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News and Views '09/'10 # 6
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Allen Hall
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Joined: 26 May 2004
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PostPosted: Wed Dec 09, 2009 12:55 pm    Post subject: News and Views '09/'10 # 6 Share topic on FB Add User to Ignore List Reply with quote

News and Views from the Hall LindyJazzMobile
‘09/’10 Installment # 6

DRIVE, DANCE, REPEAT

(Mea Culpa! This is a long one—print it out.)

Table of Contents:
1. Jacksonville FL, a Lindy Hop Barrens
2. Lindy Hopping in the Tampa Bay Area
3. Sun Coast Dixieland Jazz Festival
4. Solomon Douglas at The Tampa Harvest Moon Ball
5. Potpourri
6. Coming attractions

JACKSONVILLE FLORIDA, A LINDY HOP BARRENS

In the last “News and Views”, I made a snide remark about Jacksonville FL being a Lindy Hop barrens. I’m not sorry about the snide remark, but I really should explain the reason for it. Look, I can think of several cities the size of Jacksonville which are also Lindy Hop barrens, but Jacksonville is sort of unique in that it once had Lindy Hop promise, but no more, and that’s what irks me. Jacksonville was and is a national hotbed of Bop dancing, and it was that which first attracted Rudy and I, and we came there repeatedly to dance. Once while there, we heard about some young swing dancers at a road joint by the name of “H2Os”. We went, and met some dancers who were trying to create swing dance de-novo. They were dancing to some abominable music and they made us dance a spotlight to a recording in which I could not find “one” or the back beat. We danced, and they thought it was swell. I cringed. Two years later we found the same group at the Kit Kat Club, and the leaders, having been to Atlanta and having seen some Lindy Hop, were leading pretty well, but the followers didn’t have a clue. The following year we returned, and found the group in an old dance club in one of the worst neighborhood in Jacksonville, but their ranks had expanded to about 25 hard-core LHers who were doing Lindy Hop very well, given their shallow experience level. Then, their leader decided he wanted to be a drummer more than a dancer, and the whole scene collapsed, and Lindy has been lying fallow in Jacksonville, every since, about 9 years now. It is disheartening to keep coming back to Jacksonville on our way south, and not be able to find even the bones of the dead dance. And so, we have stopped even looking. However, if this reaches anyone who knows about any Lindy Hop life stirring in Jacksonville, we would sure like to know about it.

LINDY HOPPING IN THE TAMPA BAY AREA

Or more accurately trying to Lindy Hop in the Tampa Bay Area. It’s complicated and fluid (not the bay, the Lindy scene), with 4 or more promoters throwing events NOW—who knows about tomorrow. To wit.
1. www.swingang.com holding a popular regular sun. night dance at the Zendah Grotto, a regular Tues. night dance at Club Vincente, and an every-kinda-sortta-swing dance on the last Sat. of each month at “The Two-Way Dance Studio.
2. www.savoysouth.com which brags of the longest continuously running weekly (non-WCS) swing dance in the area at 11.5 years. It holds regular Wed. night dances at the Portuguese-American Suncoast Association. Wait! this venue is no mo for dances this December after five and half years of swing dances held there. I told you the scene is fluid. However, a new regular weekly event is planned for Tampa. This group also holds regular Sat. night dances at the Largo Community Center, and 2nd and 4th Fri. night dances in Bradenton. Wait, the Bradenton gig has been scratched, as it has been infiltrated by aging Bop dancers who have demanded their own S L O W music, and thus have driven off the swing/lindy youngsters
3. www.SwingTime.com. After a closure scare this year, it is continuing a regular weekly dance at the Gulfport Casino, a first Friday live music dance at the same venue, and a third Friday dance at Centro Asturiano.
4. pamsterfl@hotmail.com , or www.hitthatjive.com Cross Roads Swing holds once a month dances on the 1st Fri, at “The First Dance Studio.”
Check links for dates, times, locations, etc. because things change fast in the Tampa Bay scene.

It is unlikely Rudy and I will make all these venues, but we always try to stick our beaks in every dance stew—you never can tell when you’ll find.

On Wed. Nov. 18 we danced at the beautiful and (Ahem!) well-lighted, Gulfport Casino Ballroom. It’s a historic dance venue on the ocean (actually on Boca Ciega Bay which is part of Tampa Bay which is part of the Gulf of Mexico which is part of the Atlantic Ocean) The 5,000 sq. ft. of 1930s-era narrow-board, floating or sprung, Maple floor is SWEET. We were the only LHers there, amid about 100 very-adult social pairs dancers doing what they do, but we got in enough dances to make a good night of it. The DJed music is mostly swing, retro-swing, and Rockabilly, from slow to very peppy tempos, along with a variety of Latin music, and an occasional Waltz and ballad. The room had a Disco Ball near the center of the ceiling, but it was too far above the floor to distract the dancers.

