Lindy Hop & Blues: The Upward Battle In Harmonious Dancing

Blues dancing is definitely a hot topic these days. There’s a lot of heat brewing between lindy hoppers and blues dancers in regards to respecting each other’s dance forms, not to mention the contention of what blues dancing even is amongst blues dancers.

For the sake of argument here, when I refer to blues dancing, I’m referring to what blues dancers call “pureists”. I’m not even going to touch fusion dancing with a 10-foot pole.

Overall, I’ve found that most lindy hoppers don’t really care about blues dancing or blues dancers. There’s little respect to be had, and they don’t pay much attention to what blues dancers are even doing. When I first started dancing though, all of the lindy hoppers in Albuquerque also went blues dancing.  There was no harsh distinction between the two like there is now. We would regularly drive to Santa Fe for Juke, a bimonthly dance that was billed as lindy and blues, and it was my favorite dance. They consistently oscillated between swing music, soul and funk and traditional 12 bar blues from the 30’s and 40’s. It was  the only dance like it at the time, and it was so much fun.

That was over 5 years ago now. Today, there’s a entire blues scene in Albuquerque, with dancing every week, and none of the lindy hoppers go anymore. And the blues dancers don’t come to our dances.

We all have our own reasons for why we don’t go to each other’s dances now, and we all know what those reasons are, so there’s no point in me spelling it out for everyone. Besides, I don’t really care to get daggers thrown at me for a point I’m not trying to argue. Needless to say, the scenes are very separated, and following the national trend, there’s some tension between the two scenes every now and again.

Back in January, I began a monthly Swing, Soul & Blues dance. I created it for a few reasons. I wanted there to be more dancing in Albuquerque, I wanted to revive Juke in some fashion, and I wanted to bring the two scenes back together. Just for 3 hours a month, I wanted for everyone to throw away any misconception, any judgement or animosity or whatever it is that keeps the two scenes from typically integrating to come together and have some fun.

For me, it was easy to get lindy hoppers on board for the dance. They were all over it. The former DJ’s and facilitators of Juke were eager to drive down from Santa Fe to come as well (which, as a quick side note, it can take a LOT to get people from Santa Fe to make the 1 hour drive here). And while the dance hasn’t always been packed, it’s been a ton of fun and the music is varied enough for any kind of dancer to come and enjoy themselves. However, the blues dancers have yet to really make an appearance at the dance. I’ve advertised to them, I regularly hire some of their DJ’s (who are really good). This past month I finally got 1 regular blues dancer who doesn’t do any lindy hop. But that was it. And he hardly danced at all. I actually don’t know if I even saw him dance once.

I would not consider myself to be a part of the blues scene, but I would say that I’m a supporter and advocator of it. The main blues organizer in town, Aaron Cabral, and I go way back, and I’ve got his back no matter what. While I don’t always dance, I usually go to the blues dances every week, to support them, to talk with my friends who are blues dancers, and to kill my non-travelling Friday nights (Seriously, what do regular people do on a Friday night? If I’m not travelling, I usually sit around the house looking like this):

What is it going to take to get the blues dancers to the SS&B dance? Is it the day or time of the dance? Are they intimated of dancing with lindy hoppers? Do they not want to attend a dance that’s organized by a lindy hopper? Do they just not care?

Am I fighting a losing battle here? Should I just throw in the towel with the blues dancers, stop caring about what they’re doing and just continue having fun with the people who are actually showing up? I mean, what’s not to love here: Swing music? Check. Soul and funk? Check. Blues? Check. Awesome amounts of fun? Check.

As someone who is an organizer in Albuquerque, I feel responsible for keeping everyone as cohesive as possible, and personally, I think it’s stupid that the lindy hop scene and blues scene, locally and nationally, are so separate. I understand if some people don’t like blues music or blues dancing, or if people don’t see the magic in swing music. Lots of people don’t, and that’s cool. I just feel like there should be some crossover. By someone. Even just a brown M&M’s worth of crossover. Even if that one blues dancer who had come to our SS&B dance had danced all night long, that would’ve been something.

Are there any dance scenes out there who’ve successfully integrated both their lindy hop and blues scenes without just constantly smushing the two together in every dance? If so, tell me your secret to how you did it. I’m dying to know.


Midwest Lindyfest 2012

Midwest Lindyfest is an event that everyone should experience at least once in their swing dancing career. It’s relatively small compared to the mega events such as Camp Jitterbug, Camp Hollywood or ILHC, but the quality of dancing is quite high, which leads to killer jams, great competitions and good social dancing. Small events mean you don’t get swallowed up in the masses. It’s easier to meet people and find them again for a dance the next night. Smaller events also mean smaller classes, which means dancers are more likely to get some sort of personal attention during class.

In addition to that, there’s a show on Friday night, live music at every main dance, and dancing on a riverboat. Seriously; dancing, booze and live music on a riverboat meandering down the Mississippi River. What more could you ask for in an evening, really?

