|March, 1998 Forum|
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Archive of Dance Forum Articles From March, 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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WHAT DID THE ZOOT SUIT TAYLOR SAY? (
[Editor's note: we are pleased to note that Providence has sent us Arnold Taylor, the unofficial Chaplain to the Lindy Army. Following the military service discussed below, Arnold met his lovely wife Lil, worked for the now defunct Washington Star, and became an Episcopalian Priest]
For the first time in my life I wore a zoot suit. It happened on Mardi Gras - Fat Tuesday 1998. I borrowed it from Tom Koerner to wear at a dinner-dance at St. Mark's Episcopal Church on Capitol Hill where costume creativity abounds.
Picture this: A brown zoot suit with a reet pleat and a drape shape, maroon suspenders, a canary yellow shirt, a genuine 1948 (I bought it myself) red/orange tie with a yellow swath down its middle and geese flying across - AND SNOW WHITE HAIR! While the outlandish outfit did not improve my dancing nor my level of stamina, it did command attention. I was a genuine conversation piece.
My recollection says that where I lived (Providence, RI) zoot suits first were "popular" right after World War II. Neither I nor any of my friends would have been caught dead in such a flamboyant outfit. Wow! Nor would anyone have caught us alive in one of those ''show-off" rigs.
Not only that, but the Depression mentality in me was (and is) critical of the overbuilding in the garments. Think of how much cloth is wasted in the baggy pants that reach up to the armpits and the knee length jacket with lapels a foot wide. What a waste of material! There is enough flab in the tailoring to trim the excess and make a pair of matching Bermuda shorts.
I was all of 20 years old by then, a veteran of combat in General George Patton's Third Army - and broke, as most of my friends were. There was a glut in the labor market and paying jobs were hard to get, and the pay was low. I was lucky to be digging ditches for the Blackstone Valley Gas Company at 90 cents an hour and zoot suits cost more than the average wear.
I rationalized that only "sharpies" wore them anyway - guys who hung out on street corners or in the doorway of the soda shops and whistled at gals who perchance walked by. That was not my style. I had been slapped too often. Not only that, but the "sharpies" where I came from had a cocky attitude. When they talked it was like the sound of a leer, the head bobbed back and forth and they bounced from the knees. I think they invented the opening words to every sentence: "Hey, man...."
Their walk was akin to a swagger. That was not my style. After using a pick and shovel all day all I could do was put one foot in front of the other - until after my swim at the YMCA, at which time I would get decked out in my double-breasted suit with a white shirt and brightly flowered tie and go dancing at the Veteran's Club sometimes until three o'clock in the morning.
I tried out that cocky attitude and swagger at the recent Mardi Gras dance at St. Mark's church among lots of friends. Apparently nobody saw anything unusual - except the zoot suit...!
First Lindy Hop Workshop in Japan
[Editor's Note: Last August, Jenny introduced me to a fellow named Toshio "Hiro" Watari who had the most amazing digital camera that I had ever seen. He seemed to be fascinated with the Lindy Hoppers at Glen Echo, and took several discs full of pictures. It turns out that he went back to Japan and began a one man campaign to bring Lindy to the land of the rising sun.]
First Lindy Hop Workshop in Japan
Date: March 22, 1998 Time:14:00 - 17:00 Location:Dance School Okumura (phone 03-3404-0835) Address:3-8-40 Minami-Aoyama, Minato-ku, Tokyo Price:3000 Yen Description: Toshio Watari presents the first Lindy Hop Swing workshop in Japan. The workshop will be taught by Frankie Manning, the king of Savoy Style Lindy Hop, from the USA, and Sing Lim and Andrew Vassiliou, US Lindy Hop champions, from Singapore. No reservation required. Check out their website, Lindy Hop in Japan
Send e-mails to Toshiro
Date:March 22, 1998 Time:19:00 - 22:00 Location: Do Do Bird (phone 03-3408-0298 )Address:3-13-1 Minami-Aoyama, Minato-ku, Tokyo Price:6500 Yen Description:Frankie Manning dances to the swingin' tunes of the jazz big band "Crescent" at a small but very stylish Jazz spot in Tokyo. The excellent female jazz pianist "Keiko Iwasaki" will also be featured. All you can drink. Good meals are served. This will be a great opportunity to speak with Frankie openly and personally. Reservations REQUIRED. They can be made by email or phone to Watari Dance Studio
[Other Editor's Note: We love that "all you can drink" enticement. Apparently, these guys haven't heard about Lindy and alcohol...]
The FlyCats are Charming
Hi you guys, it's me, Susan ---your friend-from-Denver-somewhat-displaced-in-NYC...I know that I've fallen away a little bit from the entire Swing scene upon my moving to NYC, and it seemed like just the opposite should have happened upon coming here, but school, my internship at MTV, a part time job and just plain fear of a girl running round the city alone have discouraged my going out. But last night, I went to the Greatest Bar On Earth in the World Trade Center. I arrived rather early ( around 8:30) and danced with two gentlemen by the names of Vernon and Kevin. I was rather nervous (as I always am lately when I go dancing) because it has been a awhile, and I could always use practice before I dance, but the guys were great, very patient, and total fun to dance with.
A little later into the evening, I begin seeing some faces that I recognize (although do not know personally) from the NYC dance scene, and I'm getting excited because when I see these faces it usually means a swing circle at some point in the evening. These guys perform some of the best stuff that always gives me inspiration and something to strive for in becoming a better dancer. I also noticed a small group of dancers dressed very retro, which caught my eye (of course!) because the general crowd at this bar is dressed rather, well, touristy. I asked Kevin if he knew who they were, and he said that some of the dancers were up from DC and the Baltimore area. My jaw about dropped. Then he pointed out some individuals, like this one lady who had a dark bobbed hairstyle and a vintage dress, and said that she was from New York and her name was Jennifer.
I think I practically TELEPORTED over to where she was standing ---COMPLETELY INTERRUPTED her as she was getting ready to go on the dance floor and asked her "Are you Jennifer Comar??" -- You see, EVERY time I go out dancing, I ask everyone, ANYONE , if they know her or if they are her. a couple of times, it's resulted in embarrassing situations or someone telling me "she ain't comin' tonight!" She and I had exchanged e-mails a few times, and I was always hoping to finally meet up with her one day, but never seemed to for all reasons listed earlier--- Anyhow, she looked at me, brightly smiling, but with a facial expression like "okay, who are you?" and said that she was Jennifer Comar. I told her who I was and she completely beamed and remarked how we FINALLY got to meet each other. I then asked whether you and Carole were up here dancing--that would have been the cherry on the cake if you were, and she said that you weren't. (darn!) But, I got to meet and dance with some really great dancers from your area.
I danced with a gentleman named Ray who absolutely floored me---he is the ONLY man that I have ever danced with that spins his partner with his right hand rather than his left. I was sort of surprised by it at first, because no one had ever danced with me like that, but absolutely thrilled at how skilled and easy to follow he was. I then danced later with Jennifer's partner, Daniel, who was so much fun to dance with, though at one point I came completely out of my shoe which was really embarrassing, I hope he didn't see it! I then danced with another gentleman by the name of Peter, who I remembered looking at earlier because it appeared that he was wearing part of a Zoot Suit. I think out of all the great dancers, I had the best time with him and he told me that he was up in NYC with part of his group the FlyCats. We discussed a little about footwork and venues (including Glen Echo) and he made me feel wonderful because he offered encouraging words about my dancing and made me feel not so out of practice (bless his heart).
Then the band came back from break and a swing circle began to "Sing Sing Sing" and I watched everyone out there showing their stuff and hamming it up for the crowd-- and of course the crowd (and especially me) loved it!
