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“Whitey’s Hopping Maniacs” at the Savoy, 1937

May 26, 2020

COVID ask 3

Perhaps you’ve seen the footage before of a young Frankie Manning dancing at the Savoy ballroom. With Chick Webb and his band swinging in the background, Frankie is clearly seen dancing and smiling, and sporting a suave 1930s mustache. It was used in Ken Burns’ Jazz, for instance, but if you haven’t seen it before, or in awhile, here is a pretty clear copy recently made available on Getty’s stock footage website: (Please note the announcer makes a racist pun on “dark” that was sadly typical of the time.)

 

So there’s some Frankie Manning for you on his birthday. But who’s that dancing with him? And if you watched it a few times, you might notice there seems to be a group of three couples, including Frankie, that pal around and talk to each other while they’re dancing. Those three couples get the bulk of the camera’s attention in these short snippets. So who are they?

We think those three couples are none other than Naomi Waller & Frankie Manning, Mildred Cruse & Billie Williams, and Lucille Middleton & Jerome Williams.  

Here’s a little bit about their story, and why we think it’s them. Read more…

R.I.P. Roy Damron (1921- 2020)

May 21, 2020
ROY

Roy Damron & Snookie Bishop

Roy Damron, original Southern California Swing dancer, passed away January 2, 2020. He was 98 years old.

Roy was born in Los Angeles, California, on August 27, 1921. He grew up in the then-small town of Alhambra, where he attended Alhambra High School. Like many young people, he took basic dance lessons during that time, where he learned the box step. He would practice it while walking five miles home from the lessons with a friend, and they would occasionally stop to try out the step with each other. After Roy got into swing dancing, he would forever think of that box step as the fundamental basic of all the swing dances. Read more…

The 1935 Harvest Moon Ball

May 13, 2020

COVID ask 3

This is the SNACK-SIZED edition. For the longer, GEEK-OUT version, click here. Words that are a different color (like the link in the previous sentence) are links to source articles and information.

This is the first in a series that will explore the Harvest Moon Ball over the years. (It will be by far the longest.) It is a story of social disruption and mistaken memories, of rediscovered truths and the pioneers of Lindy Hop. Hope you enjoy. 

(The GEEK OUT edition of this article goes into a lot more detail in everything. It’s got more insight, pictures and newspaper article connections, and source material — it’s designed to be more like a museum exhibit.)

Read more…

The 1935 Harvest Moon Ball (GEEK OUT)

May 13, 2020

Geek ask 2

This is the GEEK-OUT EDITION. For the shorter, snack-sized version, click here. Words that are a different color (like the link in the previous sentence) are links to source articles and information.

This is the first in a series that will explore the Harvest Moon Ball over the years. And don’t worry, this one will be by far the longest. However, it is full of mystery, intrigue, social disruption, mistaken memories, rediscovered truths, and an awful lot of geeking out about Lindy Hop. Hope you enjoy. 

 

1935 First announcement Graphic

From the first advertisement introducing the Harvest Moon Ball, July 7th, 1935.

Riots and Dances

On July 7th, 1935, the New York Daily News announced it would hold an amateur ballroom dance contest. Preliminaries would be held at several locations around the city, with the final 100 couples having a full night of contests in Central Park. They named it the Harvest Moon Ball. Read more…

Practice w/ Bobby SEASON 1!

May 1, 2020

Over the COVID-19 quarantine I’ve been doing 30 minute, down-and-dirty Improv jazz dance training. (And I will continue to do so, btw, Monday Nights at 7pm EST on my FB profile!)

Having done eight of them so far, I’ve put them together in a little bundle. It’s only $19.99 for FOUR HOURS of dance training (and, you know, fish eye lenses and FB live video quality!)

You can even try out Episode 5 for FREE to see if you’ll like it!

I’ve had a blast doing them, and think they are a great way to practice for any jazz dance by yourself.

JUST CLICK ON THE PICTURE TO GET THEM. (Links to the videos are also over at the The Swungover STORE  and www.SWINGBOBBY.com so you don’t have to search for this post!)

More info below. 

