Tuesday, June 29, 2010

It's Too Darn Hot

A couple friends have told me about the fun exchanges they’ve been attending but same complaint keeps coming up: some venues are ludicrously hot.

I remember the Wednesday before Frankie 95 in NYC in 2009. I was a little late because I had trouble finding the venue, but I was in a rush to get there. The Loose Marbles were playing, after all; who wouldn’t rush? Well, I finally got to the building and took the elevator up to the 7th floor or so. The doors slide open and BAM! -- I felt like I walked into a sauna (too bad it didn’t smell like one). The windows were fogged up and walls were slick with condensation. It only took one dance before I felt gross, but I ended up dancing for the rest of the night anyway. There wasn’t a single fan to cool us down. We just dealt with it and kept dancing.

Most dances aren’t that bad, but you can overheat anywhere if you dance hard enough. It’s best to come prepared.

Most of these ideas are fairly obvious, but this what I do:

  • drink plenty of water (I always bring my own water bottle; it’s just more convenient)
  • wear clothes made of light, breathable fabrics (like cotton and linen)
  • dress in layers (because taking off your jacket and hat help a ton)
  • I carry a small microfiber (super-absorbent) hand towel (mockingly referred to as my “Sham-pow” by a friend).
  • take frequent breaks, if necessary
  • I dance in front of fans if they’re available.
  • I pack a large black fan. (you can laugh, but it works extremely well)
  • You can cool off as much as you like, but sweating is inevitable so I ALWAYS bring a few extra shirts.

What do you do to beat the heat?

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Humongous Fruit Jazz Routine

I’ve intended to learn the Big Apple jazz routine awhile now. Every time a Big Apple breaks out at a dance, I kick myself because I really want to join in on the fun.

A “Big Apple” is a “called” solo jazz and solo Charleston dance. The caller is in the middle and calls out different moves that the group surrounding him follows.

Big Apples like this happen on occasion, but if you say “Big Apple” most people will assume you’re referring to the choreography based on the performance by Whitey’s Lindy Hoppers in the movie Keep Punchin’.

My absolute favorite Big Apple moment was at the Lindy Focus VIII New Year’s party. The biggest Big Apple I had ever seen broke out when the band (sorry, I can’t remember. Any help?) started playing a spirited rendition of “Flying Home” (or was it “Big Apple Contest?”). Well, there were so many people that they had to form multiple concentric circles of dancers! It was amazing. I never want to miss out on that fun again.

So, I need to get off my butt and learn this routine. Fortunately for me and maybe for you, Patrick and Natasha have released a 14-part series of HD instructional videos teaching the routine.

So, why is it important to learn routines like this?  Jazz routines are a great way to pick up jazz movement and vocabulary.   Once you have a routine down, you'll find yourself incorporating the moves into your regular dancing.  Plus, if you're socially awkward, you don't have to worry about asking anyone to dance.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

A Lovely Metaphor for Bal

Bobby strikes gold again with his interview of All Balboa Weekend founder and organizer, Valerie Salstrom.

It’s a nice interview that explains the founding of All Balboa Weekend, a bit about history of the revival of Balboa, and some stories about working with Maxie Dorf.

In the interview, she describes Balboa as “a dreamy 3 minute hug.” Isn’t that lovely?

Hmm, yet another post about Balboa. It seems like I’m inevitably fated to love this dance, even though it scares the heck out of me.

ABW starts tomorrow, folks. I can’t wait to hear all about it (and see all the videos)!

Monday, June 7, 2010

Lindy Bombing: in which we learn how to stop being a douche and support businesses.

Ok, this is a topic near and dear to my heart. Lindy bombing.

I’ve certainly been guilty of being a being a cheapskate (in my senseless younger days, scouts honor), but I now I try to support the businesses that allow us to dance in their establishments by buying food & drinks and by tipping generously.

I’m just going to repost Mary’s facebook note because it is awesome. Heed her words! (also, check out the original note for the colorful and humorous responses).

So, what do you think?


Reposted in its entirety with permission by Mary Irwin. Original note can be found here.

Lindy Bombing: in which we learn how to stop being a douche and support businesses.

Disclaimer: This is a mild rant, but also meant as a primer on how to conduct yourself outside of your regular dance events. If you're tagged, it's not cause you do this, but cause ONLY YOU... can prevent forest fires. Share it if you want.

