|January, 1998 Forum|
The Forum in January
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Archive of Dance Forum Articles From January, 1998
This is the archive of DANCE FORUM articles which appeared during 1998
This is the place to review and savor all of those interesting articles written by our erudite readers. We would also like to acknowledge Gay and Dave Shepardson who actually do the mechanics of the website and put up with my eternal nagging about getting the stuff up.
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HEARTFELT THANKS. As I am writing this, I am looking at the beautiful card I got in the mail yesterday "with love from your dance pals, whose hearts are with you at this difficult time." You are all such a wonderful group of people--I HOPE more than "dance pals." I can only hope that if any of you are ever in need (pray not) I can be there for you. I don't want to single anyone out, but I have to say, I would not have made it without the support of Michael Mandel and Diane Carroad, who called on several occassions while I was in New Jersey. And Carole too. Thank you so much. Michael Henry wrote on the card "Although I spent only a short time with your mother last Easter Sunday, I would have loved to have gotten to know her better...Love" Well Michael, she thought you and (Mark and Wendy) were great too. She loved the Fly Cats. And she, a dancer herself (she won Charleston and Jitterbug contests) was proud of all of us for keeping up the tradiition. And she would have wanted her daughter to get back out there. So, I will see you all soon. ps, My only regret is she never got to see me jam. The next one's for you mom. Anyone who wants to call can reach me at 703 931-1742 (home) or the shop 703 644-3004 or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I know this is long, but thanks for reading. And thanks again.
Top 5 Dance Events of 1997!
Let's start a new Dancer's Forum topic....Top 5 Dance Events of 1997! Everyone is sure to have a different list. Here's ours (after much discussion....)
[Editor's Note: On Monday, January 5, you can look back over the year with our retrospective of significant articles from both the Dance Forum and Dance Reviews, and pick your own top five events. Check out the website on Monday!]
The Mr. Moto Films
I've managed to find the citation, albeit an unimpressive, unscholarly, and second hand one. The following quote can be found in Swing Era New York: The Jazz Photographs of Charles Peterson, edited by W. Royal Stokes (page 31, Chapter: Harlem)
"Not caught in execution by photographer Peterson were some of the more acrobatic 'air steps,' which typically entailed flips and the trajectory of the woman over the head of her partner. Some of these moves were similar to--and probably in part inspired by--the jujitsu throws that were being depicted in the popular film of that time, e.g., in the Mr. Moto series (the initial feature of which was released in 1937)."
And to think, we missed the 60th anniversary.
Mr. Stokes goes on to wax poetic about the Savoy dancers:
"Mention should be made of the spirit of intense competition among many of these extroverts, as the combined efforts of dancers, band, and onlookers worked the Savoy Ballroom up to fever pitch."
It takes a village to Lindy too, I guess.
Harlem's Savoy Ballroom is a sacred place to most Lindy fanatics, made even more so by its demise. Like all good things gone, it becomes legendary. Good historians serve to put these legendary places into their proper context. During my quest for the ju jitsu citation, I re-read the 'Savoy Ballroom' chapter of Jazz Dance: The Story of American Vernacular Dance by Marshall and Jean Stearns. This book, by the way, was one of the reasons why Norma Miller was moved to write Swingin' at the Savoy because, while the Stearn's portray a fairly comprehensive history of the origins of Lindy Hop, they leave the dance right around World War II.
The best night for dancing at the Savoy Ballroom was Sunday, when the floor was much less crowded than on Saturday nights (Fridays were reserved for social clubs and fraternities). Monday was "Ladies Night", Tuesday was "Dancer's Night", and Thursday was "Kitchen Mechanics Night" with reduced prices. Sundays were the nights when celebrities liked to frequent the ballroom.
The northeast corner of the Savoy was known as "Cat's Corner" and only those who met with the approval of the regular dancers, George "Shorty" Snowden and George "Twist Mouth" Ganaway and later, Herbert "Whitey" White, the main bouncer at the Savoy, could dance in this space. "Invaders" were dismissed with well targeted Charleston kicks. [Contrary to popular belief, this is NOT intentionally the case at Glen Echo. The only kicks that reach my shins are the not-so-well targeted ones.]
What we call the "jam" actually started out as a tradition among the Cat's Corner dancers that began when "King" Leon James (on the cover of Time Magazine in 1937 and featured in A Day at the Races) would enter the ballroom. When he reached Cat's Corner, all of the "approved" dancers would begin their routines, from the newest couple all the way up to "King" James. One rule: no one could copy anyone else's steps exactly---or else. Another rule: no dancing immediately after "King" James' routine--out of respect for the master.
More on 78 RPM Records
Hello! I hope you had a merry xmas - it sounds it. I thought
of you two during my sojourn in Connecticut - and now especially
after reading about your 78 adventure. My dad has literally
thousands of '78s that he has been collecting since he was a
teenager, along with a Victrola XVI (that's the upright kind with
cabinets). Our usual Christmas treat is to dig through a select
pile and play for about an hour. I wish I'd written down some of
our finds this year for you - one of his "prides and
joys" is the Oscar Levant recording of Gershwin's Rhapsody,
but the collection runs the gamut from the tiny one-sided
recordings of "Take your Girlie to the Movies" to Tommy
Dorsey, Benny Goodman, early Sinatra, and Enrico Caruso. I keep
telling him he needs to inventory - but it would be a mammoth
task!! Maybe someday if I get an extended vacation....
