We had already set the choreography by Winter 2009, anticipating that we’d probably need to add a moment or two from that year before performing it at ILHC 2009. We chose to put a reference to the Silver Shadows’ Tribute to Frankie Manning from Frankie95. This was the highlight of the entire festival for me, such a beautiful gift to honor Frankie’s memory. It also served as a modern day reference to Frankie Manning and what he did for the dance community. We knew we already had two Silver Shadows references for the ending, but we really didn’t think we could live with ourselves if we left this one out, so we just tacked it onto the beginning of that sequence.
In January 2008 Mikey Pedroza asked me to partner with him for a group routine with Laura Keat and Jeremy Otth for the Jump Session show at Camp Jitterbug in Seattle. I was so flattered and excited to be included in the show. Mikey really wanted to do a spoof on the groove era of lindy hop. So he introduced me to a whole bunch of clips from 2000-2003 that exemplified this style very reminiscent of West Coast Swing, all using some serious micro-musicality. Huge pants and body rolls were a must. I definitely remember the UFO pants at Herrang 2000 and Janice Wilson’s class on body rolling in lindy with Jay Z’s “Big Pimpin” as the soundtrack. The clip we kept going back to in order to steal moves was Todd Yannacone and Emily (aka Jo) Hoffberg’s “Love me or Leave me” routine from ALHC 2001. At the time, I’ll admit that we were poking fun, but the joke was on us—that stuff was extremely hard to execute and Todd and Emily nailed it. This clip has turned into one of my very favorites.
ULHS 2006 was another epic event, especially the fast dancing division. This was the first time that Showdown was really published via youtube, and that particular comp went totally viral and is now one of the first clips that comes up when you search for “lindy hop.” We really considered quoting Nick Williams and Ria Dibiase and their incredibly innovative aerial inspired by a dance scene in the movie Idlewild, which garnered them first place in the coolest competition of the year.
Karen mentioned ULHS 2005, but she's a little too modest to mention her own accomplishments, so I thought I'd take this opportunity to share a few more videos from that event featuring our illustrious guest blogger. She won the Jack & Jill division that year along with then DC-ite Luke Albao.
She also made the semi-finals of the solo charleston contest that year. This video still ranks as one of my favorite contests because of all the cool interactions between the dancers which I talked about in an earlier post.
Finally, I uploaded a video of her performing with other Minnesota dancers in what was one of the first notable all female charleston performances in the modern era, or at least they were one of the first ones before everyone and their mother started doing them. (I didn't take this video. It was downloaded from a source that I can't remember.)
And just so he doesn't feel left out, here's what Andrew Thigpen was doing around the same time.
After Basie Ball in 2004, I started to officially travel like a crazy person for dancing. I went to the Rhythmic Arts Festival (San Diego), Swinger’s Ball (Chicago), DCLX, Midwest Lindyfest, Camp Jitterbug, Herrang, and the San Francisco Exchange. I was thus primed for ULHS 2005, the first year it was in the amazing Varsity Theater in Minneapolis. In my opinion this event represents a marked change in the consistency of good lindy hop. There were so many epic moments this year, and I think a lot of that is due to Todd Yannaconne and Naomi Uyama teaming up, along with the Silver Shadows making their debut with Frida and Todd in the mix. Todd and Naomi brought everyone to their feet in the fast division, then the premier fast competition, by doing really intricate footwork and Charleston variations to the Wolverine’s ridiculously fast “White Heat”—and they even danced on the beat.
In 2004 I finally started getting back into what was going on in the national scene thanks to Chance Bushman. By then the DVD compilation “Cakewalk to Lindy Hop” was circulating amongst many of my friends and I was exposed to clips like Shorty George in “After Seben” and Whitey’s Lindy Hoppers in “A Day at the Races.” I’m sure I had watched these before at some point, but it wasn’t until then that I started to really understand them and appreciate the historical significance. We were all getting back into Charleston and dancing “raw”, so these two clips were really fundamental for learning partner Charleston stuff. Andrew and I knew we had to start the evolution routine with Shorty George, so we chose this clip, leading into the “Day at the Races.” We specifically chose Leon James’ and Norma Miller’s spotlight because it was goofy and we also wanted to make sure to pay tribute to them as individual dancers.
Between 2001 and 2004 I’d taken a break from the hard-core dance life and was a casual local dancer for a while, enjoying only events in Minnesota such as Midwest Lindyfest and ULHS, thanks to Amy Johnson. I was still hanging out and practicing from time to time with Mike and other friends, during which time he very proudly showed me a clip of the “Mad Dog” routine from ALHC 2002, or NADC, I can’t remember which. Everybody I’d ever heard of or seen in any competition was in that clip. And despite the poor quality of the video, it was still possible to feel the incredible energy and rawness of the dancing. This was the first time I’d really seen people successfully bust out fast dancing with aerials and all around ridiculousness.
Back in 1999, every Sunday we would all go to Lindy by the Lake in the Lake Harriet Bandshell, DJ’d by Jesse Miner, now of San Francisco. We would all do the Shim Sham to that really cheesy song, not “T’ain’t what you do,” but “Wanna learn the shim sham?” I thought it was the greatest thing ever. It was like a show, we’d just all line up and do it on the bandshell stage to all the people passing by. I’d actually already learned the tap version of the shim sham because I’d been a tap dancer for years before I started swing. Andrew and I also definitely wanted to include the shim sham as a more modern and community-oriented Frankie reference. To be fair, Frankie would have used “T’ain’t what you do,” which is a way cooler song, but we were going for silliness here.
Once all of us in Minnesota started really getting into Lindy Hop in 1999, Mike would mail-order videos of Camp Hollywood 1998, Can’t Top the Lindy Hop, Buck Privates, Groovie Movie and Hellzapoppin' and we would all go over to his and Amy’s apartment (nicknamed the “Swing Pad”) and watch footage until our faces were numb. The “Can’t Top” video had a special significance for me—it was the first time any of us had seen Frankie Manning, Steven Mitchell, Ryan Francois, Sylvia Sykes, Sing Lim, and Ron from London.
In July 2009 Andrew came to Santa Barbara for the first of what would become many weekend practice sessions. We had just performed our first choreography, fondly named “the Hoedown”, at Lindy Focus, and were watching Judson Laipply in his Orange Crush T-shirt doing his “Evolution of Dance” clip to get new ideas for it (he quotes “Cotton-Eyed Joe”). We ended up just enjoying the clip in its entirety—then I looked over at Andrew and said “What if we wore Orange Crush T-shirts and jeans and did the evolution of lindy hop? Andrew immediately googled “orange crush t-shirt,” clicked “buy” and we started brainstorming. This became a project we would work on for over 20 months. Many people have been asking me about this routine, so I’ve decided to share my thoughts on the process from an autobiographical perspective (I’m thinking of John Cusack in “High Fidelity,” organizing his record collection autobiographically). Reuben Brown has created a playlist on youtube of all of the clips, and Ben Yau has written a thorough blog based on the historical significance of each clip we chose. I feel like most of us have our own stories about the significance of a lot of these clips, so here are mine.