Best of 1997
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On "Rough Leading"
By: Debra Sternberg
From the April 1, 1997 Edition

I got up early this morning to dye my hair, so I have some time to address the issue of "rough leading." I do this happily, as this is a subject I've become very concerned about. I'll try very hard not to be too long-winded, but you all know me!

The issue at hand is a female dancer who got upset with her leader because she felt she was being man-handled. I do know the leader at question to be a big guy, and I personally have found him to be a rough-ish lead, but not brutal or even uncomfortable. The problem, as I see it, is two-fold: the men don't lead and the women don't follow.

Both are acquired skills. None of us are born knowing how to do our part, but some of us take to it more quickly than others. To be a good leader, a guy should be firm but not harsh, clear and definite in his leads, and should guage his partner's skill-level and adjust accordingly. However, one of the things I hear guys say, and surprisingly-enough it's often the "better" dancers, is that they have to exert a lot of force or strong-arm the girl to get her to do what they want her to do! So what I hear from the guys is they're looking for ways to FORCE the girl. This makes me shudder, because a leader should never force. Suggest, guide, lead, yes, but NOT force. If she can't or won't do what you've got in mind, let it go and search your repertoire for something she's comfortable with. And quite honestly, a lot of guys are not as interested in creating something beautiful with their partner as they are in running through their moves, come hell or high water. And ladies, it often takes some time for guys to learn how much to give in order to lead. Some start out too rough and eventually learn to lighten up. Some start out too tentative, and have to learn to be stronger.

My personal preference is I'd rather have a guy err on the side of strength than weakness. To sum it up, I often feel a lot of the problems with leaders is that they just don't lead strongly enough!

Now for the followers. Simply put, a lot of the ladies just don't follow. They are floppy, floppy, floppy, and sometimes just stubborn too. Ladies, our PRIME RESPONSIBILITY AS FOLLOWERS is to give the guy frame in our upper body so they can lead us! Also, stay alert--pay attention! Respond to his leads. Keeping your weight forward over the balls of your feet and not back into your heels helps you move faster. Keeping that all-important tone in your arms so you can FEEL the leads is vital. I repeat, what I hear from a lot of leaders is that they feel they have to get more brutish because the ladies just don't respond to their leads! Think about it--if he feels he can't get you to move except by pushing you, then what are you giving him as a follower to lead against? However, don't overcompensate! Do not become a 110-pound tank, don't get heavy, don't be sluggish, don't be stubborn. Ladies, our job is to follow, to dance WITH our partner, not to run off with the dance and do what the hell we want!

What to do when you feel like you're being brutalized or dancing with a wilted stalk of celery? This is a tough one, because I find that commentary is almost impossibible without hurting someone's feelings. If you feel you must say something, try to do so with the utmost tact and politeness. Try, perhaps, to approach it not from the standpoint of your partner's doing something wrong, but rather that something's not working here and let's try to figure out what the problem is. When I miss a lead, I always assume, out of politeness, that it's my mistake and say so, thereby giving my leader a chance to say, "No, I was late with that," or, "I wasn't sure what you were doing next, so how could you be?" Quite often it IS my fault and I just need him to repeat a move so I can feel comfortable with it. If he's really uncomfortable to dance with, I might POLITELY request that he back off his lead a little, or if he's a good friend I can be a little more candid, but honestly I feel pretty uncomfortable criticizing people on the dance floor and try not to unless I'm asked for feedback. If he's really painful and doesn't seem to get any better, I'll avoid dancing with him. Another way for the lady to handle it might be to ask her partner if he'd like to get some feedback, thereby allowing him the opportunity to say, "NO!" Another thing is to talk with your dance buddies. You might find yourself wondering why you just can't dance with X, only to find your girlfriends say he's hard to follow too. Then you know it's not just yourself but a problem with him too. If you think you might be a bad leader or follower, check with an instructor. Get Craig Hutchinson to dance with you and make him give you feedback. Take a private lesson or two and work solely on your lead or follow.

