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NEXT WEEK: The 1947 HMB!

The 1947 HMB introduces some incredible dancers that will shape the future of Lindy Hop. Dancers we should all know the names of. (We'll get back to 1946 later.)

Shag @ the Harvest Moon Ball

June 10, 2021

Shag was seen at the HMB from 1936-1939. This is a collection of all the shag sections in the Harvest Moon Ball essays and the dancing in the balls. To see all the Harvest Moon Ball essays, please visit Swungover’s HMB page. Apologies that some of the pictures and articles are displayed huge — WordPress’s recent updates have some serious issues that we were not able to easily fix at the moment.

Venmo: @Bobbyswungover

1936

The Outliers

In 1936, we see the first Shag in the Harvest Moon Ball — Harriet Pierce & Harold Oberman.

Harriet & Harold (Shag)

Let’s say you’re a dancer in 1930’s New York, and you love Shag. You decide to maybe make a statement about how there’s not a Shag division at the Harvest Moon Ball, and so you compete in the Lindy Hop prelims. You are good enough to tie with another couple. (Harriet and Harold dead-tied with another couple and the judges took them both.) 

You make it to the finals…only to be surrounded by an entire performance team of Whitey’s Lindy Hoppers in your heat. Your chance to show off some Shag may get a little overshadowed.

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The 1940 Harvest Moon Ball

May 25, 2021

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Venmo: @bobbyswungover

This is the shorter, snack-sized version of this article. For the longer Geek-Out version, please click here. Also, this is part of the Harvest Moon Ball essay series. To see all the Harvest Moon Ball essays, please visit Swungover’s HMB page.

 

Daily_News_Sun__Jul_14__1940_ (1)

 

Exit Shag, Enter Conga

The 1940 Harvest Moon Ball began with an article announcing the Shag division would be replaced by a Conga division. (Want to see the article? Geek Out edition.) The event felt the Shag and the Lindy Hop were, for “all intents and purposes,” “identical.” We can’t help but feel they looked at both and simply saw expressive dance being done to swing music and called it a day mentally. (We discussed this in some depth in our 1938 Geek Out article, as similar claims were made at the time.) Read more…

The 1940 Harvest Moon Ball (GEEK OUT)

May 19, 2021

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Venmo: @bobbyswungover

This is the longer, Geek-Out version of this article which has lots of research and information. For the shorter, Snack-sized version, click here. Also, this is part of the Harvest Moon Ball essay series. To see all the Harvest Moon Ball essays, please visit Swungover’s HMB page.

 

Aug 17, 1940

 

For you Geek-Outers, here’s an interesting little column about the Savoy that was done by a social columnist in the Daily News on Aug 17, 1940.

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Why Balboa

April 28, 2021
Swing dancers meet for a competition in Los Angeles in 1939.

In 2018, Herrang Magazine asked me to answer this question in 350 words. Here was that answer.

“Balboa.”

To some, it means boring. To some, it means confining freedom. To some, an excuse for not being able to dance Lindy fast.

To others, though, it means dancing you often taste more than you see. It means freedom by framework. And it means dancing comfortably to fast swing music all night long, all life-long.

“It is a poem,” you might have heard. One that might sit with you awhile before you realize how much you like it — how well it puts a thousand possible words into one, how beautiful the white space of the page around them is.

“Balboa” is not just one dance, but three. There’s what the old timers called “Balboa,” a pre-swing dance from an hour’s drive or, back in the day, trolley ride south of L.A. They tell us it was done on dance floors cramped with elbows and body heat and date night perfumes. In this thick jungle, the dance evolved accordingly — chest-to-chest, hardly moving, the feet shuffling to the music like wire brushes across a drum head. Hidden from spectators, the dancers moved glued together as one, floating, drifting this way and that, meditating in a sea of swing.

Then there was “Swing,” the dance the Los Angeles kids of that wild west town invented when bands became big and no-one from New York was around to show them a swing out. All they knew were the box-steps, trots and Charlestons of their parents. From that lazy ball-room shaped canvas, it was only a matter of time before they were twisting, turning, and stretching to the swing of the music in an orbiting dance. Their freedom lead to function.

On the dance floors of masonic temples and high school gyms, “Balboa” and “Swing” met, and a new dance was born, “Bal-Swing,” melting the two philosophies together — it became an introverted performance dance, an engineer’s game, a meditative explosion. A dance jungle gym with bars strong for climbing on — and swinging from. 

Lindy is only one of our family’s elders. “Balboa,” “Swing” and “Bal-Swing” are three other beautiful answers to the question, “Grandma, what does it mean to truly swing?”

This article appeared in an earlier form in an edition of Herrang magazine in 2018.

Venmo: @BobbySwungover

PayPal: Paypal.me/bobbywhite3

The 1939 Harvest Moon Ball

April 20, 2021

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Venmo: @bobbyswungover

This is the shorter, snack-sized version of this essay. For more information and research, check out the Geek Out version here. This is part of the Harvest Moon Ball essay series. To see all the Harvest Moon Ball essays, please visit Swungover’s HMB page.

 

A Hot Spring

In 1939, while the Whitey’s Lindy Hoppers were in their busiest year yet, the world was boiling. In Europe, countries all around Germany swarmed in preparation for the oncoming storm. America was not that worried yet; in February of 1939, around 20,000 attended a Nazi rally at Madison Square Garden. It featured a giant portrait of Washington with swastiskas on each side. 20,000 people is a sell out, the same number that watched Harvest Moon Balls. The good news: whereas Harvest Moon Balls often had a couple thousand people outside who couldn’t get tickets, the Nazi rally had 100,000 people outside — protesting. 

In April, Billie Holiday recorded a song titled “Strange Fruit” — about the lynching of Black Americans in the South. From 1930 up to this point, there had already been 117 lynchings of Black Americans in the US. And in June, Chick Webb — the original King of Swing and the front man of the Savoy bandstand — died from the Tuberculosis of the Spine that had tore up his body and often left him passed out in pain after gigs.    

As usual, summer brought with it the annual Harvest Moon Ball. Despite being in the middle of an incredibly grinding schedule at the World’s Fair, there was probably no way Whitey would let his Lindy Hoppers sit out a Harvest Moon Ball. They had a legacy to uphold: They had won the championship all four previous years, and had even won all placements in the last two HMB Lindy divisions. 

 

Daily_News_Sun__Jul_16__1939_

This year’s announcement. Notice they use a figure performed by Sarah Ward & William Downes from the 1938 pictures (in the above right corner).

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