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|Posted: Mon Apr 29, 2013 9:54 am Post subject: News and Views Mid Spring '13
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|News and Views from the Hall LindyJazzMobiless Trail
Mid-Spring ’13 Installment
April 29, 2013
Table of Contents:
2. Unusual DJ contest
3. Dancin’ to two Octets
4. Stan Kenton Phantom Band…er….”Stan Kenton (Semi)Alumni Orchestra”
7. Coming Attraction
(editor’s note: Brace yourselves; this is a very long N&V, but it’s not all my fault. See, reprinted within is the work of a guest contributor, who has a very interesting idea about why we do social pairs dancing, followed by not very interesting ideas of my own.)
The following is “The Importance of Human Touch in Partner Dancing” by Pamela Stergios (Pam is a LH/WCS dancer in Tampa and runs a once a month three room venue for LH, WCS and Blues dance.)
“It’s amazing. I’m sitting here writing this and you are somewhere else in the world, reading it. Human beings are now able to communicate with each other across vast distances, and it’s easier than ever to maintain relationships – with loved ones, with friends, with business partners, and with acquaintances. We are more socially connected than ever before – while simultaneously being less physically connected than ever before. While it’s easy to maintain an emotional and intellectual connection with others, we are separated more and more from each other in a physical sense. We are physically distant from each other socially (this includes our personal space bubbles, which vary by culture), and we are less connected to each other in a normative touch sense. I spend my days at work in my 6×6 cubicle, staring at my computer screen. Should someone enter my cubicle space, an apology is quickly offered for the intrusion. There are very few places where people can get physically close to each other, much less touch each other. Touch is barely considered appropriate outside of a relationship, or between a massage therapist or doctor and patient. When I entered the dance world, this perspective changed. I wrote about dancers and touch in a research paper during my undergraduate studies. Below is an excerpt of the research I did while interviewing people in the swing dance community.”
An Issue of Touch
“I found physical touch and the issues surrounding it to be extremely significant to social dancers. A good number of people whom I interviewed described themselves as very kinesthetic and touch-oriented people, without even being asked. Dance seems to attract either very tactile people, or people who do not get enough touch in their life. In fact, the physical contact received at a swing dance may be the only human touch certain people receive in their lives.”
“The majority of Americans experience a very isolated culture, even if they do not realize it. America is primarily a very visually and aurally dominated “spectator culture”. By “spectator” I mean, most forms of entertainment in this country are consumed, rather than experienced, and watched or heard rather than touched, smelt, or tasted. We watch movies, we watch football games, we watch concerts, we surf the internet, and we listen to music, but there are not many forms of entertainment in which we get to be actively involved. We also live in a very sexualized society, where any kind of touch is sexualized, and which results in an isolated, touch-repressive environment. One dancer I interviewed explained to me: “We don’t understand touch, we don’t teach with it, in fact we legislate against it. We have this big culture of concern. I think it’s so bad not touching people to the point that they want to be touched.” At the time of this writing, a thirteen year old girl from Mascoutah, Illinois has been given detention at school for hugging two friends good-bye. Apparently the student handbook bans public displays of affection, stipulating: “Displays of affection should not occur on the school campus at any time. It is in poor taste, reflects poor judgment, and brings discredit to the persons involved.” When a community over reacts in this way to non-threatening forms of human contact, it perpetuates a very unhealthy culture.”
“Touch has certainly become taboo in the American school system. This is unfortunate, as research suggests that touch deprivation in early development and again in adolescence may contribute to violence in adults. Research has shown that low-touch cultures have extremely high rates of youth and adult violence in comparison with high-touch cultures. France, for example, has one of the highest touch-oriented cultures, while the United States is among one of the lowest. In a study coming out of The Touch Research Institute in Fort Lauderdale Florida, it was found that American adolescents touch each other less and are more aggressive toward their peers in comparison with French adolescents. They observed adolescents of both cultures interacting in public restaurants. In the Paris location, significantly more peer touching was noted. Types of touch included leaning on each other, casually rubbing a peer’s back while talking, hanging an arm around another’s shoulder, or leaning a head on another’s shoulder. Among American adolescents, less peer touching, and significantly more self-touching, was noted. This included wringing their hands, rubbing their own limbs, wrapping arms around themselves, cracking knuckles, biting lips, and general fidgeting. They also showed more aggression towards others, including hitting, pushing, and knocking others down.”