Season 1 picture

HOW PURCHASING WORKS: Read more…

A Gaze into A Day at the Races

April 24, 2020

COVID ask 3

 

A Day at the Races is recognized by many as one of the greatest Lindy Hop clips in history. In this essay we’ll take a deeper look — we’ll discuss the dancing, and then discuss the problematic context of the film and clip. The word “gaze” was chosen on purpose.

This version of the clip was colorized with computer-software by Karri Rasinmäki of Black Pepper Swing and shared with the community on YouTube. Though the program is guessing at colors, it does bring alive both the dancing and the rich variety of skin color that most likely existed among the cast. Please note it contains offensive material (White actors doing “blackface”) that will be discussed in the essay below.  

About the clip

The scene was filmed in March, 1937. It was the first time Whitey’s Lindy Hoppers as an official group appeared in a Hollywood film. They were listed in production notes as Arthur White’s Lindy Hoppers. According to Frankie Manning’s autobiography, it was Whitey’s second-tier group at the time. However, according to Norma Miller’s book, Whitey  was training Frankie’s group to replace this one. Apparently, Whitey was getting annoyed with this group beginning to demand fairer pay and better working conditions. Rather than contradicting each other, the different opinions sound more like the manipulations of their manager, who probably favored loyalty a lot more than  performance demand.

Regardless of what place they held in Whitey’s eyes, they were pretty much the most awarded team in Lindy Hop at the time: They were a team mostly comprised of Harvest Moon Ball champions — one 1935 champion and both first and second couples from 1936.

They were in California performing with Ethel Waters (as “The Six Lindy Hop Champions,” under one bill,) and a producer saw them and hired them for the film. Norma Miller suspected that Whitey was happy to have the film gig because it got the group away from touring with Ethel Waters, who was the main force behind encouraging the dancers to protests Whitey’s treatment of them.

The context of the scene in the film is very important to discuss. We’ll go into that after we geek out about the dancing.

The Dancing

Troy Brown

Actor Troy Brown, Sr. the solo dancer in A Day at the Races, according to Frankie Manning.

The scene opens with a solo dancer.  Many people, like the clip above, credit this dancer as the Whitey’s Lindy Hopper John “Tiny” Bunch, however the dancer is actually an actor named Troy Brown, Sr., according to Frankie Manning, as told to historian Judy Pritchett.  (You can see “Tiny” Bunch dance in Radio City Revels.)  Troy does some basic jazz steps, and then goes into an impressive jazz split while licking his fingers. The finger-licking part is from a jazz movement they called “Picking cherries” or “Picking apples.” Then Troy beams a very specific smile (Leon James will beam a similar smile, which we will discuss in greater depth in the second half of the essay.)

Then the Whitey’s Lindy Hoppers enter (dancing at about 270 BPM), each doing just a couple moves before allowing the first couple to spotlight. Fun fact: Before the first couple starts jamming, the couple on the left side of the screen — Ella Gibson and George Greenidge —  both  nearly wipe out on a patch of floor that is clearly more slippery than they expect. One of the great unpredictables in film work is the surface you will be dancing on. Read more…

Consider This: Pan-style Teaching vs Lone-style Teaching

April 17, 2020

As a professional dance instructor in the time of COVID-19, my income for at least the next four months has been erased. This post is composed with a suggested donation of $3. If you read it, especially if you found it thought-provoking, please donate! You will be *literally* helping support an artist, and have my sincerest gratitude. If you think someone else will enjoy it, I will also appreciate it greatly if you share it. 

Pan style illustration III

Recently we did a post on the sources of individuality in one’s jazz dancing. Something we went into a little is the modern scene’s relationship to individuality. We wanted to explore that a little further, specifically in regard to the teaching and learning of the dance.

In order to talk about this, we made up a few terms: Pan-style: with regard to many different styles, mechanics, or options, and Lone-style, with regard to a specific style/mechanic/option, or specific set of styling/mechanics/options.

Though we will be using extremes to explore this point, it’s more realistic to think of this ultimately as a scale. For instance, the most extreme Pan-Style teacher would teach absolutely any style or mechanic or option or variation that could be done in the dance. The most extreme Lone-style teacher would teach only their specific styling or mechanic, without any influence from other dancers. Obviously, most teachers fall somewhere between. But let’s explore what those mean for teachers and students. Read more…