Okay, my hair is now going to be the color of Bozo so I hope you're all happy! I feel so strongly about this issue of lead-and-follow that we're going to plan a workshop or two at Savoy on this skill alone! I think a failing of Lindy in general is that the emphasis tends to be on new moves rather than couple-weight and lead-and-follow, which tends to be the case in West Coast. I think Craig Hutchinson is particularly excellent in matters of coupling and recommend him highly to everyone; also Nici Mahlandt who gave me a gorgeous rock-step!

Love you all madly and thanks for giving me this opportunity.

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On Dancing With Just One Partner
By: Donna L. Barker
From the April 1, 1997 Edition

[This note comes from Donna Barker who, along with her partner Ken did more than anyone else to get Lindy off the ground in DC back in the very early days. We are privileged to hear from Donna!]

I want you to know how much I have enjoyed the dance info you have collected and sent to me. I have not responded with any news up to this time, because nothing seemed important enough until I received a note from a beginning dancer who expressed real dread of changing partners. His note and my response are given below. I thought that the other dancers and teachers who read your column might like to comment on this issue -- mostly, I'd like to know how you all feel about this issue.

NOTE FROM MALE DANCER: My partner and I HATE switching partners, for the following reasons:

  1. We'll never dance with anyone else.
  2. We have enough trouble trying to learn between ourselves, let alone dancing with a new person equally (or in some cases, even more) inept than we are.
  3. When the new person is much shorter or taller than your normal partner, it tends to be quite confusing, and when you return to your normal partner, confusing again.
  4. Switching partners just takes dance time away from working with your normal partner
  5. And especially, neither of us likes to touch other people.

Is this some sort of custom? Is it mandatory? If not how does one gracefully avoid it?

MY RESPONSE: At social dances, including every style I know, it is part of the sociability for most people to change partners and dance with others. Again, it is NOT mandatory at ANY dance to change partners. You can dance with the same person for the rest of your life . . .

However, I would like to add, that I have never attended a class or a dance where this is the NORM. Obviously, most of the other people who dance and who teach dance know that there are benefits to changing partners. I think those benefits have to do with how GOOD you want to get. I don't think you get GOOD at dancing when you stay with one partner, no matter how GOOD she or he is at the start. Here's why:

  • Changing partners sharpens your sense of leading or following, infuses new ideas into your dance repertoire, and forces you and the follower to be more creative. When the "going gets rough" with an unfamiliar partner, you have to fudge footwork, move better, challenge your sense of balance, react quickly, improvise -- ALL of these skills are necessary components of dancing (of life?). The overall benefit is that when you return to your favorite partner, you dance more vibrantly, and pass off these new skills to each other and build up your dance sense.
  • Changing partners also helps you to overcome habits that could make dancing with one person stagnant. Probably at the moment, you have so much to learn, that you can't imagine becoming stagnant.

I could go on . . . but from what you have said, the most "telling" part of your complaint is that you don't want to "touch" people you don't know. I must admit, I don't completely understand that problem (obviously if I hated "touching" people I don't know, I could NEVER be a dance teacher!)

But it sounds like a "done deal." So I suggest that you don't change partners, and that you deal with any stagnation between you and your partner as it occurs. I certainly don't think that you should give up any dance because of your personal conflicts. Do the dances that you and your partner WANT to do, and ENJOY!

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April 1, 1997
The Fly Cats at the White House Easter Egg Roll

From: Peter Gehring

Despite the blustery winds and cold temperatures, the Flycats brought the Lindy Hop to the south lawn of the White House. We met Leslie around 11 am by the southeast gate to pick up our lawn passes (big yellow tickets labelled "Participant"), and were allowed to proceed directly through the gate. Just as we had finished going through the metal detectors with our chairs (our props for the Take Five/Lucas routine - a rather comical sight) we heard the band in the distance strike up the sounds of Hail to the Chief!

Sure enough, Hillary and Bill Clinton made an appearance on the second floor balcony of the White House to thank everyone for braving the cold weather and coming to the Easter Egg Roll. I couldn't hear everything Clinton said, but at the end he blew a whistle to bring an official start to the festivities.

We made our way to the southeast stage to check out where we would be performing, and to stash our stuff. We weren't scheduled to dance until 1 pm, so we had nearly two hours to kill. Seeing as I really didn't know what the hell an Easter egg roll was, I decided to take a look around to find out. I found several sets of very long lines of kids with adults all waiting their turn to roll a single colored egg a distance of maybe 10 yards. Groups of five children would line up with their eggs at the starting line, spoons in hand, then, once the whistle blew, proceed to play what looked to be field hockey with egg until somebody got to the finish line first. Unfortunately, many of the children were pretty confused about what to do after the whistle blew as I saw one boy launch his egg the whole 10 yards, nearly striking a very surprised official who barely had time to dodge out of the the way. In another instance, a very young girl simply put heregg on her spoon and toddled to the finish line rather than roll the egg, while her competitors looked on in dazed fashion. I didn't see any prizes getting handed out, but if I understood correctly, some of the eggs had been hand signed by the President and other celebrities.

I confess I didn't find that the egg roll offered much in the way of entertainment (except of course for the occasional flying egg, I loved those), however I really enjoyed looking around the lawn, viewing the different parts of the White House from the outside, and looking at some of the various ethnic Easter table displays. Included were decorated eggs from Sweden, Brazil and parts of the FSU as well as some delicious looking breads and pastries (unfortunately these did not appear to be on sale!).

Fences were in place all over the grounds to help keep the crowd under control, and there were many police officers and agents as you might imagine. Considering an estimated 25,000 people were expected over the course of the day, this event must give the Secret Service fits.

Around 12:30 pm we went to the tent directly behind the stage to change and warm-up. A fair-sized crowd had gathered during the performance before ours which involved a pair of adults dressed in large yellow banana suits singing songs for kids. I could tell we were in the right place! However, by the time we left the tent to take the stage, the entire crowd had dispersed with the exception of a small group of people. Undaunted, Leslie took the microphone and encouraged people to come watch our performance. Off in the distance you could see most people were waiting in line to get their kids ready to roll an egg. This was a bit disheartening on the one hand, but downright funny on the other. I mean, the Flycats upstaged by a couple of bananas and a bunch of eggs? It certainly dispelled most of the tension and nervousness (at least for me).

Fortunately once Here We Go Again started to play and we started to dance, and healthy and appreciative crowd gathered around to watch us perform. It was a small stage (24' by 16'), and we had to navigate around some speakers and the microphone, but no one fell off or got hurt. I was a bit apprehensive about the leap frog I was to do over Nancy, but it worked out and we even got a few cheers from the audience. Tuan Tran also made his performing debut with Here We Go Again and did just great.

Take Five/Lucas went well too, but because Leslie wasn't allowed to do a sound check the day before, it turned out that the sound engineer's tape player made our copy of Lucas with the Lid Off sound a bit more like Lucas who Ate too Much. Nevertheless, the crowd enjoyed the hip-hop stuff and the performance was well received. It would have been nice to have had more than just 10 minutes of choreography to perform as the crowd seemed to be getting into the dancing according to Melanie's sister Julie. But it was over too quickly.

Melinda Bates (the woman who invited us to perform, and who is also the Director of the White House Visitors Office) came by to watch our performance and was kind enough to give us a tour of her office in the East wing afterwards. It was fascinating to see all of the pictures of her and the Clintons on her wall, and to hear her many stories, especially the one of how she actually ended up getting the job as Director. If you get the chance, you should ask her about this. We also got to see the mini cat "condo" just outside Melinda's office, where Socks spends much of her time.
---Happy Easter!

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Dancing and Club Economics
By: Eric Mittler
Appeared in the April 28, 1997 Edition

[Eric Mittler, one of our "Far Away" readers forwarded this (below) from our friends in Southern California. He predict several dance locations in SF will stop swing soon because it is hard to make money on dancing. Several locations in DC (notably Phantasmagoria) have cut way back on swing dancing for this reason. All are invited to comment on ways that we can have dancing and club owners can make money.]