“Other research has shown the positive effects of touch on physical health. While most studies have involved children and the elderly, people in body work professions, such as massage therapy, are keenly aware of how beneficial touch can be. Touch deprivation impairs development. In neonatal intensive care units, touch is used to encourage premature infants to grow. Babies who receive massage gain more weight, sleep better, and relate better to parents. Children with ADD or autism become more attentive, more alert, and learn faster. Touch also decreases stress hormones and increases serotonin, the body’s natural antidepressant. In autoimmune diseases such as asthma, lung functions improve and asthma attacks decrease. The list goes on.”
“It is important to recognize the role that touch plays in the physical, mental, and social aspects of a person’s overall health. The boundaries of physical touch permitted at a swing dance allow body contact between males and females to become normalized. Outside of a swing dance, people are afraid to be in close quarters. We apologize for grazing someone’s arm in public, as if we are touch phobic. Social dance keeps us “literally” in touch with other people. In American society, men rarely experience physical contact with other men. But at a swing dance, one can see guys dancing with guys, and girls dancing with other girls. This environment fosters a certain “touchy feeliness”. It is not uncommon to see dancers cuddling or sharing massages on the sidelines, and in general being very affectionate towards one another. One swing dancer told me his experience with the touch issue, saying: “I think dance brings a more physical sense out of people. I’ll hug people at a dance I’ve never even met before, hello or good-bye; whereas people at work, or even family members sometimes I don’t give them a hug when I say good-bye to them.” It is not unusual for lindy hoppers at dance exchanges to kiss good-bye someone they’ve met just moments ago, and hugging a partner in thanks for a particularly good dance is the norm. People who are new to dancing can get easily caught up in the physicality of the environment. A couple of dancers I spoke with felt that they went through a period of time in which they took touch too far, or acted too aggressively and became addicted to touch rather than letting human interaction be a healthy part of their life. Reasons for this included being an only child, being very reclusive in high school, or lacking experience with the opposite sex.”
“For some people, the touch received while social dancing serves as an alternative- or substitute, for intimacy. One female dancer confided: “This might sound kind of funny, but since I don’t have a boyfriend, I like physical contact…I think dancing is a healthy way for me to get physical contact without going and being sexual or…doing anything else like that.” Many swing dancers preferred partner dancing precisely because the touch between men and women was perceived as more respectful than the way human touch occurs in other popular night spots. Being able to touch others of the same and opposite sex without the sexual overtones prevalent in night clubs, results in a deeper level of trust between people than is found in general daily encounters. People must come to recognize that partner dancing is a contact sport, and once they learn to relax and understand that touching is okay, it can then become very enjoyable for what it is. Many dancers say that embracing partners one after another at a dance is like giving a series of hugs all night! Hugging other people is easy to do and encourages healthy friendships. One dancer said, “When you hug somebody, it’s like you’re reinforcing your relationship with them- a sign of, ‘Hey, I care about you.’” You could say a certain “skinship” develops between regular dancers, and once they become accustomed to the high contact environment, it is hard to go without it.”
For the full article with references, please see this link: http://www.blog.dancehappens.com/dance-type/lindy-vintage/driven-to-dance/
(Here is a link to the Touch Research Institute mentioned above that has further information and studies on the benefits of touch and massage therapy. http://www6.miami.edu/touch-research/Research.html The study on French vs. American adolescents can also be found here.)
