As a student of teaching, coaching, and practice method, I often hear the name John Wooden, usually followed by some of his famous sayings.
Wooden (1910-2010) was an UCLA basketball coach who, among many things, won seven NCAA championships in a row. However, such results were merely a reflection of his much greater accomplishment: an incredible understanding of coaching (and, arguably, living). In 2003 he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest honor the government awards a civilian.
He’s a hero and a great inspiration in my practice, and living. Here is a list of some of the Wooden-isms that can easily apply to getting more out of swing dancing.
(A note on the source: This list was sent to me a long time ago, and I have not been able to confirm that all are Wooden-isms. Most of them are, according to Wooden’s website or books.)
“Big things are accomplished only through the perfection of minor details.”
A fancy-pants move will look good only if its rhythm, balance, and traveling distances are precise. Getting an extra six inches in height on that aerial doesn’t take more muscle and strength, but perhaps just focusing on popping the hips at the precise time. A great choreography is honed by focusing and perfecting several counts at a time.
Chances are most beginner dancers will hear the name Frankie Manning at some point in the first couple of months of their dancing. But how long will they dance before they hear the names Jewel McGowan, Lenny Smith, Jean Veloz, or Leon James? Or, more importantly, see them dance?
In my opinion, the sooner a beginner dancer sees the great dance voices of the past, the sooner they can get excited and draw inspiration from those great voices. (Hence, it’s not all that important that a beginner dancer know all the names — just that they see the amazing but different things Lindy Hop meant to all these great individuals in the dance.)
And that’s what this video is for, which doesn’t even cover all of the 1930s & 40s dancers of note and hardly any of the post WWII generation’s. Hence, it’s just a starting point. But don’t worry, there’s a “20 More…” list coming.
The great jazz dancers Al Minns & Leon James often worked with the historian Marshall Stearns to educate people on the history of jazz dance.
A few years ago I had the idea to do a similar educational clip about the history of Caucasian social dancing, a topic very few scholars would be interested in. Luckily, my film-making partner Nick Williams and I found some: good friends Javier Johnson and Shani B helped us explore the overlooked history of one culture’s contribution to social dancing.
Ladies and gentlemen, occasionally we here at Swungover* give way too much information. This may be one of those articles. But, you can partially blame beginner dancer Doug Noel, who asked a fantastic question. (Sorry to bung you under the bus, Doug.)
“At Lindy Focus [a huge Lindy Hop New Year’s event with one stellar emcee], I picked up probably two dozen advertisements for events throughout the year, a fair number in the Feb-Mar time frame. A question I have is How do I decide what I should be going to, and what should I be passing up?
Certainly things that are closer are easier logistically, but… Do I want bigger events so I can experience dancing with people I don’t know? Do I want a smaller event so I can get more personalized attention from the instructors? Is there a point of diminishing returns, where you need a few weeks or a month between events?”
These are all fantastic questions.
A lot of factors go into the worth of an event, and on top of that, a lot of those factors are different based on what you want out of dancing, and where you are as a dancer.
A little something we threw together at this last year’s Eastern Balboa Championships (the final one, hence the “E.B.C.” mentioned at the end credits.)
The new website Swing Dandies has a very simple purpose:
We asked a group of our fashion-loving swing friends that if they ever saw someone wearing something they liked, to simply take a picture and we’d post it.
“We” in this case is Laura Windley from Lindyshopper and me, Bobby White, from Fine & Dandy. And the friends we have asked so far are none other than some of the scene’s most noted sartorialists. In alphabetical order, they are Bobby Bonsey, Mia Goldsmith, Beth Grover, Chris Harm, Jo Hoffberg, Yossef Mendelssohn, Pontus Persson, and Kevin St. Laurent.
Overall, we’re not going to discriminate: Our correspondents, as some of them travel the globe to teach swing dances, and others travel the photo archives and vintage stores of the country, have been given only one rule: If they think it’s cool and swing dancers should too, then we post it.
Currently, this website is an idea we want to try out; we may add crew members over time, to make sure we’re covering all corners of the scene. We’ll give it a year, and if it goes well enough, we’ll continue.
So, please enjoy SwingDandies.com.
We here at Swungover* are proud to present Chickta-Boom, a new companion website specifically designed for newcomers to the modern swing dance scene.
The website offers (or will offer in the near future)…
— A home for all of the beginner-related articles of Swungover* with easy-to-read contents
— A YouTube dance lesson series on Jazz movement for people to learn solo jazz dance on their own.
— Interviews with noteworthy people in the scene giving advice to beginner dancers and telling their own beginner stories.
You can get there by a few routes:
“Chickta-boom” is one of the most straight, solid swing rhythms. “Chickta-boom-chickta-boom-chickta-boom-chickta-boom…” Since swing rhythm’s the foundation that everything else is built upon in swing music, it seemed a fitting name for a project dedicated towards laying a steady, solid foundation for new vintage-style swing dancers.