*Note to myself*--go dancing more often! Don't ever forget how much you love it!
your friend from the Rockies, still lost in New York,
For all the criticism we have of Henry Luce's editorial policy, Life Magazine remains an excellent record of life in the 1930s and 1940s. Recently, we attended a yard sale and came away with a gigantic box of these magazines. We were drawn to a photo essay on how World War II was affecting "An American Block" in Hamilton, Ohio (November 8, 1943) The article provided photos and interviews with "typical American" families along one block in this small, mainstream town. The major themes were present -- concern for loved ones in the service, complaints about rationing, changes in routine since women went off to work in defense plants. However, we also noted some unusual things from the perspective of 1998. Specifically, the photos documented people who led a very sparse existence. The living rooms shown had a few chairs and not much ornament on the walls. Kitchens were plain and utilitarian. Of note, all the men photographed had very well-shined, but obviously old shoes.
In the midst of the discussion about the war and sacrifices, came a comment from Mrs. Ida Kunzelman who had experienced the thrill of her first paycheck. She noted that she planned to buy a pressure cooker. In the context of the war, this seemed a bit odd. From our 20/20 hindsight, it seems that other things might be higher on her list of priorities. Plus (as we found out later), pressure cookers were made of aluminum which was very scarce due to its use in aircraft. Acquisition of such a device would have required considerable financial sacrifice and possibly even dealing on the Black Market. So, we were left with the question, "What is so desirable about a pressure cooker?"
This question remained unanswered until we attended yet another estate sale. Sitting amidst the kitchen detritus was, of all things, an old pressure cooker. We offered fifty cents for the thing and took it home, to examine it as an historical artifact, with the hope of gaining some insight into Mrs. Kunzelman's motivation. The thing appeared to be old, because it has wooden handles; my memory of these things is plastic handles, so it was a safe bet that the thing dated from before 1950. Unfortunately, on the subject of Mrs. K's motivation, we found it to be singularly mute, although it is obviously made to last --- the aluminum casting is graceful and about half an inch thick. You probably could have made the whole wing of a Dauntless dive-bomber out of the metal in this baby.
So, what do you do when you want to learn something these days? Simple: crank up your search engine and enter "PRESTO PRESSURE COOKER". Within five minutes, I was looking at a picture of the object that I had before me. You can view this also by simply accessing the website of the National Presto Corporation.
A Brief History of the National Presto Corporation
The company was founded in 1905 in Eau Claire, Wisconsin. It manufactured industrial-size pressure canners, known as "canner retorts," for commercial canneries. At that time National Presto, then called Northwestern Iron and Steel Works, was a major producer of fifty gallon capacity pressure canners. Subsequently, the company also began production of thirty-gallon canners for hotel use and soon thereafter developed ten-gallon models suitable for home canning. In 1915 the company installed an aluminum foundry for the specific purpose of manufacturing large-size pressure canners for home use.
When, in 1917, the United States Department of Agriculture determined that pressure canning was the only safe method of canning low acid foods without risking food poisoning, all commercial canneries were forced to equip themselves with facilities for the pressure canning of their products. During this period the company became one of the largest manufacturers of cast aluminum cooking utensils in the world. Its products were marketed under the trade name "National," and the company name was changed to "National Pressure Cooker Company" to more closely identify with its famous brand.
With its vast experience in manufacturing pressure canners and to more adequately meet the needs of the consumer, in 1939 the company introduced the first saucepan-style pressure cooker and gave it the trade name "Presto." (and, it is this model that we have acquired) The Presto brand soon became synonymous with pressure cooking, which represented to the American housewife a method of cooking in one third the time while maintaining the vitamin and mineral content of foods and saving both food flavor and color.
So great was the consumer's acceptance of the Presto pressure cooker that in 1941 facilities at National Presto were dramatically increased. By the end of the year, the Presto cooker ranked among the largest producers of housewares dollar volume in leading stores throughout the country.
World War II, however, brought a temporary end to the manufacture of pressure cookers as well as other cast aluminum cooking utensils. Quick to cooperate in the war effort, the company converted almost all of its production facilities into war work, manufacturing artillery fuses, aerial bombs, and rocket fuses. It became the first to manufacture rocket fuses on a mass production scale and was also one of the first companies in the state of Wisconsin to receive the Army-Navy "E" Award, receiving five such awards during its wartime operation. Throughout the period of World War II, the company continued to manufacture canners for the extremely important victory garden and canning programs. Materials for these canners were provided by the War Production Board, and the canners were made of steel since aluminum was not available.
With victory in sight in 1945, the company resumed a portion of its civilian production. First to be released was a 16-quart canner, followed by a 4-quart saucepan-type Presto pressure cooker. The pent-up demand for pressure cookers was tremendous and, in an industry which included eleven other manufacturers, more Presto pressure cookers were purchased by consumers than all other brands combined. (Wasn't that exciting?)
Back to Mrs. Kunzelman
With some correspondence with the folks at Presto, we were able to establish that our artifact was one of the 1945 4-quart models. The people there said that Mrs. Kunzelman probably wanted the thing so that she could continue to make traditional meals while working at the defense plant, because pressure cooking allows dishes to be prepared in about a third of the time. So, Mrs. K had many of the same problems faced by traditional two-career families. We guess that there was no Boston Market, Fresh Fields or their equivalent at that time. There really is nothing new under the sun... We wonder if Mr. K got a lot of jive about helping out around the house --- a 90s man was probably needed in the 40s.
As an afterthought, that wonderful story on the "American Block" -- and it is, indeed, truly charming --- is in an issue that features Jan Christian Smuts on both the cover and in a lengthy glowing story. Gen. Smuts was the architect of South Africa's apartheid policy. Our opinion of Henry Luce has not changed one bit.
Short Blood Supply
I've been called three times this week about donating blood -- obviously, the blood supply is LOW.
I gave on Monday. If you are interested in donating, please call 1-800-GIVE-BLOOD right away. They'll give the location of your nearest donation center.
It takes less than an hour, hurts for only a second, is safe,
and does a lot of good. And, they give you cookies and drink.
The Rachel Page
Anyway, this trip has had me so busy that I haven't had a chance to tell you all about my fabulous experience at the Texas Swing Riot last weekend. It was run by Four on the Floor of Austin (Darby, Matt, Laura, Laura, Mike, etc.) and it was supermergatroid. They had lessons on every level for swing, lindy, charleston, shim sham, and jitterbug stroll (and YES, I think I finally have them down--I do hope I get to do a little while in D.C.) It was held at the Texas Federation of Women's Clubs in Austin, this beaaaauuutiful--really, I wanted to take this place home with me as a souvenir--old house/building with a ballroom and gorgeous antique furniture throughout. Since everything was in such perfect condition, it really was like stepping back. And--get this--the ballroom was very Glen Echo-like except.....it had doors that were left open and had the unique ability to draw air through a room. It was fabulous.
They had live bands on Friday and Saturday nights--Lucky Strikes, the Merchants of Venus, the Jive Bombers, Spies Like Us, and the Studebakers. I really, really enjoyed Lucky Strikes (very Indigo-ish), and for a good female group sound, the Studebakers. I enjoyed all of them, except I found Spies Like Us to be a little (dare I say it?) fast for my taste. Hey, they're are a ska band. Out of all the people there, 8 couples decided to brave the ferocious tempo. The floor was as slick as ice, and let me tell you it was awful! Of course, everybody is watching the band and enjoying the music instead of dancing to this particular band. So it follows that this would be the time that I get pulled onto this sheet of ice (popularly referred to as the dance floor) to dance with a guy that is so good keeping up with him--sans ice--is a challenge in itself. So there we are, everybody watching, and I am just sliding all over the place. I was so frustrated by the time the dance was over (and I must have had an awful look on my face) because he actually hugged me and said, "Hey there....it's OK!" :) I'm sure nobody cared, but let me tell you, I sure did!
