I was looking at some of the footage of the preliminary rounds for Solo dance portion of “The Battle” when I spotted something unusual. Check out this clip, starting around 0:32 and the 16 seconds after that. Don’t read any further until you have. I’d like you to have your own reaction before you read mine.
In case you missed it I’m referring to Bobby Bonsey (white shirt, red tie) and his move on Jana Grulichova (red shirt and black vest). If you did miss it then go back and watch it again. I’ll still be here when you're done.
I don’t know about anyone else out there, but I’m going to say up that I think that Bobby’s move on Jana was inappropriate.
I’m not sure what they’re relationship to each other is (dance partners, friends, whatever) But even if they know each other, or if it’s pre-planned, I still don’t think it’s something that should happen in a dance competition.
Aside from being kinda creepy, there’s still the matter of the use of direct contact and partnered lead and follow in a solo contest.
It’s one thing to play off of one another through visual cues or mini-challenges (E.g. I do a move, then you do it better), but by consenting to following something physically led on you, you’re basically submitting to another dancer. That's exactly the opposite impression you want to make in a competition.
At 6:01 Sharon links with Carl’s arm and basically takes over. It’s a close contest up until then, but for me, that’s a make or break point that helps Sharon win 1st place.
Interestingly enough Sharon is a good one to watch for a lesson on when not to get involved head to head. Check out the semi-final and final rounds of the 2006 Ultimate Lindy Hop Showdown Solo Charleston contest.
The all skate starts at about 6:56. Watch the dynamic between Sharon and Max Pitruzella, the dancer with his injured arm tucked beneath his shirt.
Max spends a lot of time getting into Sharon’s space, trying to bait her into going one-on-one, but Sharon deftly avoids him. She engages him only when she has to during the beginning of the dance off when there are only two of them, but is able to slip away towards the end. You can call it fear, but in this case I think it’s smart because going directly head-to-head with Max would play to his strength as a more aggressive dancer.
In modern day b-boy and b-girl battles, there’s an informal rule that dancers should avoid making contact with each other. This probably stems from the fact that these things tend to get uber-competitive. Contact can easily be interpreted as aggressive and quickly escalate into something that could get out of hand.
We’re a much smaller community so that’s less likely, but I still think it’s a good thing to discourage because of everyone’s primary background with partner dance. It becomes too easy to fall back on that dynamic. A solo dance competition isn’t how well you work with a partner, it’s about how you stand on your own.
However you don’t want to completely ignore everyone else either. Watch Chance Bushman, (5th dancer, wearing jeans & a short sleeve shirt) in the ULHS 2005 Solo Charleston semi-final (ignore the title on the video).
He doesn’t pay very much attention to the dancers before or after him. Between that and looking down through most of his shines, he's a black hole sucking all the energy out of the contest, threatening to collapse the universe around him.
In this same competition keep an eye out for Frida Segerdahl (the second dancer) throughout the comp as she follows the first dancer, Angela Andrews . In each of her spotlights, she takes a move that Angela before, and cranks it up to 11.
Some great things can happen just by paying attention to what's going on around you.
At least in my opinion. Anyone else have an opinion about how appropriate or inappropriate different kinds of contact are in a solo contest?
And just to show that I'm not picking on Bobby, here's a fun example of him making contact with dancers in a good way.
(Special thanks to Ann Mony whose video suggestions for this post were much better than my original picks even if I used them for completely different reasons)