Tuesday, 29 October 2013

A Lindy Hop Pentathlon

So it seems my last post got quite the audience in Finland of all places so Tervetuloa!

I spent this weekend watching the ESDC live feed (and getting drunk on Twitter) and it got me thinking about competitions. Specifically some sort of multi-division contest designed to really pick out the best of the best.

What better model than the Modern Pentathlon - with it's mix of running, swimming, shooting, fencing and show jumping. (well okay, perhaps not such a good model - but whatever I like the number 5)

So what should this Lindy Hop Pentathlon contain. Here's my ideas:
  • Social dance/improvisation - Lindy Hop is a street dance and the social dancing is a huge part of the scene and what many competition divisions attempt to replicate. Improvisation (it's a jazz dance) is critical in this.
  • Choreography - Though it is a street dance Lindy Hop achieved fame through iconic choreography like the Hellzapoppin' routine. The ability to choreograph routines is part of what makes someone a great Lindy hopper. 
  • Solo dance - Dogpossum has convinced me that solo dancing is really important if you really want mad skillz. It's also a big part of our current scene and historically important too.
  • Role switching - If you can't do both roles I don't think you can call yourself an advanced dancer. 
  • Icons of Lindy Hop - I also reckon that a Lindy Pentathlon needs some spice, something added to the usual comp divisions, something that represents the Lindy Hop and something that really gets the crowd fired up.
  • A Team Event - though it does have it's individual elements, at the end of the day Lindy Hop needs a team of two people to work. The pentathlon should be entered by a couple.
And what should be out:
  • Other dance styles - No Balboa, No Blues, No Shag. This is about being the greatest Lindy Hop couple, not the greatest vernacular jazz dance couple. So these other styles are out.
  • A separate event - this should be taking place at an existing competition
  • Gimmicks - dance marathons, jazz alphabets, memorisation of routines etc. Yeah I know it's a fine line between gimmicks and icons, but this shouldn't be too silly.
So with all that in mind here's my list of events for a Lindy Hop Pentathlon:

The Partnered Contests (in at least one of these events the couple should switch roles for the entirety of the event):
  • Strictly Lindy - improvised with partner, to unknown music
  • Jack and Jill - improvised with random partner, to unknown music
  • Showcase/Classic - choreographed routine to music selected by couple
 The Mad Skillz Contests:
  • Solo dance - charleston, authentic jazz it's all good
  • Huge Air - this is the addition, something to up the stakes and get the crowd pumping. Here's how it goes down. Four eights, thirty two bars, one chorus to pull the craziest most-crowd-pleasing air step(s) possible. To be judged by audience acclamation. For fairness the same chorus could be used for everyone.
Competitors would be judged as a couple with their individual scores in the solo dance and J&J contests would be added to their score as a team. Each event would be equally weighted. To raise the stakes the scores could be tallied and tabled before the Huge Air contest - so the audience knows where everyone is placed going into the last round. This could also be held in conjunction with other events - only those entering all 5 would go into the pentathlon.

So there's my idea. Would it ever make it into an event? Probably not and I'm not really advocating that it should - this is more of a thought experiment than anything else.

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Jazz Music Shops for Swing DJs

One of the things I've been working on of late is a crowd sourced map of jazz music stores. When I travel I like to visit music stores and check out their selection - hopefully I can snap up something that's out of print or heavily discounted.

The map is for those swing DJs who like to travel and who like to buy their music in hard copy.

Here's the map:
If anyone has any additions please let me know in the comments. I'd rather avoid adding chain stores, unless they have a particularly good selection.

Friday, 11 October 2013

10 Lindy Hop Videos Everyone Should Watch

Well I've been slack with the postings as of late (I've been working on some other projects - and am starting my PhD - besides am I ever not slack with posting stuff here) - heck I'm always slack, but here's 10 important videos about Lindy Hop. There's no real criteria for inclusion - I've picked some that are great examples of things, others that are important for our modern scene in various ways and others because I like them. Enjoy!

1 - After Seben 1929
Baring the uncovering of some archival footage (which is possible, film shot at the 1928 Harlem dance marathon - where Lindy was supposedly invented - exists in a vault in South Carolina) this film from 1929 is the earliest example we have of Lindy Hop and features the legendary 'Shorty' George Snowden. With comments from Bobby White:

2 - Hellzapoppin - 1941
The most famous Lindy Hop routine on film. You can also watch the full movie here.I like this version with the musical introduction featuring the genius of Slim and Slam which illustrates the call and response features of jazz.

3 - The Spirit Moves
The most important video documentary of African American vernacular dance. Mura Dehn filmed a bunch of the greats from the Savoy, including Al Minns and Leon James, amongst many other dancers tracing the changes in dance styles across the 20th century. This is just a preview of the DVD (if you're serious about this shit you should buy yourself a copy). There's videos on youtube of various lindy hop related scenes that you can search out as well.

4 - Mad Dog 2002
Badass! was a quality missing during the neo-swing and groove phases that contemporary lindy hop went through - but it's not missing in this routine. It's was pretty influential (I wasn't around then, but those who were still talk about it) and a great example of a throw down everything balls-to-the-wall jam.

5 - Max and Thomas 2007
Max and Thomas of the Ninjammerz showing us how it's done. This routine is actually a parody of a routine done originally by Carla Heiney and Kevin St. Laurent which you can watch here.

6 - Skye and Frida "24 Robbers" - 2007
No list of lindy hop videos is complete without a performance from the power couple of Frida Segerdahl and Skye Humphries. This is one of their more iconic routines (and one of my personal favourites).
Jerry Almonte has a lengthy post about this routine that is well worth reading - in fact if you really want to get yourself schooled on the recent history of lindy hop (and have some time to kill - it's about 70 pages long) check out his Artistry in Rhythm series.

7 - I Charleston Japan - 2009
You've probably seen an I Charleston video (there's more than 40 now) but this one started them all.

8 - The Last Bounce - 2010
Lindy Hop in an arena spectacular? Where else but Sweden of course. The Harlem Hotshots wow the audience in this section of The Last Bounce.

9 - Black Coffee - 2011
There's now a bunch of Lindy Hop videos made by Lindy Hoppers which have rather high production values. This was one of the first I saw and remains a favourite:

10 - What is Lindy Hop? - 2013

It only took 8 years but there's finally a video on You Tube that actually explains what Lindy Hop is (aside from the misleading references to newspaper headlines). Put together by Yehoodi for this year's live broadcast of ILHC it's something you can send to relos and non-dancing friends.

Bonus - Evolution of Lindy Hop - 2010
Karen Turman and Andrew Thigpen's ILHC routine references a tonne of choreography from classic Lindy Hop videos. You can read about the thought process behind it in a series of guest posts (again on Jerry's blog), Ben Yau has an analysis of all the videos and there's also a compilation here.