Anyway, I had a super fantastic time. Four on the Floor is a GREAT group, and all the instructors from all over the state were fab, too. (Iver, I met Rowena. She's super cool.) I can't tell you how hard that drive back on up to school was. I about had myself convinced that I really COULD drop out of school and go to swing weekends for the rest of my life.... :)
7 short days...see ya soon........
When I was a kid, we owned two pressure cookers. Both my mother and my father were proficient at pressure cooker use (which included knowing how to put the lid on correctly, with the rubber o-ring, and the little "hat" on top). One thing you did not mention is that 1940's kitches (and my kitchen today...) lack air conditioning. During a hot summer (and if I remember from my reading, 1945 was a hot summer) the last thing you felt like doing was firing up the oven to cook dinner. You didn't particularly feel like slaving over a hot pot or griddle either. The answer: throw everything into the pressure cooker and retire to the living room, turn on the Philco and put your feet up. Just before Fibber McGee & Molly, dinner should be ready.
We now have crock pots and microwave ovens for these sorts of things.
Here's a question for you. Before the days of electric
refridgeration, what was the official "ice box
etiquette"? You remember your mom always telling you to
close the refridgerator door and eat the leftovers before making
new food. But what special things had to be done in the days
before refridgerators? Was there special emphasis on cleaning
the plate because there was little room for leftovers? Was ice
cream seldom consumed at home because of storage? Was the
timeline on cooking meat tighter? Were you never allowed to open
the door unless it was absolutely necessary? Any funny family
stories about ice blocks?
Help Our Florida Friends
Frank and Carole,
Do you have any suggestions or advice on where to get quality lessons?
Thanks for your time,
Tips for Experienced Leaders from an Inexperienced
MS 150K Bike Tour
I have been riding in the bike tour since 1992, and intend to do so again this year. Perhaps there are other swing dancers who would be interested in riding as well. Unfortunately, the ride conflicts with the Armed Forces Day bash at Glen Echo (it might be possible to do a one-day option, and still get back for the dancing - if you have legs left). If not, there are various volunteer opportunities for the tour, or they could make a pledge for my ride.
The ride is extremely well supported, with rest stops every 15 miles or so, ride marshals, bike mechanics, and sag wagons, as well as free lunch, dinner, and breakfast.
The ride takes place in exactly the region you so recently visited. The start/finish point is at Great Meadow, near The Plains, and the tour travels through towns such as Marshall, Orlean, Hume, Rectortown and Estes, in Loudoun, Fauquier, Culpepper and Rappahannock counties. The overnight stay is at the Notre Dame Academy. In mid-May the weather is usually very cooperative (knock wood), and it is really quite a beautiful ride. The route used to go through Leesburg and Middleburg, but increasing development (I think) dictated a more southerly route in the last couple of years.
There are now several options for doing the ride. The classic tour consists of about 60 miles on Saturday, an overnight (with food and music provided), and another 40 miles on Sunday. It is also possible to do a "Century Loop" on Saturday, doing all 100 miles in one day. You then have the option to go directly home, or stay overnight and finish the final 40 miles with the rest on Sunday. I believe that it may also be possible to do 60 miles on Saturday and go home from there, but I'm not sure. For several years I have been doing the whole shebang, or a total of about 140 miles over the weekend. It's great fun, although the hills in that part of the state make it quite a challenge for an amateur biker like myself. Doing 100 miles in a day gets to be kind of a Zen thing, as your world tends to reduce to you, your aching legs, your bike, an the next hill you have to climb. Downhills are a great reward, though.
I would encourage anyone interested to ride. Contact the
National Capitol Chapter of the NMSS for more information (I
don't have their number handy), or drop me a line
[currently suffering from a severely sprained ankle, so no dancing for me for a while.]
Hi Frank and Carole-
I seem to remember only needing one or two big blocks for about a two week period. Ice, if stored properly, can keep for months, even years. In the winter, they would cut huge blocks out of the frozen lake, (in this case, Lake George, which, in a cold season, can form several feet of ice over its 32 mile long surface) . My grandfather would get his allotment, then haul it back to his icehouse, where it would stay until needed in the summer. The icehouse was located in the woods, very shady, and was shut up extremely tight. We were forbidden to go near it, (even though we did, it was one of our favorite places to be on a hot summer day, not to mention the added attraction of an old fashioned ice grinder, which kind of looked like a box with a crank on one side, sort of like an old organ grinder, until you peered in the mouth and saw all of the teeth that crushed the ice. It was always my fear that my older brother would stick my hand in and turn the crank) because if either my brother and I were ever caught inside [the ice-house], no-one would have been able to hear us call for help.
In terms of icebox capacity - the old freezers that were still around the property when I was a kid were not that big, and therefore could not hold that much once the iceblock was in there with all of the food. Don't forget that butter and eggs can be stored without a major amount of refrigeration, and meat was usually a day to day purchase. Leftovers were the next day's lunch, and most vegetables were "put up", canned the old fashioned way in the late summer so they could be stored in the pantry until eaten in the winter. At least that's how it was in rural upstate New York. My mother still cans everything from the garden, although she possesses a huge refrigerator and freezer - Believe you me, once my grandmother got her first modern freezer, there was no going back. Refrigeration changed the face, (and figures) of most rural communities by bringing in more processed foods and moving people away from a diet which was mostly picked from the garden or bought fresh in the market. At least that's how I see it.
Further inquiries about this lifestyle can be made to my mother, Sheila. She will surely occupy you for at least an hour.
Also, if anyone camped in the Lake George, New York area from the 1960's through the 1970's and remembers my grandfather's trucks going through, please let me know, (The trucks were labeled Johnson's Ice and Wood). I'm trying to collect stories.
Next time I'll write a dance article, I promise!
Auntie Deb's Diary
A few moments later, the phone rings. Naturally I let it go into my voice mail, wait a few minutes, and then call in to retrieve the message. Who is this guy?
STEVEN MITCHELL, that's who! It turns out that Steven and partner Erin Stevens are in town for a performance at the White House the night of Monday, March 9. They've got rehearsals all over the place but he's got a little free time and is hoping we can get together for a visit.
Well, boy, was I embarrased. So I call him back at the Hotel Washington and we had a really lovely chat. I invited him and Erin to join us later on Sunday night at the dance party at America, but the poor puppies didn't get back from rehearsal until past 9:30 and were just dog-tired. Our tentative plans for breakfast on Monday never materialized, but I was delighted he took the time to call. He sends warm regards to all his pals here in the DC area.
Parenthetically, Tom and I had been recommended to the producers of this event but they never called on us, which is doubly sad because I really think Bill Clinton has been a good president and I support him wholeheartedly (take that, all you Republicans)! Also at the White House that night was a Lindy couple from Harlem, although I never found out who they were, and Savion Glover along with local tap dancers. I hear this performance may air on PBS in April but my info is very sketchy.
So the moral of the story is, I thought Steven Mitchell was an obscene phone caller!!
So not having been invited to perform at the White House, what does it take to salve my wounded ego? A CALL FROM DEBBIE ALLEN, that's what! Yes, Debbie Allen of Fame fame, director/choreographer of the made-for-tv movie Stompin' at the Savoy, and sister of Mrs. Huxtable. Debbie is working at the Kennedy Center with Youth and Family Programs, under the aegis of the Education Department at the KenCen. She's choreographing and directing an original ballet for a group of kids ranging from 8 to 17 years of age and is putting in a swing scene. She had worked with Frankie and Norma when doing Stompin' at the Savoy and knew she wanted to get some real Lindy Hoppers to work with the kids.
(Okay, I can hear the snickers now. "If she wanted real Lindy Hoppers, why'd she call Sternberg and Koerner?"). She first called Norma, who couldn't make it, and then came to me through Brad Bradford, ace DC Hand Dancer, who recommended us for the task. We went to the KenCen Tuesday the 10th and met Debbie and taught her and the kids; she then went out of town and left us to do four more sessions with the kids. At this writing, we're not sure whether we'll be called back, but if Debbie summons, we'll answer!
