Al Minns, Around-The-World Charleston

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 responses to “Al Minns, Around-The-World Charleston”

  1. 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. 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?


    • 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.

      • “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

        • 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.

  3. […] Breakin’ It Down: Al Minns Around-the-World Charleston L1ndy Phocus Time Love & Swing: Opportunity Costs My Favorite Year: 1938 Gallery: Jason Swihart Swing Photographers: Jason Swihart Frankie On Film I Love You, Facebook A word on Swing: On the Porch With Nina Gilkenson The Junk Drawer — July 2012 Word on Swing (3): Partnership Interview with Paul Overton of Paul & Sharon On Having Fun In Response To “31 Signs You’re Not An Advanced Dancer Yet.” A Space-Gravity Conundrum A Word on Swing: The Sound of Music Regarding Nazi Regulations on Swing Music Graph #1: Dancing Ability & Drinking Venn Diagram #5: “Partnership” Love & Swing (2): Non-Dancing Significant Others vs. Dancing Significant Others Venn Diagram #4: “Balboa / Blues” Love & Swing (1): “To Meet Boys.” Venn Diagram #3: “Leader’s Clothing” A Word on Swing (1): “Lonestar!” Josh Collazo on Swing Drumming For Hal (Tribute Article to Hal Takier) On Judging, Part 3: Judging Philosophy 101 Venn Diagram #2: “Neo-Swing” P90X2: Post 2 Venn Diagram #1: “Friends” Implied in the Contract: The Hidden Implications of Doing a Professional Dance Instruction Gig P90X2: Post 1 Bobby and Kate DVDs Swungover2011 Year-In-Review Junk Drawer November 2011 Swing Analogies: Swing Analogies: Dips, tricks and small aerials are risque jokes On Judging, Part 2: Watching and Note-Taking Technique A Few Random Clips The Art of Vintage Manliness: Ties UPDATE: New Discoveries on the Waist-Down Dancing Clip Random Lindy Hop and Balboa Geek Discovery: Bal, Swing and Lindy from the Waist Down (and Something Possibly Amazing) Swing Analogies: Lindy Hoppers are 22-to-25-year-olds Joyce James AKA Joyce “Little Stupe” Daniels ISDFNKA #5 Pinning Down the California Routine The Etiquette of Stealing The Junk Drawer (September 2011) ILHC 2011 Snippet #4 ILHC 2011 Snippet #3 ILHC 2011 Snippet #2 ILHC 2011 Snippet #1 Gallery: Hilary Mercer Swing Photographers: Hilary Mercer Interview with Tim Vail, Deaf Lindy Hopper Anatomy of a Choreography: “Chimes at the Meeting” Random Notes from Melbourne, Australia Interview: Kyle Smith, Master DJ The Junk Drawer: (July 2011) And we’re back…sort of. Savoy Style vs. Hollywood Style: A Fight to the Death (Hopefully?) Savoy Vs. Hollywood Footnotes Black coffee music video Genevieve Grazis, the lost follower Swing Analogies: Moves are like legoes Things I’ve learned about dancing and having a bad back. Swing Analogies: stews and ransom notes Gallery: Eric Bertrand Swing Photographers: Eric Bertrand Willa Mae Ricker, patron saint of respect for Lindy Hoppers The Great Debate: Should Lindy Hop be danced to non-swing music? Swing Memories: Calling Irene Thomas Documentary on Chick Webb Coming Soon Irene Thomas, sassy brunette. Interview with Glenn Crytzer, leader of the Syncopators The Junk Drawer: February, 2011 RIP John Mills, 1912-2011 A BASIC INDEX OF CLASSIC CLIPS Interview: Lindsay Longstreth, Organizer of Alternative-Education Swing Events Random Balboa Geek Discovery: New Information on the Venice Beach Clip Mildred Pollard, AKA Sandra Gibson, IFNKA #1 The Story of Mata Hari On Judging, Part 1: The Basic Competition Blueprint Oh, the dances you will have! Follow up: Random Notes of Leading/Following A good follower is a proactive passenger The 2010 Swungover Year in Review Happy Birthday Swungover! And the Junk Drawer Dec 2010 The Deal with Striped Socks Random Notes from Wellington, New Zillund Random Notes from Sydney, Australia Cab Calloway’s Cat-alogue The Definition of Jitterbug Random Notes from Reading and Gloucester, UK (or “Redding and Gloster”) The Haunted Jam Cellar: The