An amazing lindy hopper party – really, somehow it just became this giant party filled with friends you didn’t know yet. Truly amazing – it reminds me exactly why I love being part of this scene.
And somehow, I was talked into competing – Lindy Bout Title Jack and Jill Finalist. An amazing set of dances.
Every now and then it comes up – discussions about “when are you really lindy hopping/blues dancing/etc.” Generally, in the case of lindy hop, the question centres around “Can you lindy hop to non-swing music?” I’m still working through it in my head, but I figured I should put down my thoughts so I can disagree with myself properly in the future.
I feel like I’m on the “shades of grey” side of the equation, so like a good little scientist, I did some experiments to see what I agreed with.
Lindy hop to swing music is definitely lindy hop. OK, so this was a bit of a gimme. But perhaps more importantly – I feel waltz, foxtrot, salsa and blues to swing music is not Lindy Hop. So – swing music does not change a dance into Lindy hop. However, this probably doesn’t really address whether non-lindy dances done to swing music are still authentic – is it still salsa if you’re doing it to swing music?
Interesting alternative experiment – what if there is no music? Can you still lindy, just to the rhythm shared between people? I would say yes – that lindy hop without music is still recognizably lindy. And in general, a dance should be recognizable, even if the music component is removed. Supporting this is the idea that a dancer complements and adds to the music – I would argue that like a tap dancer, any dancer could dance without music, but I do feel that most dances lose a lot without the music. So perhaps, without music, the dance is recognisable but missing an intrinsically important component. I personally don’t feel it’s a critical, “without this the dance is completely b0rked” situation, but definitely less than optimal.
Now if we put back in music, but different music – specifically, non-swing music – what happens? The dancers are doing a style of dance that, if we cut out the audio track, is recognisably lindy hop – but good dancers will adapt to the music. The argument is that the adaptations to non-jazz music create a dance that is no longer lindy hop. I would prefer to say that this creates a dance that is not traditional lindy hop.
I would also hesitate to call this modern lindy hop – for me, modern lindy hop is the evolution of traditional lindy hop, as we take it apart and put it back together with all of our modern techniques. I would describe lindy hop, when not danced to swing music as “lindy hop styled to xxx music”. After all, everyone’s dancing ultimately turns out to be different, and in the end our instinct to categorise will have us subclassify even traditional lindy hop dancers – or even specific dances – with specific qualifiers – “stiff”, “upright”, “relaxed”, “in the ground”, “bouncy”, “smooth”…In the end, the term exists like any other word to evoke a broad idea, and like any idea being transmitted, we can always add qualifiers to pin-point what is really meant.
In the end, a word means whatever you think it means – it’s your head, after all. Just don’t expect that to be what it means to anybody else. There is no one else out there who thinks exactly the same as you. Luckily, most of the time, the differences won’t matter.
As to “should”…I think this is up to the person. I think the world will sort out whether it likes it or not, but that is hardly a reason to do or not do something. Whose opinion do you respect? Ask them!
So incredibly exhausted – Lindy Exchange Evening Dance x2 + Late Night x 2 + Afternoon Dance + Early Ferry + Jazz Routine lesson + MOAR dance practice…I’m currently loving the amount of dancing I’ve gotten in the last four days.
Now quite tired and looking forward to sleeping in a bed – YAY!
Last night was the DJ battle at the Legion to select the Vancouver DJ representative. I’ve heard a couple opinions on the finer aspects of DJing – things of which I know nearly nothing about like transitioning between tracks and reading the mood of the audience. Before, it really was pretty much a popularity contest, maybe tinged by “who played more tracks I liked to hear.”
Now though, as a dancer, suddenly this is a whole lot clearer. I used a single empirical metric that worked really decisively – how was the dancing during the set. This time around I really felt the difference between the various sets, and how easy or hard it was to dance in general to the music. Did I feel the beat? A good mix of tempos? And, perhaps most importantly – did it make me want to immediately find a good partner and swing out?!
It’s still hardly perfect – after all timing is still a factor, as I found it harder to remember the beginning of the night to compare with the end. But there was a pretty big gap between DJs who played jazz that swung super hard, and DJs that played jazz.
What a difference understanding what I want makes, because I know what I want – I want to swing out. And so, what is really the most important bit in a DJ for me now is that they play music that makes me want to swing out.
Also maybe making things more obvious than normal was being tired – much lower tolerance towards music that is hard to dance to. I want music that makes me want to grab a partner and swing out, not one where I have to (re)construct rhythm in my head.