Lemme tell y'all, it was FUN! This group of kids has been a delight to work with. They still don't look like Lindy dancers (pointed toes all over the place!!) but they are incredibly fast learners. We show it, they do it. None of this, "Okay, my weight is on my right foot, now I'm going to step onto my left," for them! It has been an honor and a thrill, and even my mom was impressed to hear that Debbie Allen called ME!!!
Now let's see: preparations for the Battle of the Big Bands are happily underway, with things heading rapidly towards the Event of the Decade! Friends Marcus Koch and Barbl Kaufer are coming in from Germany just for the dance, because they think it sounds fun! Tom's other girlfriend Jean Veloz will be here, just to be groovy. And of course, Eric and Sylvia also from Los Angeles, who will also be doing classes in Charleston, Shag and Lindy on Saturday and Sunday March 28 and 29. This should be an amazing weekend and I'm so excited I'm even cleaning my apartment! All I can do is stay up nights, worrying about what I'm going to wear!
Ladies, I have set a date for the hairdo party; it is Thursday, April 16 at 8:30 pm at the salon Jenelle works at someplace in Virginia. I'll have directions the week before. The gals that are scheduled to go are:
Remember gals, we'll be pitching in $10 cash for Jenelle's time and food should definately be considered. Now, start planning your outfits!
And so, dear Diary, good night, and sweetest of all Lindy Hop
I got this from from Elizabeth Castro in our Office of Disease Prevention in HHS... I guess our American java is sort of safe but watch out in Sweden!
I thought you all might be interested in a recent article from
Annual Review of Nutrition (1997) "The
cholesterol-raising factor from coffee beans." Two
diterpine esters of lipids have been identified from coffee beans
that raise serum cholesterol (mostly LDL-cholesterol) in humans.
Filtration brewing methods (like those used by most Americans)
remove the diterpenes, probably explaining why U.S. studies have
been unable to reproduce the coffee-associated increase in serum
cholesterol observed in Scandinavian and other countries that
boil their coffee.
[Editor's Note: All of my antique coffee-pots are apparently Instruments of Death! But, watch out for the coffee if you go to Herrang.]
ADSC Warmup Event
Carole and Frank:
Further details will be provided on the. Jersey Bounce Flyer. A West
Coast Swing dance will also take place in a room across the hall
from the same ballroom, and you may attend both at the same price
which is $15.00 or only $10.00 if you have a weekend pass. The
Steven Mitchell workshop is $15.00. You may attend the party and
the dance for only $25.00. The workshop starts at 7:00 PM and
the live band starts at 9:00 PM. Best bet for transportation is
to take the short ride from the Port Authority on the #322 bus
and for the return count upon getting a ride from someone with a
car, taking the hotel shuttle, or at worst, sharing a taxi.
Imagine dancing to a big band playing real lindy swing music on a
large dance floor and not being stomped on by people who have no
interest in the dance.
Sing Lim Workshops
HI All- As I hope we all know, the New York Swing Cats are sponsoring two Lindy Hop workshops with Sing Lim and Andrew Vassiliou next month. They'll be held on Thursday, April 9th, at MTW, (on Lafayette street below Astor Place) with an intermediate workshop from 6:30 to 8:00, and an advanced workshop from 8:30 til 10:00. The cost is $20 each or $35 for both in advance; $25 each or $40 for both at the door.
Space is limited, so if you're planning to come LET ME KNOW NOW SO I CAN RESERVE YOUR SPOT!
The contact number to call is Jun Maruta (212) 987-7661 - If you are going to send a check, make it payable to Bill Kline and send it ASAP, along with what workshop you'll be taking and if you are a lead or follow, etc., to: Laura Jeffers 521 W111th Street, NYC 10025
(This workshop is the first official venture of the NY Swing
Cats, a group that we formed last year to promote lindy and
swing in the NYC dance community. Our main goal for the time
being is to set up workshops with out of town teachers and rarely
used local talent. Anyone who would like to know what we're up
to can always contact me via e-mail.
The Rachel Page
Dear Frank and Carole,
I had a great time in New York, also. We went to Windows on the World (also commonly referred to as "Waterworld"--ask Steve about that one), the Supper Club, Louisiana's, and Irving Plaza (or "The Pavillion," as I could not quit calling it). I had a great time, but regret that I was unable to get that one last "howdy" in before I left.
Have a great day and keep swingin'!
Notes From Auntie Deb
Oh, Uncle Frankie, I'm so excited I can hardly stand it! What a week this is going to be!
Tom and I pick Erik and Sylvia and the fabulous Jean Veloz up at the airport on Thursday. Friday night, the fun begins in earnest! Those three, plus visitors Marcus & Baerbl will all be swingin' the rafters at America. Saturday and Sunday we have classes with Erik and Sylvia from 11 am to 3:13 pm (sorry, they're all filled).
Saturday night, of course, is the event of the century with the terrific Battle of the Big Bands! Another friend, Natalie Gomez (the French Bombshell who taught me and Tom one of our aerials) is coming down from New York! This should be the most incredible jam in the history of yer momma. Don't forget, the dance goes until 1 a.m.!
If you haven't had enough, Erik and Sylvia, Jean, and Marcus & Baerbl will be around at the open dancing on Sunday and Monday nights. SPECIAL ADDED BONUS: Erik and Sylvia will also be teaching for Craig Hutchinson at the Vienna Grille on Tuesday night. If you haven't been able to get in to the classes on Saturday and Sunday and are not in our regular Sunday or Monday night classes, this could be your only chance to take a class with these kids.
In any event, we are convinced that the next stop for Erik and Sylvia is superstardom, in the dance world and beyond. Don't miss a chance to see them before they skyrocket to the top!
Normally after a chock-filled weekend like that, we'd all want to crawl into a cave and nap for a month. But, the ASDC is being held at the Meadowlands the following weekend, the first in April. Don't miss supporting your local friends who are competing, and show the swing world you want to see more Lindy! Craig Hutchinson still has weekend table passes, for those who don't have tickets already. This event is getting to be more and more fun as the organizers pay more attention to Lindy. Also, Ryan, Sing, and Steven Mitchell will all be there, either competing or teaching or maybe both. (Don't miss a chance to see Ryan and Sing kick me and Koerner's butts once again!)
AND, THAT'S NOT ALL! You also get the Ginzu knife that cuts tomatoes into paper thin slices, as well as being strong enough to cut an aluminum can in two!
No, wait a minute, wrong plug. To cap off the most exciting 10-day period of my life, the most marvelous Kenny Roesel is going to be guest teacher at the Monday night class at Chevy Chase Ballroom, repeating his wonderful class on lead-and-follow, coupling, technique, and balance. This is an AMAZING class, and I highly recommend it to everyone who's really interested in taking their dance to a new level. This special class is open to drop-ins. The specifics: Monday, April 7, 8 to 9 pm, $15. If you stay for Bernstein, you gotta pay an additional $5.
Now I must go rinse the dye out of my hair. Love to all.
Chelsea Clinton is Lindy Hopping
CHELSEA CLINTON IS LINDY HOPPING!
I heard tell from a spy at Stanford University that Chelsea Clinton has been spotted at swing dances and has been flipped up in the air. Her underwear was showing so those few folks who actually got the footage on tape are forbidden to make copies and play those tapes in public--forbidden at the risk of instant expulsion from Stanford! So if any of you Calfornians (or Stanfordians) are reading this, please tell Chelsea that when she's home visiting the folks, Lindy is just a hop, skip, and a jump away from the White House!
Birgit Koch's German Asparagus Pancakes
This recipe easily serves about 4 people. The most technically difficult part of the process is making the pancakes (actually more like crepes). Before you cook up the asparagus, you may wish to practice with the pancake batter to develop the technique. And we all know that technique is very important to Marcus and Barbl.
