Monthly Archives: September 2009

The Influence of Dance on Music

This actually started out as a comment to Jerry’s post of another piece of his wonderful paper on the history of the Lindy Hop revival but it got too long. If you have not yet read the entire paper, you should definitely do so, now. Right now.

There is one particular sequence that stands out.  It starts at 4:06 with Jai Latimer dancing with Frida Segerdahl.  They end their shine with Jai landing a split.  Andy Reid follows suit while dancing with Nina Gilkenson.  Kevin St. Laurent, dancing with Giselle Anguizola, responds with his own split.   The band, particularly the drummer, responds to each successive split with their own musical hits.  Next Peter Strom and Jo Hoffberg (formerly Emily) come out, and Peter feigns a pained  half split to break the pattern, but Jo surprises him by executing her own.  Nick Williams and Carla Heiney end the sequence when Nick launches into an extended spin while Carla patiently waits before they both go down into simultaneous splits.

I found this clip particularly interesting. I especially liked how the drummer accents  the dancers movements with hits. I think I mentioned this in my review of Camp Jitterbug, but the band at Camp Jitterbug also did this for the strictly finals, which was awesome. (BTW, if anyone can tell me who that band was it would be much appreciated.) This got me thinking, how do dancers influence the music the dance to?

We all know that music greatly influences the dancers, and that’s the main reason why dancing evolves, from Charleston to Lindy Hop, think of the change in music from the 20’s (tuba, oom-pah, 2 beat) to the 40’s (more swingy, base on every beat, drums ). But how did the dancing affect what the musicians we’re doing?

When I read Frankie’s book it really surprised me how much interaction there was between the dancers and the musicians at that time. Dancers gave musicians ideas through their movements, their line dances (think shim sham and ‘Stompin’ at the Savoy’), and their personalities. Musicians were inspired by dancers because they worked in such close proximity to each other.

During the 1950’s musicians began to carve their own path by experimenting more with the music, using groovier rhythms and not hitting the base every beat for the dancers. Music became something you listen to instead of something you experience. George Avakian mentioned this at the Frankie Manning Memorial in May, he said that when he was growing up there were no music concerts, there were dances where you would go to dance to a live band but never sit and listen.

Now music and dancing are almost separate and it’s hard to find a decent dance band because they all play 8 minute songs that are 260 bpm just because they want to do it. Even the Balboa dancers get tired.

What happened to the days where the dancers would create rhythms which the musicians were inspired by to create new rhythms, new sounds, and new ways of doing things which would further inspire dancers to create more new rhythms, new moves, and new ways of doing things?

I think we should push for modern dance bands to work closely with the dancers and the dancers work closely with the musicians. I love the new initiative that the showcases are performed to live music at ULHS. Dancers (including myself), learn to play an instrument! Even if it’s just a kazoo or a bongo or learn to sing! Learn to read music and learn the terminology. Talk to Jonathan Stout, easily the best dance band leader on the planet, or Mike Faltesek (or any  jazz musician friends who are also dancers) a lot. Do what you can but let’s keep the music as inspired as our dancing! Let’s eliminate canned music once and for all! MUAHAHA.

Three things you didn’t know about Alice Poteriaiko

Did you know that Alice Poteriaiko

  1. Translates to the number 5 in numerology
  2. Has the Black Widow Spider as their Power Animal
  3. Shares their name with a guesstimated 0 Americans?

See more at http://www.isthisyour.name

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The competition weekend to end all competition weekends…

ILHC was a blast. I’ll try to make this on the shorter side since I really want to go to sleep right now.

First of all, whenever possible fly Virgin. It’s awesome. Second of all D.C. is such a great place to live, their metro system is awesome. We used it to get from the airport and it was surprisingly easy, if well researched. I didn’t get to see much of the city, which doesn’t really bother me that much because they’re all the same to me, but some of my friends used the metro to see al the famed sights of D.C. Since our hotel was very close to a station it made it even more simple. You can have a very affordable and fun-filled vacation in D.C. very easily.

ILHC – August 27th-30th, 2009

When I first walked in I was surprised at how small the space actually is. You would think from watching the videos that there is much more space off to the sides and behind the camera for the audience, but what you see in the video is basically it.

The Dances

The night dances were a bit slow with less advanced dancers coming out since they were all busy worrying or practicing for their competitions. However, many came out during the late nights and Saturday and Sunday nights. But I had more fun just dancing with anyone who asked me than being a snob and trying to dance with only the ‘pros’. During one of the late nights I had a sort of epiphany about my dancing. I was so tried and sleepy that I decided to stop caring about how I’m dancing entirely.  It turns out that’s how you have fun. Stop caring about how you cool you look, what awesome footwork you’re going to do next, how good your following is, and just dance. I can’t believe I haven’t done that before.

The Music

So The Boilermaker Jazz Band played on Saturday night and they had everyone on the edge of their seats looking for a dance partner for every song. They also provided music for the Champions Strictly, which was ridiculous. They really drove the energy of the dancers. See for your self:

That’s approximately a 260 bmp song for 12+ minutes! Wha!?