One thing I loved about Midwest this year was the blocked classes. It is a truly wonderful thing to spend more than just an hour with a pair of instructors, and I’m sure the instructors are happy about it too. Each class was about 1 hour and 40 minutes, so it gave everyone ample time to teach and learn the material for each class.

The very number 1 thing I loved this year at Midwest: class tryouts during lunch. There is nothing more painful than waking up at 9am to be at 10am tryouts and to sweat it out cold first thing in the morning. The dancers trying out hate it, and it looks like the instructors hate it too. Tryouts were at 1pm, the perfect time for the night owls to crawl out of bed and grab food without bringing their grouchy suits with them. And, to make matters better, lunch was 2 1/2 hours long, so it gave everyone plenty of time to try out and eat lunch leisurely. Woo!

The competitions were baller. The competition was steep and everyone came ready to play.

After Christian and Jenny did those hacksaws, the competition was pretty much over. They murdered us! And thanks to Glenn Crytzer and his Syncopators for making it quite the competition indeed. They killed it in the strictly.

The Jack and Jill finals were so much fun! Not just to be in, but to watch too. It had a great vibe throughout the entire competition.

Unfortunately, the clips from the show aren’t up yet. I didn’t get to see most of the acts since I was backstage most of the time, but word on the street (and when I say street, I mean dance floor. And when I say dance floor, I actually just mean the lovely Stacia Martin) said there were a lot of great acts this year. So keep your eyes peeled for them on the tubes.

Finally, I want to give a big Heyo! to the organizers, Stacia Martin and her crew. It was evident that every decision they made was meticulously thought out, and I appreciate their passion and hard work to make this such a smooth sailing and successful event.

 


505 Stomp 2012

There are three things I have to say about 505 Stomp 2012: dodgeball, light sabers, and limbo. Yeah, that stuff actually happened. All at the same time. Oh, and by the way, Brett Dahlenburg was dressed up as Darth Vader.

Seriously though. I’m biased, obviously, but 505 Stomp this year was good. Really good. There are a few things that make workshop weekends successful. Having a well organized event, obvious; having friendly, knowledgeable instructors, again, obvious. But the number one thing that makes an event successful is the people, hands down. And it was the vibe that everyone brought to the event this year. It was fun, friendly, and more fun.

Here were some of the highlights from the weekend:

Dani Easley, Eva Robinson, and I performed our first time together as an all girls’ troupe. Name still pending.

I didn’t expect everyone to laugh at my solo, but it was awesome when they did. And it was a good thing we had all those feathers. I felt a little naked and cold without them.

Special thanks to Karen Turman for being the rockstar of the weekend. She made my costume, did my hair and my makeup.

Mikey Pedroza, Nirav Sanghani and Yossef Mendelssohn performing a hat trick shim sham. They were adorable.

The Jedi Jack & Jill competition. We made it go a little faster than at ABQLX, but we’re still honing our skills on running this competition more efficiently. Dodgeball comes in at about 21.:27. Dizzy bats came after that, which was also great. You’ll see what I mean.

There’s no video of this up yet, but the winners of the Jedi Jack & Jill were awarded light sabers, which quickly turned from a planned competition into an unplanned one, as people started a limbo competition during our Saturday late night dance. Limbo turned into jams, which led to an epic end of the dance.

The organizers of 505 Stomp are not professional organizers. We have a very limited budget to work with, and convincing people to visit New Mexico isn’t always easy. But we try our best to make the event run as smooth as possible, to provide the best instruction possible, and to make the event an environment that’s condusive to creating and having a lot of fun.

This was our best year yet, and we hope next year is even better. We hope you had as much fun as we did.

If you want to come participate in the next Jedi Jack & Jill competition, we’re resuming the epic battle October 12-14, 2012 at the 5th Albuquerque Lindy Exchange. Bring your sabers,  bring your shields, and bring your strength. It’s going to be glorious.


Keeping The Rhythm Querque

In a few weeks (actually the weekend of 505 Stomp) will be the 1 year anniversary of Rhythm. In addition to it being 1 year since Albuquerque lindyhoppers found a permanent home, it will also be 1 year since we decided to  do a complete overhaul of the scene; we started consistent, progressive classes with The Rhythm Project, and within The Rhythm Project we gave our weekly swing dance a face lift. Our dances have more than doubled in size over the past year, our classes are growing, and we’re retaining students. We have more dancers involved in running the dance, teaching the drop-in lesson and DJing. We’ve made a point to either have a snowball or a jam every week, even if the jams aren’t always created in an organic way, and we encourage and cheer on newbies who go into the jam. We spend more time investing in individual newbies, inviting them out for food after the dances or to go to parties with us. For the first time, I feel like I can honestly say that not only is our scene really growing, but it’s progressing and becoming more than just the infant stages of a dance scene. It’s legit.