White asparagus is preferred, but we used green and that was ok too.
Mix the pancake batter ahead of time. Start with 6 eggs, beaten thoughoughly. Start with about two cups of flour--ADD THE FLOUR A CUP AT A TIME, stirring it into the mixture as you add. Stop before it becomes too hard to stir. Add milk (and water, if Marcus is not looking) to thin it to the consistancy where you can pour it easily, yet it coats a spoon. This is basically runny pancake batter.
Take a large bunch of asparagus (you can put two hands around a large bunch) and boil it in lightly salted water until fork tender. Drain the water and the asparagus. Add butter to the bottom of the pot and lightly saute the asparagus, turning it occaisionally. Add cream and turn the heat down to a simmer--do not let it get to boiling or else you'll get a nasty film. (Low fat afficcianados can substitute milk for the cream. To thicken, add some flour--but not a whole lot. Lactose intolerant folks will have to take those special pills).
If you are adept with the pancake technique, you can make the pancakes at this time. By the time they are finished, the asparagus will be ready.
Making the pancakes:
Take a hot pan or griddle and coat with corn oil. The pan is ready when water drops sprinkled on it sizzle. Ladle on about 1/4 cup of the batter and move the pan around until it is coated. When the edges start to lift, loosen the pancake by shaking the pan and lightly scraping it away with the spatula. Flip over and cook the other side. Finished pancakes can be placed on a plate that covers the pot with the asparagus, thus keeping everything nicely warm.
Serving the whole dish:
Just before serving, add salt and pepper to the asparagus. Some creme fraiche can be added as well, if you would like a thick sauce.
Marcus likes the asparagus with a bit of herb butter--a brand only available in Germany. We sprinkled the asparagus with a mixture of thyme, sage, and chives and it seemed good enough to us...until Marcus complained that garlic was missing. So if you're making herb butter of your own to add, mix butter with thyme, sage, chives and chopped garlic.
Spoon about three or four asparagus spears onto the pancake and pour some of the sauce on top. Roll up the pancake and essen gut!
Monday Night Swing at Glen Echo
Just wanted to get the word out that Ellen and I are teaching swing at Glen Echo on Monday evenings. And we also have opened up the Ballroom from 9:00 to 11:30 for open dancing. We have swing music of all different speeds and even toss in a waltz every once in a while. The park service is allowing us to try this as an experiment for a little while. If we get enough of a turnout, Glen Echo would be available for open dancing, practicing, etc. every Monday evening. We have tried to keep it very affordable ($5.00), the proceeds go to Glen Echo and a new band (rotating), which we will try to bring in once a month
Bring some friends and a favorite tape or CD. Maybe a picnic before?
And if you know anyone, we would appreciate your spreading the
word. It is the best dance floor in the area and if we can get a
reasonable attendance it will be open to everyone to practice.
If we can not raise enough money for Glen Echo this way we will
have to change over to teaching more classes. We don't mind
teaching more, but we would liketo offer a place to practice too.
Not to mention giving new bands a chance, etc.
Happy B-Day LWIR
I just read your note about the site being a year old--wow! I had no idea it was so new, or that four years ago all the Lindy Hoppers in D.C. could fit in one room. That's insane! You guys all looked like this had been your gig forever, and that it was just the rest of the world that was missing out.
This actually came up the other day between Lars and me. He's the instructor here that I got started with when I came back to Dallas last summer after being in D.C. I thought the Dallas Swing Set also had been around forever, and I found out that they, too, are new. They've only been around for a little over a year, as I understand it.
Congratulations, Frank and Carole, you guys have proved that information technology is as important to dancing as it is to nuclear warfare. Haha...now THERE'S a thought for ya....
Keep on keepin' on, and congratulations!!
Notes From Auntie Deb
Monsieur Le Frank,
The good news is that Friday night at America was MUCH less crowded than it has been so there was plenty of room to dance. (It was great fun to have Erik and Sylvia and Jean there just hanging out and having fun. Unfortunately, Marcus and Barbl, just in from Germany, had too much jet leg to make it out.) The same thing was true at Glen Echo; with admissions closed at 650 (many less people than we're used to seeing), there was MUCH more room to dance than we've become accustomed to!
Anyway, I'm exhausted tonight and have to get some rest before the next salvo--this weekend is the ASDC! A mess of us from DC will be competing, both in the Lindy divisions and the Lindy Strictly Swing divisions, not to mention our friends in the West Coast Swing and DC Hand Dance communities--best of luck to all. This year they also have a Lindy Jack and Jill, and I encourage everyone to participate!
America will be going strong in our absense this Friday night, so check it out and enjoy the space! And Koerner and I will be returning for our regular Sunday night class at America, so join us for the open dancing from 9 to 11 for funny new stories of the ASDC.
And my big plug is for the return of Kenny Roesel doing his wonderful class in lead-and-follow and frame and technique. You all know I think ALL dancers should have to take this class before getting their floor license! Anyway, Kenny will be at the Chevy Chase Ballroom this Monday, April 6. The intermediate class from 8 to 9 will be open to drop-ins at a cost of $15; all are most definitely welcome.One final thing: Tom and I start a new series at George Mason University this Tuesday, April 7. This series is usually beginner only, but we have a VERY low pre-registration at this point. So if you were in the beginner class that just ended, and couldn't get into the Sunday night intermediate series, show up at 8 pm and we'll see if we can't do an intermediate series instead. Send me a message at firstname.lastname@example.org to talk about it.
So I'm gonna go put some cold cream on my face and study the
newest fashions from the latest Lauren Bacall movie, and I'll see
y'all on the dance floor.
An Offer From Ellen
---Love yas, Ellen
Meeting a Legend
I have to admit this weekend, I was really looking forward to meeting Jean Veloz. I didn't know what to expect other than Tom said she was a nice person and I saw her in the movie Groovie Movie and Swing Fever. Tom was wrong again. Jean was a wonderful person. She was so down to earth and humble I forgot sometimes that she is a great lindy hopper that I admire.
On Saturday night, Jean was sitting at our table and I asking her cheezy questions like, "Did you expect that you would have influenced so many people" or something like that. She began to down play her role and influence until Duke, a GMU student from Tom's Tuesday night class spoke up and said, "You [Jean] got my grandmother to dance." He proceeded to tell us that he had talked to his grandmother earlier that day and she said that she saw Groovie Movie four times so she could watch Jean. Jean had a surprised look on her face with a look of "who me?"
When I asked Jean to dance on Friday, she told me she couldn't do (Savoy) lindy and we danced anyway only to be schooled on the whip later by her. She could dance lindy and she did it well. She critiqued my style so I could get better. And she still has her style. Heather told me that she did not need to be told that was Jean Veloz, she could tell by her foot work. Her foot work was the same that she had seen in Groovie Movie.
By the end of her trip, I had forgotten why I wanted to meet
her. Yes at the beginning, I wanted to meet her because she was
a legend, but now I am glad I got to meet her because she is a
nice and wonderful person. Thank you again Tom and Deb for
bringing her out.
Young Folks Gather for Old-Style Music and Dance
Dancers kicked up their heels to the tune of "Bei Mir Bist Du Schon", a 1930s big band standard, as Chris Steinmetz, 22, gave dance tips. "Bounce, down, bounce. You've got to feel that swing," said Steinmetz, who wore a black suit, black fedora and black-and-white spectator shoes. His wife, Jennifer Steinmetz, 22, in a long black '40s-style dress and red shoes, walked among the young dancers.
The Steinmetzes host Cafe Bizmarck, a once-a-month big band swing club held in a church basement on Highland, where young people can experience the music and dance styles of their parents and grandparents.
Cafe Bizmarck is held the first Saturday of each month at Covenant Community Church at 704 N. Highland. Next month, however, it will be on March 14. The cost is $ 6 a person, $ 18 a couple.
