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|Posted: Thu Mar 21, 2013 11:22 am Post subject: News and Views, Early Spring '13
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|News and Views from the Hall LindyJazzMobiless Trail
Early Spring ’13 Installment
March, 21 2013
DANCE, DON’T DRIVE, REPEAT
(Editor’s note: The last N&V was much about music. This one is a mash-up of my writings, stolen writings and reader responses, all primarily about dance related subjects. Is you happier?)
Table of Contents:
2. “Hot Club of Detroit”
3. Report on “The Dayton Smackdown”
4. Dancing to the “Boilermaker Jazz Band” at Miami University
5. What Are You Saying?
6. Reader Responses
7. Coming Attractions
(These questions are primarily directed toward experienced Lindy Hoppers—whatever “experienced” means to you is okay by me.)
1. In an sentence or two, please explain why you initially began in swing dancing?
2. In a sentence or two, why did you persevere to become experienced in Lindy Hop?
3. If you know, do you consider yourself an extrovert or introvert? If you don’t know, guess.
(I hope to compile the answers to these questions, and then concoct world-shaking conclusions based on the findings, but not reveal the identities of any respondents.)
“HOT CLUB OF DETROIT”
If you get a chance to see this Djangoish quartet*, don’t miss them. We caught them in concert in Dayton Ohio, and they are unlike any other Hot Club Band you have ever seen. The instrumentation is double bass, rhythm guitar, dynamite lead guitar and an astounding musician, Frenchman, Julien Labro, on chromatic button accordion (see below) and button harmonica. They played one long set of a mix of Django compositions, some standards, and some originals, all mostly at warp speed tempos, with outstanding clever and musically surprising arrangements. And they swing. Whoopee! and I didn’t regret not dancing as there was no way I could get even close to dancing on rhythm. Hey, they took “Belleville” at 288 bpm, and couple of tunes were faster yet.
*This band also fields a quintet with the addition of a clarinetist.
Chromatic Button Accordion
Gee Dad, it ain’t a Wurlitzer
REPORT ON THE 6TH ANNUAL “DAYTON SMACKDOWN”
This is a welcome LH event held while Dayton Ohio is still in the grip of damp dank dark winter. It routinely features a LH team competition and presents a trophy for the best team and a bowl for best college team. This year, Swing Columbus won the trophy, thus upholding an outstanding record, as they have won 5 of 6 of these competitions. The Miami U. RedHawks took home the college bowl. Solo jazz. and Jack & Jill comps were held as well.
The first two days of the three day event were held in the Baum Opera house. Built in 1884 in Miamisburg Ohio, a southern suburb of Dayton Ohio. This makes it, I believe, the oldest building Rudy and I have ever danced in. It is a handsome mansard styled brick building of two floors, and completely restored starting in 1994. The top floor, The Ransdell Ballroom was used for this event. It has clean acoustics, a generous sized old, narrow board, floating maple floor, which could be original to the building. The ballroom sports a rear balcony, a lofted mansard roof ceiling with plaster walls and wainscoting plus a huge elevated bandstand, and dig this, an elevator. (Which I used going up, but not down—I use gravity; I don’t fight it.)
The headcount on Saturday night was right at 200 dancers which meant that the event organizers made expenses plus a profit. I always ask, as it hurts me to think that LH events do not make the nut, and someone is made to drink the red ink. The event was all DJed and I found all the DJs to be more than satisfactory and some even better. For once of late, I could not complain about the spread of tempos. As usual, there were more follows than leaders, if I had to guess it was about 2.5 to 1, but I don’t remember a strained dance all weekend. Rudy and I were so happy we danced all three days—where in the hell did that stamina come from? Agreed, on Monday we did more gimpy shambling than actual walking.
“Dayton Smackdown” will be held again next year; the dates set, Feb. 12-23 and the same venue reserved.