However the other nights we not so exciting. The bands felt like they played a lot for crowds of people sitting down but not much for dancers. They played very long very fast songs in a row which didn’t make me want to dance very much. Not to mention one band played melody… It was terrible. I looked forward to DJ’ed late nights the most, even though the DJs were also unsatisfactory most of the time. Like that time they killed a jam on the last night by playing a slow song right after a faster song which had started the jam, and then playing a faster song right after the slow song  to keep the jam going which they already killed. Maybe there should be some sort of camp or event for DJs too. Mary Freitag and Augie Freman would teach them how to do it right!

But I guess that’s what you get for wanting quality social dancing at a competition event.

The Competitions

Amazing. The dancing was superb and awesome. But like most lindy hop today, it was missing fun.  Sometimes  don’t want constant AWESOME in-your-face lindy hop. Sometimes it’s much better to have fun. What am I saying! It’s always better to have fun! You need the dance to have a character and a direction than just a sequence of AWESOME steps/moves/footwork/styling etc. without fun, it wouldn’t be lindy hop anymore. It would be like… Broadway jazz… yech… But that’s just my personal bias. Check out my 3 favorite moments of fun:

3.

Watch the second couple up, especially during the all-skate

2.

1.

The Gap

I almost forgot to post this week because I’ve been so busy. I only have like 30 minutes to finish this so that will keep it nice and short.

Back from ILHC and it was a blast, more about the event next week. Congratulations to all of my friends who placed! You were all so wonderful!

Preparing for Lindy and Party which starts today, but I’ll get there Friday night and will leave Sunday night/Monday morning depending on how you look at it.

On to the subject:

Going to ILHC and getting to meet so many amazing people again really made me glad to be in LA. But, as a follow up to last months post, we do have some disadvantages. First of all everything is so far apart. Unless you live in the OC, which would be nice if you have a lot of money. I don’t.

Another peculiar quirk about our scene is that even though we have so many amazing dancers that are very accessible to everyone weekly, there is a large gap between the ‘pros’ and the other dancers. While in an idyllic scene such as Seattle there are many dancers who are just of the verge of ‘pro’ status and so on, the dancing skill and technique is spread evenly, like smooth peanut butter on toasted whole wheat bread with bananas on top. Yum.

So why is LA so different? Maybe people are intimidated by the level of dancing?  Maybe the scene didn’t really get any new dancers after the late 90’s and only now its starting to grow again? Who knows? Do you?

Man the term ‘pro’ sucks.

People to seek out on the floor in LA:
Mary Freitag
– mentioned in the Camp Hollywood post last month as one of the DJ’s who made the weekend awesome, instead of just good, she dances in many places around LA. She is the sweetest follow you’ll find anywhere. Period. Her and Andrew Hsi took 3rd place in the ULHC open strictly! Also, check out her fantastic blog!
Roy Samson – brilliant lead and a brilliant person. All around brilliant. He teaches the beginning lesson at Lindy Groove often and you can also find him selling drinks and snacks in the lobby to raise funds for the One2Swing teams who took 3rd and 4th in the ILHC team competition which he is a part of!

Just a reminder, If you’re reading this on facebook you’re missing half the fun! Click on ‘View Original Post’ below!

Silly That Up.

Even though I wanted to post like 5 clips from ILHC this past weekend I decided not to because even if you’re a mild lindy video clip addict you’ve probably already seen all of them twice.

So I’ll post something a bit different.

Inspirations…

One of my favorite videos since I first saw it. This month I’m still going to focus a lot on solo jazz, still trying to learn the Tranky Doo. I think working on solo jazz will really help me get through this weird plateau I’m going through right now in my dancing. Plus it’s also really easy to work on solo jazz alone when you’re bored or have a spare moment in your day. Introducing new movements and ways of moving your body through space will force you to be more creative on the social dance floor too, I presume. I often find myself doing the same 3-4 movements/stylings when I’m following and getting my muscles to do diffrent things will probably help get me moving in new ways so I can have more tools at my disposal to pullout so I can match the music better. Hopefully that made sense.

Another thing I would like to focus on more is to be more silly and have more fun. I’m tired of AWESOME all the time. I want fun. This video is so awesome because it’s so silly. Frida and Sakarias tell a story, portray characters, and are silly while they are dancing. Being silly and having fun goes much further than being awesome in my book. I don’t care if you have some fancy new aerial and you learned this step from Skye Home-Fries himself. I’d rather see you having fun and being yourself.

For example, you are performing a routine and you have to get every single step exactly right, and you can’t screw up this break here, and watch out and don’t slip after this aerial here. If you weren’t so busy worrying about trying to be the coolest and best routine EVER you would probably have remembered to have fun and it would have been the coolest and best routine ever.

This weekend I stayed up pretty frickin’ late dancing one night and I remember being so tried that I didn’t even care how a looked or how good my technique was or how well I was following and I just danced. I had the best dances of my life ever. Consecutively. It was awesome. So from now on. I’m just going to dance and not give a rat’s behind about anything else, like how cool or awesome I look. I’m done with that. I want to have fun now and be silly. Silly it up.