A Year of Clips #6: “Lady Be Good” (Collegiate Shag) and Artie Shaw’s Hatred of Dancers
Collegiate Shag has a small but devoted following, despite it being a pretty popular dance in it’s time–a dance with many style variations. The dance was was popular enough to be one of the competitions at the Harvest Moon Ball alongside Lindy Hop.
In the video, near the end, the camera fades to a dance floor of shaggers and back several times..
The Collegiate Shag in this video is a little different, stylistically, from the type you see the young kids do in <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6SGvd5tseZY") Arthur Murray's Shag Video and by the shag couple, Connie Wydell(sp?) and Marion Goldie (sp?)**, in The Venice Beach Clip. (All of which are also baddasses and great sources of Collegiate Shag inspiration, in my opinion.)
Notice how smooth the style is, how they hover around on the dance floor and stretch their movements in a unique way, almost like manequins on rollers moving around a boat deck in a stormy sea. How they rarely go into a cartoon-like posture, or kick their feet back very high.
Though I often watch this clip to break down a shag move or two, I keep coming back to it to enjoy the subtly of the way they did their shag steps, hops, rhythms, and the way they moved around the floor. (I’ve recently been trying to work a lot more on putting a lot of these things in my own shag.)
A lot of people think of Collegiate Shag as a dance that requires incredibly youthful knees and a lot of cardio strength. But these dancers don’t seem to be tearing up their knees and are wearing sports jackets and sweaters. (Perhaps if there were a jam circle, they might make their dancing a little more explosive and exaggerated, but this clip seems pretty social-dance-like. As much as possible with a camera in their face, at least.)
I wanted to showcase this clip to show a style of collegiate shag you might not see on the modern dance floor often, as only a few modern dancers attempt to do it like this (this clip isn’t on YouTube, either, perhaps for copyright reasons.)
Also, to remind people that Collegiate Shag doesn’t have to be a test of your knee ligaments and a work-out. It certainly has a lot of fun moves that can be those things, but they aren’t necessary to have fun or look cool doing Collegiate Shag.
Also, a funny story about this particular clip: Artie Shaw hated dancers, and said something to the effect that they’d dance to anything if it had a rhythm.
“I could never understand why people wanted to dance to my music,” he once said. “I made it good enough to listen to.”
He particularly disliked jitterbuggers, whom a cantankerous person in this era could easily stereotype as rambunctious and annoying teenagers/college students.
Artie Shaw, to give him credit, thought Jazz was an art form worthy of classical music, and loved doing things to make his music intricate, also known as things to throw dancers off. This probably gave him additional motivation to play with his music. Big Drum hits would come on even beats. Songs would change dynamics dramatically.
Unfortunately, once a dancer has been caught off guard, it then becomes an enjoyable challenge to be musical to such songs. Ever since, Artie Shaw has made some hard core dancing fans because of this. (It also helped that he used Buddy Rich, one of the greatest swing drummers of all time.
Anyway, for the Lady Be Good video, imagine Artie Shaw being extremely firm.
“Don’t you dare bring any dancers into the room when I’m filming this thing. I won’t have my music be seen on the same screen.”
Then picture the film producer, looking at the final draft, and seeing it’s kind of boring–not very exciting. “I have an idea.” He goes and tapes, on a seperate day, a group of collegiate shag dancers dancing to the song. Presto. Artie Shaw dance video.
** (Warning: Too Much Information) The name Marion Goldie (sp?) is known because Nick Williams and David Rehm found the name written in magic marker on the back of a photograph in Hal Talkier’s house. They have even since found her in other clips because she wears the exact same skirt in other clips.