On Fri. Nov. 20 we danced at the once a month gig at Centro Asturiano (cool name, Huh?). This is a voluminous second story ballroom with wall to wall old Maple flooring which has been recently refinished. The light color of the wood is a marked difference to the dark wood floor the last time we were there. The room is décor is elegant and the room is two stories tall. I am guessing the venue was once a Portuguese or Italian fraternal hall. The DJed music was eclectic, and indeed the music fits the clientele for this gig and that put on by the same group on Wed at the Gulfport Casino. No LHers were seen at either venue, and, otherwise, a mix of Rockabilly dancers (circling, single-step, 6 count dance with lots of moves over the head, and all done to fast old R&R music) a variety of ballroom types, including about 10 % Latin recordings. About 65 dancers attended under the disco ball.

On Sun. Nov, 22 we danced at the Zendah Grotto to a broad mix of mostly fast swing danceable DJed music. The floor is large, floating, and made of narrow board Maple boards, but I can’t be sure because as the only light in the room were strings of icicle lights surrounding the dance floor plus the obligatory mirrored Disco ball. Over 100 dancers attended including quite a few doing good LH and Balboa, however, the majority were Rockabilly types. There was much energy in this venue.

We had plans to dance on Saturday and Sunday nights Nov. 28 and 29, but a sick alternator in our Saturn dinghy car cancelled both. The poor dinghy deserves our pity, as it now is nearing 150,000 miles under its own power, and an additional 80,000 miles being dragged behind the LindyJazzMobile. Anyway, we were heading for the Saturday dance when the original equipment alternator went moribund on us. It was dark, and the Saturn would only run without headlights. So, we drove without headlights the 6 miles to get back to the LIndyJazzMobile—not a lot of fun, but the cops didn’t catch us. Just another minor misadventure out here on the Lindy Trail. But, we scored a new alternator for $221, which put us back in business.

On Dec. 2 we started a five dances in five days run, when we danced at the third to last ever P.A.S.A. gig. It was a dark and rainy-(in-bucketsfulls) l night with the access road in front of the P.A.S.A. all torn up, and down to one-way one lane traffic. About 20 dancers showed up, including only a few with 8-count experience. It’s pointless describing the venue as it will be dance history in a couple of weeks. The promoter and music-savvy DJ, James, did a great job of pleasing the rockabilly crowd and us too. We put in a couple of hours, got sweaty and went home with our headlights on. It is also pointless to rate this gig as it will soon be kaput, and be replaced with another Wed. dance in Tampa.

On Dec. 3, Voila! we found the missing Tampa Lindy Hoppers. They were en masse at the first Thursday Cross Roads Swing dance. The venue is a dance studio the with three rooms, one each for swing/Lindy, WCS, and Blues. They swing/Lindy and WCS rooms were well lighted. The Blues room had de rigueur dungeonoid lighting. One woman sternly told her two teenage daughters, “Don’t you go in there.” The big room was for swing/Lindy and it attracted about 75% of the 70 or so dancers attending, and the gorgeous floors (This IS a dance studio—which says it all), was well used. The WCS room had a 50/50 mix of dancers and sitters—in our experience, this has been a constant in 21st Century WCS, which, in this regard, has come to resemble Carolina Shag and Bop. It was too dark in the Blues room for me to count the dancers, and I certainly wasn’t going in here and do a grope-count. This gig is trying to stay beginner-free, and, indeed, the average level of experience of the LHers was high and the few 6-counters were also experienced. We had a good time, with good dancers, and good DJs (they use three each night in each room—which, ostensibly, will cut down on assassinations—there is nothing quite like experienced LHers becoming international experts in what music LHers should dance to, and I am no damned different.)

On Dec. 4th We made it to the Gulfport Casino to the first Friday live music dance. The band was “The Venturas”, a quartet with a cute, stage-graceful, woman singer with super swing-phrasing and a chirpy voice. The instrumentation was an excellent pianist and lead guitarist, both of which could swing and sing well. plus more than serviceable bassist and drummer. The band played from a book ranging from hits of the 30’s thru the 70s, with tight and good musicianship. The band’s presence salvaged a night when we saw only four other 8 counters among about 150 dancers.

On Dec 5th we went to the regular Saturday night dance in Largo. Only 20 people were there, and only two Lindy Hoppers, the DJ and a late-arrival leader. Most of those in attendance just sat and visited with one another in a large venue with a composite floor with a very good surface with adequate lighting and a good sound system, but a disco ball. The DJ alternated swing music with vintage R&R, e.g., Elvis hits. Sadly this event may not be viable, but then, what do I know?

Sun. Dec. 6, we returned to the Zendah Grotto to find even more LHers in a crowd of well over 100.