DANCING TO THE “BOILERMAKER JAZZ BAND”
We got a rare opportunity to dance to the “Boilermakers Jazz Band” and later that night still drive home to sleep in our own bed. The Miami University swing dance club booked them for a March 2nd Sat. nite dance, only and hour and 22 minute drive from home in Dayton. It was held at Miami University in a beautiful big second floor room and on a large dance floor with a good surface. A goodly-sized crowd showed up to this out-of-way location of the campus in Athens Ohio. The band instrumentation was a quartet of clarinet/alto , piano, bass and drums, plus the delightfully graceful vocalist, Jeanie Luvv. This band often plays Lindy Hop dances and band leader, Paul Constantino, wisely patterns the band’s range of tempos to fit the dance crowd, and still provide musical appeal, he knows how to respond to spontaneous jams, and how to generate energy at a dance. Fortunately, the subject Saturday night afforded us a dry-road interlude between snow and freezing rain days. Lotsa fun and I scored a dance with Jeanie Luvv—the woman is multi-talented.
“WHAT ARE YOU SAYING?”
The title of this section was take from the title of a posting on the website “Jive Junction” by Lindy-Hopper/musician Julius Yang, and the text by him below (in quotes) was lifted out of context without Julius’ permission, and thus, comes with considerable peril, as Julius, a formidable fellow, is 7 ft. 29 in. tall, replete with a formidable scary intellect. But, Hey! no peril, little glory.
“As a dancer, I am not expressing very much, if at all. I'm not trying to say anything concrete. I'm not performing, I'm not competing (except in the most subtle sense which is fundamental to lindy hop – ‘I'm better than the guy next to me.’), I'm not doing anything other than trying to have fun with the person I'm dancing with.”
“But dancers at the very highest skill levels, in all forms of dance, have thought consciously about what they are expressing. The very act of defining their technique in such detail expresses their attitude to the dance. By becoming that good at dancing, they are simultaneously paying respect to the dance and those dancers who have come before, and adding their own ‘genes’ to the dance. Over time, that is how dancing evolves; the very best dancers define the standards of the dance, simply by blazing new paths.”
“Technique is something you can acquire. If I can dance, or drum, or write, any schmuck can do it. But soulfulness, emotion, self-expression; these things elevate you. If you want to be known as a truly great dancer (or musician, or artist, or writer...) you have to have something to say, something that is uniquely yours.”
My comments on Julius’ well chosen arguments are several.
1. I concur completely that an important element of the highest enjoyment of improvisational pairs dance by leader (and follower), is having something to say, and being able (and be allowed) to say it, and I would add, I think that should apply to every stage of dance development. First learn to dance, and then, don’t wait, individualize your dance so that you come to be dancing as you would want yourself to dance.
2 His point about evolution (improvement) of the standard of the dance by those with the highest skill level, can, I believe, become problematic. If the dance standard continues to improve by dancers “adding their own genes” (love that line), it is possible for the standard of the dance to improve to such a degree, beginners may view it impossibly difficult, and the base level of the dance may become discouraged or, worse, separate itself completely from a small apex of current dance excellence.
3. What can be done to stave off this theoretical problem? The only thing I can envision is a prohibition of choreographic routines in competition. Do I hear “GET REAL!” Well, it has been done before. Otherwise, it is futile to try to stifle excellence in order to perpetuate an organic dance e.g., Lindy Hop, which no matter uniformly performed or narrowly taught it will go its own way and it will break free of any artifice placed upon it. Sound hopeless? Yep, so I guess we should enjoy the ride while it lasts.
1. Allen Hall wrote the following in “News and Views from the Hall LindyJazzMobiless Trail” late winter ‘12/’13 Installment
"I am always annoyed when a musician fails to announce the title of what he is about to play. Whitney Balliett gave me reason and motive for annoyance when he wrote, “When a musician doesn’t announce what he is playing, it is doubly rude. The composer is erased, and the audience is made to feel unworthy of such information.”
Alan White replied below in quotes. Note: Alan has been a DJ for many kinds of swing dance for 48 years, longer than most swing DJs have been alive.
“I feel the same way about so called DJ's who don't talk and inform their dancers what the hell it is they're dancing to.
