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The Mysterious History of the Tranky Doo

September 25, 2017

Al Minns showing off one of the Tranky Doo steps.

Along with the Shim-Sham and the Big Apple, the Tranky Doo completes the holy trinity of the original swing-era jazz routines. But whereas the histories of the Shim-Sham and the Big Apple are pretty well-known or easily found, modern dancers tend to know less about the history of the Tranky Doo. This post hopes to solve that problem.

The First Tranky Doo

It has floated around the scene for years that Whitey’s Lindy Hopper Pepsi Bethel invented the Tranky Doo. However, the legendary Frankie Manning describes inventing the choreography in his and Cynthia Millman’s book “Frankie Manning: Ambassador of Lindy Hop.” Here’s the basic story.

In the mid-1940s, Frankie and his performance group, The Congaroos, liked to add different flavors to their performances with non-Lindy Hop numbers. There was a chorus girl in a club in Chicago who was given the special honorof being the last chorus girl to leave the stage. The last chorus girl in line would often show off a little step before exiting, and this particular chorus girl’s show-off step was a fall-off-the-log into a shuffle into boogies. This chorus girl’s nickname was Tranky Doo.

Frankie took this step, used it as the first move of his routine, and then added to it, naming the routine after his inspiration. Frankie’s “routine” — he wouldn’t use the word “choreography” until the 1980s — was two choruses long. This is important, and will come up again. The routine was originally done to the song Tuxedo Junction.

In his book, Frankie further discusses how, when he and his fellow Congaroos would go social dancing at the Savoy, they’d do the routine there, and others caught on and soon it had spread to the social dancers of the Savoy. Here is a 1947 clip of former Whitey’s Lindy Hoppers Tops & Wilda performing the Tranky Doo, very close to the time of its creation. The first clip shows clearly the first chorus of the routine we have come to know and love: Read more…

What’s it like to make a swing album?

September 12, 2017

count-basie-recording

Swungover Podcast Pilot #01: What’s it like to make a swing album in the modern era? With (in alphabetical order) Hilary Alexander, Josh Collazo, Michael Gamble, Jonathan Stout, and  Naomi Uyama.



About the podcast:

One of the great pleasures of being a traveling instructor is the ability to have discussions with experts all across the dance scene. Over the past months we here at Swungover have been playing with the idea of doing some podcasts to take advantage of those opportunities.
Read more…

Interview on Judging/Competing

June 28, 2017

phantom bobby

I was honored to be interviewed for Jo Hoffberg’s Competing & Judging series. Check out the interview below:

 

http://johoffberg.com/2017/06/bobby-white-on-competing-and-judging/

The Swing Scene vs. Max, His Friends, and the Swing Scene

May 30, 2017

Please note: This post is entirely about sexual assault in the swing dance community and involves graphic depictions of sexual abuse.

Following the previous sexual assault revelations in our scene, I noticed others, and myself, being left with a lot of questions. These questions were not new. They are the questions that follow every sexual assault report. In an attempt to understand it better, I asked every question possible to myself and tried to find the answers that helped to understand better the situation, especially from the point of view of human rights, logic, and human-behavior, which seemed to me the heart of these matters.

I am not an expert. I am a dance instructor, and a cis White male — one that has had very little personal experience with sexual assault. Coming from this reference point, I cannot speak for victims, or fully understand the many struggles they face. However, as a strong voice in the scene, I felt perhaps sharing the victim’s stories, as well as revealing my personal journey in understanding, was a way to “boost the signal” of this important topic. (And, it should be noted, my personal experience is not the only way of looking at understanding sexual assault. There are many.)

In light of all of this, I have composed this post with the help of a couple of sexual assault experts, and with a great deal of insight from one of Max’s victims, who shared her story and her own extensive work in understanding sexual assault with me. With their help and confidence, I felt I could post this article, but there is much more out there on these subjects — Literature, film, and discussions by experts that cover the much finer nuances of these topics, or offer counter-arguments to ideas expressed here. Please keep this in mind while reading. Though this post might appear to summarize the conversation, its main goal is to further it.

It has been several months since the reports hit, and for many reasons, I was not able to post this until now. Though it might seem out of date based on the specific assault cases, it is never out of date to discuss sexual safety in our community.

It’s long. Very long. But it didn’t feel right to cut anything. Feel free to move to the parts that seem of interest to you.

Read more…

The Venice Beach Dress

May 23, 2017

 

 

Swungover’s Response to the Jack & Jill Debate

May 17, 2017

There are a lot of emotions currently tied to this debate, which is not necessarily a bad thing. This post, however, attempts to approach the discussion from a logical, critical-thinking and respectful perspective. It attempts to avoid emotional language when possible, and highlight some of the issues that arise from relying upon it as a basis for argument. In the spirit of this specific approach, *please follow suit* when posting counter arguments in the comments section.

 

We here at Swungover (all one of us) officially support any promoters who decide to change the name of the “Jack & Jill” contest to something more inclusive.

Here are our fundamental arguments for why:

Argument 1

In the modern era, we recognize the roles (leading and following) of swing dancing are not tied to any gender or any one type of person (no matter how they identify themselves).

The names “Jack” and “Jill” have for centuries been attributed to specific genders.

In a dance community where anyone, regardless of gender, can dance any role, changing the name of the dance community’s “Jack & Jill” contests to something gender-neutral like “Mix & Match” is making the contest name reflect more accurately the way we dance in its modern form.

Therefore, a name change is an improvement in the accuracy of the language.

 

Argument 2
Swing dancing brings joy to many people.

Being worthy of experiencing joy is not tied to one’s gender or sexual orientation.

We as a scene want to encourage anyone who is interested to experience that joy.

Because the names Jack and Jill have a long history of being used for specific genders, and because partner dance itself has a long history of primarily having men and women dancing together, the contest name “Jack and Jill” can imply that dancers in the respective roles are preferred to be male/female or of a specific sexual orientation.

Therefore, the use of the term “Jack & Jill” can feel exclusionary to those who are gender or sexually non-conforming.

If we as a scene want people of all identities to feel included, and the name for a contest can be exclusionary, then it is a logical course of action to change the contest name.

 

Please note: The reason we put the “accuracy” argument first, and the “inclusive” argument second, is to highlight that from a strictly logical perspective we can establish that a name change is an improvement *in and of itself* before adding on a more desire-based argument (the desire for the dance to be inclusive). Obviously, many people are much more personally tied to the second argument, and a name change will have a much bigger impact in the overall community where the second argument is concerned.

Here are additional (less formally presented) arguments and thoughts related to the debate: Read more…

Figure: Feel vs Reality

April 13, 2017

how your dancing felt BETTER