Phew! Time to rest for a while.

At this point we have been to all but one swing venue in the Tampa Bay area, that being the regular Tues dance at Club Vincente. If I had to rate the many Tampa Bay Area swing dance events for Lindyability, I would rate highest the first Thursday Crosstown swing event, the Club Vincente regular Tues dance (based on recommendations and our attendance in years past), and the regular Sun dance at the Zendah Grotto. The other venues each have their charms and pluses but they attract very few Lindy Hoppers. And, lookie here! We have not yet suffered a bad floor surface in the Tampa Bay Area, however, many DJs here segue recordings without interruption, a practice I am not fond of.

THE SUNCOAST DIXIELAND JAZZ FESTIVAL

This is their 17th year and the recent multi-year decline in attendance continues. The event is held in two hotels, one each on both sides of the road in Clearwater Beach Fl. Two fewer venues were used this year, and one previously large venue was smaller this year. The number and size of dance floors was diminished. It is difficult to complain about that as east coast Dixieland patrons do not dance as much as those on the west coast. Most of the bands were from Florida, doubtless because they do not require expensive transportation reimbursement. That said, several flagship Trad Jazz bands were there, e.g., The Bill Allred Classic Jazz Band and the Titan Hot Seven, and without at least a few of the favorite bands, I believe attendance would drop like a shop lathe off a high cliff.

Rudy and I attended one day, all day Saturday, and we saw no young dancers, no Lindy Hoppers, and damned few older attendees dancing. This is a major disappointment because, for the first time, the SCDJF made an effort to broaden its age appeal. 1. The event is “now” billed, “It’s a Dixie and Swing Thing” (emphasis mine), and, 2. They offered youth daily passes for $10 (Rudy and I paid $40 each for Sat.). But still, we saw no young dancer takers.

For a three day $90 pass you get 20 bands to pick from and 32 sets of good to excellent music made by entertaining energetic bands. I think that’s a bargain, and I’m not complaining about our $40 tix; we saw some amazing musicians and some new (to us) bands. e.g. “Mighty Aphrodite” an excellent all-woman sextet with Dixieland instrumentation and accompanying book. Bria Skonberg is the co-leader/trumpeter and announcer for the band. She is a rare combination of stunning Hollywood-grade blonde good looks, delightful stage appeal, and a jazz rumpeter with outstanding jazz chops.

Eight of the 20 bands were from out of State, three of which came from my hometown, St. Louis MO, and one from Rudy’s hometown, Dayton OH.

SOLOMON DOUGLAS AT THE TAMPA HARVEST MOON BALL.

This Nov 27 gig was held in the classy and historic Don Vicente Inn, which was originally a hospital during early in the 20th century. The dance area was in the lobby and adjoining two rooms. The floor is new dark wood in fair condition. This was a suggested dress-up affair and a large crowd of dancers showed, including just about every Lindy Hopper in the Tampa area.
“The Solomon Douglas Swingtet” is roaming up and down the east coast on “The Black Friday Tour”. During a 19 day period they will play 16 one-nighter dances from Pittsburgh to Tampa to Montreal. The band is a Little Big Band, which was joined by a talented local female singer. The instrumentation is 4 reeds, two trumpets, and a trombone, plus a four piece rhythm section of piano, guitar, bass and drums –fine musicians all. The band’s book is filled with high energy LH evergreens, and Solomon, being a fine LH, knows how to put energy into a room. The tenor saxophonist is an exemplary soloist with great jazz chops and an a humorous persona.
The DJed break music was some of the best I have heard this winter. Rudy and I hung in there for 3 full sets of Solomon’s music, and we enjoyed a wonderful night of dance and music. We should hook the LindyJazzMobile to the back of their band bus, and become wizened dance roadies.

POTPOURRI

“Pews were put in churches to keep people from dancing.” Nicolas Wade’s “ The Faith Instinct”. I’m curious to know who decided it was bad to dance in church. I tell ya, those bluenose spoil-sports are everywhere. I say, “Scandalize them; dance in the aisles.”

COMING ATTRACTIONS
1. Maybe a report on the Regular Tues Club Vincente dance. In Tampa
2. Lindy In New Orleans
3. The New Orleans New Years four day Renaissance Dance Festival


Allen Hall, Lindy Hopper
December 8, 2009 in Punta Gorda Florida and running the LindyJazzMobile air conditioner. You may not want to hear this, but the heat down here is truly oppressive.
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PostPosted: Thu Jan 14, 2010 10:17 pm    Post subject: Share topic on FB Add User to Ignore List Reply with quote

Wow. This is turning into the definitive guide to dancing on the East Coast. I only wish I'd had this a few weeks ago when I was in DC, Baltimore and Asheville!

Amazing work!
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