I was wondering if you could send out an email to your recipient list reminding them that all of the various dance venues need to make money! I keep seeing promising dance locations cancel "swing nights" because the dancers don't contribute anything to the profits of the business. Too many drink nothing but water all night long, becoming a drain on the business rather than a customer. I'm not much of a drinker, but I make it a point to spend $5-$10 a night at any club or restaurant at which I dance. At times I've bought a drink even though I didn't want it, and just set it aside. What I DID want was to provide an incentive for the club to want me to keep coming back. Clubs rate bands by the amount of drinks people have on the nights they play. If I really like a band, I'll spend a little extra. I consider $15-$20 (cover charge and drinks) a bargain for a night of live music and swing dancing, don't you?

I would think this would be obvious, but in the enjoyment of the dance, too many people forget that if we want a club or restaurant to cater to us dancers, we need to cater to them as well.

And one other reminder - I know of several people who will consistently tip the bartender even when ordering a free glass of water, thinking that they are contributing to the club's profits. But tips only contribute to the bartender's profits, not the club's. (I'm not saying don't tip, though!)

I think this message is important, and I rarely see it brought up or mentioned. Please remind your subscribers to help keep "swing nights" profitable. Thanks.

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Saturday April 19, 1997
Mitch Woods at Glen Echo

Here is the "Devoney Report" on the Happenings at Glen Echo:

From: Sue Fedor
Sat. night....OK...we were held hostage by our realtor who, upon realizing that Steve was going out of town for a week, encouraged us to bid on Monster #2 (those of you who've heard the story or who we've driven past will know what we are talking about). TWO AND A HALF HOURS, when he promised 20 minutes. As a result, we missed the fabulous dance/comedy routine that Gay and Dave executed in the jam (kudos to them for pushing the envelope!) We got to Glen Echo for the last set of what was truly a splended evening of vintage rock and roll by Mitch Woods and his Rocket 88's. They're rendition of Rocket 88 sent us into a perfect A-frame as I narrowly missed some people who were TALKING ON THE DANCE FLOOR...NOT DANCING! and then finished in a gloriously cheesy lockup/dip.

Marie Tommasi and Dave Quidas checked in with this perspective:

From: Marie Tommasi()

Hi Frank
Saturday night at Glen Echo was a blast. Mitch Woods played and they sounded hot! Dave and I missed the first set, but last two sets were very upbeat. Unfortunately, it was quite crowded, so It was difficult to dance at times. It seemed like everybody was there.

Dancers that I had not seen in quite some time showed up. The Jam was excellent. It was probably one of the longest Jams we've had yet. A lot of people participated and there was a nice variety in what people were doing. I always find it interesting when each couple comes up with something unique to show off. For example, Tricia and Carolyn's "all female" chase routine was really cute and Mike and Jenny showed off a new intro onto the floor. I could go on and on. Everyone looked great. We missed you guys! ciao!

Here is Carolyn Biczel's report:

From: Carolyn Biczel

On Saturday, Mitch Woods was, of course, great. It was crowded, as I expected, which made it a little hard to dance in the beginning. But towards the end of the night, you could find more space in the corners and the back. We had what could be the longest jam I've ever seen. I think it lasted somewhere between 10-15 minutes. But the band was good about it, and played long enough for us to even get in the shim-sham at the end.

Finally, Debra Sternberg offers us her unique perspective:

From: Debra Sternberg

The dance was fun, fun, fun. Personally, I haven't danced quite as much since the dance we had this winter where it was REALLY cold and you had to move all night or freeze! Mitch played real straight-up swing, with nearly every song a perfect tempo and length. My biggest personal victory was that Mitch himself went up to Michael Hart (the guy who books the bands for the WSDC and their contact guy) at the beginning of the evening and asked what we'd like them to play for the jam! So now even the BANDS are expecting it! And, I thought it was one of the best jams ever. Everyone was there, especially people we haven't seen forever, like Dave and Marie (it seems they're back now, and they have been sorely missed); the only guy I'm still looking for is Ray. I understand there were a few people who were unhappy about not being able to get into the jam, and sincerest apologies to them. Some nights it seems like it's the same core four or five couples, and other times, like this past Saturday, there are a million people waiting to get in! It behooves us all to keep our time in the circle on the short side, so we can make time for others. I know a lot of people dislike Uncle Tommy Koerner running the jam, but he really works hard to make the rounds of the room, letting everyone know when the jam is, and then watches really carefully to direct traffic and get everyone in and out of the circle. He also puts a lot of thought into the line-up to keep it interesting for the crowd, who after all is who we're doing this for. And I think most people know what if I defend Tom, I think it's because he really deserves it. He does his best to get everyone in and is genuinely sorry if someone doesn't get in.