They say they don't talk to keep the musical experience pure or some such nonsense, but really they are just dancers with some music on laptops and, since they know absolutely nothing about being real DJ's, they simply lack both the talent to talk coherently in with the music and often the motivation to do the research and discover some facts on whomever it is they're playing.
Sadly, that lack of talent to talk, describes most of the so called Swing DJ's out there.
At a minimum I announce the name of the artist and the title of the song.”
You should also know that I’m annoyed when radio DJ’s don’t, or aren’t allowed to. front and back sell. (the term for announcing the artist and title.) This is very important to artists and dancers alike. Not to mention it helps make the overall sounds seem less like Musack and more like a “live” experience.”
Allen Hall replies. Harsh? Fair? Unfair? Well, I’m not a DJ, and I say to all you swing dance DJs, “don’t be silent.” If you think the shoe fits, put it on, and send me your Huzzahs. If not, by all means, disagree and I will forward you curses, bitches, gripes, and arguments about why DJ Alan White is off the mark.
2. Allen Hall wrote the following in “News and Views from the Hall LindyJazzMobiless Trail” Late Winter ‘12’/’13 Installment
“East Coast Swing, in all of its styles, is often thought of as Lindy Hop on training wheels, but I disagree, it is a dance in itself and always has been, and I believe it should carry the name “East Coast Swing”. Teaching venues often advertise lessons in “swing”. Excuse me, do they mean they teach, Push, Rock, Charleston, West Coast Swing, Boogie Woogie, East Coast Swing, Rock and Roll, Steppin’, Lindy Hop, Ceroc, Jive, Whip, Hand Dance, Jamaica, and/or LeRoc? Advertising “swing” or “swing dance”, is like advertising for language instruction by claiming “We teach Language”. Cripes! Does that mean they teach Sanskrit?”
Cindy Gardner replied below in quotes: Note: Cindy has been a teacher of East Coast Swing and Lindy Hop for over 33 years.
“Sometimes you hit one of my soapbox topics. I tell my students and advertise that East Coast Swing is the easiest* and most common form of Swing Dance, and is the style that you are most likely to see at weddings, at parties or at venues that are advertising Swing Dance, regardless of the style of music (country, big band, rockabilly, 50s/60s, Cajun … the list goes on). While I teach ECS as a stand-alone dance style, I’m also secretly teaching Lindy Hop on training wheels – ha! That said, I recognize that lots of people really have no interest in moving on to LH, and I’m doing my own scene a disservice if I “snub” them for making that choice. It’s vital to continue to build the base, and that is a strong, happy group of ECS dancers. (In fact, in Minneapolis most rockabilly dancers rarely venture into LH.) And there are many dancers who have happily danced ECS for years before feeling brave enough to try LH and are now very fun LHers. What would have happened if I’d snubbed them and turned them away?”
“The level of experience among swing dancers can be described as a pyramid, with the greatest majority of dancers on the bottom learning and regularly dancing East Coast Swing. You frequently have to begin travelling up the level of experience pyramid before you even find people who know that there is more than one type of swing dance. Bottom line, while I fully agree with you that ECS should be categorized as its own style (arguably a subset of LH the way I teach it, but not for ballroom dancers), I disagree regarding your advertising gripe. In acknowledgement of the mainstream marketplace, it should be assumed that when a “swing dance lesson” is advertised the consumer will learn East Coast Swing. That said, I also believe that there are some instructors who may want to turn people on to West Coast Swing and just use the generic term “swing” to draw them in. Over the years, I’ve occasionally had Westies try to convince me that their preferred form is the only true swing dance, and in fact they typically teach a 6-count basic much for the same reason that ECS was created in the first place, to make it easy to learn and not scare people away. Marketing.”
* “This isn’t actually true because LeRoc and its franchised version Ceroc don’t actually have any standard footwork, but since they are largely European and their mention draws primarily blank stares even from experienced swing dancers around here, I don’t feel guilty about my original statement.”
Comments anyone? If warranted, I will, with your permission, put them in the next N&V under your by-line or not—your call.
2. Something else
Allen Hall, Lindy Hopper
March 21, 2013, In Dayton Ohio