I had so many favorites this year that I had to spread them out over several posts, (music, news, blogs, video notes, videos, videos and one more) but this last one is reserved my personal favorites and some random musings. In putting these year-end lists together, I am reminded why I don’t bother to claim anything resembling journalistic objectivity on this blog. A lot of things I post about here and on the Facebook page involve people I know personally, and in some cases, very much so. Fortunately, I know some very talented people.
I met quite a them a few years ago when DC was a freakish nexus of Lindy Hop. It never ceases to amuse me to see the lineup of instructors at an event in some random part of the world and remember when that was just a Tuesday night. The funny thing is that no one really had being a fancy pants dance instructor on their radar. Andy still works the full time job that got him to DC. Nina had plans on being a fashion designer, and Skye was planning on getting his Ph. D and becoming an educator. Some people kept their eyes on the prize. The Dreyer twins, Alex and Austin, came to DC to cook, and both worked in a French restaurant just a few doors down from my place. I used to imagine them busting out a random tap routine on the bar. Sometimes I would walk by and slow down, peering through the front window of that place, hoping that would be the night it finally happened. Eventually, Alex made the next logical leap to actually cooking in France. Skye still got to be educator, just not the kind he envisioned a few years ago.
Jazz Roots Dance Festival Paris 2012 - Skye Humphries & Alexander Dreyer
That’s my long way of explaining why I have I stupid grin on my face when I watch this video. Most people are see a jazz performance in Paris, while I’m thinking of late nights in a living room on 5th Street.
Not long after they came to DC, Stefan & Bethany competed in the American Lindy Hop Championships in 2006. Right after their performance, Skye turned to me and used the word “avant garde” to describe it without a hint of irony or sarcasm. After all, that's the only other way you would use that term in relation to a Lindy Hop routine. We’ve been having a running conversation about the accessibility of the dance for years now. Normally, what Bethany & Stefan did at the time would fall in the realm of too esoteric, but they have a way of moving that is downright hypnotic.
2012 Lone Star Championships - Stefan & Bethany Performance
Naomi Uyama used to write a blog on her old MySpace page which I still consider one of the best even though she hasn't updated it in over five years. She wrote one particular post about how she most enjoys those performances that make you say, “Whoa, I need some time to digest that” as soon as it’s over. I’m fairly certain that she was referring to that same Stefan & Bethay ALHC performance. However, it’s the same reaction I had when I saw this routine for the first (and second and third) time.
MWLF 2011 Skye and Naomi
Even though it was performed in 2011, it was posted in 2012. Either way, it’s too good to leave it off any list.
After they left DC, Bethany & Stefan moved to Seattle which is also the home of another former DC resident, Josh Welter. Like any other classic hipster, he left DC before everyone else thought it was cool. But like Stefan & Bethany, he has a unique way of approaching the dance that has always intrigued me.
ILHC 2012 - Classic Lindy - Joshua Welter & Mélanie Huot-Lavoie
What stands out for me the most is the rhythmic quality of this routine. And the snapping. I love hearing performances as much as I like watching them.
I remember one night I went to go see a movie with a bunch of friends including Stefan, Bethany, Skye, and Naomi. There were a bunch more people. After the movie got out, we all crammed into a car deep at the bottom of the parking garage. There was a long ass line to pay to get out. In an effort to save gas, we decided to turn off the car and just push it the few feet anytime that very slow line moved. While we stood there chatting up the movie and inhaling exhaust fumes from the cars ahead and behind us, I remember Skye constantly in motion. Tapping, shuffling, kicking. He wasn't consciously practicing anything in particular. He just seemed to be lost in thought.
BARSWINGONA 2012, SKYE and NAOMI
I liberally wrote some subtext into this performance earlier this year, but more viscerally, I love listening to the way that Skye’s taps and stomps through this song along with Naomi’s syncopations and verbal hits.
Lest you think this is just a post where I wax poetic about the OG, there were quite a few new faces and moves that caught my eye this year. Take this pic for instance. It was one of the more popular pictures I took at The International Lindy Hop Championships this year.
Tatiana Udry and JB Mino have been on a tear recently, appearing and winning a bunch of competitions. However, I think this performance at some random dance event put them on a lot of people’s radar. Fast & furious yet calm & collected while having a good time to boot.
Demo Jb & Tat' - Montpellier / 17/11/2012
This is the kind of circumstance that I think technology will be able to facilitate more and more in the future: the ability to showcase the dance and dancers outside of “mainstream” competition or performance venues.
As I mentioned in my notes on video developments in 2012, there’s been a significant increase in the way people are experimenting with video making this year. Personally, I think this trend's greatest potential is in bringing the viewer “closer” to the dancers.
The dancing got my attention, but then I also noticed the way it was recorded. I've tried taking video while walking, and it is very, very difficult to do without calling attention to the camera work. I asked the cameraman, Noah, how he did it, and he said that he just put in a lot of practice. I’m sure being a dancer helped. This "dance" between the couple and the camera emphasizes an intimacy of blues dance that is rare to see in other settings.
Authentic Jazz with Pamela
Lots of people like to talk about the way technology is dividing us with virtual walls, but, in the case of dance, it can also be used to make the viewing experience more personal than it could be even in person. Even with the lights, location, and some video editing, Pamela Gaižutyte shows us that you still have to dance the dance to have something compelling to watch.
It’s old news that technology allows us to see dancers from far off places, but it still amazes me at times.