One thing that continues to be pretty much an epic fail for me is physics prediction. There is a surprising large amount of this in dancing, and I am surprisingly terrible at it. Left vs. Right, spinning clockwise vs spinning anti-clockwise – most of the time, it seems I am pretty unable to predict the outcome of my moves. I often plan something and it turns out to most definitely not work out that way in reality – my mind is sometimes very much out of touch with reality. I really need to work on this – probably ties in with the ability to catch things … general proprioception, as after all the world is just an extension/the medium that your body works in.
I’m rather surprised to hear that some new dancers get turned off from dancing because of bad experiences during their first dances. Specifically, I’ve heard a couple cases of a beginner dancer being told they’re just “not very good”.
Totally confused here. I always assumed negative feedback is pretty rare in the dance scene – especially since as a beginning dancer invariably the first thing I ever did was make sure I told the person I was dancing with that I was a complete newbie. Usually twice, just in case they missed it the first time. I can understand offering some tips and such – and even that I’ve heard is not always a good idea. But to tell anyone they were not a good dancer – I don’t think I’m at a position in my dancing that I can comfortably say that to anyone.
Then again, I’m usually the lead, which means I consider it generally my fault if something goes wrong. That is probably my personal hubris, but in general I would consider “blame” for a bad dance to be shared. Actually, I would rarely consider a dance just plain bad – I guess there are dances where you don’t feel very connected with the follow, or dances where almost everything you try fails in incredible awkward and embarassing ways …. but again, most of those I feel are at least somewhat the fault of the leader.
Then again, not everyone dances for the same reasons I do, and so success/failure metrics in dancing are a pretty personal thing. I dance for the sheer pleasure of it – sometimes there is a technical aspect to it, the thrill of doing something particularly difficult – but ultimately I dance to be happy and to share that happiness. I am perfectly happy to dance “definitely not really real lindy hop/blues/etc” to make a fun dance. And due to my years of technical dance failure, I have a small reservoir of things that I now label as “bad dance moves that are usually nonfail” – I’ve had years of experience dancing with a pretty poor dancer, having had one in my dances all these years. Maybe if most of your dance career is filled with technically and artistically excellent dances, it would be different.
Maybe one day I too will be an insufferable dance snob…or *shudder* maybe I’m there already And I Don’t Know It. Waitasec…have these conversations been directed at me in a subtle attempt to get me to stop being rude to new dancers…
I will resolve to be better to new dancers. I think I have been neglecting that part – I always feel like this is an easy part of dancing to forget about, but I remember it keenly because I have been the new/not very good dancer for a long time, and I know how much I appreciate being asked for a dance…and I (still) know personally how hard it is to ask someone you feel is totally out of your technical dance league, and I try to remember how daunting the entire dance hall felt when I considered EVERYONE out of my league.
To new dancers – may you still find me for a dance every now and then once you become excellent 😉
Probably not so surprising, but as I learn about blues dancing and as I start becoming a (bit of an) actual blues dancer, the mystique and foreign/strangeness of it is vanishing. Blues is no longer a “tempo” – just like there is slow lindy, there is fast blues – and I’m starting to hear it more as a difference in the music, and the dance adapting to match that.
Plus – starting to get the hang of closed position. Hugs! Except with more dancing 🙂 But relaxed right arm – relaxing hug!
Lindy Hop – relax the left arm. Blues – relax the right arm.
On the upside, I’m now out of arms to relax. So HA!
It’s been about six months since I last put down my thoughts on swing outs, but I think it’s a good time to put down thoughts to paper. I feel like I mention in passing from time to time, so it’s good to have this put down as a solid timepoint.
Strange how things change as things progress – back then, I had made peace with my swingout. Somehow, in the intervening timeframe, I think I finally understood what it meant when all the teachers, the hardcore lindy hoppers mean when they say that the swingout is the defining move for the lindy. I still remember Nina Gilkenson at Killer Diller, as we were working on musicality and doing what the music tells us – that sometimes, there’s music that goes “SOMEONE SWING ME OUT RIGHT NOW” (appropriately enough, the example was Lindyhopper’s Delight). It has become a move that makes me positively happy.
That is perhaps the reason I have a harder time dancing with inexperienced follows these days. There are many other things I can do, and lots of fun to still be had in those dances, but sometimes – especially when the music is really swingin’ – I ache for a solid swingout. Sometimes, I only reluctantly dip into other things, just because they don’t feel as awesome as a swingout.
Of course, this also means that I have to work on finding that much more fun in everything “not a swingout”…
I though this was something complicated, but actually, now that I’m exhausted and tired after a full day of this, it’s pretty clear – dancing makes me ridiculously happy. I am moving to the music I love – and I get to share this journey with someone else.
Really, I’ve never had another hobby that lets me get up and be happy so instantaneously – it is truly strange imagining that so much of my life hasn’t existed on this plane…