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News and Views '10/'11 # 1
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Allen Hall
MN Prince of Snark Darkness


Joined: 26 May 2004
Posts: 495
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PostPosted: Thu Sep 16, 2010 9:14 pm    Post subject: News and Views '10/'11 # 1 Share topic on FB Add User to Ignore List Reply with quote

News and Views from the Hall LindyJazzMobile
‘10/’11 installment # 1

I’M BAAAAACK! On September 15th we head out from Lake Sylvia for this winter’s lindy/jazz meanderings, with early stops in Omaha (“Cowtown Jamborama”), and Ft. Smith Ark. (“Southern Fried Swing” featuring Barbara Morrison)

[Editor’s note: This is the accumulation of 5 months of lindy hop/Jazz thinking and writing. SO, IT’S LOOOOONG. If ya got a printer, use it.]

Drive, Dance, Repeat or Dance, Drive, Repeat

Table of Contents:
1. A Poem, and Dance Thoughts
2. Jazz Quotes
3. Ain’t Science Grand?
4. 2010 Minnesota summer Lindy Hop High and Low moments
5. A Moniker/Avatar/Epithet
6. A Review of a Review of a Book I May not Read, But Probably Should, (But didn’t).
7. An Editorial “To Throw Women Around, or Not, that is the Competitive Question.”


A POEM, PLUS DANCE AND THOUGHTS

The desires of the heart are as crooked as corkscrews
Not to be born is the best for man
The second best is a formal order
The dance’s pattern, dance while you can.
Dance, dance, for the figure is easy
The tune is catching and will not stop
Dance till the stars come down with the rafters
Dance, dance, dance till you drop.
W. H. Auden, “Death’s Echo”

“Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass. It’s about learning to dance in the rain.” Anon. This oft-quoted quote is not found in either “Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations” or “The Oxford University Press Dictionary of Quotations.” I know, cuz I own both books and I looked. Does anyone know who said or wrote that? P.S. it’s also not in the Googled list of Dance Quotations.

“Do you think dyslexic people have difficulty dancing to Y.M.C.A.?” Dave Sokolowski

“I only believe in the God who knows how to dance.” Nietzsche

“Never trust a spiritual leader who cannot dance.” Mr. Mayagi

Riffing on this theme, an article entitled “Why Dictators Hate to See us moved by Music.” made me think—always an effort. Look, Hitler hated jazz. It figures that all despots should hate jazz. It’s because jazz represents musical freedom, and despots fear freedom. Iran’s ultimate supreme, the Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said, “(music) is not compatible with the highest values of the sacred regime of the Islamic Republic.” About this subject, Eric Felton wrote, “I suspect Mr. Khamenei’s real complain is rooted in the same disquiet authoritarians have long felt about music—that it effects people profoundly and can’t be controlled.” The Taliban outlawed music. Jewish law prohibits musical instruments in the synagogue. Popes have tried to stamp out music. It’s dangerous stuff, those fleeting and quickly disappearing cyclic sound waves in the air. They can even make people dance maniacally. And the next thing you know, they all get so happy, they forget their troubles. And then, as we all know, people who forget their troubles soon become irresponsible.

JAZZ QUOTES

“The drummer drives. Everyone else rides!” drummer, Panama Francis

“Some days you get up and put the horn to your chops and it sounds pretty good and you win. Some days you try and nothIng works and the horn wins. This goes on and on and then you die and the horn wins. “ Dizzy Gillespie

“Jazz is the only music in which the same note can be played night after night but differently each time.” Ornette Colman

“We never play anything the same way once.” Shelley Manne

“if I could play like Wynton, I wouldn’t play like Wynton.” Chet Baker

“I’m too old to pimp, and too young to die, so I’m just gon’ keep playin’.” Clark Terry

“Music is my mistress, and she plays second fiddle to no one.” Duke Ellington

“The bottom line of any country is, what did we contribute to the world? We contributed Louis Armstrong.” Tony Bennett

“Testament to the true universality of the jazz experience (is this) it doesn’t matter where you came from, if you can swing like your life depends on it.” Anon.

“The symphonic orchestras have sponsors, people who give them endowments, and I think it should be the same with jazz—because this is a national treasure.” Lee Morgan, jazz trumpeter, murdered at the age of 33.

AIN’T SCIENCE GRAND?