We don’t have the best dancers, or the biggest scene, or even quazi-decent live music to dance to, but we don’t care about that, because that’s not what makes a dance scene great. It’s the people, the attitude and the personality of the scene. We have each other to learn and grow from. We don’t care about winning competitions or being the best. It’s not about fame or glory or money. It’s about fun, about finding a sanctuary to be ourselves, to give our all to something wonderful. It’s about changing your bad day around, bonding together as a community and having a great time. We do it because we have to it. We’re obsessed. There’s nothing else any of us could even begin to think of doing instead of Lindy Hop. And, in all honesty, why would we?

We dance because we love it. And we love it because of each other. I couldn’t ask to be in a better dance scene than this.


Nob Hill in the 1940’s

Nob Hill in the 1940's

The tall Motel sign on the right with the flower shape at the top is where Rhythm is today


The Lindy Hop Mating Call: The Story Behind The Silly Sound

So, I’ll just go ahead and make my shameless plug now to get it out of the way. If you haven’t signed up 505 Stomp yet, you should. Seriously, it’s going to be really awesome. I’m super excited about it, I know the instructors are really excited about it, and you should be too.

Today I’m telling you the story that led up to this:

It all started about a year ago when I was hanging out with some friends, when Dani Easley and I created this noise randomly to annoy Kevin Clark. It succeeded gloriously. It rapidly began to be used for other situations too, like cheering Brett Dahlenburg up when he was being a grouchy pants, or making each other laugh by seeing how loud we could make the noise.

It wasn’t until we had a lindy bomb in the early spring and made the noise that someone said that it sounds like a mating call for lindyhoppers. And so that’s what we called it. The point of the mating call is to make the noise when you don’t have anyone to dance with, and someone will be attracted to you and immediately run up and start dancing with you. In non-dancing environments, it can also be used as a call of distress or to find others in large crowds. We swore at that moment we’d make a video of it. Someday. Somehow.

Fast forward to July, we’re at The Rhythm Is Jumpin’, and after a few people hear this noise, I promise them I’d do it during the finals of a contest. And thus I did at about 1:09:

I’m pretty sure one of the judges broke his clipboard from pounding it on the ground from laughing so hard.

Fast forward to September. I had no idea about this until yesterday, actually, but Sarah Carney created this in inspiration of TRIJ 2011.

It’s spreading. And before you know you’ll be making the noise too. It’ll start in your home, by yourself as to not embarass yourself. You’ll tell your friends about it, make the noise for them. They’ll make it too. See how fast it spreads? It’ll be a thing. Just wait.

Oh, and don’t forget. 505 Stomp. The whole reason that video was made.


Lone Star Championships 2012

I’m pretty sure Lone Star Championships posesses some sort of magical powers. Why is it that it’s everything you want and need in a weekend event to have a great time and grow as a dancer? I know they don’t necessarily feel like they deserve the credit, but Scott Angelius and Tena Morales put on a killer event this weekend.

Seriously. Free food AND free booze? Come on. Come on. You can’t not love that.

Most dancers don’t realize everything it takes to create a seamless event, and it’s often a very thankless job. I always feel it’s important to give kudos to those organizers that really put their hearts and souls into their events. It shows and it makes every single dancer’s time at the event better.

Going to a Tena event is like going home to your mom’s house for dinner. She’s going to cook up something real nice and nutritious for you and it’s going to be the best thing you’ve eaten since the last time you ate at her house. She’s the momma bear of the Lindy Hop community, and whether or not  you know her or have even been to one of her events, she has directly affected your Lindy Hop career in one way or another.

But back to the magical powers that Lone Star possesses. Seriously, there’s something going on there.

Lone Star is the kind of event that’s intimate, casual, yet so full of content that it’s difficult to not burst at the seams with excitement and inspiration. The afternoons are stuffed full of competitions that are not for the faint of heart. The competition is fierce and you have to bring your A game. At the main dances, you’ll hear great live music and see fantastic competition finals in a large ballroom. The late nights are full of Championsips, kick ass dancing, great conversation and impromptu group singing to Disney songs in the smaller rooms of the mansion where the event is held. You’ll get so in the zone with your dancing that you forget about everything else: feeling sore or tired, feeling hungry, needing to pee. Before you know it it’s 5am, they’re cleaning up the venue and you’re still ready for more dancing. You’ll make friends, talk with people you’ve never talked with before, and sing “A Whole New World” with people from all over the country who not so secretly love the song. You’ll wander into a back room where some lindy hoppers are jamming on instruments, and before you know it, nearly the entire late night is dancing in there.

All of these things are all of the reasons why people love Lindy Hop. And that’s why Lone Star is so awesome. There’s nothing missing from it. It’s everything you need and more. Free food AND free booze!

If you didn’t get to go, here are a few things that you missed out on:

The Blues Finals. This was by far, the best competition of the weekend.

Andrew Thigpen and Nina Gilkenson tearing it up in the Invitational Jack & Jill.

The Booze. Boom.

 

 

 


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