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Swing History 101: SoCal Swings (1935-1939-ish)

January 17, 2019

This continues our series on the history of swing era dances. This is part one of two for Southern California swing era dance history. See Part 2 here. For extra geeking out, check out the footnotes. Such as this one.(*)

Unseen Forces

benny-fans

California fans await Benny Goodman.

In 1935, suddenly and surprisingly, New York discovered there was a region that could compete with its love of swing. That region was Southern California, and Benny Goodman famously discovered its fanaticism for himself after a rough cross-country tour that had left him almost certain that swing was not going to get anywhere outside of the East Coast.

Based in New York, the clarinetist’s band was the featured midnight swing act on a radio program called “Let’s Dance.” (The program also had a Latin band and a “sweet” band that played ballads and romantic tunes.) When the program completed its broadcasts after a year, Goodman decided to take his band on the road for a cross-country tour, but the further west he went, the more audiences booed the swing music and requested the sweet stuff. By the time they got to California, the band was broke and Goodman was considering quitting.

Read more…

Swing History 101: Lindy Comes to SoCal (1937-ish-1945)

January 17, 2019

This continues our series on the history of swing era dances for beginner dancers. In Part One, we discussed the terms “Bal-Swing,” “Swing” and “Balboa” and their origins. This is Part Two of Southern California swing era dance history, and these two posts are meant to be read together. For extra geeking out, check out the footnotes.

Club_Alabam.0

The Audience at a night at Club Alabam on Central Ave in LA.

Missionaries

We know of two different, important times when New York Lindy Hop came to SoCal and truly influenced the dancing there.

The first is when Whitey’s Lindy Hoppers first started coming to Hollywood in 1937. When in town for film shoots and performances, the Whitey’s Lindy Hoppers would perform and social dance at Club Alabam, an integrated ballroom that specialized in Black American performances and jazz. This club, and its nearby Dunbar hotel, were part of L.A.’s “Little Harlem,” with its own rich role in Black-American history.*

Throughout the years that followed, the Whitey’s would come stay for stretches of time, and by 1941, when they were there filming Hellzapoppin’, Norma Miller mentions their “new-found friends,” whom she calls the “West Coast Lindy Hoppers.” With a little bit of help from the greatest performers in the dance, Lindy had been delivered directly to the Black American dancers of SoCal.

Unfortunately, we have very little evidence of what this Lindy Hop looked like. Even though Hollywood did put out a few films aimed towards the Black American community, we only know of one film that featured Black American SoCal Lindy Hoppers social dancing — 1943’s Cabin in the Sky. Read more…

The Swung Furies — “The Subway”

November 27, 2018

When you ask Lindy Hoppers to meet you in the subway with two cell phones and a speaker, and somehow it all works out… (make sure to hit the “HD” button!)

(Also, this is a slightly different version than the YouTube version.)

 

A performance of Lindy Hop by NYC Lindy performance group The Swung Furies, which  perform in the style first developed by The Whitey’s Lindy Hoppers.

 

ABOUT THE FILM

 

Dancers & Choreographers

(in order of dancing appearance)

Jessica Miltenberger & Rafal Pustelny

Gaby Cook & Nathan Bugh

LaTasha Barnes & Bobby White

(Each couple choreographed their own jam. Final jam choreographed by Bobby White, based on the Whitey’s Lindy Hoppers’ “California Routine.” Final “animals” developed by The Swung Furies.)

Read more…

Venn Diagram #7: Lindy at Bal Events

October 12, 2018

Bal dancers that lindy

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Happy 80th Birthday, Beach Clip!

September 6, 2018

This month, and most likely this weekend, marks the 80th year since “the Beach Clip” took place. What is the Beach Clip, you might be asking? It’s this:

While we’re at it, let’s answer a few other questions. Read more…

Interview w/ Norma Miller (Beantown 2018)

July 9, 2018

This year at Beantown I was once again honored to host a Q&A with Norma Miller. It was a different interview than in the past — the audience wasn’t afraid to ask the hard questions, and Norma wasn’t afraid to answer them (not so surprising).

Please note that though we do not necessarily share her views regarding some topics, (and, I’d argue we don’t fully explore her view of any topic enough to be able to express her view completely), her answers are nonetheless important to consider and discuss as our scene navigates coming to terms with its past and shaping its future.

A huge thanks to Beantown for continuing to put so much support into the scene’s growth, and for hosting Norma Miller every year as an ambassador of the dance.

The Frankie Manning Foundation has a few questions.

May 16, 2018

Over a the Frankie Manning Foundation, they have posted a list of questions that people in the scene should think about, be they local scene leader, teacher, or simply a Lindy lover.

They are great questions to ask yourself, or discuss with others in your scene or peer groups. Check it out by following the link here.