KLHC2012 Team Division - Rhythm Takeout
Case in point: At the end of this highly amusing routine, this Korean team quotes William & Maeva, a French couple. How did that happen? Science!
Ultimately, as much as I am a booster of the internet as a powerful virtual bridge, there’s still no substitute for being there. I got to travel to more events this year than I have in a good long while, and some things just don’t translate through the tubes.
2012 Lone Star Championships - Advanced Jack & Jill Finals - Brooks & Grace
There’s also that moment of sympatico at The Lone Star Championships during Grace Durant & Brooks Prumo finals spotlight. Towards the end Brooks starts bobbing up and down, and Grace attentively follows. It’s so simple, yet oddly entrancing that they got the whole room to unconsciously do it with them. The audience was that wrapped up in their dance.
You can see the same sort of thing happen a few times in the ILHC Invitational Strictly Finals; especially at the end of Naomi Uyama & Peter Strom’s first shine where they threw it down so hard, they got a bunch of their fellow competitors into it with them.
ILHC 2012 - Invitational Strictly Lindy - Finals - Spotlights
I can talk forever about all the cool stuff that happened at ILHC this year. I only yapped a little over an hour with Bobby White, but there’s still a lot we didn't cover. The big contests like the Invitationals usually most of the glory, but my favorite moment happened in the Open Strictly.
2012 ILHC Open Strictly Lindy Finals – Spotlight
During their second shine, Jaewon Jang &Young Kang bailed on an aerial. They then made the interesting choice of trying it again in their next go around. I say it’s interesting because most people try not to go to that well again after a flub. They just try to survive. I don’t know what motivated them to do it again, but as soon as they hit it, I looked over to where all the old timers were sitting, and they. went. nuts. I swear, Sugar Sullivan and Barbara Billups damn near fell out of their chairs. If you were sitting with those dance legends, you would have thought that Jaewon & Young had just scored the winning goal in sudden death overtime.
It’s too bad that you don’t get to see that on the video. In fact, I’m sure a lot of people who were there missed it. Catching something like that is a one in a thousand shot maybe, but while I was reviewing that video again I noticed something else in the lineup. When they miss their aerial, Paolo Thierry looks like he’s on the verge of helping them out. During their next time through, he’s encouraging them, clapping as hard as he can. When they hit it, he’s celebrating like he was the one out there.
I've talked a lot about technology and the way it’s creating these new connections between people, but the thing that makes our community stand apart from other digital ones is that you still have to show up to the dances to be a part of it. and tt doesn't have to be at big event like ILHC or Herrang.
Swing Maniacs - Finals Intermig, Avançat - Jack&Jill Crazy Weekend 2012
In case that link doesn’t start where I want it to, check out the minor miracle starting at 4:48. Jaume De Francisco Guiu is the lead. The follow is Cat Foley who got to this event by winning the EuroStar Award at this year’s European Swing Dance Championships. Part of that award was free passes to 42 events around the world. She won that award as a byproduct of wanting to try something different.
Let’s step back for a second. This year’s Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to the European Union to the derision of many. Although it seems like an odd choice, it’s appropriate considering that Europe stands at a interesting crossroads now. This is one of the first times in that continent’s savage, war ridden history that even though it is faced with the possibility a full on Mad Max style economic collapse, the various European powers aren't calling on all their able bodied men to start sharpening their swords and preparing them for long marches to lands where they don’t speak the language. There are quite a few living Europeans that were actively trying to kill each other not that long ago. It's to think that the current circumstances that permitted Cat to lend a hand to Juame have not been available for all that long, relatively speaking.
Around the last war to end all wars, Norma Miller was fortunate enough to travel around world to dance. Yet, the simple act of using a restroom wasn’t always an option to her in the United States. Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King, Jr were still a long ways off from those days. I doubt she considered the idea that her childhood passion would bring her to the nation’s capital half a century later to be cheering on a couple from Korea along with a Frenchman named Paolo.
There’s a moment in the interview I did with Nina Gilkenson where she catches herself mid sentence:
“We’re a strong, pretty healthy community that doesn't really have public recognition, mainstream wise, and the stuff we do is good, but kinda weird and half the people in the world don’t even know what swing dancing is, let alone Lindy Hop. It’s such a cool thing that saved . . . It’s done so much for people. I think that it’s a community that deserves a little prestige and a little bit of swankiness. We’re a hilarious, funny, rag tag team of people . . .”
She didn't complete that thought after “saved,” but I know where she was almost going with it, and why she re-directed herself.
There’s a temptation to make this dance more than it should be. Dancing has its limitations. Like any false idol, if you put your faith into it to solve all your problems, then you’re just setting yourself up for disappointment.
But it’s hard to deny what we can accomplish. Have accomplished. I marvel at the wonders of technology simply because it allows me to see what my friends are up to, and how they’re inspiring others; all people I would have never known to exist except for our common passion for this dance.
We have seen some dark days recently. Some of us will see darker still, but there are life lines out there to keep us afloat. Don’t get me wrong. I am fond of saying that Lindy Hop is a lot of things, but it is not an escape. It’s just another way of experiencing the world. One where the most basic element is to find someone, (old friend or new face), hold onto them, swing them out, and then be open to what happens next.
Thank you for reading and watching this year. I've gotten a lot of positive feedback that I didn't expect, and constructive criticism that I appreciate. I wish you a happy holidays, and no matter what happened to you this year, I hope the next will be better. Mabuhay!