Friday, February 26, 2010

Swing the wing and whip the hip!

The title to this post is a quote from The Groovie Movie, which is one of the shorts that Los Angeles dancers found inspiration in during the late 90s. The quote refers to Jean Veloz' hip action during her swivels. Since one of the topics we covered last night was swiveling, and since I asked the follows to watch for examples of swivels, you should check that video as well. The Groovie Movie can be found elsewhere in this blog, if you'll just click on the tag marked "Groovie Movie" you'll find it.

We mentioned a few names to check out on YouTube. I don't have time to post links of them all. Alice P. will probably be happy to do that over on Rantings of a Lindy Hopper. At the moment I have time to post one clip, which features the hips of Jewel McGowan, possibly Dean Collins' most watched partner. Dean Collins is often credited with bringing Lindy Hop from the Savoy Ballroom to Los Angeles. Whether or not this is strictly true, it can't be denied that he's a very important figure in the Southern California Lindy Hop world, and a pivotal figure in the evolution of Swing Dancing. Jewel McGowan was his partner for quite a while, appearing with him in several movies. The clip below is from Buck Privates, featuring Abbot and Costello.

You'll see Dean and Jewel doing their thing around (1:36), but overall this clip has been a pretty influential one.

While we're on the subject of swivels, we are asking for the follows to check youtube for the following names: Nina Gilkenson, Frida Segerdahl, Freda Angela, Jean Veloz, Sylvia Skylar... There are probably so many names to mention. Follows, your work is ahead of you!

Any regular posters have suggestion on dancers to watch? That goes for Leads and Follows. Who would you recommend watching for pure style?

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Pop(turn) will eat itself

We've had a recent influx of new students over the last month, so we've been more focused on mechanical issues and leading/following fundamentals. Since most of the class is quite new, I plan to bring back the class on pop-turns tonight. It follows from our recent class topics pretty well and brings some light to the basics of the lead/follow dynamic.

Mechanics are important, vital even. However, I'm even more excited for the day that all these students understand the way their bodies interact and are ready to explore topics about enriching the dance: playfulness, music, improvisation. I think some of the questions are starting to be asked. A few days ago, I was asked how a follow could discern the lead's rhythm. Phrased the way it was asked: "how can I tell when my partner is on One?" I didn't really address the rhythmic cues in the pulse between the partners, mostly since we discuss it so much in class. I answered with regard to music. We were listening to CDs on a laptop computer, so it was especially tough to hear the bass line. I'm really looking forward to the day that I can explore this with the new students.

There are many more thoughts to consider, but thumb-typing is not conducive to long blog-thoughts. Anyone have input on their discovery of rhythm and partnering?

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

The Rantings of a Lindy Hopper + The No Account Count

Here's a link to Alice P's Lindy-centric blog: The Rantings of a Lindy Hopper. Alice has been one of my assistants in class for the last several months.

We had a lot of new students in class last week. We took it back to basics, did a few leading and following exercises. It seemed mostly that people needed to iron out the swingout more than anything else. I admit that the class feels like it is taught by committee. Alice, Charlotte and I have pretty distinct points of view. Alice and Charlotte have both been recently excited by a recent workshop with Dax and Sarah. I'm typically skeptical.

After class Charlotte and I had a brief conversation about counting the basic. When she was learning from Dax several years ago, he did not use any counting, but rather the scat-rhythms like those that were popularized by Stephen Mitchell and others during the 90s. So rather than "one two three&four five six seven&eight" teachers might use a rhythm like this "boop doo doop-dah-doo, boop doo doop-dah-doo" or some such. Charlotte suggested that she would love to compare a theoretical Lindy Hop culture that never learned counting to another that learned from the numbers.

The thought of removing the numbers doesn't really bother me, but it does remind me of this sort of hostility toward math that many folks have. I tend to blame this sentiment more on teachers than anything else. I certainly agree that learning numbers changes the way one thinks (in the dance and in the world), however, I also believe that one can learn one paradigm and then transcend it. You can learn how to count and then learn to abandon the count. You can always keep the numbers in mind for a rainy day.

So I put it up for debate: what are the strengths of beginners counting and of beginners not counting? What is to be gained by either approach? Is one way superior to the other? Can't we all just get along?

By the way, I don't mean to criticize Dax & Sarah or Charlotte at all. I'm mostly hoping to open up and interesting conversation.

This week I plan to teach a class about balance. Feel free to click on the balance tag and see the previous posts on the subject.

Thursday, February 4, 2010


I've been following the Legion of Extraordinary Dancers since the teaser first dropped last year. They're not Lindy Hop, but they're well worth your time and attention.

The first teaser, Choices.
I've posted this here before.

Official trailer: Moments

The LXD perform on So You Think You Can Dance