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Consider This: Reframing Whitey’s Tiers

October 8, 2020

Covid 3 dollar

Venmo: @bobbyswungover

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“Whitey’s Hopping Maniacs:” (R to L) Mildred Cruse, Billie Williams, Lucille Middleton, Jerome Williams, Naomi Waller, and Frankie Manning.

In the past few months we have covered two specific groups of Whitey’s Lindy Hoppers in detail:

In A Gaze into A Day at the Races we learned about Norma Miller’s main group in 1937. And in Whitey’s Lindy Hopping Maniacs at the Savoy, we learned about Frankie Manning’s main group in this same time period. And in the 1935, and especially the 1936 Harvest Moon Ball essay, we learned about the nationally-spotlighted contests that helped shape these groups.

Having gone through these early years in depth, we think it’s important to talk about the way some dancers today might perceive these groups thanks to the main retrospectives on the era available to the scene —  Frankie Manning: Ambassador of Lindy Hop by Frankie Manning and Cynthia Millman, and Swinging at the Savoy: The Memoir of a Jazz Dancer by Norma Miller and Evette Jensen. And even if you’re not a big geek about this stuff, we think it still raises some fundamentally important points about the past.

In Frankie’s memoir (pg. 123), he mentions how he was leading the top-tier Whitey’s group that was doing a gig at the Cotton Club in 1937, at the same time the other group was touring with Ethel Waters. (You can read about them here.) He says Whitey “put together his number-two group” to perform with Ethel. Read more…

The Life of “Tiny” Bunch

September 24, 2020

Venmo: @bobbyswungover

John Bunch dancing at the Savoy in 1935, a photograph by Aaron Siskind as part of his collection, “Harlem Document.” Colorized digitally and contributed by Renata Wlaczyga.

Part 1

Every now and then you get lucky in research. It all began with an advertisement for an All-Black revue called “Harlem Express” we found. At the bottom, in the biggest letters:

That Wilkes-Barre part is the lucky part — Wilkes-Barre is a small, mostly-White Pennsylvania coal city equally just as far away from Philadelphia as it is from New York. (Locals have T-shirts that joke about all the ways the town’s name is pronounced — Wilkes-BERRY, Wilkes-BEAR, Wilkes-BAR…) And it just so happens the Whitey’s Lindy Hopper known as “Tiny” Bunch grew up in this small community, and their local newspaper published many stories on the dancer and his family throughout their lives, even updating advertisements like the one above, when their hometown celebrity did something they knew about.

“Tiny’s” real name was John Wesley Bunch, Jr.  He was born September 24, 1910. And today is his 110th Birthday.

Read more…

Practice w/ Bobby SEASON 3!

August 24, 2020

Over the COVID-19 quarantine I’ve been doing 30 minute, down-and-dirty Improv jazz dance training.

Here is SEASON 3! It’s only $20 for FOUR HOURS of dance training (and, you know, fish eye lenses and FB live video quality!).

JUST CLICK ON THE PICTURE TO GET THEM. (Links to the videos are also over at the The Swungover STORE  and www.SWINGBOBBY.com so you don’t have to search for this post!)

Practice With Bobby Season 3

More info below. 

 

Read more…

The 1936 Harvest Moon Ball

July 30, 2020

COVID ask 3

This is the shorter, SNACK SIZE version. (I know, it’s a big snack.) For the longer, GEEK-OUT version, click here. For our 1935 HMB essay, click here.

This essay is not just the story of a contest. It’s the story of a year in the life of Lindy Hop. It’s a story of context. A story of hidden memories. A story of two dozen heroes. 

“Rules”

On July 12, 1936, The Daily News announced the follow up to its highly successful first Harvest Moon Ball. Once again, Whitey would expect his dancers to flood the Savoy prelims.

1936 00 First announcement Daily_News_Sun__Jul_12__1936_

From the announcement of the 2nd annual Harvest Moon Ball.

 

Before we go further, we should mention something that is supposed to have happened since the last Harvest Moon Ball: The Savoy ballroom contest where, the legend goes, Frankie Manning and Freida Washington introduced the first air step into swing-era Lindy Hop. Since we covered that contest in the 1935 essay, we won’t go over it here. (And you should really hear Frankie tell you, anyway). Read more…

The 1936 Harvest Moon Ball (GEEK OUT)

July 30, 2020

Geek ask 2

This is the longer GEEK OUT version, where we go into detail in everything. For the snack sized version, click here. For our 1935 HMB essay, click here.

This is long, but for a reason. This is not just the story of a contest. It’s the story of a year in the life of Lindy Hop. It’s a story of context. A story of hidden memories. It’s a story of two dozen heroes. 

May, 1936

The first “National Dance Congress” was held in New York, involving many of the of the greatest Euro-centric dance scholars and performers of the time. A relatively famous dancer and choreographer named Mura Dehn had, years earlier, stumbled into the Savoy Ballroom and fell in love with the dancing there. She had gone on to spend the years since studying Black American dance in all its forms.

She used the congress to express that Black American dances like Jazz dance were a truly groundbreaking art form and worthy of serious attention. Most of her peers did not agree with her.

The Missing Clip

While sorting through all the Harvest Moon Ball footage we could find, we came upon this clip. No information anywhere about it:

Read more…