A Year of Clips #2: Nick and Carla at ILHC 2009

This is the second of a new installment where we over here at Swungover discuss a dance clip from the archives of past and present swing dance, the current goal to do so regularly for a year.

The first installment was sort of an instructional write-up on how to break down the basic dance styling of a dancer. For our first modern clip, I couldn’t help but choose Nick Williams and Carla Heiney’s Jack and Jill dance at ILHC. If you are puzzled, out of all the great clips in existence, why this should be the first, don’t worry, I have a good reason. First, let’s watch:

Now, I did not just choose this clip because of Nick and Carla’s dancing. There are plenty of clips to choose from where they dance just as well. There is something much more important here. You might have had to watch the clip a few times to actually take in all the dancing. Why? Because Nick’s pants had an unfortunate looking sweat stain, and a few of the leaders behind him could not stop making fun of him or laughing at him for it. It’s the dancer’s version of the nightmare where you show up to class and don’t have any pants.

When watching this live, I had an overly-dramatic flashback to grade-school, where I and many other kids I knew were sometimes picked on for incredibly dumb reasons, myself being one of them (both the person picked on and the person doing the picking, I’m sad to say). The result was usually that all self-confidence deflated, and low self-esteem left the victim in a mess of emotion. Now, I’m all for a laugh, particularly at my own expense. And I’m all for keeping Lindy Hop fun and not overly-serious. But there comes a point–like in the middle of a professionals-only dance contest, for instance–when you should laugh to yourself about the unfortunate stain on a dancer’s pants, and then get over it.

Like many other dancers, were I in Nick’s shoes, I can’t easily know that I could have done what he did–which was to Fucking Dance. (Not just dance, but Fucking Dance, specifically. Sorry for the harsh language, but it’s unavoidable.). You can see it in both his and Carla’s eyes in the first few eight counts of the dance–they are apparently the brunt of some joke, and all the attention is being taken away from their dancing. But the music’s going, and they sure as hell are not going to let a joke get in the way of their moment.

A lot of times in contests, someone will lose a shoe, or fall–and it’s not the losing the shoe or the falling that a good judge looks at; it’s how they recover. A person who gets right back up after they fall and goes right back to dancing often gets bonus points from the judges and the crowd, like soldier who shows remarkable bravery in the time of combat. (Some dancers even lose their shoes suspiciously a lot, giving them an opportunity to show how hard-core they are.) Well, losing a shoe happens for an instant–try having your peers laughing and pointing at you for an entire spotlight.

Nick smiled once he knew what was going on, there were only two or three people in the back who seemed to not be able to get over it, and the dancers all greeted him warmly when he went back to his seat. Not only was their spotlight incredibly musical and well-lead and followed, they killed the final all-skate. There were many great dances from this contest and I recommend watching them, but this specific clip has a great message beyond dancing. The next time someone’s making fun of you is in danger of taking away your self-confidence–whether intended as good-natured or not– try to remember in the moment that you have every right to be who you are. The joke’s on them. Fucking dance.

3 responses to “A Year of Clips #2: Nick and Carla at ILHC 2009”

  1. I was there for that competition and am ashamed to admit that my immaturity got the better of me initially. After I got over my chuckles and embarrassment for Nick, I watched slack-jawed as they proceeded to KILL it. Their dancing has always been spectacular to me, so nuanced and connected.

    That some of the participants allowed themselves to get so wrapped up in laughter has made me wonder: How serious are the Invitational Jack and Jills? (at least at ILHC)

    I remember that it was quickly becoming absurd that so many dancers were getting paired up with their usual partners. It made me wonder if the whole thing was just set up as a bonus for everyone who stuck around until the end of the event.

    Now clearly, every participant present danced at a high level and represented themselves well; it was a good competition.

    I guess what I’m wondering is this: if that JnJ was meant to be a fun, non-serious competition for participants and observers alike, then that could explain why some of the competitors let themselves laugh about it.

    Either way, it doesn’t it doesn’t take away from the seriously impressive dancing that Nick and Carla showed us.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: