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News and Views from the Hall LindyJazzMobile 07/08 #15
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PostPosted: Tue Jul 15, 2008 12:54 pm    Post subject: News and Views from the Hall LindyJazzMobile 07/08 #15 Share topic on FB Add User to Ignore List Reply with quote

News and Views from the Hall (parked) LindyJazzMobile
'07/'08 Installment # 15

Our Summer Motto: Park, dance, scribble, dance, scribble until the middle of October when we flee.

Table of Contents:

1. Octoplexy
2. Temporal Regression in Jazz Appreciation
3. "Swing" the Musical Reincarnation Returns to Minnesota
4. Twin Cities Balboa Fest
5. Previews of Coming Attractions


This catchy name, "Octoplexy", stands for the 8th Prairie Lindy Exchange, but it could as easily stand for the 8th attack of apoplexy. Anyway, Prairie Lindy Exchanges have wandered and been shared, so far, by the Twin Cities and several cities in central and western Canada. This is the second event held in Minnesota, three have been held in Winnipeg.

Rudy and I only attended the evening dances. Daytime activities are for the young and hale; we, who are older and haleless, spend that daytime recuperating. As well, we attend no late night dances. Our mothers would not approve of us entering dens of iniquity, or whatever goes on there in the inky darkness.

The Friday night dance was DJed and held at a new faculty, Social Dance Studio in south Minneapolis. It is much easier to write what I didn't like about the dance than what I did, to wit; I liked EVERYTHING about the dance, except three recordings. One I counted at a tempo of 288 BPM, and two other recordings comprised a funk/soul mini-set. Oh! the lights could have been turned up a little brighter, but I have grown weary of fighting the mal-illuminations war. If need be, I can always don my cap with the twin spotlights on the bill. I suppose I could invest in a lumen meter (or whatever they are called) to determine if dances conform to OSHA rules for minimum lighting levels. Anyway, the floor was maple, had a fine surface and there was plenty of it. The sound system was crisp through 4 speakers near the ceiling and in the four corners of the room. The A/C was on as were the several ceiling fans. The candy was perfect. The music, aside from my few niggling exceptions, just about magnificent in both selections and range of tempos. The dancers were many and experienced Lindy Hoppers. There was water and Gatorade for sale and finger food for the starving. On a 1-10 basis, I (who have always been a hard grader) give it a 10.

The Saturday night dance was at Jawaahir Dance Studios in Minneapolis. The floor, which had been much damaged by water, has been entirely repaired by veteran Lindy Hopper, Terry Joyce. When you Minnesotans next see him, let me suggest you kneel down and kiss the hem of his trousers, thus showing thanks that you were not dancing on duct-tape patches, It was warm and humid in the ballroom aptly named "Big Room" (I saw no signs directing "Toward the Big Room" or "Away from the Big Room"). However, the high ceiling and several fans kept the dancers sortta cool and the floor from getting tacky. The DJed music was, again, excellent.
The band was "Armadillo Jump", a quintet of piano/vocalist, tenor saxophone/harmonicaist, electric bassist, electric guitarist and drummer, and their mix of music defied any musical label I know of. The best way to describe them might be LOUD, and although they played music in many genre, all of it seemed to be couched in the style of Pop Rock. You know, distorted guitar, growly saxophone, busy drummer and incessant loud musical caconophy sufficient to completely render the singer's words undecipherable, and there was precious little separation of the sounds of the instruments. HOWEVER, (and you probably thought this was a totally negative review, didn't you?) The drummer played a number of shuffle rhythms, and that alone is sufficient to almost melt my cold cold critical heart. Further, I was very happy with their choices of tempo. And, they seemed to draw some energy from the dancers. If I had to rate the band on a 1-10 basis, they'd get a.......No! I should not go there, but then, I am picky about live music. Hey! I'm old; I gotta right. The sound system was very good with, again four speakers each near the ceiling at the corners of the Big Room. The lighting did not meet OSHA standards but I cannot complain too vociferously, as I did get them to turn off the damnable Ballroom/Disco spinning mirrored ball. This was a fun evening for me and I went home an hour over my quota of dance time and with a sopping wet shirt. BTW, they held a jack and jill Blues Dance contest, and while much of it was very tastefully danced, but, in general, I thought there was entirely too much extraneous and unnecessary movement going on.* I admit it, my esthetic for so-called Slow Dance is hopelessly dated. Anyway, the tempos for the Blues Dance contest ranged from 120 BPM (by playing ancient WCS standards) to glacial 72 BPMers.