So, I've been dancing Lindy Hop a while. Many... er, well, MOST of my friends dance as well. We all know Lindy has amazing history, has historical significance, has affected Many Many dances that are currently popular.... etc, etc, etc.

We all love to dance to live music. The feeling you get when dancing to an amazing jazz band that is watching the dancers and playing with them musically is like nothing else on earth. The "Dancer's High" is an incredible experience. The social aspect of dancing is, I feel, something that helps shape your personality and leads to friendships and lasting relationships.

Sometimes a group of dancers will get together and go out to a Non dance establishment to hear great live music and dance. This is known as a "Lindy Bomb". Sometimes it's in a bar, sometimes a restaurant, sometimes in the middle of a mall!

This, my friends, is where it can get tricky.

You see, most dancers are used to going to their weekly dances, paying the entrance, and dancing to our little heart’s content. Lots of dances have free water, some even have snacks. The events are run by dancers, for dancers. We know what to expect, what is socially acceptable, how to behave in that situation. Dancers tend to have a sense of entitlement.

I love you, dancers, I really do, but we are notoriously cheap. We’re used to paying 4 bucks, $7, maybe 10 bucks to get into a weekly dance ( that is usually run by a non profit organization) and that’s it.

A lindy bomb is a different animal. When you go to hear a live band, you’re usually hearing them at a bar. A bar is..... drumroll... A BUSINESS. They have operating costs WAY higher than a weekly dance. They really can’t afford to lose money when they bring a band in. They pay to bring the band in to attract more clients, who in turn spend more money.

Here’s the thing.

When you go to a bar to dance you can affect it in two ways. Positively, or negatively.

Here’s some telltale signs of things that can affect it negatively that you might not even realize you’re doing.

- You come to the bar and order water after water, but never actually spend money on a drink. SODA IS NOT A DRINK. If you DO order water, tip what would be a normal tip amount for a real drink. ($2-3 or so)

- You don’t tip the band or show your appreciation. They are professionals, and honestly, everyone is there to see them NOT you. They’re the reason YOU are there. If there is a jar up there, TIP THEM. If they finish a song, APPLAUD.

- No one else can get on the floor because you’re dancing “too large”, or worse, you start to run into actual paying customers. In the same vein, don’t try to be flashy or throw aerials. Bars don't have normal dancefloors, this is a litigious society, and you're in a room full of drunk people. Be generous, and share the limited dance space by dancing a little bit smaller.

- Complaining! If you're complaining about the floor/footing, or the room temperature, or the dancefloor space..... SUCK.IT.UP. This is a BAR, not one of the local dance events. Bars don't usually have dancers in mind. They have a profit in mind. The average bargoer is not dancing at 150+ BPM, nor are they dancing song after song. What's hot for you, is comfy for the people who keep the bar in business.

- You and your friends take up a bunch of tables on a busy night but spend most of the time dancing, leaving empty tables that could have been filled with paying customers. Try to consolidate as much as you can. Order stuff!!!!! Food, drinks, a bottle of wine or two, something!! Rule of thumb: if you can't afford to be there, maybe re-think going.

You will get people that come up to you and tell you how fabulous your dancing is, where did you learn, Ohmylordyouresoamazingholycowblablabla etc, etc.. But the bottom line is, if you’re doing any of the above, You ( yes, you!) are giving dancers a bad name.

That behavior is a really great way to make bar owners hate dancers. You’ve come in, used their space and resources, taken attention AWAY from the band, and not given anything back in return. It’s actually one of the reasons the Swing clubs that were so popular in the early 90’s died... because you can’t run a bar when all you sell is water.

What I’m saying here, is that if you’re going to go hear a band at a bar, plan on spending money, MORE money than you’d spend going to a dance, and work around the establishment. Don’t expect them to work around you. Plan to tip (and APPLAUD) the band. Plan to order drinks. You don’t have to get sh*tfaced drunk, but order bottled water instead of tap. Plan to GET OFF THE DANCE FLOOR if it seems like civilians want to get up and shake their thang.

Plan to make the management love you. When you lindy bomb, it’s not just about you. It’s about how everyone in that club is going to perceive you. For the time you’re in the bar, YOU represent the dance. Give the dance, and the establishment, the respect it deserves.