When it comes to music, parrot and human brains are more alike than those of humans and Chimps.
Insofar as science knows, parrots (let’s be precise, Psitticine birds) and humans are the major forms of living things which learn human language by mimicking what they hear. Can it be they both dig music too? Well, see, there is the, now famous, Sulfur-crested Cockatoo, “Snowball”, which has been seen on a YouTube video (which went viral) by millions of people as he danced to the beat of “Everybody” by the Backstreet Boys.
Enter curious scientists, who learned that Snowball would dance in rhythm to 9 of 11 different tempos of the same recording. An allied study revealed that 92% of 13 parrots, but no dogs, cats, horses, would move spontaneously to the beat in music. In 1998 an imaging study revealed that there were overlapping areas in the brain for the language and musical grammar. Hey! time to schedule Snowball for a brain imaging session?
Neuroscientist of music, Aniruddlh D, Patel, remarked. “before Snowball, I wondered if moving to a musical beat was uniquely human. Snowball doesn’t need to dance to survive, and yet, he did (dance). Perhaps, this was true of humans too.” Wait a minute, you mean that something, for fun alone, has slipped in under the door and past evolution? Can it be that something so widespread among humans had no useful reason for being, i.e., that of giving those who make, listen toand dance to music having a greater chance of survival in order to find a mate and reproduce? I could Comment on this idea, but so can you.
Learning to imitate sounds is a rare skill in nature, and parrots and humans have it. How about mockingbirds and Myra birds? Anyway, vocal learning creates links between hearing and movement centers of the brain—you hear (sensory), you mimic sound(motor) …..wait, it is a leap to say that dancers hear the music better…..or…..that they appreciate the music better…or….they do they have the equivalence of bird brains?

2010 SUMMER MINNESOTA LINDY HOP LOW AND HIGH MOMENTS

Tapestry Brouhaha
The Tapestry Folk Dance Center has been the major Lindy Hop venue in the Twin Cities for 16 years, but a folk-dancer cabal on the Tapestry Board of Directors figured they could steal the very successful, vigorously-grown program by Cindy and Terry Gardner’s TCSwing at the Tapestry by unceremonially ousting them from the venue, but the cabal’s caper came a cropper, when the Minnesota Swing/Lindy dancers chose to follow Cindy and Terry to a new venue. The new venue is smaller but the floor and sound system are better. So, when you come to the Twin Cities to dance, the Late Night Swing action on Thursday night 10-2, and the first Saturday live music dance 8:30-12 will both be at the Social Dance Studio at 3724 23rd Ave. S. in Minneapolis. Cindy and Terry usually teach lessons before all of their social dance events. All’s well which ends well, and the Daddy Rabbits of our local Lindy website www.minnesotalindy.com are so happy because the Tapestry brouhaha generated 9 full pages of comments from irate and snarky dancers. Thus it was a high bright moment for a website which had been, pretty much, Facebooked and Twittered onto dormancy. Still, www.minnesotalindy.com and www.tcswing.com both have calendars of all the Twin Cities Swing/Lindy action. Check ‘em out.

The swan song Late Night Swing at Tapestry set a MN record for attendance at any Lindy Hop event ever with 622 people in the door, albeit some were parents of high school dancers.

Other new regularly scheduled Lindy/Swing events in the Twin Cities:
1. Second Saturday Swing DJed Dance sponsored by and held at the Jawahaar Dance Center
2 “Uptown Swing” is the new program of teaching and dances put on by MN prodigal son, Peter Strom, at Jawahaal Dance Center.
3. Third Saturday Live Music Dance, sponsored by TCSwing and held at the Eagles Club 2507 E 25th St. S Mpls
4. Monday night at Famous Dave’s Barbeque features live music, and instruction by Bill and Shannon Butler
5. Wednesday night at Lee’s Liquor Lounge also features live music, plus instruction by Bill and Shannon Butler
6. To be fair and complete, Tapestry Folk Dance Center is copying the swing nights and times made popular by TCSwing, but, so far, their attendance has been, I believe, disappointing, and to date, they have not settled on a faculty of instructors. But, who knows, maybe they too will have a successful Lindy/Swing program in 16 years. Sorry for the snarkiness, but my handle on MNLindy demands it. (see below)