Dear Frank and Carole,
I am writing to express my fears on a different, yet similarly dangerous topic, and to ask your advice on it. I went to Sons of Hermann as usual, and had an absolute blast!! (I even got to be the instructor's example girl tonight, which thrilled me to death.) Anyway, we had a TON of new people tonight (isn't that wonderful?) who wanted to learn Lindy, or already knew a few steps. This is cool, yes, but what is not cool is looking over and finding a guy madly slinging girls around, with the girls' heads mere inches from the unforgiving hardwood floor. I don't know what it is, but it's like many first-timers just decide to skip learning the steps, and head straight to lifts and throws. From what I understand, this kind of reckless behavior has caused many a swing club to ban lifts altogether, or even to shut down. Sons became a real circus tonight, with people who had extremely little idea what they were doing throwing other people around carelessly, like there was some kind of invisible net or something that the rest of us didn't see. I don't know y'all, lifts and throws look most excellent on a well-experienced and careful couple, but they make beginners look nothing better than third-graders on a playground. I was absolutely scared for some of these girls, as I personally have known someone who is paralyzed from a STUPID, senseless, needless trick like that. What is it going to take?
This one I need your advice for: I danced with a guy tonight who was turning me and throwing me out extremely hard (rough is more like it). It pulled my back out again tonight (I threw my back out last year, and yes, I did just turn 20 :)) because of the rough treatment. What do you say to someone like that? Do you just stop dancing? Feign a heart attack? Contract instant amnesia and forget how to Lindy altogether? I don't want to offend, but would also prefer independence from my heating pad. :) [P.S. Mr. Smooth Tom would have had a hey-day with this guy's form. "Angel up here--Devil down here. Angel up here--Devil down here. Quit bouncing!"]
Well, I feel better! Hopefully y'all will have some ideas on
how to handle guys like this. Just think, one week and I'll be
swinging with the Brits.
[Editor's Note: We advised Rachel to read "On Rough Leading" (by Debra Sternberg) as it appeared in the Dance Forum on April 1, 1997. On Monday, January 5, you can look back over the year with our retrospective of significant articles from both the Dance Forum and Dance reviews]
I used to do an exercise in my Introductory Statistics classes about birthdays. Assuming that birthdays are distributed randomly --- the probability of being born on any given day is (1/365) --- it turns out that in any sizable group, say 15 or more, the probability of finding two people with the same birthday (not necessarily year) exceeds 85%. This also seems to work out for co-workers and casual acquaintances. I can remember that in my old office, there were four people with my birthday. When we celebrate birthdays at Vienna Grille, it is not uncommon that two or more people are honored.
On the other hand, I have never even had a date with someone who a birthday within a month of mine, much less a relationship. On Christmas day, of the ten or so people gathered, none could recall even dating someone with a birthday reasonably close to theirs.
Our search via the newsletter has produced two such instances (we mail to about 300 people).
This is an unusual phenomenon, but we will not rush to any conclusions, although we are getting a lot of astrology comments, since one theory holds that people of the same sign would be incompatible. Here are our two counterexamples:
I dated a guy during most of last year whose two previous partners (one was his former wife of 12 years) had the same birthday as mine (Jan. 15)! The odds of this are way out there... And not only that, but his mother was a Capricorn woman as well... Pretty spooky, huh?
Unfortunately it didn't last, so I'm on the lookout for a grown-up boy who can dance. If you know anyone tall, witty and datable, please send him my way!
[Editor's note: In support of my first assertion, Carole's birthday is also January 15]
From: Carolyn Biczel
Birthdays and Aerials
Hi Frank and Carole-
A lot of the new kids up here have been telling me that they want to take aerials class with Natalie Gomes at Chelsea Piers, (she was my first teacher), and I always ask them what they want to do with them once they learn them. Do they have a steady partner they can work with, do they want to perform or compete? I try to explain to them that aerials are the icing on the cake. Who cares if you can do a perfect around the back, (aka: kip, lindy frog, etc.), if you can't do a swing out correctly? And, furthermore, what's the rush?
There seems to be this general feeling among the newer folks that they have to hurry up and catch up with this whole swing thing, or else they'll miss it. The problem is, they are plowing through the basics, and once they reach a more advanced level, they are no fun to dance with because they never learned how to lead/follow back down at the basic level. Again, what is the rush? You have the rest of your life to get good at this stuff! Don't sweat the basics - I keep that "Dizzy's Desiderata" next to my desk , and one of the more relevant lines is : keep interested in the basics, they are the fount of all innovation.
But back to those aerials. Don't forget that when Whitey's Lindy Hoppers filmed the "Hellzapoppin'" clip they had been living, working, traveling and dancing together as a group for more than 5 years. And they did that for a living, and practiced every day.
When we work aerials in the Big Apple Lindy Hoppers, we use mats and belts because we want to practice them safely, and we don't want to lose any of our members to some foolish injury. Our coach, Karen Goldstein has been with the group for the last 7 years, and she's the first one to pull out the safety equipment. Besides, I know from experience, it is no fun to hurt yourself. I spent months in physical therapy last year after bruising a ligament during an aerial. You also have to know what you're capable of doing. If you were never a very gymnastic person, you will not become one on the dance floor. But, if you take the time to learn them correctly, have a good partner, (or group to work with), they can be a lot of fun. I'll be the first to admit that I enjoy being thrown around by a strong guy, but only if we both know what we're doing!
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