Dressing Up to Dance

It seems there’s been an increasing awareness of the connection between dressing and dancing, at least in the lindy hop community. (Balboa dancers are nearly ALWAYS well turned out). I think dancers have always seen the connection, but it’s gotten to such a high level.

The easiest way to see this increasing awareness is to look at dancers. Vintage dance troupe, The Killer Dillers, are always looking dapper. By the way, have you seen the Killer Diller fellas do their “Tribute to the Legendary Berry Brothers” routine? It’s acrobatic, wild and to top it all is performed in tails. They’re not only some of the most talented, in demand group of instructors in the world; they’ve also got great style. (and uh, have you SEEN Sharon, Jo and Evita? Um, yeah).





Photos are from the Killer Dillers Flickr photostream

I’ve had the pleasure of taking different workshops taught by all the members of The Killer Dillers. Sharon and Evita (with Nathan) at Southern Belle Swing Bash 2009. Sharon, Juan, Kevin and Jo all taught at Lindy Focus 8. Awe-inspiring, the lot of them.

It’s not just the rockstars, either. I see great style from dancers at every event I attend (and I try my hand at snazzy dressing whenever I get the chance).

So, what’s the connection between dancing and dressing? Besides the letter “D?”

Swing dance is very visual, both when performed as entertainment and when danced socially. Dancers performing or in competitions dress up to draw attention to themselves and to highlight their dancing. Social dancers dress up for similar reasons.

As fans of a dance that was born in the past, it’s only natural that we might be attracted to other aesthetic and artistic forms born in the same era. We usually go crazy for bands that can bring back the sounds of the time. It’s just as fascinating and just as immersive to wear the styles of that time.

This is not to say that you have to wear vintage clothing. The goal, whether wearing vintage or something more modern, is to wear clothing that is flattering: clothes that fit, complement your color and fit your style.

Besides, dance is a celebration; a party. Shouldn’t you dress up for a party?

More importantly (and this is something that goes beyond dance), clothing is a way we represent ourselves to others. What you wear sends a message to those around you. It is not the only message you send (nor should it be), but it is one (and often the first) that many notice. You are solely responsible for that message, so it is worth your attention.

So, get out there and put a little effort into your look. It will pay off.

If you’re going to be dancing, you might as well look good doing it.


For swing and vintage inspirations, look to Swing Fashionista, founded by the beautiful and stylish Sharon Davis. There’s also (ok, shameless plug time) Lindy Shopper, which attempts to answer the perennial question “What should I wear to the dance tonight?” scouring the internet for beautiful clothes and fantastic deals.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

(Emily) Jo Blogberg

I don’t know why this came as such as surprise to me, but it did: I love Jo Hoffberg’s blog. There, I said it.
That’s Jo. She’s trying to reach something on the other side of the couch, apparently. Photo is from the Killer Dillers Flickr photostream.

If you’d like a realistic look into the life of a lindy hop rockstar, her blog is the place to go. You don’t just get posts about travel to exotic locales for workshops and festivals, but insights into her personal interests and work ethic. It’s also interesting to get her impressions of the events she works on. I especially enjoy reading the “fun facts” she posts after events reviews.

She puts a lot of work into her blog and website. It shows.

I’ll tell you what, this gal works hard! (Take a look at her schedule for the past two weeks). You get to see a little bit of what is like to travel the world to instruct and also be a part of a world-class troupe of dancers. i.e. The Killer Dillers.

She’s also funny. In that same post about her travels, she recommends taking advantage of full dress rehearsals because “you’d want to know if your who-ha was going to be showing before you got on stage.” Good advice!

I’m trying to figure out what it is I had against her. I think it's because a friend of mine (cough*CS*cough) prejudiced me against her.

Did I mistake her confidence for smugness? She is a bit of a ham, but I think that’s an intentional part she’s playing as a performer. You can watch this video and judge for yourself.

She and Peter Strom are both hams, which I think made this pairing especially entertaining. They play off each other so well, which is only possible through great connection.

Either way, it’s easy to see that she’s a fantastic dancer. She’s also a great instructor. I took several of her and Kevin’s workshops at Lindy Focus last year (including a really solid one on spins/turns) and walked (or should I say danced) away very impressed. The classes were informative, entertaining and well paced for the level. I have an acquaintance that swears by their private lessons.

Jo also contributes to Swing Fashionista, a swing/vintage fashion lookbook.