Actually, I think I might like that to be my next forum topic! West Coast Goddess Kelly Buckwalter wrote a great article on jam etiquette that I think says some great stuff. Koerner has copies of it if anyone's interested, or perhaps I'll synopsize it and post it via Frank.

Okay, so in summation, last Saturday night was a ball! I don't care what anyone else says, I think Lindy Hop is revitalizing the DC dance scene! Now go out there and have fun but don't kick anyone.

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Swing and the Senses
By: Mary Pat Cooney
Appeared in the April 28, 1997 Edition

[Editor's Note: Mary Pat Cooney, with a surprising poetic sense for the "Drill Sergeant of Swing", has these observations on the sensory aspects of swing dancing]

I was out on Saturday night with a couple of musician friends, listening to some uninspired bluegrass/folk/rock stuff, when one guitar player commented that once you hear and play SWING, the straightforward rhythms of some other music seem lackluster. This launched a lively discussion about the benefits of swing. DID YOU KNOW that listening to swing:

  1. improves your vision? Go ahead - take off your glasses while you're listening to swing. Everything looks great!
  2. Improves your balance?
  3. [improves] your appetite?
  4. [makes] things SMELL better?
  5. Makes more contact with the opposite sex? ---AND---
  6. SWING definitely imcreases the sensitivity of your hearing!

love and kisses,
--- Mary Pat

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Flying Purses
By: Sue Fedor
Appeared in the April 28, 1997 Edition

[Editorial Note: We have this note from Sue Fedor of the "Flying Devoneys"; she alerts us to a possible health hazard. This is no joke - I have been whacked in the head by a "flying purse". On the other hand, that is my least vulnerable area... I may apply for the position of Deputy Assistant Undersecretary for Shoulder-sling Container Device Control Technology at OSHA.]

I step onto my soapbox for a minute...ahem....Is there a polite or not so polite way to tell people who (1) stand in the middle of the dance space and watch or talk, (2) encroach on the dance floor from the sides when there's plenty of space by the chairs, or (3) DANCE WITH PURSES AROUND THEIR SHOULDERS to cease and desist from this activity? This purse thing really gets me. Purses on the shoulders of swing dancers (and they're most often on the shoulders of BAD swing dancers) become dangerous flying objects. A Methodist minister once told me to stop and think for a minute whether someone's offensive activity was because of evil or stupidity. I'm hoping they're just stupid. I'm looking for some advice on how to educate these bumpkins. Thank you for your kind attention. I feel so much better.

[Editorial Response: Let's see - perhaps your problem was talking to a Methodist minister.
  • If you had sought counsel from a Taoist Practitioner, he would have told you that the balance of Yin and Yang was such that a flying purse just happened.
  • In a Hindu ashram, you may find that you may have been a purse in another lifetime.
  • In Iran, it is taught that purses (and carpets) fly at the will of Allah.
  • Several Buddhist monasteries teach that the flying purse is yet another revelation of the Buddha-nature; zen purse-dodging was very popular during the Meiji Restoration in Japan.
  • A myterious bag on a sling hangs above the high holy altar at the Lamasery in Katmandu; the Dali Lama does a graceful two-step to avoid it as he enters for prayer.
  • The Zooastrians teach that Ormzud, the force of Darkness manifests himself as a "flying shoulder satchel" in certain circumstances.
  • There is a Hatha Yoga position called the Malli-Boo, said to cleanse the essence of the soul and prevent chicken pox, in which the head and neck are slowly but deftly lowered as an assistant swirls a weighted bag.
  • Confucius taught that the "Just Man avoids the Hing [a ceremonial money-bag]"
  • At the Church of the Blinding Light in Broken Jaw, Oklahoma, they teach that Flying Purses are the sign of the Second Coming, citing Revelations(15:32).
  • Brigham Young forbade purses (flying or not) in Salt Lake City.
  • As I understand the Talmud is clear: Rabbi Moishe ben Howard of Minsk wrote that "Flying Purses are yet another calamity that befalls the Children of Israel."
  • The Stargate cult was actually seeking a "Flying Purse" that was trailing comet Hale-Bopp (you know what happens to things when they get on the internet).
  • There is a small group of people in New Guinea that construct huge purses out of straw in order to attract WACS and WAVES back to the island to restore the years of prosperity, Coca Cola, and hot fun that were enjoyed during WW II.
  • Father Gino, my parish priest would have told you that you got hit by a flying purse because you deserved it.

