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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…

The Dancer’s Body (Video)

April 10, 2020

Alright, this project is something that’s very important to me and I had a lot of fun doing it.

I am NOT a natural dancer in the sense that, my body, when left to its own devices, makes some unhealthy choices for me. I’ve had to learn and work to train my body to work in a healthy way. It seemed like their should be a place where swing dancers could get that basic information.

So, with the help of New York Physical Therapist (and swing dancer) Nicola Banger, I’ve put together a guide to a healthy dancing body, from head to toe. (Well, technically, from toe to head.)

FOR A PREVIEW, CLICK HERE!

To Purchase, stream, and download the video, CLICK on the Picture. 


Dancer's Body Thumbnail II

It’s one hour long, just $14.99, and covers the healthy alignment and movement of feet, knees, hips, pelvis, torso, shoulders, arms, and head. There is also a section on breathing. 

Read more…

The Pieces of Individuality

April 3, 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 on social media. 

 

“If I’m going to sing like someone else, then I don’t need to sing at all.”

— Billie Holiday

Individualism is an essential part of the legacy of jazz, no less so the swing dancer. But though that’s easy enough to say, what are the forces that actually shape a voice into a unique one?

We came up with a few.

Individualism by choice.

To many, this might be the obvious one. But let’s see what else we come up with before we talk about it.

Individualism through imitation.

It sounds like a contradiction, but imitation has always been one of the most powerful ways artists create their individual voices. Almost every artist ever has gone through a stage of imitation, which isn’t surprising when we realize it’s the primary way humans have evolved to learn. It’s what they do after that that’s important for individualism. For imitation to lead to individualism, the imitation either has to (1) evolve in some way into something new, or (2) it has to be combined with different sources of imitation itself to create something new.

A great example is Leon James and Al Minns, who both, like many other Harlem dancers of the time, loved imitating Earl “Snakehips'” Tucker’s iconic hip-slinking move.

Earl “Snakehips” Tucker, one of the great eccentric dancers.

When Leon did one of his own versions of “Snakehips” in The Tranky Doo footage, it looked very different from the original — he kept his feet wide, and in place, and lifted his arms in the air. In Leon’s hands, “Snakehips” had evolved into something obviously different. (And was pretty much doing the move Elvis would become known for before Elvis did it).  Imitation to evolution. Read more…