something that I’ve been wanting to get into for awhile now, and just decided to jump to it.

Other than being an unabashed fan of the Boilermaker Jazz Band, I did this mostly as an exercise in learning how to cut between multiple video angles. Btw, thanks to David Soltysik for letting me play with the original files of his recordings from that night. You can see his footage on his site.

I know it’s not close to perfect, but it was a good learning experience. Looking back, I may have been too much of a slave to include certain shots simply because I like looking at them. It was a great opportunity to catch the Boilermakers in rare form as they were on fire for most of that night as evidenced by your best set in the house shot of Rich tearing apart his drum set.  Plus there was the energy of the DCLX crowd and the dancers in the circle.

Everything is in chronological order, other than two short shots, and starts with the end of the second encore song: the theme from Sanford & Son. This was a compromise from showing the whole thing, and I wanted some time to acknowledge the band and show off the fun little bits that happened in between the two songs. David cut out at the end of the song, and I was about to pack it in myself, but I kept rolling on a hunch—really a hope that they would play again and they did not disappoint.

In case you’re wondering, the camera next to the drummer, Rich is the new camera: a Panasonic Lumix GH2. I was on the opposite side of the stage recording with an old point and shoot camera, a Sony Cybershot W350. That one was an impromptu decision earlier in the evening when I realized that I had it with me and decided that if I’m going to do this, then I’m just going over the top with it. David is recording with his hand held video camera in the middle of the crowd.

For those of you trying to decide on your next camera purchase, this is actually a good opportunity to compare video between a point & shoot, a dedicated video cam, and an almost DSLR. Although, it should be noted that despite the fact that the Cybershot shoots in HD widescreen, the rendering settings I used to create the final video was not kind to that camera’s footage and made it worse than it was.

Enjoy this little love letter from me to the Boilermakers and everyone at DCLX. Comments and critiques would be appreciated.

Wandering & Pondering visits the GMU Swing Club

I did a thing for the George Mason University Swing Club a couple of weeks ago where they asked me to do a video presentation.  I’ve done something like this a few times now, and it’s always a little weird. Mostly I take this as an opportunity to show some old clips of good dancers dancing really, really badly. But for this, I had to take it a little more seriously an try to string some important life lessons to it, just so it seemed sorta legitimate on paper at least.

I say it’s weird because it wasn’t that long ago when we would hang out on some random weekend night and sit around watching these videos like families watch videos of their camping trips. Now here I am in an institution of higher learning breaking it down for people who weren’t even in high school when many of these videos were recorded.

Recording this presentation was mostly just for me to test my new camera, but the GMU students seemed to enjoy it, and it’s not like I have a regular blog ready to post. So I’m posting this part which has some discussion about various topics that I think would be of some interest to the Lindy Hop public at large.

You’ll have to pardon my rambly nature. Part of it is that I’m not a very good public speaker and the other part of it is me trying to sound somewhat legit about swing dancing. I’m not sure I’m convinced myself.

Also, I embedded links to various videos I talk about for reference. Like I mentioned before, this is after I had shown a bunch of videos, so I frequently reference stuff from earlier in the evening. I would have included that portion, but it was too difficult for me to edit in all the videos and my commentary on top of them. Maybe another project for another time.

Dance Competitions: Judging and Getting Noticed

I haven’t been posting a lot because I keep working on very grandiose essays, and subsequently not getting very far. But I have been writing. Mostly emails to friends about different things. Since I’m not getting far in my regular posting, I thought I’d pull out one such email, clean it up a bit and post it. It’s a little bit of a cheat, but the advantage is that I have a lot of these, so I may be posting these more often. At the very least, they’re somewhat cogent thoughts on stuff I think people will find interesting.

This particular post is in response to a question from a friend about competition judging and how to stand out in a contest, which is why it goes back and forth between the two subjects. 

I should add the disclaimer that even though I work for The International Lindy Hop Championships, I don’t have anything to do with the judging, so don’t take this a guide to winning. I also did not talk to any of the judges about these particular contests. I mention how some judges could interpret a dance, but these are all hypothetical views. My main point is to illustrate how different people can look at the same thing, but not see the same thing.

I will start by answering your first question directly: that the way anyone sees dancing is very subjective. That’s the whole issue in trying to evaluate a creative thing like dancing. Competitions like the International Lindy Hop Championships try to mitigate that by bringing in many experienced judges in the hopes that most of them will come to some sort of consensus. Because everyone is coming from a different perspective, we don’t expect them all to agree. I don’t think there’s any combination of dancers that could.

Sidebar: Several years ago I was at a competition watching one of the contests with a judge not judging at that time. He turned to me and pointed out how terrible a particular dancer was moving out there. This was Friday night. Sunday rolls around and we’re watching a different contest and that same dancer comes out. That judge turns to me and points out how good that dancer is, without realizing that we were looking at the same person that almost made him physically retch two days before. Go figure. Read the rest of this entry »

Boston Tea Party 2012: What’s Your Name?