Between 7 and 8 p.m., Steinmetz and his wife give lessons on how to do the Lindy hop, the jitterbug, the Charleston and other dance steps to recordings of swing music. Then, The New Memphis Hepcats crank up the real swing music and the dance officially begins.
In addition to featuring the music of Count Basie, Benny Goodman and others, the club helps spread the word of God. "We're all about just loving God and swinging it out at the same time," Chris said. "But yet, we're not slamming religion down somebody's throats.
"It's more of a one-on-one thing. Instead of somebody getting up and preaching from a stage and that's it, just come out and have a good time. We're more than happy to get to know you a little better."
The main purpose of the club is so young people "can still have fun without getting drunk and destroying things and just getting into a bunch of trouble - and still swing it out with the best of them."
The bar serves nonalcoholic drinks, including martinis made, as the menu says, from "gin-gerale and lemon juice."
Caroline Fourmy, 14, and Jonathan Boyd, 16, club regulars, danced like professionals during this month's club night. "If you mess up, no one really cares as long as you do it with style," Fourmy said.
Chuck Wenzler, 18, who's been to the club twice, said, "I love jazz. And live jazz is 10 times better because it's there. You can feel the emotion."
Door prizes were given for the best '30s or '40s attire, but long-haired Loic Bruneau, 18, wore a black T-shirt and blue jeans on his first visit to the club. Bruneau said he usually dances to techno music, but he liked the beat of the big band.
He and Rachel Skelton, 17, arrived too late for the dance lessons, but they went outside and practiced some steps. "I think we learned more of the throwing around than the actual steps," Bruneau said.
The Steinmetzes got hooked on swing after seeing the 1993 movie Swing Kids, which is set during World War II.
Chris realized he'd loved swing music for some time, but he didn't know what it was called. "It's just got that beat that gets you and makes you want to get up and move.
"When you get 'Sing, Sing, Sing' going, there's a point in the song where everything kicks in and you can really feel that swing coming. You can see it in everybody's faces. And that's the whole thing. You just feel it."
The Steinmetzes knew they were completely hooked on swing when they listened to a local alternative band perform. "We sat there watching everybody jumping and banging into each other," Chris said. "I turned to my wife and said, 'I don't know if this means I'm getting old or not, but swing music is just more fun.' "
They tried to find local places where they could dance to swing. They went to the Count Basie Orchestra concert last June at The New Daisy. "It was packed out and incredible, but you couldn't dance or anything and it drove you nuts. " They finally decided to start their own swing club.
As members of Covenant Community Church, they thought the basement of the church, which becomes Cafe 704B, a Christian alternative club for teens, on Friday nights, would be a perfect spot. They wrote a proposal to the pastor, Steve Noblett, who liked the idea.
Their opening night last September drew 81 people. They used CDs instead of a live band. The next month, the turnout was sparse because people felt they could listen to CDs at home, Chris said.
Then, they got a call from Jeremy Shrader, 21, who'd heard about the club and wanted to know if they'd found a live band. He volunteered the services of The New Memphis Hepcats.
Shrader, known as "Spanky Malone" when he plays big band music on his trumpet, also is a member of CYC, a local band that plays jazz, funk and rock.
Cafe Bizmarck already is outgrowing Covenant Community Church. The Steinmetzes are looking for a bigger building, "something we can make an authentic club out of, with better atmosphere, more of a restaurant-meets-dance-club-type atmosphere like it was back then," Chris said.
Although the majority of the dancers at Cafe Bizmarck are in their teens and 20s, older people occasionally drop in.
Jerry Austin, 55, and his wife, Sherri, 32, rented '40s attire to attend the recent dance. Jerry wore a blue-and-white-striped zoot suit and Sherri was dressed in a bronze outfit with matching hat.
Sherri said her favorite part of the evening was "teaching Jerry how to do the jitterbug."
Mike Gross, 48, Jennifer Steinmetz's dad, stood at the bar and watched the young people dance. "This'll make you feel as old as you are," he said. "These kids can do it better than we can."
Call Michael Donahue at 529-2797 or E-mail email@example.com
In the Swing
You don't have to look far to see that swing dancing has made a big comeback in recent years. You see it in the movies, the songs are on the radio and lessons are being offered almost every night of the week. Austin gets a chance to see how swing has swung over the years this weekend when Acia Gray and the members of Tapestry Dance Company present their winter concert "Swingin' Then and Now."
As sole artistic director of the company this year, Acia Gray has put together a show of her own work that highlights the generational differences in swing dancing. Although she considers herself an amateur "historian" when it comes to swing, Gray felt comfortable enough interpreting the popular swing basics like the Lindy Hop and the Jitter Bug and putting them to tunes such as "Caldonia", "Stingy", "Cheap Old Whiskey and Wine" and other lyric-based tunes from the '40s and '50s.
The first act, which Gray describes as "campy," allowed Gray and her company members' musical theater backgrounds to come to the fore and color the dancing. Though chiefly composed of couple dancing, the first act also has a solo by Gray to "This Joint's too Hip for Me," and Nicholas Young has a self-generated solo to "I Ain't Drinkin', I'm Just Drunk." With all Act 1 's references to drinking and shady behavior, Gray admits, a little nervously, the company may be walking the tightrope of being "politically incorrect."
The second act tackles swing dancing "now" -- which according to Gray is much more "raw" than the traditional swing of the first act. Gray describes the second act as dense, and much more fatiguing. "You see real people dancing, not just the stereotypes of Act 1." She is hoping the emphasis on the percussive sounds and the more intimate movement in Act 2 will provide a contrast to character-based dancing of the first act. Another notable difference will be in the music: The troupe will be dancing to a lot of European acid jazz. Gray, however, is quick to point out this isn't what people think it is. Acid jazz, according to Gray, is jazz music with a funky back beat," music that is very easy to listen and dance to. And one of the highlighted dances to this syncopated and pulsating music is called "Split Into Fractions," to which Gray says, "you could just close your eyes and listen to the rhythms being created, and it would still be enjoyable." But then again, if you did shut your eyes, you'll miss out on the fancy footwork that has made Tapestry so well known.
"Swingin' Then and Now" premiered last weekend in Conroe, and following Tapestry's production here in Austin they will be off to tour in New Mexico and Colorado. Gray says she and the company have been ready to get out of her "choreographing mode" and to get into the dancing, and she finds they're especially eager to do that for the Austin audiences. If swing is your thing, this is your show.
Swing: Old is New Again
Fifty years after its peak, swing - the dance and the music - is again creeping into popular culture. Bands like the Squirrel Nut Zippers cash in with swing-style jazz. College students nationwide go to dance halls to learn the Lindy hop.
It's now remembered as the mainstream pop music of the 1930s and '40s, but swing started in small African American dance halls in the late '20s. Black composers wrote swing's first songs. And black dancers created the Lindy, swing's signature dance.
"Like all the other great American dances of the 20th century, the Lindy started in the black community and spread out around the world," says Sally Sommer, associate professor of dance at Duke University.
The pioneers of swing jazz were black bandleaders like Fletcher Henderson, Benny Moten and Duke Ellington. Like white bandleaders at the time, they led big bands of up to 18 musicians, divided into rhythm, woodwind and brass sections. But Henderson and the early swing figures changed big band music by having their soloists improvise. This innovation gave songs a looser, less predictable feel.
Another innovation was a shift from two-four time to four-four time. To dancers, that meant a steadier beat. Those early swing songs were easier - and more exciting - to dance to than standard big bands of the period.
And for swing, dancing is just as important as the music. Bands in the '20s weren't playing to idle audiences the way modern jazz bands do. Swing audiences were usually dancers in large dance halls.
"Swing was dance music," says Thomas Hennessey, author of "From Jazz to Swing" (Wayne State University Press, 1994). "It was a new kind of music and the dancers were creating new dances to go along with it."
