(Migrated from Facebook)
Happy holidays, y’all. It’s been a crazy time for me lately, but writing has been on my mind, and I hope to put out some interesting posts in the new year. Here’s a sneak preview:
Varieties of masculinities in Lindy Hop, past and present. Why the seemingly sudden turn to more rigid notions of femininity in vernacular jazz dances, particularly Balboa? Should you care what goes on with the really advanced dancers in the scene? What is up with connecting really amazingly with certain people but not others? Soon enough you will know my thoughts on these matters and others.
I’ve also been reminescing about times past, happy dancing memories, and the generally wonderful network of people I’ve gotten to know because of my love for this dance. I’m truly thankful for everyone I’ve met because of Lindy Hop, for all my friends especially–near and far, for those who take lessons from me, those who hire me, those who ask me to DJ, and generally everyone that encourages me to remain an active part of this vibrant community.
A very merry holiday to you, and a happy new year! I’ll be ringing it in 1930’s style in Asheville, NC at Lindy Focus.
So I’ve been having these conversations lately with some friends who have been around as long as I have (or longer), and what it’s like thinking back over the past 9 years or so as a Lindy Hopper. (First of all, it’s crazy to think that I learned my first swingout over nine years ago.) Mostly I’ve been reflecting on what it’s like to have this very particular background of how I came to Lindy Hop and how different that experience is from what many of my newer Lindy friends have experienced. For one thing, I have some younger friends who were, like, 11 years old in the days of the Gap Khakis commercial and the Swingkids movie. (!) But mostly I’ve been thinking about the difference between the experience I and people of my “generation” had (coming to Lindy in the late ’90s, early 00’s) compared to friends who have only been dancing for, say, 3 years or so. Many of these things have already been remarked upon in far more interesting and entertaining ways elsewhere (see the xkcdance blog, for example), but here are some of the things that these more recent converts to Lindy missed out on that were significant in some way to my experience coming up as a dancer, and which said friends know next to nothing about now:
(Cross-posted to the Southern Belle Swing Blog.)
I’m so excited that we’ll be putting on our fourth annual Southern Belle Swing Bash this year. It’s hard to believe we’ve been going so long already! I remember how much of an impact the first year had on my own dancing, and every year I try to help craft a weekend that will help more followers to experience those kinds of breakthroughs.
This April I was lucky to get up to visit one of the other (many!) woman-centered jazz events that are now popping up all over, the Northeast Girl Jam. Jojo Jackson put together a stellar event, much like our own Southern Belle Swing Bash that first year (one big class for everybody, Nina Gilkenson & Naomi Uyama were two of their instructors), and it just reinforced for me that these events are really making a positive impact in so many ways.
One of my roles that weekend was to give a lunchtime film clip presentation of “Lady Jazz Dancers of the 20th Century.” As I got ready to give the presentation, I was reading over a printed statement that Jojo and Giselle Anguizola (organizer of the first California Girl Jam) had set out on the registration table, explaining their reasons for putting on girl jams. And reading their words, I felt inspired to do a little “preaching” during my presentation. I’ve always felt that there was a synergy between organizing Southern Belles and my personal commitment to feminism, and at that moment I thought: “Yes! This is it!” My opening remarks for the film clip presentation went something like this:
Well, tonight was my first time DJ’ing the whole dance. (Thanks, Jesse!) I thought it went pretty well. Not my most amazing set EV-AR, but since it’s a hometown gig, I don’t go in expecting that anyway. I was feeling better about it after the compliments I got at Northeast Girl Jam on my DJ’ing sets there. So I tried to take advantage of the opportunity and play a wide range of stuff. Actually, I ended up playing a couple of songs where I even surprised myself at playing them. (See if you can guess which ones.)
Also someone requested a “fast” song for an East Coast dancer, and my best attempt at that one was “Choo Choo Ch Boogie.” I don’t have a huge collection of Neo-swing to bust out whenever someone asks. I’m an anti-request DJ anyway, but I did my best for this particular situation. I have no idea if it was satisfactory or not.
I started off the night hovering around 140 bpm, for the beginners (since they had seemed to be comfortable at about 130 bpm, and I didn’t want to set them up to feel like the whole night was too fast for them). Then I slowly bumped it up to 150 bpm range, then moved to 160-175 bpms around 10pm, and then dropped it down to 120-130 for a handful of songs to “convince” the newbies not to leave early.
The weird part was, having DJ’d half the night so many times, I felt like I should have been done at 10:30pm. But I still had half an hour! Then I got back into the groove, and by the time I played “Ain’t What You Do,” I realized to my surprise the dance was basically over. So it will take a bit of getting used to the new timeframe before I can set things up right. (Personal criticism of the night: I peaked too early.)