“My purpose in presenting this article is to make the case that there is a place for social partner dancing in our world. Because of the way our personal and professional lives are evolving, it’s very unlikely there will not be a market for partner dancing anywhere in the near future. There is so much untapped potential in society for embracing touch dancing… I personally think the more relevant the music and culture of a dance, the more likely it is to be accepted in the mainstream, especially if marketed correctly. How do we reach people and convince them dance could bring them physically closer to people (in a good sense) than they ever thought possible?”
Allen Hall responds…
I find it true that we, in the USA, are touch averse, but we are not the worst. As I understand it, the Finns are the worst. Old Finn joke: Q. How can you tell if a Finn likes you? A. He is looking at your shoes instead of his own. Anyway, it may seem crazy, but the Finnish national dance is the Tango, one of the most sensual pairs dances ever created, and I have to believe the Finns chose it in order to experience an high level of sex-free touch contact they lack in their ordinary social lives.
Additionally, I am convinced, ironically, that many experienced Lindy Hoppers are introverts*. If this is not so, how come engineers, mathematicians, physicists and scientists are wildly over-represented in LH? Look, the argument goes as follows. Introverts normally avoid personal contact, including touching, with people they don’t know well, and this constitutes an unrequited human need, but when an introvert discovers that Lindy Hop dancing almost mandates dancing with many partners during an evening, is done almost exclusively devoid of any sexual context, and often includes an obligatory hug after every dance, they just can’t stop riffing on it, and so, introverts persist in the dance and become better with practice and finally become experienced dancers. On the other hand, I suspect that many extroverts who come as beginners to ECS, LH or WCS, soon drift away after finding that, collectively, swing dances have a steep learning curve and are difficult to master, and besides, they, as extroverts, can charge their psychic batteries in a number of other much easier social forums.
* A Public confession, which I am assured is good for the soul. Several Briggs-Myers personality tests revealed that I am strongly introverted. (Can you believe 100% Introvert? I can hardly believe it myself.)
One last thought, generally speaking, we in western societies prefer more interpersonal distance, as opposed to those in some Eastern societies, e.g. Turkey, in which it is said, “you should never deny your friend the smell of your breath.” Their comfortable interpersonal distance is about half ours, and since I spent quite a bit of time in Turkey, I experienced personal conversations on the street in which I kept moving backwards for comfort while the Turk kept pursuing me in search of the same. All forms of social pairs dancing, puts both partners into what is normally an uncomfortable interpersonal distance. This is why I see pairs dance couples avoiding eye-contact, especially with unfamiliar partners. Note: I may be snarky, but in many forms of ballroom dance, it appears that eye contact between partners is not only uncommon, it seems to be prohibited.
The take-away message: try to increase eye-contact and see if I helps in your dance. I do know this as a leader; eye contact is a huge part of non-tactile leading technique. I can tell you stories about how followers became prescient about what I was going to do as a leader simply by the look on my goofy face.
UNUSUAL DJ CONTEST
We attended a monthly dance which featured a DJ contest which was running over several dances. Three DJs played one set each during the evening. Two of the DJs played some…..er…..unusual recordings with unusual rhythms, seldom, if ever, heard at LH dances. Trying to get attention? Perhaps, but asking LHers to dance a HipHop tune is a stretch. However, the most unusual aspect of the three DJ’s selections was all three DJs played an inordinate large number of recordings at around 180 bpm. A conspiracy? I doubt it. Chance alone? No way, there were far too many at 180 bpm. Rudy and I voted for the DJ which played the most so-called traditional music for Lindy Hop, and I went home scratching my head.
Look, while I would not at all enjoy dancing to the same recording all night, so too, would I not enjoy dancing to the same tempo all night. My tempo sweet spot is from 160 to 180 bpm. Yes I can handle slower tempos and really enjoy some of them e.g., Basie’s “Shiny Stockings” @ 137 bpm. Hey! it was Frankie’s favorite, so I gotta like it. Faster tempo can become problematic, but surely I could handle 180 all night? Well, that used to be the case, but no more. That night I reached the bottom of my dance candy jar early in the evening. You can make of this confession what you will, but I appear to now have a rather compressed tempo sweet spot. Sigh!
