Tuesday, November 12, 2013


Now that I live in the Midwest, I've realized what it is that Southern California has that most other places don't. This morning I spent a good half hour responding to Scout Craft's question on Facebook about the benefits of social dancing in Hollywood style. I was unaware that folks still used that phrase. I've always believed that branding dance styles is ludicrous. I'm much more concerned with the lineage and the traditions of wisdom that have been passed along.

But now I have to reflect on what the style of dancing at home meant to me and it wasn't a style. I personally never tried to dance like the old timers, but sort of swimming in the same pool with them was a big deal. Now that I've lived in places where their influences aren't felt I know a lot more clearly what it is that they shared. I miss that. Most places don't have a direct link with their history. Most Lindy Hoppers don't have a familial connection with their dance.

Bart Bartolo passed away in February and Jack Carey passed away last month. Freda Wyckoff just celebrated her 90th birthday last weekend at the Swing Pit. I'm glad I knew all of them.

I went to a Balboa event last month and I think there's a giant missing component in the modern Balboa community. I'm not able to elaborate on it very much but old Balboa dancers really wanted to impress upon us that Balboa could be danced as slow as 80BPM. That range of tempos has really shrunk over the decades and it seems like most modern Balboa dancers don't even know this is an option. 

I include that last part in this post because it's about lineage. And as our elders continue to pass on, I think it's vital to remember their knowledge. 


  1. Could you please tell more about oldtimers dancing on slow tempos? Have you personally seen it/danced with them? Are there any videos? I wonder was it still Bal or they just switched to Foxtrot? For the last few years thanks to Peter-Mia and Mickey-Kelly there is a growing interest to Dean Raftery's slow version of purebal, but I've never heard about this being universal (contrary to already mentioned Foxtrot).

  2. It wasn't Foxtrot that they danced. It was Balboa.

    I've quoted Bart Bartolo, famous for "nosing" us youngsters: "If you can dance slow it's like you're naked in front of God." The gist of this is that fast dancing is very forgiving and that slow dancing required more skill.

    Joe Lanza wrote a book that he foisted on us kids, kind of a bound together bunch of pamphlets. I believe that in his overview of Balboa he described the range from 80 BPM to over 300.

    I remember John Mills loved the slow tunes, though many of his young partners felt violated. This was before the proliferation of the Blues scene, though the slow Balboa I there resembled the Blues I was seeing come out of San Francisco at the time, or maybe vice versa.

    So on the few occasions when I've taught Blues, I've made sure to include Balboa movement, steps and patterns. I make sure to describe it as Balboa. That's the least I can do.