What happened in vernacular jazz dance in 2013? That’s a good question, and I wish there was a more systematic way of keeping track of these things. Tracking video highlights of the year, while problematic, is still much easier in comparison. People think that I see everything that happens in the swing blog o’sphere, but I know plenty has gotten past me. I do my best, but there’s just too much, not to mention that a lot of what would be considered “news” doesn’t get posted in any form online. Much of our scene is still powered by rumor and innuendo. Still, this is a good way for me to keep track of the highlights when I decide to remember 2013 fifty years from now.
I do want to thank everyone who has taken the time to forward videos and “news” items to me. All that said, here’s a very rough sketch of some of the more important news and issues in this year in dance. I’ll save a much more detailed analysis of trends for my next post.
Probably the biggest story of this year is about an event that won’t happen until next. Starting with Frankie99, where local scenes contributed their own video performances to commemorate Frankie Manning’s birthday, and through to the opening of event registration in September, it’s hard to find another story that drew the attention of so many people around the global scene. The scale of Frankie100 will be unlike any other Lindy Hop event before it, including Frankie95. Tickets sold out in each of the three main zones in rapid fashion. The North American block sold out in 10 minutes.
Thankfully, we are still fortunate to still have a number of dancers from the original era willing to share their memories and wisdom.
It’s also good to reflect on some of the great contributors to this dance that passed away this year. The author behind Lindy Groove Technique made an interesting observation about having a tangible connection to the original dancers after he moved away from Southern California this year. It's something like not many other dance scenes share.
Bart Bartolo (not much information online about him other than an entry in Bobby's Who's Who in Original Bal-Swing Leaders)
Chuck Saggau (Charles Ray Saggau. The blond marine in the end sequence)
We also lost a potential lindy hopper, Officer Sean Collier, who was just starting to take Lindy Hop lessons in Boston when he was killed in the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombing in April.
Creativity in Lindy Hop
Lindy Hop as creative endeavor continues to be a popular topic. Most notably, Ryan Francois presented a TEDx Talk in the UK that was widely discussed and passed around where he gave a presentation about Lindy Hop.
The amusing part is that in re-telling the origins of the dance in this presentation, Ryan repeats a variation of the story of Shorty George naming the dance to a journalist after looking at a newspaper with the headline “Lindy Hops The Atlantic” after Charles Lindbergh historic flight across the Atlantic Ocean in 1927. The irony here is that out of all the people in the world who would know that story is false, it would be Ryan because he’s the one that made it up almost 30 years ago.
Gina Helfrich posted a much more in depth article and a follow up about a point Ryan touched on at the end of his talk concerning the affect of YouTube on people’s creative identities. Earlier in the year, Nathan Bugh and Bobby White also posted their thoughts on the general conundrum of teaching and learning creative individuality. This should also be balanced with the consideration that not everyone learns to dance to make any kind of unique artistic statement as Cheryl Crow broke down all the issues for beginner students learning how to dance.
Let's Talk About Sexism
By far the most talked about issues online, running throughout the entire year in various permutations from body image, to communicating about sexism, gender in leading and following, to the very nature of leading and following itself, not to mention the general acceptance, or not, of women in positions of responsibility within the scene. This is just a sampling of blogs and articles and doesn’t include numerous and lengthy discussions on various people’s facebook pages such as Bug’s Question of the Day.
Racism To The Top
We also engaged in a very expansive discussion about race. Although it was triggered by a performance at ESDC, it brought to the fore a number of issues that have been lurking in the background for some time. The African American experience and culture that gave birth to Lindy Hop and its associated dances is a hard thing to grasp for many people in the US, and conveying it to multiple different cultures simultaneously will be another ongoing task.
In a related note, a Lindy Hopper and academic Blackhawk Hancock published a book about Lindy Hop and race in America in the spring.
In an impressive show of solidarity, the Lindy Hop community rallied around The Century Ballroom to help it pay off an unexpected tax penalty. Michael Seguin the current owner of Mobtown Ballroom in Baltimore and former employee of the Century, penned an eloquent and impassioned blog that garnered thousands of views. That’s a complete anomaly for something that wasn’t organized as a list with a ambiguously hyperbolic title or a video of some sort of baby mammal. It was so comprehensive in diagnosing the heart of the issues that make the entire dance scene pulse that I put off my own post about it for the rest of the year. Learn a little bit more about the Century Ballroom in this documentary. You can also see some of the relationship between Mobtown and The Century in this short documentary about Michael and Nina.
This year saw a number of new releases by notable artists popular within the Lindy Hop community. The dialogue continues to grow between musicians and dancers at a time when veteran dancers are lamenting the overall movement to hot jazz. However, this could bear fruit as hot jazz artists are starting to get more recognition in mainstream press from New Orleans, to the LA times to Vanity Fair.
- Boilermaker Jazz Band-"Live At the Mobtown Ballroom"
- Carsie Blanton-"Jazz Is For Everybody"
- Glenn Crytzer-"Focus Pocus"
- Glenn Crytzer-"A Little Love This Christmas"
- Gordon Webster-"Live At Boston Swing Central"
- Meschiya Lake & The Little Big Horns: "Foolers' Gold"
- Mimi Terris-"They Say It's Spring"
- Mint Julep Jazz Band-"Durham on Saturday Night"
- Perseverance Jazz Band-"Hard Times Come Again No More"
Video continues to be a a developing force in the community. We covered dance videos already, but online shows like Swing Nation and Mikey Pedroza’s Lil Brown Jug Show continue to improve their production values. Swing Nation upped it’s game by crowd funding nicer equipment for this year’s live broadcast of ILHC. ESDC also broadcasted live for the first time this year. Even Herrang Dance Camp, an event long known for its detachment from technology, started getting weekly video updates. Participation and quality continues to grow in the Jazz Dance Film Festival. We even saw the video release of a full length swing themed stage show from Montreal.
