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The Rise of the Big Apple

February 4, 2021

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Big Apple IR

 

Guess what? You can listen to a reading of this article at the Integrated Rhythm podcast! Just subscribe wherever you get your podcasts, or check it out on YouTube here

 

Summer, 1937. Just a couple weeks after the 3rd annual Harvest Moon Ball in August, the Black American newspaper The Pittsburgh Courier published an article trying to explain a new popular dancing experience taking over the ballrooms called the “Big Apple.” And, as we shall see, the dance’s future was entwined with the Harvest Moon Ball in a small but meaningful way.

Origins

The “Big Apple” was a specific way Black Americans were social dancing at a synagogue-turned-club called The Big Apple Club in Columbia, South Carolina. Dancers would be in a large circle, and a dancer would call out steps. Read more…

The 1937 Harvest Moon Ball

December 16, 2020

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This is the shorter, snack-sized version of this article. For the longer, Geek-Out version, click here. This is part of the Harvest Moon Ball essay series. Read 1935 here, and 1936 here

The “New” Kid

1937 HMB AD_

On Aug 12, 1937, the Daily News announced the third Harvest Moon Ball. This is the year Lindy Hop — as a name, at least — turned ten years old.

Most of this article will focus on the Lindy Hop of the 1937 Harvest Moon Ball. However, we want to first discuss something important that happened in this year’s ball. In that announcement mentioned above, a new dance appeared in the listing of the divisions: “Collegiate Shag.” Those who read our 1936 HMB article will remember a Collegiate Shag couple had actually made it into the Lindy Hop finals, only to find themselves surrounded by Whitey’s Lindy Hoppers. (No pressure.)

Well, this next year, according to the Daily News, the “Collegiate Shag” was demanded by hundreds of the newly crazed, mostly-student dancers. Read more…

The 1937 Harvest Moon Ball (GEEK OUT)

December 16, 2020

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Venmo: @bobbyswungover

This is the longer, Geek-Out version of this article which may have  more information and research than you may care about. For the shorter, Snack-sized version, click here. This is part of the Harvest Moon Ball essay series. Read 1935 here, and 1936 here.

The “New” Kid

1937 HMB AD_

On Aug 12, 1937, the day the Daily News announced the third Harvest Moon Ball, the nation had been suffering a terrible five-day heat wave that had overall claimed more than 200 lives and, in New York, forced millions to overtake Coney Island. George Gershwin had just died the day before, following complications from a surgery. And 300 navy pilots were about to join in the continued search for Amelia Earhart, who had disappeared almost two months earlier. This is the year Lindy Hop — as a name, at least — turned ten years old.

Most of this article will focus on the Lindy Hop of the 1937 Harvest Moon Ball. However, we want to first discuss something important that happened in this year’s ball. In that announcement mentioned above, a new dance appeared in the listing of the divisions: “Collegiate Shag.” Those who read our 1936 HMB article will remember a Collegiate Shag couple had actually made it into the Lindy Hop finals, only to find themselves surrounded by Whitey’s Lindy Hoppers. (No pressure.) Read more…

Introducing: INTEGRATED RHYTHM Podcast!

December 3, 2020

Associate Professor, instructor, and swing and Zambian heritage dancer CHISOMO SELEMANI and I are proud to introduce INTEGRATED RHYTHM, a new weekly podcast where two swing dancing besties navigate race and the Black Experience in the world of Jazz Dance and other Afro-centric social dancing.

We will mostly spend our time interviewing a range of guests inside and outside of the Jazz dance scene, making bad puns, and occasionally singing. The goal is comfortable conversations about uncomfortable things.

Read more…

The Legacy of Norma

December 2, 2020

Happy Birthday Norma!

The following recollections were part of a eulogy for Norma Miller published at Swungover in 2019. You can see the full essay here

Norma grew up Black and a woman trying to pave her way through the 20th century. It was very important for her to connect with Black people in the swing scene, especially women. In honor of her struggle and the legacy she passed on, here are some reflections of only a *fraction* of the many Black women whose lives were significantly touched by Norma.

Mic & Normajpg.jpgMickey Davidson was a Norma Miller Dancer in the 1980s and since has followed in Norma’s footsteps, managing groups, choreographing, teaching, and touring with jazz dance and Lindy Hop ever since. She was one of the people closest to Norma.

“I had a 34-year journey with Norma as two hustling artists — Norma, coming from the past into the present, and me, in the present going into the future. Many things Norma did to keep working are things I do to keep working. As Dianne McIntyre said:  ‘Mickey reinvents herself.’ Norma did that many times during her 99 years on the planet. I saw America through Norma, as how some things changed and other things have not, but have a different spin to them.

“Norma, like many performers of her generation, are complex people. Few of us get the full picture of who they are from the inside out, the private person, their public persona, and as citizens of these United States. Norma’s life was in the entertainment trenches. Managing her own creative life and creating her own opportunities, Norma took on the role model responsibilities, as did many entertainers of color did, representing her community because few got the chance to see the world the way she did. And for many in the world, seeing Norma was their only exposure to African-American culture.

Read more…