The most important new dance was the Lindy hop. A man named "Shorty George" Snowden named the Lindy one night in 1927, dance historians say.
Snowden, a regular at the Savoy ballroom in New York City, did some fast-paced dance steps with his partner that night: he'd swing her away from him, then suddenly pull her back to him and continue dancing. Most contemporary dances, like the Charleston, required that the man and woman dance side by side for a time. But Snowden and his partner were nearly always touching.
The speedy, exciting dance left onlookers gawking. A newspaper reporter asked Snowden the name of the new dance. "The hop - the Lindy hop," Snowden said, naming the dance after aviator Charles Lindbergh.
After that, the Lindy spawned dozens of swing dances. The East Coast swing, the West Coast swing and the Carolinas' shag are variations on the Lindy. "Jitterbug" is just another name for the Lindy.
The Savoy Ballroom (in Harlem) is the place where the Lindy was created. "It was really a national movement," says Hennessey, associate professor of history at Fayetteville State University. "New York, Kansas City and Chicago served as the centers, but there were very few places in the late '20s and early '30s where there was not some early swing being played."
By the mid-'30s, swing's popularity had spread across the country, among black and white people. Black swing leaders like Duke Ellington and Count Basie became national celebrities. So did white bandleaders like Benny Goodman, Harry James, Tommy Dorsey, Jimmy Dorsey and Glenn Miller.
As GIs traveled in Europe and the Far East during World War II, they brought swing with them. Those famous musicians, songs and dances became popular around the world.
Now, decades after its peak, swing's popularity is reviving at home.
WANT TO LISTEN?
What: The Duke Ellington Orchestra performing "Take
the 'A' Train" and the Count Basie Orchestra performing
"Jumpin' at the Woodside"
A Crabtowne Band Playing for Dancers
The "Hesitation Waltz" is not in the repertory of the Crabtowne Big Band. But then, this is not a band that plays much in three-quarter time. When the music starts at Surfside 7 in Edgewater on Wednesday nights, the tiny dance floor fills immediately with couples jitterbugging, shagging and Lindy hopping. But no waltzes. Fans of the group, which began in the early 1980s as a rehearsal band and played in a church basement, say its lively and danceable music has life and a spirit that makes it fun.
Take Charles and Vivian Claypool of Severna Park, for instance. They've been dancing together for 50 years, married for 49. "They play danceable music, and they have a good beat," Charles says of the band. His wife adds, "They're enjoying themselves. They have a life and a spirit that a lot of bands don't."
The Claypools have been Crabtowne groupies since it was the house band at Jason's (now the Eastport Clipper) in the mid-1980s. And from the ease of their dancing, it's clear they know what they want in a band.
"They play danceable music, and they have a good beat," says Charles. His wife adds: "They're enjoying themselves. They have a life and a spirit that a lot of bands don't."Crabtowne plays the classics, from "Take the A Train" to "My Funny Valentine," from "Makin' Whoopee" to "The Shadow of Your Smile."
Most of its approximately 17 musicians have been playing in jazz bands since high school. The ages of the players average in the mid-40s, and their Surfside 7 nights are a release, an opportunity to revel in the music of a bygone, tuneful era.
Money from weekly gig
What money they make at their weekly gig goes for new arrangements, music-stand lights, cables, folders and the band ties, blue embroidered crabs on a red background. A crab playing a saxophone adorns the band fronts, the stands that hold the music for the saxophones.
Their families have learned to live with boys' night out on Wednesdays. (All but one player and the band's vocalist are men.) "She's come to grips with it," says sax player Tom Andrews of his wife, Peggy. "Except when we play on New Year's Eve."
Some of the history of band is in nicknames many of the players have acquired from band announcer and bass player Randy Morris, owner of Annapolis Marine Electronics:
Began in early 1980s
Crabtowne began in the early 1980s as a rehearsal band, playing even then just for the fun of it, in the basement of Woods Memorial Presbyterian Church in Severna Park, says trumpeter Dwight Fielder, one of the charter members.
In 1984, the band went professional. Over the years, it has played at a slew of Anne Arundel night spots, many of which aren't there any more.
Before the Surfside, the longest gig was five years at King of France Tavern in the basement of the Maryland Inn. There, the band not only played every Wednesday, but also opened for or backed up major acts such as jazz guitarist John Pizzarelli and singer Ethel Ennis.
At first they played for "the gate" (the cover charge). Then management decided to keep the gate and pay the band a small fee. That degenerated into a "tip jar" gig. Some nights the tips barely covered expenses; other nights, it swelled to $ 150 or $ 200, but that had to be divided among 17 players.
"If we had to make a living, we'd all starve to death," says Hart, deputy officer for operations in the county health department.
The band also plays weddings, fund-raisers such as the Holly Ball and events such as the Anne Arundel County Fair and the Star-Spangled Celebration around the Fourth of July. For some of those engagements, it charges $ 1,500 to $ 1,800, which assures the players of $ 75 to $ 100 for a day's or night's work.
Surfside since January
In January, the Crabtowners accepted an offer from Jerry Osuna, owner of the Surfside, to move to the Edgewater venue, where they are paid a nightly fee. The Surfside also has a regular blues night on Thursdays and the Stef Scaggiari Trio with Artie Dicks on Mondays. "Our business [on Wednesdays] is up a good 100 percent, and I'm estimating an 80 percent increase in head count," says Osuna. "They're drawing the market we had hoped."
Crabtowne's audiences followed it to Edgewater, and newcomers crowd the dance floor at the supper club. Among them are Dave and Gay Shepardson, 37 and 39 respectively, Web site designers from Annapolis who show up in matching black-and-white shoes to Lindy hop. This dance from the 1930s -- its flying-style gyrations pay homage to Charles Lindbergh -- has recently come back into vogue.
From the Claypools' elegance to the Shepardsons' verve, the Crabtowne Big Band draws all kinds, but one thing connects them: the music of an era when dance and song were inseparable, as were the dancers who hummed and swayed to it.
Dancers Give Swing a Whirl at 3-Day Event
Hundreds of people from across the country attended the third annual Monsters of Swing dance contest at Nicholby's in Ventura this weekend.
Professional dancers gave lessons during the day to those fascinated with the music of the '30s and '40s, teaching them how to do the Lindy Hop, East Coast Swing, Fast Lindy, Slow Lindy and Charleston. The sessions covered everything from lifts and hops to spins and slides.
And at nightfall, dancers could enter the Jack and Jill Swing, Couples Swing, Jack and Jill Slow and Couples Slow contests.
"It's a nightclub version of a dance camp," said event organizer Lee Moore of Ventura. "During the day there's the classes, and then at night wild dancing and partying."
About 300 people participated in the three-day celebration, which included vendors selling swing videos and merchandise, including vintage and modern clothing, CDs, zoot suits and tap shoes. Cash and other prizes totaling more than $ 2,000 also were offered.
The big-band dance music and swing dancing popular from the Great Depression through World War II have experienced a recent resurgence. "People are dancing with partners again, and the music is happy and fun," said Moore, who teaches swing and Lindy Hop classes at Nicholby's on Monday and Wednesday evenings. "People have a good time with it. They dress up and really get into it. It's a real positive environment."
Ryan Francois, the reigning American swing dance champion and U.S. Open champion, believes the swing scene is more positive than other popular dances of late.
"If you go to a disco, people stand in their separate spots and don't necessarily communicate with each other," said Francois, who arrived from London to teach the Lindy Hop this weekend.
"However, if you walk into a place where there is swing or Lindy Hop, people are not only dancing with each other, but there's a collective feeling that they are one group," Francois said.
"It's also a safe environment", he added.
"You can put your purse down and it will still be there at the end of the evening," Francois said. "And there is no fighting. It's a great atmosphere and fun to be a peacock on the dance floor."
Dance to the Music of Time
At The Savoy in London tonight, crowds of young people will take to the dancefloor - not to stomp to a disco beat but to do the quickstep and the samba accompanied by a big band.
