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Al Minns, Around-The-World Charleston

October 9, 2012

This is a new project here at Swungover called Breakin’ It Down which I’m very, very excited about. It’s become my obsession, and made me very happy over the last few months.

The idea is that I take a small piece of classic swing dancing footage, and try to break it down and replicate it as close as possible. This is not just because it’s a good challenge. I believe I can learn a lot about the original dance and its dancers by doing so — stuff I can’t learn just by watching a clip or reading a book. After doing this first episode, I’ve already learned a lot.

This introductory episode is longer than the others will be; the future ones will be more around five to ten minutes. I’m already hard at work on breaking down two more clips and have a list of a dozen or so I might want to tackle over the series.

21 Comments leave one →
  1. Brody permalink
    October 10, 2012 11:25 am

    That’s pretty fascinating, thanks, Bobby. I have been of the opinion that the old-time dancers were bursting with energy, but that technique wasn’t their strong point. It’s really interesting to hear your analysis, and actually see Al’s strong technique.

  2. Daire permalink
    October 10, 2012 2:29 pm

    Oh man, this has completely made my morning. Thanks for posting :)

  3. Lisa permalink
    October 10, 2012 4:30 pm

    Great idea, can’t wait for the next one. Thanks Bobby!

  4. October 10, 2012 4:45 pm

    This is some amazing work! I’m fascinated, and looking forward to the rest of this series. Nice job!

  5. October 10, 2012 5:14 pm

    Hi Bobby

    Love this video. I’m curious about some minor points (I’m sure you’ve noticed them, but I’m wondering if you consider them “unimportant” or just that you didn’t want to make a video that was too long):
    – when you show normal kicks contrasted with Al kicks to the side [4.20], your right back kick goes off to the side a bit – intentional or oversight?
    – the way al uses his right arm when finishing the rotation, his upper arm goes through a full rotation/extension, through 12 o’clock where yours cuts from 10 o’clock aross to 2 o’clock. Does this make a difference and if so, what?
    – Al travels more on the floor and the dynamics of the foot cutting through the “neutral” [the pause between the two choo and hya’s] position are different from yours, but I can’t pinpoint in what way (something to do with the way the movement travels in a wave through his body?). Any thoughts on that?


    • Bobby permalink*
      October 10, 2012 5:22 pm

      Good eye. Some of them I have answers for now, some I will have to watch and come back. But I’ll report back when I have a chance to look into it deeper. Might be a few days as I’m pretty busy at the moment.

      Do you have a time you’re talking about for the arm rotation question? As well as on the “neutral part?” I’m having a hard time understanding the specific times during his charleston you’re talking about.

      • October 10, 2012 5:59 pm

        “Neutral” is between kicks 2 and 3, where the body goes through a transition where it is mostly vertical, with one foot on the ground and the other foot passes just next to it.

        The arm rotation is on the “and” after kick 4, coming back to step on the right foot

        • Dave Riches permalink
          November 2, 2012 6:13 pm

          I made the same observations as Greg. I think your foot isn’t as high because your right arm is lower than Al’s whereas if you rotated as Greg suggests then I think you’ll get it higher.

  6. Kevin T. Minns permalink
    October 10, 2012 10:38 pm

    Thanks, man, for breaking down my pop’s moves….

  7. Kevin T. Minns permalink
    October 10, 2012 10:40 pm

    I never appreciated my dad’s dancing until I tried to learn how to Lindy Hop from Steven Mitchell this weekend at Rochester….Man—poetry in motion…..

    • Bobby permalink*
      October 11, 2012 12:37 am

      Indeed. Your father is one of my biggest inspirations and in my opinion unarguably one of the greatest solo jazz dancers of all time. It’d be an honor to talk to you about him some time.

      • October 11, 2012 3:02 am

        Thank you for your comments on my dad. And we can talk anytime, man. You’ve go madd analytic skills to break it down the way you did, and I thought your interpretive dance of my father was excellent…I enjoyed the entire video…how was that Mexican food?

  8. October 18, 2012 1:05 am

    That was really fun. You’re good on video. Looking forward to future installments.

  9. October 19, 2012 12:22 am

    Is that music from Little Big Planet?

    Oh, and great video too. :)

    • Bobby permalink*
      October 19, 2012 5:18 am

      Yeah, “My Patch” by Jim Noir. Used in LBP.

  10. theotherhouse permalink
    October 29, 2012 9:29 pm

    Acceptable first date topic if she is a dancer or… a vegetarian.

    And, some impressive core control there!

  11. February 1, 2013 4:03 pm

    How about recreating the lady’s reaction on the right during Al’s first big kicks of around-the-world charleston?! X-D One of my fave little moments from the classic clips.

    Thanks for starting this great series and conversation, Bobby!

  12. Darwi_Odrade permalink
    May 12, 2013 2:38 pm

    Wow, that said, thank you for posting. I’ve just started Lindy and a tiny bit of solo jazz (as if it were possible to learn one and not the other), and even though I’m pretty sure people with more experience are going to get more form your clip, it’s been a great help for me. And a shock, because now I can’t help but try to think of how I’m moving, and why I’m moving that way, if I’ve picked it up or not.

    Already tried to think of how some teachers in youtube videos move, and I just can’t, I don’t have that much knowledge and I can’t help but been too amazed to think, so maybe in a later time.

    But I’ll definitly keep an eye on this series, thanks again, it’s an amazing work.


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