This article will be updated as new tips & photos come in.
I spent a great deal of my mid-teens to late 20s trying to get a good vintage 1930’s/40’s men’s haircut, first à la Swing Kids, and later à la the kind of haircut the swing kids had before they grew it out. This took me quite a lot of trying to explain what I wanted and produced mostly mediocre results. The main reason was I didn’t know how to communicate exactly what I wanted, and during most of that time my stylists had hardly ever done a vintage men’s haircut.
Thankfully, men’s vintage-ish haircuts are coming back into mainstream fashion — whether through the influence of Mad Men, or the indie fashion of people like Arcade Fire front man Win Butler, or European soccer/football stars, or Justin Timberlake— and so it should be easier for stylists and barbers to know what you’re talking about when you say you want a men’s vintage cut.
Luckily, most styles of the 1930s to 50s have these basics in common: a short back and sides (also known as “high and tight”) and a longer top, especially near the front of the head. However, one should know that there are still a lot of variables at play. Where the variations mostly come in is how high, how tight, how long on top, and how dramatic the fade you want between the sides and top. Read more…
One of my favorite dance workshops to be on staff for takes place in a remote mansion that’s only accessible by 4-wheel drive vehicles.
It’s called The Balboa Experiment. (And next year, there will be The Blues Experiment!) The unique workshop was created as a companion to the traditional classroom, and basically asks “What happens when you put 30 dancers in a beach house for a week and ask them to try various things?” In this interview, Founder David Rehm answers that, and many other questions.
The interview is an audio podcast. But, I’ve added some pictures of The Experiment venue to the video for those who crave a slightly hypnotic yet pleasing visual stimulus.
And, here is a little chapter listing for skipping around:
You can learn to swing dance via many different methods: classes, workshop weekends, private lessons, or your own social dancing and study of clips. But before we look at these methods in detail (in the next episode of Swing 101), we wanted to talk about learning to swing dance in general. So, here are three pieces of advice as you begin your learning journey.
1. Start honing your most important tool: body awareness.
No matter how you decide to learn how to swing dance, your most important learning tool is, and always will be, body awareness.
But first you have to begin honing your tool. Because body awareness is what most beginner dancers don’t have much of, unless they’ve danced other dance forms for extended periods of time or have done a whole lot of athletics. Even then, swing will often require subtly different forms of body awareness than any other activities require. (People who have only danced ballet, for instance, are usually quick at learning movements and steps, but often have difficulty with the African influences in the dance, such as the downward pulse.)
Why is body awareness so important? Because one of the most important aspects of improving at something is knowing the difference between what you are doing and what you wish to do. And awareness is how you know that difference.
For instance, let’s say you throw a ball at a basketball hoop, and it falls short. Read more…
Music Comes First
In the world of street dances, the music always comes first. People hear a new music form start to arise, and it’s only a matter of time before they begin to move to it. The new American musical forms that began to emerge in popular culture in the 1900s — first ragtime, and then early “hot” jazz — were no exception. Many regional, and soon nationwide, dances began to evolve to this music.
It was in the middle of the 1920s, when the jazz age was going strong, that America encountered one of its first and greatest nation-wide fads: The Charleston. There is evidence to suggest that the Charleston step was part of African cultures which then spread through parts of the American south. But its modern form came when, in 1924, it was used as a song and dance number in the Broadway show Runnin’ Wild. (The song is the one that comes into your head when you hear the word “Charleston.”) Read more…
This is episode 2 of Swing 101, a series geared towards beginner dancers. Special guest editor Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy.
Don’t know who Mr. Darcy is? Don’t worry. He’s simply Jane Austen’s most principled gentleman, and a bit of a badass. Anyway, he’s been nice enough to take over here at the Swungover manor house and put together a guide on modern swing dancing etiquette. Now, though Mr. Darcy tries to be open-minded when logic and reason prevail, he’s still very strict about what is and isn’t done.
So, if these seem too rigid — some people, and entire scenes, don’t worry about sweat very much, for instance — then consider them more as guidelines — your personal character, principles, or culture may give you reasons for not doing these. And some cultures have very specific etiquette rules that may differ from this specifically British Regency (and modern American) take on it. I will note that at the root of Mr. Darcy’s advice is respecting oneself, one’s dance partner, and others on the floor. And this is the main point of dance etiquette, is it not?
On Asking Someone To Dance
One asks another person to swing dance by simply using their words. “Would you like to dance?” “Care to dance?” “May I have this dance?” are all fine. What is not generally liked very much in the swing scene is extending your hand to someone, silently, and expecting them to jump at the chance to dance with you. Or grabbing someone and pulling them onto the floor. Read more…