Forty years after rock'n'roll sent ballroom dancing twisting into decline, big band music and the old-fashioned waltz are making an elegant comeback. Tonight and every Saturday this year, The Savoy is rolling back the carpet on the sprung maple dancefloor where Noel Coward danced in the 1940s.
Seated at the spot where Judy Campbell performed "A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square" during the Blitz, the Piccadilly Dance Orchestra will strike up hits from the 1920s and 1930s such as "Shall We Dance" and "Happy Days are Here Again".
It is hoped that Miss Campbell, 80, will return to sing "Nightingale" for the dancers as they quickstep, waltz, foxtrot and cha-cha-cha in the Thames Foyer, where dinner-dancing began at the turn of the century.
The acceptance of ballroom dancing as an Olympic sport and the surge in young people learning to dance in the "old-fashioned way" encouraged The Savoy to reinstate ballroom dancing on the 10 by 20-metre floor where afternoon tea is taken.
The hotel, opened by Richard D'Oyly Carte in 1889, believes there is a fast-growing demand for traditional entertainment where men can be "gentlemen" and women "ladies", and where they can dress up with style to go dancing cheek-to-cheek.
Up to five million people in Britain go dancing regularly, according to research presented at a recent seminar, Dance in the City, at the ICA in Central London. But with the conversion of dozens of ballrooms into bingo halls and discotheques, dancers have been forced underground - into church halls, small studios and anywhere that they can find a few feet of unoccupied floorspace. Those determined to go on with the dance frequent the regular tea dances at the Waldorf and the Cafe de Paris in London, or the packed social dances across the country, such as at the Coliseum in Watford. Traditional big band dancing, however, has become difficult to find outside private parties, weddings and "dance sport" competitions.
Michael Law, leader of the Piccadilly Dance Orchestra, which includes brass, drums, piano and female vocalist, said: "What The Savoy is doing is absolutely wonderful. The floor is large and just the right space. The atmosphere is great."We are using the original printed arrangements from the Twenties and Thirties, as well as arrangements I've copied myself from old recordings. There is a revival of ballroom dancing. Swing, jive and lindy hop from the Thirties are also making a comeback, not to mention the Charleston.
"The heavy backbeat of rock'n'roll knocked it all on the head in the Sixties. But youngsters are rediscovering how thrilling and exhilarating these old tunes are.
"They have a real bounce, and they are used in so many films and advertisements today that young people find they know all the tunes already. They are becoming aware of the wealth of good music from their grandparents' generation and they want to dance."
Susan Scott, 29, Savoy archivist, who is learning the Argentine tango, said: "People have not forgotten the music of Carroll Gibbons and Geraldo. It is not dead. It is not even on its last gasp. There are hundreds of young people like me who enjoy it."
Dancing was introduced at The Savoy by the manager, Cesar Ritz, who joined the hotel in 1890, and was responsible for hiring the chef Auguste Escoffier. "He wanted to make it respectable for ladies to dine out in hotels in public," Miss Scott said. "Women did dine out, but they were not necessarily the kind of women you could take home to your mother.
"Cesar Ritz got Lady de Grey, the society hostess, to bring in a party of people and placed them discreetly behind screens. Once she did it, everybody did it. He also introduced pink tablecloths and soft lighting, and invited bands in to play live music. There is a legend that one of the Strauss family was brought in once to play. Then, one day in May 1913, a couple got up and started dancing between the tables. Other people looked and thought it seemed like fun, and that was how dinner-dancing began."
The BBC began broadcasting live band music from The Savoy in 1923, and it was relayed directly to dance halls, obviating the need for their own musical arrangements.
The hotel went on to lead the tango craze in the Twenties, when it introduced "Tango Teas" and even the Prince of Wales took to the floor. Rudolph Valentino was said to cause havoc among mothers and daughters when he moved to the music of band leader Geraldo, the European pioneer of the rhumba.
According to The Savoy, a history of the hotel by Stanley Jackson, one dancer, M Max, used to ride in Rotten Row and then drive his Rolls-Royce to the hotel to demonstrate intricate dancesteps like the Scissor. His luggage included 120 pairs of shoes.
Ken Bateman and Blanche Ingle, who are in their seventies, were employed to dance nightly at The Savoy in the 1950s. "Our job was to start off the dancing in the evening. When other people started to get up on the floor, our job was to sit down," said Mr Bateman, who now teaches in Slough.
They were given a free dinner and paid 5 Pounds. "It was a nice, easy job. The floor used to be packed. It is fantastic that they are bringing this back."
Wolfgang Winter, Savoy spokesman and a former competitive ballroom dancer, said: "There has always been dinner dancing at The Savoy, Claridge's and other hotels, but this is different. Although we serve supper for the dancers, this is for people who come to listen to music and to dance.
"Big band dancing died out at The Savoy many years ago. For a long time, dancing has been reserved for parties and weddings. But now dance schools are experiencing a resurgence of interest. People are rediscovering the joy of dance."
The Heavenly seven Definitely Has Got That Swing
Paying the dues: Over the past three years, dances such as the Lindy Hop have resurfaced in nightclubs across the nation with modern swing-style bands jiving into the limelight.
Heavenly Seven's lead vocalist, Jody Byrd, denies his band is just hopping on the swing bandwagon. "I've been in the Arizona swing scene for more than three years," Byrd said. "I danced the jitterbug and the Lindy Hop."
The 26-year-old said he has always loved the music, beginning with the songs of Frank Sinatra.
"About seven years ago, I auditioned for the musical It Don't Mean a Thing If It Ain't Got That Swing," Byrd added. "I memorized every song from the album Swinging Songs for Swinging Lovers and sang 'Pennies From Heaven' and 'You Make Me Feel So Young'. And got the part."
The other members of the group have been performing music from jazz to funk to R&B to gospel for the past seven to 15 years. All study music at Arizona State University. Each member puts in several hours a week fine-tuning his individual sound and the group's compositions.
When asked how much time he puts in a week, Stiles, the trombone player and musical arranger, responded, "Oh, good lord, I spend almost 100 hours a week working on our music."
Stiles says the members of the group have sacrificed both financially and socially. "Having this kind of commitment is difficult," Stiles said. "We are always flying by the seat of our pants."
Often compared to: Byrd said at least once a week his crooning is compared to that of Harry Connick Jr. "Perhaps they are right, but I think I have a deeper tone."
As for the sound of the band, It's pure jump swing. "We take a lot from old-school swingers like the Ellington band, Miles Davis and Count Basie," O'Donohoe said. "Our harmonies are very complex and colorful. But the groove is still happening."
Group chemistry: The current lineup has been together for only six months. Stiles credits the members' friendship for their ability to turn out a quality sound so quickly.
"We played with each other extensively for the last year and a half. A lot of acquiring of members came out of friendships."
Words of wisdom: Byrd had very little training before working with the band and said his lack of experience set him up for ridicule when he started pushing for a swing group.
"A lot of people laughed in my face and said there was no way I could get anything started," Byrd added. "I believe in fate. If you want something bad enough, you'll get it. Let the crap be fuel for the fire."
Claim to fame: "We are getting some airplay on the Edge (FM 106.3 and 100.3) radio station for our song 'Swing Daddy'," Byrd said.
Dream: Like most musicians, Byrd would like to get a major label contract, which will help him achieve a dream of another sort. "I want to buy a mid-'40s Grand Deluxe Chevrolet four-door, painted metallic blue," Bryd added. "I like the kind of car that takes 10 seconds to get around the corner."
The Heavenly Seven is: Jody Byrd, lead vocals; Johnny Sanchez, acoustic bass; Michael Glenn, piano; Colin O'Donohoe, drums; Simon Hutchins, saxophone; Jeremy Schroeder, trumpet; and Chris Stiles, trombone and musical arranger.
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