* The broad range of tempos for the Blues Dance contests resulted in much Blues dancing done in open position and even disconnected, makes me ponder how long it will be before aerials will become standard in Blues Dance contests? See, aerials are now seen, and apparently allowed and welcomed, in Balboa contests. Can Blues Dance and Tango be far behind?

The Sunday evening dance returned to the Social Dance Studio, with music by "Hot Swing Combo", a quintet of accordion, clarinet, guitar, bass, and drums, plus a good female vocalist, Nancy Harms. I really enjoyed the music. They swung, ("swing" is part of the band's name), they played selections of reasonable duration, and the tempos were spread around, but not too far. And, the music was not so loud that separation of the instrument voices was lost. Oh! thank you. Again, the DJed music was Aces. A prelims and finals J&J Lindy Hop Contest was danced, and it was fun to watch. Rudy and I went home late, tired and wet. Hurray!

Octoplexy is one of the best Lindy Exchanges we have attended, and, trust me, we have been to many Lindy exchanges, some which have been top drawer. Octoplexy Major Domo, Shawn Lavelle and his cast of faithful minions deserve big gold stars on their calendars, a shiny medal and perhaps a "GREAT EVENT" trophy. Rudy and I had a super time. The reason why I know? After three nights of dance, Rudy and I both felt and looked like two old stable horses which had been rode hard and put up wet.


I hit my teenage years when BeBop was hot and I ,like every other teener was shopping for a music upon which to imprint and make their own. So, for me, it was Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker after school on the radio listening to Spyder Burke's jazz radio show. Oh! I had been exposed to swing era music for years. It was impossible to disregard it as almost came to me through mother's milk, but Bebop was my music. Sadly, the excitement of early Bebop couldn't be sustained for several reasons. There were not too many jazz musicians able to handle the harmonies, the angular phrasing, the unusual accents and the lightening quick tempos. And so, Bebop soon morphed into altered forms of modern jazz that did not pleasure me. Nevertheless, the new modern Bebop musical vocabulary was inserted, almost like DNA, into almost all forms of jazz--except Hot Jazz/Dixieland. I paid no attention to Hot Jazz/Dixieland, as the guys playing it were white, wore striped vests and straw boaters, and told a lot of jokes--I though it was humorous jazz at best.

Not long after, Oh! say 46 years later, I started trying to dance Lindy Hop, and suddenly ,my taste in jazz changed. It went backwards rather than forward. I became intensely interested in the music of the swing era and anything which sounded like it. You know, music which swings, and preferably swings hard.

Then about 12 years later, I suddenly discovered a still older form of jazz. Yep! Hot Jazz a.k.a Dixieland, mostly for the high energy and happiness found in it. This was music to smile to, and dance to too.

Now I am worried because if I continue on this course, I may suddenly become enamored with Ragtime, but that proto-jazz form is way too fast for deez big feets to dance to.

We who live in the homeland of jazz are divided into many types of music fans, but no one seems to get too excited about the differences, and certainly seldom violent. This isn't the case elsewhere.

This from the June '09 "Observer Music Monthly". In England during 1960, at the peak of the feud between jazz modernist fans and Moldy Figs (Hot jazz fans), jazz was taken very seriously and a riot broke out between, two factions, Trad Jazz vs. Modernists. Fueled by beer and (hard?) cider, 8,000 music fans got into it. The Tradies were decked out in beards, long pullovers and Jesus sandals, and they claimed, "That (Bebopers were) taking jazz away from its roots--into the nuclear age--and engaging with American culture at its most vulgar."

Undue passion about jazz can lie just below the surface. To wit, there have been some unkind words written in Lindy Hop forums about uncontrite isolationist swing-era freaks, as well as hard-core Moldy Figs reincarnate, and some prominent and influential demi-Gods of Lindy Hop have even stated that thou shalt not dance to anything recorded after 1938. Passion is fine; musical chauvinism is not.