Who can fully explain the mysteries of the Flying Purse?]

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Forest Glen
By: Sue Fedor
Appeared in the May 5, 1997 edition

[Editor's Note: The "Flying Devoneys" have just bought a house near Forest Glen, which happens to be one of the most amazing places in the DC area. Sue wrote this little piece about the area.]

Those of you who know the location of the house we're trying to buy will see right through this... For those of you who still wax sentimental about the old days...well here's something in your back yard worth fighting for (including one hell of a ballroom!)

The "Seminary" is the site of the U.S. Army's Walter Reed Medical Center Annex, just south of the beltway, in Forest Glen. You take Georgia Ave N. to either Seminary Road or Forest Glen, then turn up Linden just before you cross the railroad tracks. The buildings are unusual and very beautiful, but have deteriorated significantly over the years. A group of folks is trying to save the site.

Tours are held on the fourth Saturday of each month (the next one will be May 24) at 1:00 pm. Meet at the parking lot near Linden Lane & Woodstock Ave. For more info, call or e-mail Linda Lyons at (301) 654-3924. Check out the beautiful Forest Glen Website (click on "Seminary")

Here's a little history:

Originally a wooded glen and farmland, Forest Glen was first developed in 1887 as a railroad-era hotel and retreat from the city. "Ye Forest Inne" was designed by noted Washington architect T. F. Schneider. When the hotel did not prove successful, the property passed to Dr. and Mrs. John I. Cassedy who in 1894 converted it to National Park Seminary, a finishing school for young women.

The Cassedys believed that art and culture should be integral to the school's curriculum, and they created an educational environment of unique buildings in an elaborately landscaped park. Early buildings in the rustic Shingle Style were joined by later ones in richly detailed Classical Revival. Sorority houses contributed exotic forms to the mix including an English castle, Swiss chalet, Dutch windmill, Spanish mission, and the renowned Japanese Pagoda.

The seminary was purchased in 1916 by Dr. James E. Ament, who connected or enlarged many of the structures, expanded the campus, and built the imposing 1927 grand ballroom. During WWII, the Army took over the site.

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Friday May 9, 1997
The Tom Cunningham Orchestra opened at America. If you haven't seen it, the Washington Post covered the opening of the dance in the Style section, in Annie Groer's gossip column (right above Doonesbury in the Wednesday May 14, 1997 edition- get it from There was a picture of Tom and Debra and a blurry picture of some spectator shoes. The article focused more on relationships than dancing. No mention of the Jam or the Shim Sham. The menu was attrocious, the floor is hard, the staff doesn't have a clue about dancers but IT WAS A BLAST. We absolutely loved it. It's a real winner!

The first review comes from Debra Sternberg:

From: Debra Sternberg

We'd like to thank everyone for coming out and making our inaugural night at America such a big success! The Tom Cunningham Orchestra sounded GREAT, we had a wonderful mix of Lindy Hoppers and regular folks, a reporter and photographer from the Washington Post, the dance floor was fine, and management was besides themselves with delight! Everything went pretty darn smoothly considering the fact that this was our first night, but know there are a few little things that need fixing: we hoped it'd be a big night, but didn't expect it to be THAT big, and so the dance floor was a little too small. Next week, it'll be bigger, plus Malik the manager said more water will be easily available for everyone and he'll turn the air conditioning down earlier in the evening so the place is cooler. If anyone has any feedback please pass it back to me via this newsletter. And thanks again, and keep coming back!
--Debra Sternberg

Next, Carolyn Biczel shares her views of the evening:

From: Carolyn Biczel

Friday I went to 'America' in Tysons Corner for the first night of the 8 week run of Tom Cunningham. Overall I thought it was alot of fun and a nice atmosphere. The band looked great in their white tuxedos and they sounded great too. Tom played a nice mix of songs and the acoustics in there are better than I thought they would be. I'm curious to hear how far down the mall the music could be heard.

