A Year of Clips #5: Start Cheering
Many people can picture Frankie Manning swinging out in Hellzapoppin. But can you picture an original Balboa dancer doing a Toss-out or Lolly Kicks?
Try not to blink during this clip, or you might miss one of the most important moments in Balboa/So Cal Swing history. It’s from the enormously long and strange dance sequence in the film “Start Cheering.”
On the left of the screen is Lollie Wise and his partner, Lil (Lillian Arnold(?)) And on the right, Maxie Dorf and his partner, Mary MCCasslin.
The choreography in this clip is simple–merely a bunch of what we call Lollie Kicks and Behind-the-Back Toss-outs. But it’s the way they look doing those moves that fascinates us modern Balboa dancers.
A few historical notes: We call them Lollie kicks specifically because Lollie, in this clip, was a badass as doing them. He happens to be a tall, lanky, kicky kind of guy.
This is also the only footage we have of a young Maxie Dorf doing the sort of swing dancing he probably would have done socially. We have another clip of him dancing young, but the director obviously gave him the direction to act crazy and zany, and thus we can’t tell how much of that would have been like he actually would have danced.
The reason this is important is because, by almost all peer accounts, Maxie Dorf was one of the greatest swing dancers of the era. And by “swing” we mean, specifically, So-Cal Swing, the dance that combined with Balboa to make the modern Bal-Swing.
Why this clip is so important to us, along with the Venice Beach Clip, is that they are the two best representations of what the original Bal-Swingers looked like when they were young, energetic, and inventing the dance.
What is also shocking to us is that none of us look or move quite like them. Even if you were to, say, get 24 of the most advanced Balboa students to imitate it, they still wouldn’t get close. There’s something about the way they styled, their pulse, posture, and movement through the figures that we have yet to master.
Is it something worth mastering? Well, I think myself, and most of my fellow teachers, are not just artist, but explorers at heart. And there’s something in the style of the Start Cheering dancing that not only looks cool and swings hard, but taps into swing in a way we haven’t quite gotten yet with modern Bal-Swing, and a lot of us are excited to try to tap into that.
Doing so should give us further insight into the world of Bal-swing leading/following, etc, and inspire new moves and ideas that should, at heart, look more Bal-Swing than some of the material we do today, which can look either too Lindy-ish, too West Coast-ish, or just not quite right.
We may not get there, but instead come up with something similar and new. We already have come up with a lot of really neat, subtle, pretty dancing inspired by the Start Cheering clip, and I’m excited about the future.