It is playing at the Chanhassen Dinner Theater from August 1-17. There are discounted tickets available to anyone who belongs to a swing dance club. Rudy and I belong to none...right now, and so, we are not going to see "Swing", but we would not see it anyway. We were fortunate enough to see it on Broadway with Ryan and Jenny, and I was most favorably impressed. We then later saw a touring company do it in L.A. and the fall-off in quality of dancing, lighting, music, and staging left us mildly disappointed. Then, Lindy Hopper, Terry Gardner panned another touring performance in the Twin Cities in 2002. However, for those of you Minnesotan Lindy Hoppers who have never seen it, it might be the last touring company for this musical ever...or maybe not. (See below) Anyway, tickets for dancers are deeply discounted--check with Terry for the link.

In 1954 I was in the Air Force assigned to O'Hare AFB---Nope! all commercial passenger traffic was then going in and out of Midway Airport. While in Chicago, I went to a small suburban theater to see what I was certain was the last and final touring company performing the musical "Oklahoma". It stunk, it took Curley three tries to get Laurie up on his shoulder for the big finale, and I was certainly wrong about the obituary for "Oklahoma" as the musical still had plenty of life after 1954; there was a Broadway Revival in 2002. Popular Broadway Musicals are about as close as anyone has come to a perpetual motion machine. Oklahoma made me leery of musical touring performances, and nothing much has changed my mind since 1954.


It was held in an air-conditioned event center attached to a hotel in a northern suburb of Minneapolis. Good thing too, as the weather was tres unsettled over the weekend. The mere thought of dancing in Friday's blast-furnace heat and sauna humidity in the Jawahir's 3rd floor un-air-conditioned big room made my pits gush. Close, free and abundant parking helped as it poured rain on Friday night. The sponsoring organization, Pazazdance, brought in 4 pairs of experienced contest-tested Balboa instructors, and hired carefully- chosen fine local bands for all three night dances.

I took a beginner Balboa lesson on Friday afternoon, and quickly became over-loaded, BUT the bless'd instructors removed, disassembled my incorrect Balboa basic,and re-assembled it properly. Actually, I think my Bal mother-board burned out years ago. I could gather some sympathy about my bad experiences with Balboa, but, really I am trying to forget them now, Anyway, I am a slow learner--Hey! It took me several weeks to learn how to do the Balboa basic wrong. I can only assimilate small bits of dance instruction. By next year I should be able to attempt the moves they taught in the second hour of Balboa Basics. One small step for Allen; one giant leap for the rest of the class---Sigh!

I attended the Friday evening dance, and enjoyed the DJed music and the band. "Honeysuckle Rose", a Djangoish quartet of two guitars, a bass and a violin/tenor saxophone, plus a female vocalist The rhythm guitar was sweet and kept me on rhythm and tempo. Their selections were a mix of 2 feel and 4 feel music, and they did not go crazy with blistering tempos. I much preferred the violin over the tenor sax as a lead voice, as the tenor's cloying tone was reminiscent of postbellum jazz. The vocalist has a good voice, and a nice way of phrasing lyrics.

We didn't attend the Saturday night dance--I was home nursing cranky knees, and Rudy was vending her fused glass jewelry at the dance. Too bad for us, as the "South Side Aces" played, a nifty local trad jazz sextet.

The Sunday night dance featured music by "Twin Cities Hot Club" an excellent gypsy jazz quartet. Rudy and I both attended and it turned out to be one of the best nights of dance this summer, but more about that later. Three of the four pairs of teachers attended and danced socially--I wish that would happen at every event. The DJed music was mostly 2-feel older jazz, but the tempos were manageable for Lindy Hop and right in the Balboa wheel-house.

Pazazdance, purchased about 1,400 sq. ft. of snap-together faux wood floor with a pretty good surface, and that is more than adequate in size for this event--better to err over than under, It danced like a floating floor and didn't creep laterally on the underneath hotel ballroom rug. It was purchased on sale and cost about the same as it would cost to rent an equal size modular hotel parquet floor of questionable condition, uniformity and dance surface. Think about it; they now have a floor for to rent, and/or use for many years to come. AND, Let's hear a round of applause for the team of 6 volunteers who laid the floor and took it up. To me, it looked like a two day two six-pack job per volunteer. Incidentally, the floor surface was much improved on Sunday night. Why? I have no idea. Perhaps that can be explained by the dictum, "the best thing you can do to a dance floor with a tight surface is dance on it."