Rudy & Allen Toss a Dance
To celebrate our 30th Wedding Anniversary, we hired a Jazz band* and a hall** in our part-time home town of Annandale MN, and tossed a swing dance.
It was held on July 17th in some of the scariest weather imaginable (I had $1,850 hail damage on my car that day), but about 120 brave family, friends and dancers shared our joy and a couple of cakes. One for us, and one to celebrate our ancient cottage on Lake Sylvia which turned 99 years of age this spring.
*The Robert Bell Swingtet, a suuuuweeeet quintet of saxophone, piano, guitar, drums and our son-in-law, Giancarlo, from Houston, on bass.
**The dance venue was “The Classic Cars and Rides Museum” in Annandale, which has dozens and dozens of nifty restored classic cars, hot rods and a faux Deisenberg boat-tail roadster powered by a big block Chevy mill and drive train. That car, draped with lovely young lady LHers, hogged most of the photos taken that night.

A BEQUEATHED AVATAR?

Found under my name in postings on www.mnlindy.com is the following “The MN Prince of Snark Darkness” The question is Who done dat? I don’t remember it bein’ me. However, I will accept the description—I am, indeed, snarky, and I do have a stygian outlook. Snark def. from Wikitionary and the Urban Dictionary, “A person who makes snide and sarcastic remarks. Presumably, one of the etymological origins of “snark” arose from a combination of “sn from “snide”, and the “ark” from “remark”.

A REVIEW OF A REVIEW OF A BOOK I MAY NOT READ, AND PROBABLY SHOULD, (BUT DIDN’T).

This is a little off regular message (Jazz and Lindy Hop), but the book review “Swing Time” caught my eye, as did the book reviewed “Dancing in the Dark”. The review was written by D.D. Guttenplan It was published in “The Nation” Feb. 22, 2010. The book was written by Morris Dickstein and has a subtitle “A cultural History of the Great Depression” The review finds the book an imperfect analysis of the American culture of the 1930s. I was born in 1932, and while I didn’t get a full dose of the Great Depression, its effects on my parents and other adults affected me in ways I could not then appreciate. My father often didn’t have a job, and my family lived in my father’s parent’s home—never the best situation. The review rates the book as heavy on the politics, literature and entertainment of the ‘30s, less so on the economics of that era. One sentence did resonate with me, “Movies really do record ‘the dream life of the 1930s’ in ways no other form can match…” Ya know, I really should read the book, to see what it has to say about music and dance, and get back to you with my own review. The book goes for $30, so I will try to get it out of the library. Yep! I got it from the library.
Post-script: Sorry, the book sucked big time. I could not read it. Don’t bother getting it from the library, buying it or reading it. For a scathing review of what little I could read of the book, see my “Fruit o’ the Loon” ‘10 Installment # 21 e-mailed out on August 25, 2010.

TO THROW WOMEN AROUND, AND HOW OFTEN, HOW HIGH, OR NOT; THAT IS THE COMPETITIVE QUESTION.