Clown In the Woods I’d Like To Change My Answer…(or: Inspiring Neo-Swingers to Lindy Hop) The Haunted Jam Cellar: The Sketchy Guy The Jam Cellar Guide to Practicing Aerials On Judging: An Introduction F. Scott Fitzgerald Made Honorary Jitterbug by Swungover (Happy Birthday F. Scott!) News Briefs From Yesteryear Random Notes from the Balboa Experiment Swing Analogies–Balboa is like a poem…(cough) The Junk Drawer (Sept 2, 2010) Insanity #4 — ABORT! Swing Memories: The Sewanee Swing Society Bobby’s Top Secret Plan for ILHC Cabaret Next Year ILHC 2010 Update #3 (1:47 a.m. Sunday Night) Update on ILHC 2010 #2 (4:10 a.m. Saturday night) Update on ILHC 2010 #1 (3:44 a.m. Friday Night) Figuring Out A Team Name Swing Analogies: A Good Lead is Like Shouting in a Library Swing Analogies: A Student is like a Bad Juggler A Year of Clips #6: “Lady Be Good” (Collegiate Shag) and Artie Shaw’s Hatred of Dancers The Ballad of the Oxford Baggies The “Heavy” Follower INSANITY! (#3 — Reset Week and Cario Power and Resistance) The Case of the Dancing Stud (Part 4 of 4): The Big Competition The Junk Drawer–July, 2010 The Case of the Dancing Stud (Part 3 of 4): The Investigation Takes an Odd Turn INSANITY! (Part 2: Days 1-6 and Plyometric Cardio Circuit) Random Notes from Seoul, Korea INSANITY! (Part 1: The Gospel According to the Guy Who Brought You Hip Hop Abs) The Case of the Dancing Stud (2 of 4): The Scene of the Crime Swing Analogies–Dance Floors are like Glaciers… Interview with Valerie Salstrom, mastermind behind the All Balboa Weekend The Case of the Dancing Stud (Complete Story) Swing Memories–Frankie Manning’s 85th A Way-Too-Breif History of Balboa A Few of the (Many) Reasons I Love My Partner* A Year of Clips #5: Start Cheering Swing Memories– My First Lesson Long Live the King Todays Post: Ooops. A Year of Clips #4: The Rhythm Hot Shots at Can’t Top the Lindy Hop 1994 (and the philosophical dilemma of The Ship of Theseus) P-Lindy-X PLUS (Part 4 of 4): The Code of the Elementary School Playground The Old Timer (Conclusion: Making Noise) The Old Timer (Part 4: “The Only Count I Know is Basie”) Random Notes from Salem, Mass. (April 14, 2009) Interview with Jonathan Stout, Leader of the Campus Five The Old Timer (Part 3: Inside and Outside the Box) The Old Timer (Part 2: A Release of Energy) Interview with Paul Cosentino of the Boilermaker Jazz Band News: Bobby to Go to Fictional Graduate School P-Lindy-X PLUS (Part 3 of 4): Yes, I’m Wearing a Bra. The Old Timer (Part 1: A Classless Dance) Meeting Notes from The First Jam Cellar Town Hall Meeting A Quick Note on Floorcraft* P-Lindy-X PLUS (Part 2 of 4): Inspiring Words From a Bench Warmer. Random Notes from the 1950s (May 28, 2009) Interview with Hilary Alexander of the Campus Five A Year of Clips #3: Todd and Naomi Showcase ULHS 2005 A Year of Clips #2: Nick and Carla at ILHC 2009 The Art of Vintage Manliness–Shaving A Year of Clips #1: After Seben The Art of Vintage Manliness: Introduction P-LINDY-X PLUS: Bobby’s Complete P90X PLUS Blog. The Decade In Swing P-LINDY-X: Bobby’s Complete P90X Blog (Months 2 & 3 of 3) P-LINDY-X: Bobby’s Complete P90X Blog (Month 1 of 3) Al Minns: A Dancer’s Dancer PRIDE AND PRETZEL-TURNS Introduction […]

  4. 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…..

    • 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.

      • 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?

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

    And, some impressive core control there!

  6. 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!

  7. 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.

  8. […] Breakin’ It Down: Al Minns Around-the-World Charleston A lot of Swungover is research and writing, or teaching and writing, or dancing and writing. I felt this post finally put my research, my writing, my teaching, and my dancing all together in one piece. […]

Leave a Reply

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

You are commenting using your 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: