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R.I.P. Anne Mills (1922-2018)

March 1, 2018

anne zorigian2R.I.P Anne Mills, Original Bal dancer.

Anne was one of the strongest follower voices and favorite dance partners of the original Balboa dancers. Anne was born Anna Zorigian in 1922 to an Armenian family in Massachusetts that had come from Turkey in 1913. By 1930 the family had moved to California where her father opened a shoe-repair shop.

As a teenager in the late 30s and early 40s, she was known as “one of the five bal gals,” a group of friends who were renowned for dancing (Pure) Balboa at any tempo. (Though she also did “Swing,” — roughly what we’d call Bal-Swing today — and Lindy Hop.)

For the modern generation, she was known for her knowledge of the dances and clear memory of the times, giving a great amount to our understanding of Southern California  swing dancing — She not only had much to say on the philosophies and mechanics of following and the importance of expressing oneself as a follower (see interviews below for a taste), she also had an unrivaled understanding of the leaders of the day (sometimes understanding them better than they did themselves).

International Balboa and Lindy Hop instructor Nick Williams says she could show him how all the different basics of the great leaders she danced with felt.

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“What’s it like being Black in the scene?” [Podcast]

January 30, 2018
What's it like being Black in the scene?

(From left to right) Radeena Stuckey, Darold Alexander, Javier Johnson (standing), Breonna Jordan, Latasha Barnes. Not pictured: Mikayla Pryor & James Agena Georges.

Swungover Podcast #02: What’s it like being Black in the scene? With Darold Alexander, Latasha Barnes, James Agena Georges, Javier Johnson, Breonna Jordan, Mikayla Pryor, and Radeena Stuckey. Recorded Dec 31, 2017.

Inspired by discussions at Lindy Focus 2017 held by Breai Mason-Campbell of Baltimore.

LINK TO PODCAST ON YOUTUBE (Will upload it to a podcast platform at some point in the future.)

Or, listen here:


 
 PLEASE CONSIDER SHARING THIS ON SOCIAL MEDIA IN ORDER TO SPREAD THESE VOICES.
 
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Regarding this podcast: It’s striking to me that this is one of the most important things I’ve done at Swungover, and all that it required me to do was listen, and share.

Huge thanks to Darold, Latasha, James, Javier, Breonna, Mikayla , and Radeena for being willing to share their very personal experiences with me (and you). Also a big thanks to Lindy Focus for hosting the discussion series and for so quickly working to help us find a place to record this podcast.

If you’re interested in a place that somehow manages to be the most fun you’ve had with some fantastic serious discussions on how to improve the scene, in addition to some of the greatest swing dance music you will ever hear live, check out Lindy Focus. It’s an honor to work for a camp that puts so much effort into having an ideal of what the scene can be and working to make it a reality.

And thanks to Nathan Bugh who helped create the podcast theme music (that’s him on harpsichord, myself on drums).

The Junk Drawer — Meeting Irene Thomas, New Jewel Clip, new Charleston “soundie.”

November 29, 2017

I MET IRENE THOMAS.

First things first, my partner Kate and I were able to meet the legendary Irene Thomas this year. AND, hang out with her and legendary Jean Veloz together. And, Irene taught us a few of her old tricks. It was one of the highlights of my life in swing dancing.

If you don’t know who Irene is, she’s one of the most important followers and woman’s voices in swing dance history. Known for both her humorous personality, her full-bodied variations, and the big bow her agent made her wear in the movies, she invented, among many things, the quick stop drop. She would often take the momentum the leader was giving her and dramatically shape it — in one move she had, the leader would lead one outside turn, and she’d snap the energy, accomplishing two before the leader knew what happened. Sadly, she can no longer dance. But she’s still a force. Here’s a little collection of her dancing.

Huge thanks to Rusty Frank for coordinating the trip, not to mention all that she does to support Jean and Irene as legacies of the dance. The picture shows us with (from the left) Hilary Alexander, Rusty Frank, Irene Thomas, myself, Kate, and Jean Veloz.

Follow me on instagram for some reason.

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The Mysterious History of the Tranky Doo

September 25, 2017

Al Minns showing off one of the Tranky Doo steps.

Along with the Shim-Sham and the Big Apple, the Tranky Doo completes the holy trinity of the original swing-era jazz routines. But whereas the histories of the Shim-Sham and the Big Apple are pretty well-known or easily found, modern dancers tend to know less about the history of the Tranky Doo. This post hopes to solve that problem.

The First Tranky Doo

It has floated around the scene for years that Whitey’s Lindy Hopper Pepsi Bethel invented the Tranky Doo. However, the legendary Frankie Manning describes inventing the choreography in his and Cynthia Millman’s book “Frankie Manning: Ambassador of Lindy Hop.” Here’s the basic story.

In the mid-1940s, Frankie and his performance group, The Congaroos, liked to add different flavors to their performances with non-Lindy Hop numbers. There was a chorus girl in a club in Chicago who was given the special honorof being the last chorus girl to leave the stage. The last chorus girl in line would often show off a little step before exiting, and this particular chorus girl’s show-off step was a fall-off-the-log into a shuffle into boogies. This chorus girl’s nickname was Tranky Doo.

Frankie took this step, used it as the first move of his routine, and then added to it, naming the routine after his inspiration. Frankie’s “routine” — he wouldn’t use the word “choreography” until the 1980s — was two choruses long. This is important, and will come up again. The routine was originally done to the song Tuxedo Junction.

In his book, Frankie further discusses how, when he and his fellow Congaroos would go social dancing at the Savoy, they’d do the routine there, and others caught on and soon it had spread to the social dancers of the Savoy. Here is a 1947 clip of former Whitey’s Lindy Hoppers Tops & Wilda performing the Tranky Doo, very close to the time of its creation. The first clip shows clearly the first chorus of the routine we have come to know and love: Read more…

What’s it like to make a swing album?

September 12, 2017

count-basie-recording

Swungover Podcast Pilot #01: What’s it like to make a swing album in the modern era? With (in alphabetical order) Hilary Alexander, Josh Collazo, Michael Gamble, Jonathan Stout, and  Naomi Uyama.



About the podcast:

One of the great pleasures of being a traveling instructor is the ability to have discussions with experts all across the dance scene. Over the past months we here at Swungover have been playing with the idea of doing some podcasts to take advantage of those opportunities.
Read more…

Interview on Judging/Competing

June 28, 2017

phantom bobby

I was honored to be interviewed for Jo Hoffberg’s Competing & Judging series. Check out the interview below:

 

http://johoffberg.com/2017/06/bobby-white-on-competing-and-judging/

The Swing Scene vs. Max, His Friends, and the Swing Scene

May 30, 2017

Please note: This post is entirely about sexual assault in the swing dance community and involves graphic depictions of sexual abuse.

Dear readers,

It’s been a year since this article was published. And throughout this year, not a week has gone by where I questioned whether I should have pushed the “publish” button or not.

The biggest reasons for my concerns are:

(1) I am not an expert on this, and in my desire to educate and support the cause I might have over-stepped my intellectual integrity without realizing it. I know I talked to experts to compose the post, but still I think it is important for me to realize I am a specialist in the dance, not in sexual assault.

(2) I do not want to be tone-def to the fact that I was a white male of high position in the scene explaining something that has primarily effected women. Even with the best of intentions, I am now aware that someone in my position would have probably done better to pass my voice onto one of the victims to speak, if they wished, rather than speak for them, especially in such a grand way.

Recently I did a podcast where I let Black dancers speak of their experiences with very little interference from me, and used Swungover in that way to support them. It immediately struck me that that this way of going about it produced results I was much happier with.

I am very thankful to those who helped me compose this post, and counseled me throughout it. I am also very aware that the amount of stress I went through in writing and publishing this post was only a fraction of what sexual assault victims undergo through their process of undergoing and coming out about sexual assault, which is very striking to me.

Currently I will not remove this post, though please take note of my concerns as you read it.

Following the previous sexual assault revelations in our scene, I noticed others, and myself, being left with a lot of questions. These questions were not new. They are the questions that follow every sexual assault report. In an attempt to understand it better, I asked every question possible to myself and tried to find the answers that helped to understand better the situation, especially from the point of view of human rights, logic, and human-behavior, which seemed to me the heart of these matters.

I am not an expert. I am a dance instructor, and a cis White male — one that has had very little personal experience with sexual assault. Coming from this reference point, I cannot speak for victims, or fully understand the many struggles they face. However, as a strong voice in the scene, I felt perhaps sharing the victim’s stories, as well as revealing my personal journey in understanding, was a way to “boost the signal” of this important topic. (And, it should be noted, my personal experience is not the only way of looking at understanding sexual assault. There are many.)

In light of all of this, I have composed this post with the help of a couple of sexual assault experts, and with a great deal of insight from one of Max’s victims, who shared her story and her own extensive work in understanding sexual assault with me. With their help and confidence, I felt I could post this article, but there is much more out there on these subjects — Literature, film, and discussions by experts that cover the much finer nuances of these topics, or offer counter-arguments to ideas expressed here. Please keep this in mind while reading. Though this post might appear to summarize the conversation, its main goal is to further it.

It has been several months since the reports hit, and for many reasons, I was not able to post this until now. Though it might seem out of date based on the specific assault cases, it is never out of date to discuss sexual safety in our community.

It’s long. Very long. But it didn’t feel right to cut anything. Feel free to move to the parts that seem of interest to you.

Read more…