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Why so few Swungover posts these days?

We here in the Secret Swungover Cave have been working on a special project for the last few years which has taken up our writing time. We're very excited about it and it will be unveiled in the next few months.

--- Bobby

The Swungover* Guide to Basic Floorcraft

July 21, 2015

Recovering from “Whiplash”

May 14, 2015

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This post will probably make little sense if you haven’t seen last year’s film Whiplash, and, on top of that, contains spoilers. Proceed accordingly.

The film Whiplash is about a student jazz drummer pushed by an abusive teacher. Being a recent student of swing drumming, I was interested to see it, especially since the last film to focus on a jazz drummer was probably The Gene Krupa Story in 1959. However, being passionate about pedagogy, swing/jazz, fiction writing, and also being a swing dancer who has worked very hard to get to where I have gotten, the film left me with a lot of thoughts.

Here are most of them.

(1) It is a well-told — and deceptively complex — story.

Completely from a dramatic point of view, this story, with its single, simple plotline, is very well-told. The writing is powerfully minimalistic, the acting is powerfully emotional, and the camerawork is powerfully bold. I can close my eyes and still hear the tone of voice of the teacher Fletcher, can see nothing but his eyes and the skin wrinkle around them, can still see the cymbal fall during the solo.

Furthermore, if you’re not thinking too much into it, the film’s finale is the kind that pulls you out of your seat and demands you tackle your worst demons. Or, at the very least, bang on something.

Fascinatingly, the very barrage of drums and cymbals that create this sensation also cover-up the more quiet implications and mysteries of the ending.

For instance, in his final defiant solo, the character proved he could play drums incredibly well. But what else it proved is ambiguous. Did he prove the teacher had no control over him, or, by winning the teacher’s approval, could the teacher now be more in control of him than ever? Did he prove he had what it took all along, or did he prove the abusive teaching methods worked?

Though the film ends with both the student and teacher more or less experiencing triumph in their own way, you don’t know what will happen next with the student/teacher relationship in the film, or with the life and happiness of the young drummer Andrew. (The writer/director Damien Chazelle himself, as we will discuss, thought the young man had a bleak — rather than inspirational — future.) Read more…

Happy Birthday Jewel McGowan, Queen of So-Cal Lindy

March 31, 2015

jewelmcgowan
Jewel Eleanor McGowan was born March 30, 1921. By 19, she was working as a dancer in music clubs, and doing the Southern California partnered street dance known to them as “Swing” (the dance that would evolve among a few of them into “Bal-Swing” as we know it). It was during this time in the late 1930s that a New Jersey Lindy Hop dancer going by the name Dean Collins came to town looking for a partner. He found Jewel, and out of their collaboration came what is now widely regarded as the greatest dancing partnership of the original swing dance era.

Jewel did not dance a lot of variations, but instead expressed her powerful voice in her movement and attitude. Without exception that I know of, every original Southern California dancer has acknowledged her as the Queen of Swing, and especially credit her swivels as being without equal.

Here is a compilation of her dancing created by Nick Williams:


In 1947 she married lighting director Klarence Krone. She passed away in 1962, probably of cancer. She is buried at Forest Lawn cemetery in Glendale, Ca.

jewel gravestone
Photo by James R. Mason.
Special thanks to Reed Miller for his genealogy research on Jewel. The picture of Jewel was from the Atomic Ballroom website. See an article on Dean & Jewel by Shani Brown there.

How to Move Forward & Create Safe Dance Spaces

January 28, 2015

A follow-up on the recent sexual abuse discussion ongiong in the Lindy Hop community:

A couple nights ago Nicole Zuckerman, Manu Smith, Gina Helfrich, Rik Panganiban, Rebecca Brightly, Jerry Almonte Mikey Pedroza and I sat down to discuss how to move forward. It was at a time when several of us were in different phases of being hit by this (yours truly suddenly felt like he couldn’t say a complete sentence right) and the result is an honest conversation about what this all means.

Yes, I think many things are very well said and you could get something out of it. For me, while trying to pay attention to the conversation and formulate my own thoughts for addition, I unexpectedly and unknowingly went through a part of the grieving/anger/confusion/self-reflection process simply by seeing the faces and hearing the voices of my peers who are going through their own experiences as well. And that’s another possible reason to watch it; I imagine the same will happen to some viewers.

I want to thank those on the panel for the ways they contributed to the discussion. I love it that our community values intelligent and passionate people like those speaking so well in this conversation. (From what I understand of “The Jersey Shore,” for instance, not all communities do.)