I had an amazing dance towards the end of the Saturday late night of Boston Tea Party last weekend with someone I had never met before. You’ve probably been there: Dancing all night, too tired to keep going, but can’t muster the motivation to leave. I can’t really pinpoint what it was about the dance that made it great other than the stars aligned for several minutes of serious fun. At the end of that dance, we breathlessly exchanged names and thank you’s. If this was several years ago, I probably would have pressed for more details, at least a full name and a city of origin so I could stalk her on MySpace and get her to come to the next event (DCLX yo). Instead I smiled politely, turned around to rejoin some friends on the sidelines, and promptly forgot her name.

However I did not forget Nina’s knee spin

Read the rest of this entry »

A Word on Swing #2

Presenting the wildly anticipated second episode of A Word on Swing.

This has been a pretty fun project for us. As you’ll see, it’s still a little rough around the edges (and a little bit on the inside). What you see here, is the sum total of my video editing experience as I’m treating this video blog as a learning opportunity. Same with Bobby who put together our first episode.

This particular episode snowballed very quickly from the fact that we were going to be at the same weekend dance for the first time in awhile. If that sounds familiar, that’s because that was the premise of our first show.

In this case it was a dance that The Jam Cellar was hosting at the historic Glen Echo Park with The Blue Crescent Syncopators. Bobby came up with the idea of interviewing the band leader, Craig Gildner, the night before. Even with the short notice, and the fact that we were conducting this interview during the band sound check (another running theme), Craig was able to give us a wealth of information about the history of jazz guitar and relate it in a way that would be easy to understand by people with not a lot of technical musical knowledge. Like swing dancers.

From there we came up with a bunch of other ideas to build a bridge to the other related theme we were discussing at the time, but you’ll have to watch the show to find out what that was.

A technical note: I know the video doesn’t quite fit the regular YouTube screen. I’ve been having issues finding the right setting to get the editing program, Vegas Movie Studio HD 10, to spit out a  final video file that’s a reasonable size for upload. I have a relatively slow internet connection, so it can’t be huge. The program only has a certain number of pre-set ways to generate movies, and the best one I can find so far is a setting for iphone videos, which is why the video is cropped the way it is. I’m still finding my way around the program, and hoping to find a better setting other than forking over the extra cash for the platinum version of the program.

Thanks to everyone who gave us feedback while we put this together. We hope you enjoy this show. We already have plans for our next one which we’ll be recording this weekend live at The Boston Tea Party where we’ll be talking to a super secret boom time guest(s?).

A Word on Swing: Crisis on Infinite Blogs

Finally unleashing our sort of named joint Swungover and Wandering & Pondering mega blog crossover video podcast.

This is a little project that Bobby White and I have been talking for almost a year now. We couldn’t get it together because of scheduling issues and what we thought it would require more technical know how than we have. Then we just decided to throw caution to the wind a couple of weekends ago simply because we had some spare time at the Lone Star Championships and about 20 minutes of free space on my camera.

It’s a little rough looking. Everything was done in one take. At least it gives us something to build on. We learned a few lessons the hard way. For example, I learned why they position news anchors not the way we did here.

I have a few ideas on how to do this next time. Hopefully there will be a next time.

We’d like to thank Michael Gamble for his impromptu help behind the camera. And Joseph and Jammin for hanging out with us.

Next time we’ll do something more relevant to dance blogging like comparing one vs. two finger typing techniques or our favorite fonts or why social balboa is only slightly less boring to watch than blues dancing.


Until then, enjoy the show.

Hot Blues on Blues Action

Lots of chatter on a recent Bug’s Question of the Day that asked “Why don’t more blues dancers go to events like ILHC and Lone Star to compete in the blues divisions? Why don’t the lindy hoppers who compete in the blues divisions at ILHC and Lone Star come to Blues events and compete?”

Eventually a comparison of recent contests came up, and some people mentioned that people who do well in Blues contests at Lindy events wouldn’t do well in Blues contests at Blues events.

I want to talk about this more in depth, but I’m still putting together some thoughts and discussing it with some people. Until I can post something coherent, I thought I would pose this little thought experiment.

I very haphazardly edited two videos together of the winning performances from the Strictly Slow Blues competition at bluesSHOUT 2011 with Ruby Red & John Joven (first couple) and the Strictly Blues contest at the Lone Star Championships 2012 ( a mostly Lindy Hop event) with Evita Arce & Jeramie Anderson.

I just want to pose this simple question: Would Evita & Jeramie’s performance be that out of place at a Blues event? Discuss, and I’ll be back next week with a post comparing the Blues and Lindy sub-cultures, and the role of competitions.

Reflections on My Favorite Performances of 2011: Freedom Through Connection

For quite some time, my standard answer for how long I’ve been dancing has been “about 10 years.” It’s getting to a point where I need to re-evaluate that answer. I took my first Lindy Hop class in January of 1999, almost 13 years ago, from a woman who still inspires me to this day.

Peter Strom & Naomi Uyama International Lindy Hop Championships 2011

She now lives in Minneapolis, MN along with the guy in this next video which I’ve probably watched more than any others this year. Read the rest of this entry »

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