The sound system was crisp, there were places to sit in the ballroom, there was a dedicated bar nearby, there was a restaurant in the building which served the legendary Twin Cities Battleship Burgers. There were plenty of fun dancers, good music all around, but not quite enough lighting--you know, about average for dances--and they even brought in a hated mirrored disco ball and put it on the DJs' table. I threatened to pull the 'lectric out of its ass, but Rudy talked me out of it.

The event was, in my opinion, well promoted and administrated, but sadly, it was undersubscribed, no doubt in part because it was a first-time event, and it came close on the heels of a big expensive All Balboa event in Cleveland. I don't know about teaching capability, but the four couples imported as instructors are all experienced and successful competitive pairs.

A confession is in order--I did not Balboa at the Friday dance..I just couldn't bring myself to subject follows to ARTB (Allen's Rudimentary Transitional Balboa)--maybe later, after I practice up some.

However, on Sunday night I let all my inhibitions fall, and badly Balboaed the evening away, and, Surprise!, no one stood off and threw rocks at me. How come? Well, miracle of miracles, I found out that Rudy has been right all these years when she told me that I was not doing Balboa wrong. I kept telling her, 'What the hell do you know? Bart Bartolo told me I was doing it wrong." This doubtless the root of my Balboa inferiority complex. You see, I was doing Balboa right, but just weirdly--you know, just like I do Lindy Hop. See, after discussions with some experienced Balboa dancers, I learned that Bart Bartolo tells everyone that they are doing Balboa wrong, and further, back in the day, the Balboa Masters argued constantly about what was proper Balboa, and what was not.

Rudy and I have seen and danced with some of the older Balboa Masters, and I was astounded by their range of markedly differing styles. I figured that they each had developed a unique style which fitted each one's sense of what they wanted to do. However, that did not explain why many of the best young Balboa dancers today look very much alike, differing only in technique, capability at speedy tempos, and unique ways of doing the same moves everyone else does. . This was part of my reticence in learning Balboa--figuring, even if I did learn it, I would just be doing poorly what everyone else was doing well. Rudy and I had never seen Maxi Dorf dance, but we have seen film clips of him dancing, and I was struck by how modern, and basically style-free he looked. My discussion with the experienced Balboa dancers revealed a commonality of opinion that, of all the Balboa Masters, Maxi Dorf has had the greatest influence on modern Balboa, and perhaps that is the explanation for the uniformity of the dance done today.

Anyway, typical for me, I go to one Bal event, and come away a self-constructed philosophical expert on the dance. But, I am encouraged that I can now learn to do weird Bal well and not end up on a psychiatrists couch, and that will be more than satisfactory for me, and thus free me from my chair when the tempos get peppy.

One of last dances on Sunday night, after, that is, I got up some nerve, was with Kelly Arsenault, who was one of the faculty instructors, and what a dance it was. That one goes into my list of memorable dances (NO! make that "unforgettable dances"). She is not only perfectly balanced with weight dynamics or not, rhythmically centered, very easy to lead, stylish as all get out, inventive, musical and unbelievably responsive, but she just about read my mind when it came to leads, and no matter what dumb stuff I tried, it all worked out like we had choreographed it. Leading her was like driving a competition-tuned Lamborghini Diablo SVC. What is more, she said she enjoyed the dance. Maybe it's true, that even a old blind pig can sometimes find an acorn.

It is sad to think that TC BalFest, which I think was a stunning artistic success, would lose money, but Pazazdance boss, Kristi, says she is going to do it again next year. By then, maybe she can tighten some expenses, and make the budget nut, plus some profit, and maybe, by that time, some of the weirdness will be worn off my Balboa.


1. Eight Days in L.A. over Labor Day, Yea! Yea!

Allen Hall, Lindy Hopper and tyro-Balboa Dancer
July 14, 2008, a gorgeous day on Lake Sylvia.
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