Sexual Abuse and a Legend.

January 23, 2015

This is an updated version from the original; for previous versions, see the bottom of the article.

Recently a statement came out about a young woman who was sexually assaulted by a swing dancer. It turns out this swing dancer not only did horrible things to her, but to many women before. That swing dancer’s name happens to be Steven Mitchell, a world-traveling swing dance instructor and legend in the community.

But the fact that he’s a world-traveling swing dance instructor and legend is only important in that he has been given mentor status by swing dancers for thirty years, leading to many, many opportunities to sexually assault people.

This might be a confusing time for you, if you have a very high respect for Steven Mitchell, known to many as a kind and fun personality and a legend in the swing dance community. Steven has not denied the numerous accusations, and has admitted he had feelings for the minor and that alcohol was involved.

I cannot imagine how hard it must have been for a lone person to speak out against a swing legend in such a way, and when doing so meant to reveal one of the most private things about herself — understandably, with numerous feelings of vulnerability, humiliation, and fear — and when she knew it would probably lead to more or less the ruining of a career and in many ways, a life.

But she made that very hard decision when she realized that the truth needed to be told for herself, for those who have not had the strength to speak yet, and for those who might have come next had she not spoken. The result is a very well-written and powerful article.

There seems little room for doubt. Steven Mitchell has done some things that deserve vilification. May he take this opportunity to seek help for what he has done, and save himself — and others — from his demons.

Do not read this story for the gossip. Read it for the many things it means about our scene, and the many things we can learn from it.

Today is a sad, angry, frustrating, confusing day in Lindy Hop. But it is also a courageous day, and a day of justice. Here’s to a better tomorrow.

 

 
READ HERE:

https://ssullivan410.wordpress.com/2015/01/22/3/

As you discuss this topic with others, I also recommend you read this post by Alex Gaw:

https://minrblog.wordpress.com/2015/01/31/tools-for-participating-in-a-conversation-about-sexual-assault/
 

 

And, finally, a note to those out there in our scene who might have been treated similarly by Steven or other people:

If you underwent sexual harassment or assault in any form, I beg of you to in some capacity to tell your story, even if anonymously. Even if you are still unsure whether it was harassment/abuse/assault or not. Please tell it to somebody. Because if it was (and there is a good chance it was if you question it), your story can help prevent it from happening to the next one, perhaps the next dozen or more. It can help stop evil from happening.

Just because the criminal may be a person of authority, or a person who is believed to be good simply because thy are a fun teacher, or well-loved personality in the scene, try not to let that stop you from coming out with your story. Yes, some people in the swing scene who don’t want to believe it will be outspoken, but I beg you to tell your story despite them.

Remember, these things do not happen in a vacuum. Trust that those who know you will support you. Trust that those who know the accuser will remark, at the very least, that they had seen some things that didn’t quite look right. Sadly what is more likely is that where there is one, there are others. So trust that you are not alone.

 

 

 

 

 

 

THIS STORY HAS BEEN UPDATED…TWICE.

CURRENT UPDATE:
See long comment reply below for reasoning. Also, I feel most in the scene have probably established Steven’s guilt by now, so I cut back on some of the giving-supporting-evidence stuff that seemed appropriate at the time of the article’s release, which was very soon after the initial incident.

FIRST UPDATE FROM ORIGINAL
Based on some of the comments, I made the decision to change some of the writing slightly to get rid of anything that might be taken as unreasonably incredulous (which was never my intent). I still stand behind the intent of the original, which is posted here, but felt an update of the wording and tone was appropriate.

Those who have not done so already should consider reading this account of an incident that happened in the Lindy Hop scene from a woman who was sexually assaulted by a well-respected swing dance instructor Steven Mitchell when she was a teenager.

You might not know of this woman, but have a very high respect for Steven Mitchell who is known to many as kind and fun personality as well as a legend in the swing dance community. It is reasonable to not jump to conclusions based on one story.

Since the story’s publication, further evidence has come out to support the story’s validity: Several other women have come out with similar stories about him. Steven has not denied the accusations, and has admitted he had feelings for the minor and that alcohol was involved. I have known several of these women for many years, including Sarah herself, and have no reason to not believe them. Countless other people who’s opinions are very highly regarded in the scene have said as much as well.

I cannot imagine how hard it must have been for a lone person to speak out against a swing legend in such a way, and when doing so meant to reveal one of the most private things about herself — understandably, with numerous feelings of vulnerability, humiliation, and fear — and when she knew it would probably lead to more or less the ruining of a career and in many ways, a life.