Even though the wood floor is not 'sprung', I found I found it to be fine for dancing. If anything it might be the tiniest bit sticky, but not enough to really hinder my dancing. The staff was friendly and I think they really got a kick out of having us there. It was also fun to see the surprised and curious expressions on the faces of the unsuspecting shoppers walking by the restaurant. I think they were completely nonplused by the idea of seeing swing dancing to a live big band in the mall. And I think that is part of the enjoyment for us dancers - introducing Lindy Hop to people who otherwise would never see it and getting to show off a little in the process. The only complaint I might have is that we needed a bit more space for dancing. However, I understand that a venture of this kind might need some fine tuning, and since just about everyone I talked to agreed that we could have used more space, I am willing to bet that they will move a few more tables out for us next week.

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About Bill Mason
By: Mary Pat Cooney
Appeared in the May 12, 1997 Edition

I had a wonderful time talking with Bill Mason, the drummer for thge Oklahoma Twisters, about his life. Recently, Terry Monoghan of the Jiving Lindy Hoppers came to interview Bill about his experiences at the Savoy. I was inspired, and asked him to tell me some stories. I thought the Lindy gang might be interested.

Bill grew up here in Washington, and he loved to go to the theater to hear the music acts. That got him interested in playing. He played drums while his mother played the piano at home. His mom was an accompanist for the silent movies. He studied drums, even though his dad wanted him to learn the printing trade - as he had. So his dad agreed he could study drums, but only if HE could choose the instructor. The teacher his dad selected was with one of the military bands, so when Bill was drafted in WWII, he auditioned for and got into the Army Band. He spent the war playing twelve hours a day. When he was discharged, he used the GI Bill to go to Juilliard to study music theory. He stayed in New York, and played at the Savoy and lots of other clubs. He played with Earl Hines, backed up Billie [Holliday]. I shall get more details on the clubs, the musicians, the dancers the next time I see him.
Happy Dancing!
--Mary Pat

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Gilbert and Sullivan's "Patience"
By: Frank Morra
Appeared in the May 12, 1997 edition

I am reviewing this for two reasons: (1) Lindy Hoppers Susan Brownstone and Dan Fierer were in the production and (2) G&S fans are known as "Savoyards" due to the creation of the Savoy Theatre in London explicitly for their plays, which became so associated with "class" that "Savoy" anything meant elegance and hence the Savoy Ballroom in Harlem where Lindy started. Breakneck logic, huh?

The play is truly hilarious, sending up artistic pretension on a massive scale. The gist of the story is a sort of Victorian "new age" movement in which the maidens of a proper English village have broken, en masse, their engagements to a regiment of the Dragoon Guards to follow Bunthorne, a "fleshly poet". By the way, Susan looked just great in her neoclassical toga. Bunthorne wears a red velvet suit with knee britches, a wide Eton collar and a floppy bow tie and parades around carrying a lilly. The fair maidens swoon at his sight, but he is strongly taken with Patience, a milk maid, who seems to be the only one in the play with any practical intelligence.

Bunthorne stays on his ego trip until a Grosvenor, rival poet (in a gray velvet suit), shows up and astounds the fair maidens with a different kind of poetry. After a large number of mixups and incomparably witty dialogue, the maidens are brought back to their senses and marry their dragoon guards, Grosvenor walks off with Patience, and Bunthorne is left holding his lilly. [I KNOW it's more complicated than that, but this is a DANCE newsletter]

This is a witty upbeat satire that could be set anywhere. G&S considered having the plot revolve around two rival clergymen. In the 1960s it was set in a hippie commune. I kept thinking of two rival dance teachers....maybe Tom Koerner and Moondancer?