Whether tis nobler to leave their sweet feet on the floor, or, perchance, to sometimes toss them about? Aerials are always going to be part of competitive Lindy Hop. Hey! aerials, athletic strength and elan, the joy of dance and music, and a lovable generous nature are Frankie’s eternal legacy to Lindy Hop, and his gift to all of us. But, sometimes mo’ is not necessarily bettah. What is bettah is “t’aint whacha do, it’s the way thatcha do it.” Aerials have always been problematic for Lindy Hop judges. Are they de rigueur or not? How well are they done? How many are done? How about degree of difficulty? Fresh or stale? Are the Integrated into the dance/music and go with the cadence flow, or interrupt the dance? I do not throw women around, did it once and the woman didn’t go but my back did, too old, infirm and decrepit, and so, my opinion is age-skewed. But, that doesn’t mean I’m not allowed an opinion?
I believe tempo is important, maybe critical, to the smooth integration of aerials into either an improvised Lindy Hop dance or a choreographed routine. The argument taken to its ridiculous extreme is this: can you do an dance-smooth and dance-appropriate aerial to music at tempo of 80BPM? Or at tempo of 330 BPM? The answer, I believe, is “I think not unless you purposefully want to markedly speed up or slow down the cadence flow of the dance, which is seldom a good idea.” In short, gravity is what it is, it doesn’t change, and so, it can’t be modified to fit any tempo. What is the aerials-appropriate range of tempos. How the hell should I know—I don’t do them. Furthermore, I don’t judge contests—tried it twice—I screwed it up both times—too damned hard.
All social dances are organic, in that the standard of what is currently popular or considered good changes, always has, always will, depending on WHAT? Idunno and I don’t know if anyone does. That said, changes in competition standard tends to move the standards of social dance. This has merit and dangers. Improving the competitive standard tends to improve the social dance standard, to a point. However, when the competitive standard becomes so distant, in degree of difficulty, from the easily attainable social standard, the social standard then tends to become static, and worse, social dancers become disinterested as students and avoid competition, either as participants or audience. When a social dance becomes static, I think that is the beginning of the end of its popular days. And, since aerials are routinely prohibited during social dance……….you put in the rest. Do those who can do aerials in competition make them an athletic elite in Lindy Hop? I worry about that.
I believe that most dance judges are astute about what should qualify as merit in dance. And, I believe that social dancers believe most judges perform their duties as the final arbiters of quality. I cannot remember an instance when any social dance went abruptly away from the standard of competitive quality as adjucated by judges.
I have been around long enough (1992) to have seen several abrupt changes in the nature of swing dances, and all of the changes, in my memory, was initiated by a particularly outstanding, even Ahah!, competitive performance. But, more about that later.
Lindy Hop is a dance which lies athwart a style-athleticism continuum. Competition judges have always been torn between extra rewards for excellence in style vs excellence in athleticism. It is difficult to have excellence in both in the same dance program, although dancers have long tried to do so by abrupt changes in tempo of their music. As an observer, I am vexed by this “dancing in more than one movement”, as it seems more like checking all the quality boxes, than putting together an excellent uniform routine to a constant tempo. A loose analogy would be the jangling sight of a painting with one side a realistic portraiture while the other side is multi-colored surreal squigglings.
Another small but niggling problem is what I call “Gratuitous Panties on Parade” where no dance routine is complete unless the audience sees the ladies panties. What do judges think about this? Again, Idunno, but if I were a judge, I might soon tire of the sight of panties.
Novelty is not always bettah, but novelty done well should and usually does get extra reward in competition—Hey! judges soon get sated by the ability of the best dancers to become asymptotic with the 100% excellence level in the current standard of dance. I am reminded of Julius Yang’s comment, “It’s not interesting”, said after watching the Freedom (superfast music) competition in the Ultimate Lindy Hop Showdown. The music was so fast that each pair essentially did the same barely possible dance moves for their allotted short period of time on the floor, but finished with a unique trick move. The trick moves were interesting but, aside from the dancers’ equally astounding ability to dance well and on tempo to very fast music, the rest of the dancing did not shred-out in quality enough to be memorable. Best trick wins? I think so. Should that be? I don’t think so. If the variety and quality of dance is diminished or made uniform for everyone at tempos over, say, 280 BPM, why do it?

The recent competitive success of pairs who don’t do aerials, but otherwise, make the best of tightly crafted routines, based on solid dancing by both partners, using controlled body isolation; lots of understated but cute moves, fresh music at moderate tempos, while paying attention to one another, is, I believe, a big move in the right direction for Lindy Hop. It emphasizes an element of dance that the average social dancer can aspire to, and with hard work and some talent, can achieve. Well done unusual aerials are always an Ohhhh Ahhhh! factor in Lindy, but to depend on them for competitive success is doing Lindy Hop no favors, and acrobatics taken to an extreme by too many pairs, may result in judges who become sick of them. Judges’ primary job should be to rank order the dancers they see before them. I cannot know if LH judges have taken upon themselves a grander purpose, that of directing LH, through competitive correction, into a favorable and better direction. We have a precedence in WCS competition, Once upon a time, a competitive fad made it mandatory to put the man’s nose in the ladies crotch during the dance This was done to cause great titillation and audible squealing of excitation in the audience, which would, it was perhaps hoped, favorably influence the judges. Au Contraire, a WCS boss judge, issued a proclamation, saying, any of this in future competition would be harshly dealt with by judges. Talk about instant titillation turning into instant eradication; guy’s competitive noses were then seldom seen below the lady’s waist.

I would unhappy to see high difficulty aerials become necessary, much like triple axils are entry-level necessary in a men’s Olympic figure skating routine. This could lead to a war of aerials escalation. In some respects, I believe aerials are to Lindy Hop, what exclamation marks are to writing. Aerials are not dancing, and exclamation marks are not writing.

Pro or con comments gratefully accepted, and I will reprint them in a future News and Views.

Allen Hall, Lindy Hopper
September 15, 2010 on the road to Omaha
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