Swing Analogies: stews and ransom notes

Your dancing “voice” is not so much like a voice, it’s more like a stew.

Sure, it’s a voice in that it’s a unique tool you have for expressing yourself. However, using the word “voice” also implies it comes naturally, and is always present, even in the early stages of dancing, two things that are almost never true for swing dancers. So, I’d probably describe it more like this: developing an improvisational swing dancer’s dance style is like making a stew.

A dance style is often a combination of personal taste and influences/inspiration from many other sources, much like a stew has a combination of specific ingredients in specific amounts. And by it’s nature, a stew is a blending of ingredients, a melting of flavors. Some in whole chunks, some liquidized and subtly omnipresent. I think many dancers could see their dancing style in a similar way.

Some dancers think a dance style can be developed quickly, but in reality it can take years to create a recipe that balances all the flavors well. And even then, sometimes when you try to make it, it just doesn’t come out right. (This always happened to my grandmother when she used anyone else’s stove but hers.)

For the most part, people rarely finalize a recipe. They often try new ingredients (or new varieties of old ingredients), get rid of old ones, and play with the cooking variables.

So, now I’m just hungry.

Your dancing should not be a ransom note (assuming your goal is to become an individual swing dance artist)

One of my favorite recent analogies comes from swing dance instructor David Rehm, who noted that some people’s dancing is a ransom note: they’ve taken one move, style and all,directly from one source, and another move, style and all, directly from another. As a result, watching them dance is the equivalent of reading a ransom note, with no unifying theme or movement.


6 responses to “Swing Analogies: stews and ransom notes”

    • I thought about that, but the problem is that by the time swing dancing actually came around, jazz music belonged to New York, California, Kansas City, etc., whereas Gumbo didn’t. So, to me, gumbo felt a bit misleading. So, I went with the blander analogy (ZING!).


  1. Take a generous measure of Aunt Sylvia’s Basic Mix – you’ll need to work this for some time. When it feels like you have a smooth consistency, sprinkle in a little syncopation for flavour and let it simmer. This should form a good stock to which you can later add a little spice available in many different flavours from the ABW, Rendezvous and EBC stores. (This recipe was derived from an orignal dish by the Michelin Star Chef Robert White, Washington)

    • How do we make a lindy stew?
      A little lead, some follow too.
      A cup of pulse, a quart of joy
      Then half a tablespoon of coy,
      A pinch of grit, a dash of bounce,
      A half a throw, a squeeze of jounce.
      Aha — it shall be ready soon…
      Did you bring your bowl?
      Did you bring your spoon?

      With apologies to Shel Silverstein

  2. Personal style is also partially dictated by body type. Doing movements that work best for your size and physical capabilities is often what looks best too. This is part of the reason man swivels will never look as good as Nina’s swivels. (Somewhere out there, good looking man swivels exist).

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