The play had some anachronisms that made it even funnier. For the obligatory G&S male chorus, the Dragoon Guards ensemble does a song about the ingredients for a guardsman that includes everyone from Lord Nelson to a famous Scotland Yard detective named Pollacky [but all men]. At the conclusion, the conductor hands the commander a gilded scroll and the song is reprised with women heroes including Amelia Earhart and Gloria Steinem. Later on in the play, Bunthorne and Lady Jane (his last remaining follower) do a song and dance, ending with the Marcarena. [see-there's some dance here] Oh yes, Bunthorne and Grosvenor do a buck and wing with canes while celebrating the gullibility of their followers.

The orchestra was first rate and our own "Dr. Dan" got three [count 'em] oboe solos. So, let's hear it for the multi-talented Lindy Hoppers! You know, I really want one of those poet suits -- maybe in bright yellow or electric blue..

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Saturday May 17, 1997

On Saturday, the action shifted to the Spanish Ballroom at Glen Echo. It was "Armed Forces Day", and a fair number of folks turned up in period military attire. The bass player for Sunset Royal gave each of us a thorough inspection. Scott Halliday, who takes pride in the authenticity of his outfits was surprised to find that brown shoes were worn with the Navy tan overseas uniform. I took some heat for my beard and long hair, but I was careful to point out that my recreation of a lieutenant commander in the subrarine service had just returned from an extended patrol, in which the barber had been put ashore for seasickness; Dave Shepardson --- a real live submariner --- defended my silver dolphins by noting that I had gotten a "mustang" promotion in this arduous cruise. Mike Reis had a great RAF uniform on; Larry MacDonald looked very Navy in his Captain's dress blues, and Iver Cooper provided some comic relief by mixing an 8th Air Force crew chief's uniform with saddle shoes. But if a prize was to have been awarded, it would have had to go to Arnold--he was actually wearing his real WWII uniform!! It turns out that he has lost so much weight doing Lindy that he can now fit into it.

The ladies were no less spectacular. Debra Sternberg's clothes looked very '40s, she looked very '20s. Trish Manetti had on a blue dress that was very chic. Diane Hutson-Wiley turned heads all night in a long salmon-colored dress. Cherri Harris started the eveining in a long "prom dress" but found that it was too hot, and changed into one of her more familiar outfits. Carolyn Biczel wore a great hat -- it looked like one of those hats that Blondie buys at Tudbury's. Julia Stewart had on an aysmetric cut dress with lots of rhinestone appliques. Chrissie Hall had on a very vampish 1920s outfit because she had been to a party of that era earlier in the evening. [I didn't want to get into writing about women's fashion, because I haven't got the couturier vocabulary. All the ladies looked fantastic! If I missed someone, it is because my thesaurus gave out, not because I am ignoring you...I am going to have Ellen Werther do women's fashion from now on]

We would like to thank all of those who bought "War Bonds" from us--the Lindy Hoppers were very generous and many of you bought $5 bonds. We hear that over $250 was raised. Thanks again from us, and the old Spanish Ballroom thanks you too.

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An Unusual Analogy (Lizzie Hess)
By: Lizzie Hess
Appeared in the June 1, 1997 edition

Lizzie Hess sent me this by snail mail. She says, "Frank: an unusual analogy likening breaking in a horse to leading a dance partner." This is a quotation from The Horse Whisperer by Nicholas Evans.

"..."it's like asking a woman to dance," the old man used to say. "If you've got no confidence and you're scared she's gonna turn you down and you sidle up, looking at your boots, sure as eggs'll break, she'll turn you down. Of course, then you can try grabbing her and forcing her around the floor, but neither of you's gonna end up enjoying it a whole lot."

"...Dancing and riding, it's the same damn thing," he would say, "It's about trust and consent. You've gotten hold of one another. The man's leading but he is not dragging her, he's offering a feel and she feels it and goes with him. You're in harmony and moving to each other's rhythm, just following the feel."

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