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The 1942 Harvest Moon Ball

June 16, 2021
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Venmo: @bobbyswungover

This is part of the Harvest Moon Ball essay series. To see all the Harvest Moon Ball essays, please visit Swungover’s HMB page.

WAIT A MOMENT, WHAT HAPPENED TO THE 1941 HARVEST MOON BALL ESSAY?!?!

We are skipping over the 1941 HMB at the moment because, well, it’s having a real identity crises. Out of the 20 years of videos we have, 1941 has so far been by far the hardest to nail down the IDs for, and we’ve decided it’s best if we wait on that one. Ideally, we will be able to get our hands on one of the programs for that year, which would help a lot. If you know of one of those, or have one of those, please let us know! (All we need is a picture of the finalists’ names and numbers listing.)

*** NO FOOTAGE OF THIS YEAR’S HMB ***

We want to break the news before we get further — we have never seen footage of the 1942 Harvest Moon Ball in all of the archives we have searched. (This is also the same for 1944.) It seems strange there wouldn’t be any, because with only these two exceptions, the Harvest Moon Ball and its Jazz Dancing specifically were shown in newsreels every year from 1935 to 1956. So, we expect it’s perhaps out there somewhere, and we just haven’t found it yet, or there were extenuating circumstances. Those circumstances might be the fact that World War II had just begun, and the news companies prioritized other things. That’s just conjecture on our part. We would not be surprised if the 1942 footage were out there somewhere. We will keep searching. If you have seen 1942 footage (or 1944) please let us know!

Meanwhile, enjoy the pictures, the history, and a few fun discoveries. Also the length. Enjoy the short length.

Wars & Dancing

1942 was the first Harvest Moon Ball that would happen while America was at war. The most obvious way it affected the contest was the announcement of a “servicemen’s division” for each dance, including Jitterbug. But let’s see if it will have any other affects on the event over the next five years. The servicemen’s division allowed for any allied serviceman, be they amateur or professional. The profits of the ball would go to the USO.

On a more pleasant note, it appears Harlem held a Harvest Moon Ball for little kids as part of a (cough) 4-hour long performance by children of Harlem. Willie Bryant hosted:

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Shag @ the Harvest Moon Ball

June 10, 2021

Shag was seen at the HMB from 1936-1939. This is a collection of all the shag sections in the Harvest Moon Ball essays and the dancing in the balls. To see all the Harvest Moon Ball essays, please visit Swungover’s HMB page. Apologies that some of the pictures and articles are displayed huge — WordPress’s recent updates have some serious issues that we were not able to easily fix at the moment.

Venmo: @Bobbyswungover

1936

The Outliers

In 1936, we see the first Shag in the Harvest Moon Ball — Harriet Pierce & Harold Oberman.

Harriet & Harold (Shag)

Let’s say you’re a dancer in 1930’s New York, and you love Shag. You decide to maybe make a statement about how there’s not a Shag division at the Harvest Moon Ball, and so you compete in the Lindy Hop prelims. You are good enough to tie with another couple. (Harriet and Harold dead-tied with another couple and the judges took them both.) 

You make it to the finals…only to be surrounded by an entire performance team of Whitey’s Lindy Hoppers in your heat. Your chance to show off some Shag may get a little overshadowed.

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The 1940 Harvest Moon Ball

May 25, 2021

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Venmo: @bobbyswungover

This is the shorter, snack-sized version of this article. For the longer Geek-Out version, please click here. Also, this is part of the Harvest Moon Ball essay series. To see all the Harvest Moon Ball essays, please visit Swungover’s HMB page.

 

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Exit Shag, Enter Conga

The 1940 Harvest Moon Ball began with an article announcing the Shag division would be replaced by a Conga division. (Want to see the article? Geek Out edition.) The event felt the Shag and the Lindy Hop were, for “all intents and purposes,” “identical.” We can’t help but feel they looked at both and simply saw expressive dance being done to swing music and called it a day mentally. (We discussed this in some depth in our 1938 Geek Out article, as similar claims were made at the time.) Read more…

The 1940 Harvest Moon Ball (GEEK OUT)

May 19, 2021

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Venmo: @bobbyswungover

This is the longer, Geek-Out version of this article which has lots of research and information. For the shorter, Snack-sized version, click here. Also, this is part of the Harvest Moon Ball essay series. To see all the Harvest Moon Ball essays, please visit Swungover’s HMB page.

 

Aug 17, 1940

 

For you Geek-Outers, here’s an interesting little column about the Savoy that was done by a social columnist in the Daily News on Aug 17, 1940.

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Why Balboa

April 28, 2021
Swing dancers meet for a competition in Los Angeles in 1939.

In 2018, Herrang Magazine asked me to answer this question in 350 words. Here was that answer.

“Balboa.”

To some, it means boring. To some, it means confining freedom. To some, an excuse for not being able to dance Lindy fast.

To others, though, it means dancing you often taste more than you see. It means freedom by framework. And it means dancing comfortably to fast swing music all night long, all life-long.

“It is a poem,” you might have heard. One that might sit with you awhile before you realize how much you like it — how well it puts a thousand possible words into one, how beautiful the white space of the page around them is.

“Balboa” is not just one dance, but three. There’s what the old timers called “Balboa,” a pre-swing dance from an hour’s drive or, back in the day, trolley ride south of L.A. They tell us it was done on dance floors cramped with elbows and body heat and date night perfumes. In this thick jungle, the dance evolved accordingly — chest-to-chest, hardly moving, the feet shuffling to the music like wire brushes across a drum head. Hidden from spectators, the dancers moved glued together as one, floating, drifting this way and that, meditating in a sea of swing.

Then there was “Swing,” the dance the Los Angeles kids of that wild west town invented when bands became big and no-one from New York was around to show them a swing out. All they knew were the box-steps, trots and Charlestons of their parents. From that lazy ball-room shaped canvas, it was only a matter of time before they were twisting, turning, and stretching to the swing of the music in an orbiting dance. Their freedom lead to function.

On the dance floors of masonic temples and high school gyms, “Balboa” and “Swing” met, and a new dance was born, “Bal-Swing,” melting the two philosophies together — it became an introverted performance dance, an engineer’s game, a meditative explosion. A dance jungle gym with bars strong for climbing on — and swinging from. 

Lindy is only one of our family’s elders. “Balboa,” “Swing” and “Bal-Swing” are three other beautiful answers to the question, “Grandma, what does it mean to truly swing?”

This article appeared in an earlier form in an edition of Herrang magazine in 2018.

Venmo: @BobbySwungover

PayPal: Paypal.me/bobbywhite3