The Sommer & Dorry Show
At the risk of inflating their ego any more, I do want to mention the accomplishments of Baltimore dancers, Sommer Gentry and Dorry Segev. The short documentary below outlines some of past achievents in the realm of liver transplants. Dorry also helped to write The Hope Act, a law which repeals the ban on organ transplants between HIV positive patients and will save thousands of lives. The law was passed in November which is a significant achievement since the 113th Congress is poised to go down as passing the least amount of laws in recent history. It’s also remarkable because Dorry can write some really weird stuff.
Keeping It Weird
I also want to note this conversation on Tumblr talking about the growing gulf between the top tier dancers and newer ones. It actually started at the end of last year, but picked up again recently. In some ways, this is going to be the linchpin issue for the scene going forward, but I’ll develop that more in a later essay.
State of the Dance Blogs
I usually do a separate entry for dance blogs and web sites including an annual list of currently active ones, but with the transition away from Google Reader, I haven’t been able to keep on top of the blog o’sphere's comings and goings. Even if I put that issue aside, after doing this for four years, it’s become apparent that keeping such a list up to date is a Sisyphean task. I must be following well over 1000 blogs, but I would bet money that over 90% haven’t updated in the past year. Or started this year, but soon gave up. The ones that do keep updating are mostly local venues announcing classes and dances. As a result, I’ve pared down the list to some credible resources and a handful of dependable and resilient contributors. I’m still more than happy to re-post thoughtful commentary from anyone else out there, so if you write or find anything that vaguely fits that description, we’ll see about spreading the word through the Facebook page for this blog. Otherwise keep the sites below in mind when you want to kill some time on the internet.
My Personal Online Empire
- Wandering & Pondering-You're here.
- Wandering & Pondering Facebook Page-Where I post videos and links like the ones in this article.
- My YouTube channel-Subscribe to this and see a constant stream of videos I put into playlists that I don’t have time to post on the Facebook page.
- New Old School Swing -Tumblr blog focusing on old videos of modern Lindy Hoppers. Not as active this year, but I may be resurrecting this for other purposes.
- A Word on Swing-My video blog done in conjunction with Bobby White of Swungover. We didn’t update after the Lindy Focus show, but we do have quite a bit of interview content that I hope to post in the next year.
Stuff you should keep booked marked for future reference.
- Bug’s Question of The Day (Facebook Discussion)
- Building The Swing Dance Community (Videos)
- Lindy Hop History (courtesy of KC Lindy Hop)
- Rhythm Results (Competition results)
- Swing DJs (forum)
- Swing DJ Resources
- Swing PlanIt (Dance event Calendar)
- Voices of The Jazz Era Ballroom (History)
- Yehoodi (News, Events Calendar, Podcasts)
- Swing Dancing on Reddit
- Swing Music on Reddit
- Blues Dancing on Reddit
Vernacular Jazz Dance Online
A reliable stream of swing dance related content.
- Alain Wong (YouTube channel, Competition & Performance videos)
- Atomic Ballroom (Commentary)
- Braden Nesin (YouTube channel)
- Dance World Takeover (Dance tips, commentary)
- DJ Ryan Swift (Music)
- dogpossum (Commentary)
- Euclid’s Fifth (Music)
- Hamfats (Photography, commentary)
- Home of the Tumblr Hoppers (Tumblr)
- It's The Way That You Do It (also on tumblr at Bon Vivant)
- Jazz Monkey (Humor, commentary)
- Jazz Rhythm Inspirations (History,Quotes, Videos)
- Jive Junction (Commentary)
- Jo & Kevin (Dance tips, fashion, commentary)
- Jonathan Stout’s Swing Guitar Blog (Music)
- Lil Brown Jug Show (Swing News & Commentary, YouTube channel)
- Lindy Affair (Commentary, Dance Tips)
- Lindy Hop Problems (Dance related GIFs)
- Lindy Hop Variations for Followers (Dance tips, commentary)
- Lindy Library (Competition & Performance videos)
- Lindy Shopper (Fashion)
- Minor Blog (Commentary)
- My Jazz Can Beat Up Your Jazz (Music)
- Patrick and Natasha (Competition & Performance videos)
- Resurrecting The Chorus Girl (History)
- RetroRhythmz (Competition & Performance videos)
- So Yeah, Blues Dance (Dance related GIFs)
- Stomp Off (Commentary)
- Straycat's Swing and Blues Corner (Music)
- Swing Fashionista (Fashion)
- Swing Nation (Swing News & Commentary, YouTube channel)
- Swungover (History, Dance tips, commentary)
- vernacular jazz dance (Tumblr)
- What Should We Call Swing Dance (Dance related GIFs)
- When in Doubt, Swingout (Tumblr)
I’ll see you later for at least one more post wrapping up 2013 and laying out the current state of Lindy Hop and the other vernacular jazz dances. In the mean time, if you’re on Facebook, make sure to Like the Facebook page of this blog to get the latest in what’s going down in the dance community.