But she made that very hard decision when she realized that the truth needed to be told for herself, for those who have not had the strength to speak yet, and for those who might have come next had she not spoken. The result is a very well-written and powerful article.

There seems little room for doubt. Steven Mitchell has done some things that deserve vilification. May he take this opportunity to seek help for what he has done, and save himself — and others — from his demons.

Do not read this story for the gossip. Read it for the many things it means about our scene, and the many things we can learn from it.

READ HERE:

https://ssullivan410.wordpress.com/2015/01/22/3/

It’s a sad day in Lindy Hop; but for a better day tomorrow.

 

 

 


ORIGINAL

Those who have not done so already should consider reading this account of an incident that happened in the Lindy Hop scene from a woman who was sexually assaulted by a well-respected swing dance instructor Steven Mitchell when she was a teenager.

Since then, several other women have come out with similar stories about him. Steven has not denied the story and has confirmed he had feelings for the minor and that alcohol was involved. I have known several of these women for many years and have no reason to not believe them.

I cannot imagine how hard it must have been for a lone person to speak out against a swing legend in such a way, and when doing so meant to reveal one of the most private things about herself — probably with numerous feelings of vulnerability, humiliation, and fear — and when she knew it would probably lead to more or less the ruining of a career and in many ways, a life.

But she made that very hard decision when she realized that the truth needed to be told for herself, for those who have not had the strength to speak yet, and for those who might have come next had she not spoken. The result is a very well-written and powerful work.

Assuming the several accounts are true (and the evidence certainly points that way), Steven Mitchell has done some things that deserve vilification. May he take this opportunity to seek help for what he has done, and save himself — and others — from his demons.

Do not read this story for the gossip. Read it for the many things it means about our scene, and the many things we can learn from it.

READ HERE:

https://ssullivan410.wordpress.com/2015/01/22/3/

It’s a sad day in Lindy Hop; but for a better day tomorrow.

Swungover turns 5!

December 21, 2014

5 year swungover

Swungover” began as a word I came up with to describe the sensation I felt — and, I imagined, a lot of people felt — the Monday following Frankie 95. Occurring only a few weeks after Frankie Manning’s death in April of 2009, the bittersweet event left one not only physically exhausted, but also emotionally so.

I wrote the Jam Cellar weekly information email at the time and remember getting so grand and far-out in the emails that Andy Reid had to remind me that it would be nice if possibly maybe they could also inform people about what was going on at the Jam Cellar, you know, if I got around to it. I was clear I had a swing dance writing problem.

In December of that year Swungover was born, and somewhere along the way I was lucky enough to pick up an incredible editor, Chelsea Lee [Editor’s note: It was in December 2010, in response to Bobby’s resolution to be better at grammar, punctuation, and spelling]. She not only made my posts a lot less frustrating for viewers in terms of spelling corrections, but she also added a great deal of feedback and ideas to improve post after post.

So, looking back over the past 5 years of Swungover history, here are some of the posts that have meant the most to me: Read more…

The Proactive Follower

November 13, 2014

Art by Irena Spassova
By Bobby White
Art by Irena Spassova

As a teacher, I quickly realized the advice “just follow” is almost never helpful. As far as teaching advice goes, it’s vague and doesn’t give the follower an action to do, which is exactly what a student needs in order to get better.

But more importantly, it’s wrong.

Great followers never “just follow.” They are constantly being proactive in many different ways in order to make the dance successful and contribute their voice to what is being created.

Let’s talk with a few of the world’s greatest followers to find out how they do that.

Great followers are…

Proactive in their RHYTHM

Followers should always strive to have good rhythm and be proactive about keeping that good rhythm. Followers should also be proactive about keeping that solid rhythm and pulse in non-closed positions, during turns, traveling — well, all the time. (Sometimes you’ll see followers who grow timid in their rhythm the more disconnected they are from their leaders or if they are in the middle of turns.)

“Follows tend to wait for the leader to ‘set the beat’ and they follow his rhythm,” says Laura Keat. “I think that follows need to be more responsible for demonstrating the rhythm and ‘dancing’ in every dance. Therefore if the leader makes a mistake or is off, the follow can still dance rhythmically. We, follows, can still follow the leader’s timing and shapes, but the beat/rhythm/flow of the music is carried in each of our minds and is each of our responsibility to represent through dance.”

“The dancers could just as well be new instruments, as long as the whole is harmonious,” says Annie Trudeau. Read more…

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