DANCIN’ TO TWO JAZZ OCTETS
1. “Jim Vermeulen and his Octet” We have twice had the distinct pleasure of Lindy Hopping to this swing octet, with an instrumentation of three reeds (alto, tenor and bari.) two brass (trombone and trumpet) and three piece rhythm section (piano, bass and drums), plus a male vocalist. The band book belongs to the altoist/leader Jim Vermeulen and is composed of nifty arrangements of jazz big band standards (esp, the Basie Band), e.g. “Splanky”, “Corner Pocket” “Moten Swing”, “Shiny Stockings” and “Jumpin’ at the Woodside”, from the Basie book, and others such as “Leap Frog” from the Les Brown book, AND no, thankfully “In the Mood”.
The primary soloist was the tenor saxophonist who is BAAAAAAAD, and should probably jump on the next Greyhound Dawg goin’ to New York City. The vocalist had shit for voice quality, but could swing phrase like a champ, and so, was easy on my jazz sensibilities. The band mixed the tempos—so lovely. Professional jazz musicianship all around
2. “The Gem City Jazz”, an octet with the same instrumentation as the band above, but without a vocalist. The book is owned by trombonist, Vaugn Wiester, who leads a damned fine Big Band in Columbus OH. The book consisted of arrangements of some of the best of the non-Glenn Miller standards from the Big Band era--Oh! thank you-- and played at relaxed tempos—Oh! thank you again. Also professional jazz musicianship all around.
This octet instrumentation reaches way back into the origins of the big band era, at a time when there was little amplification and balance in the horns almost demanded that the brass not outnumber the reeds, whereas today the brass are often 8 or 9 and the reeds have only 5, this a result of desire for harmonic voicing in all three horn ensembles.
STAN KENTON PHANTOM BAND….ER….STAN KENTON (SEMI)ALUMNI ORCHESTRA
Maybe when Stan was in extremis, he forbid a phantom band, but then, so too did Buddy Rich, and there is now a BR Phantom Band out there on tour. Anyway, the instrumentation was not exactly Kentonesque, no tuba no French horns. But, the Baritone saxophonist doubled on Bass Saxophone and played it often. This helped to provide the BIG BOTTOM sound so expected in a Kenton band. No dancing as the gig was in a grade school aud (small seats), with wall to wall carpet, but with expected good acoustics. I was mildly disappointed with the tune selection as I only heard 3 numbers in the single set evening that were from the recorded Kenton book. Of course they closed with the Kenton rouser “Peanut Vender” replete with 6 trumpet players roaming the audience playing anything they wished, but astoundingly, all harmonically fitting .How do day do dat? Several local players filled out the band of 5 trumpets, 5 trombones and 5 reeds, plus a 4 piece rhythm section. Notable were two locals, drummer, Jim Leslie who was more than excellent, and trumpeter, John Harner who once sat the lead trumpet chair in the Kenton Band. Of the 6 trumpet players, at least 4 had “lead” chops, and one, Carl Saunders played the outstanding solo of the night. it was prolonged; it was interesting; it covered the range of the instrument; and it was hot. How hot? Using jazz argot “it burned down the house, Jim”
1. In the last N&V I erroneously located Miami University in Athens OH. It ain’t. It’s in Oxford OH. Mea Culpa.
1. “There's a category for me. I like to be referred to as a good singer of good songs in good taste.”
“When I sing, trouble can sit right on my shoulder and I don't even notice.” - Sarah Vaughan
1. Dancin’ to Solomon Douglas in a Gym.
2. Dale Watson at Lee’s Liquor Lounge
3. Midwest Lindy Fest
4. Doubtless, another ersatz opinions and writings.
Allen Hall, Lindy Hopper
April 29, 2013, Still in Dayton Ohio, but for only two more days.