A couple of friends and I are running the second Hot Foot Stomp dance in a week or so, and I’m having a look at some music I might play. We’re going for more a rent party sort of vibe, as we’re using a studio space which is in an (tall, skinny) old warehouse.
title artist bpm year album length
The Harlem Stride Ella Fitzgerald and her Famous Orchestra 199 1939 Live At The Savoy – 1939-40 3:29
Whoa Babe Casa Loma Orchestra 199 Boneyard Shuffle 3:00
John Silver Jimmy Dorsey and his Orchestra 155 1938 Swingsation: Charlie Barnet and Jimmy Dorsey 3:15
It’s The Gold Buddy Johnson and his Orchestra with Ella Johnson 159 1941 Buddy Johnson: Complete Jazz Series 1939 – 1942 3:01
Come On Over To My House Jay McShann’s Kansas City Stompers (Julia Lee) 143 1944 Kansas City Star (disc 1) 2:54
Open The Door, Richard Count Basie and his Orchestra (Ed Lewis, Emmett Berry, Snooky Young, Harry ‘Sweets’ Edison, Ted Donnelly, George Matthews, Eli Robinson, Bill Johnson, Preston Love, Rudy Rutherford, Buddy Tate, Paul Gonsalves, Jack Washington, Freddie Green, Walter Page, 127 1947 Count Basie RCA Years In Complete (disc 01) 2:43
Free Eats Count Basie and his Orchestra (Ed Lewis, Emmett Berry, Snooky Young, Harry Edison, Ted Donnelly, George Matthews, Eli Robinson, Bill Johnson, Preston Love, Rudy Rutherford, Buddy Tate, Paul Gonsalves, Jack Washington, Freddie Green, Walter Page, Jo Jones) 163 1947 Count Basie RCA Years In Complete (disc 01) 2:56
A Touch Of Boogie Teddy Wilson and his Orchestra (Emmett Berry, Benny Morton, Jimmy Hamilton, Johnny Williams, J.C. Heard) 186 1941 Boogie Woogie And Blues Piano 3:12
Two O’Clock Jump Harry James and his Orchestra 192 1939 Life Goes To A Party 3:17
Bugle Call Rag Metronome All Star Band (Cootie Williams, Harry James, Ziggy Elman, Tommy Dorsey, J.C. Higginbotham, Benny Goodman, Benny Carter, Toots Mondello, Coleman Hawkins, Tex Beneke, Count Basie, Charlie Christian, Artie Bernstein, Buddy Rich) 262 1941 Classic Coleman Hawkins Sessions 1922-1947 (Mosaic disc 06) 3:17
Deep Forest Earl Hines and his Orchestra (Walter Fuller, Milton Fletcher, Ed Sims, George Dixon, John Ewing, Ed Burke, Joe McLewis, Omer Simeon, Leroy Harris, Bob Crowder, Jimmy Mundy, Claude Roberts, Quinn Wilson, Alvin Burroughs, Billy Eckstine, Budd Johnson) 140 1940 Classic Earl Hines Sessions 1928-1945 (Mosaic disc 05) 2:31
Goin’ Out The Back Way Johnny Hodges and his Orchestra (Ray Nance, Lawrence Brown, Harry Carney, Duke Ellington, Jimmy Blanton, Sonny Greer) 155 1941 The Duke Ellington Centennial Edition: Complete RCA Victor Recordings (disc 12) 2:44
Sweet Lorraine Metronome All Star Band (Charlie Shavers, Lawrence Brown, Johnny Hodges, Coleman Hawkins, Harry Carney, Nat ‘King’ Cole, Bob Ahern, Eddie Safranksi, Buddy Rich, Frank Sinatra, June Christy, Sy Oliver) 127 1946 Classic Coleman Hawkins Sessions 1922-1947 (Mosaic disc 08) 3:13
Korea vs the jazzbros:
There are many ways of assessing the ‘success’ of a class. Because most lindy hop events work on a tight budget, we tend to assess the success of a dance class by numbers in classes, and how much money we make. But large class sizes aren’t necessarily a good gauge for other factors. And we’ve all realised that there aren’t buckets of cash to be made in lindy hop, particularly not if you’re in a nation like Australia, which has relatively low population density in the most active lindy hopping demographics.
We can assess the success of a class using all sorts of criteria, and these criteria are developed through our own teaching, dancing, social and political goals.
Rather than asking ‘”How much money did we make this week?” we could be asking:
- Are teachers happy with their working conditions?
- Are students demonstrating a level of ability commensurate with other similar cohorts (eg how do they measure up when compared to interstate dancers)?
- Are students social dancing, and if they are, are they happy to dance with strangers?
- Are students entering competitions?
- Are teachers voluntarily attending workshops and pushing their own learning?
- Are teachers competing?
- Are teacher or students traveling to dance?
- Do we have equal numbers of leads and follows?
- Do we have female leads and male follows in classes, social dancing and in competitions and performances?
- Are dancers demographically diverse: are they all one age, class, ethnicity, or are they more mixed?
I’m certain that we’d not all agree on which questions are most important, and that our questions would change as our own interests and our own scenes changed.
Despite these differences, most lindy hop scenes require a critical mass to be socially and economically sustainable. We have to pay our bills, and we have to provide safe, happy dancing environments. And, for most of us, a viable lindy hop scene has a strong, stable social dancing culture. In other words, there are happy, healthy dancers out social dancing, and the bills get paid each week.
But these goals – social dancing and financial viability – are often not enough for most of us. If each week’s class is a painful struggle to cover the bills, then teaching becomes a painful act of martyrdom ‘for the community’. Or financially frightening. And a small class becomes a source of shame or dissatisfaction.
Your specific goals – as a teacher, a student, a studio manager – will be dependent upon your local scene, and your personal priorities. It’s worth taking a moment to lay out some goals, and to think about the things you value most about a class or your local scene. And how you might contribute to their success.
For my classes, I found that my pleasure and satisfaction in teaching grew exponentially when I stopped worrying about the students who weren’t coming to class, and started cherishing the students who were. I now regard small classes as a luxury, and large classes as requiring a different teaching and social skill set. I also find developing class content and syllabus an exciting opportunity to put into practice the new material I learn in workshops. Or, conversely, I see workshops as a rich hunting ground for new ideas and exciting opportunities to expand and develop my own dancing skills and knowledge base – for my students, and for my own teaching satisfaction. Being able to absorb, comprehend, apply, integrate, and then communicate new knowledge has given me new interests and challenges in my dancing. Not to mention a great deal of pleasure.
The most important thing I’ve discovered about assessing a class, is: cherish every student. Don’t think about the students who aren’t there, think about the ones who are. Value their progress, their personalities, their delight in dance. Treat classes as a chance to share fun stuff, and to meet interesting people.
Below is a list of qualities or issues that I think about when I assess my own classes. This list isn’t exhaustive, these are just some of the things I’ve been thinking about lately. And I’m finding that teaching solo dance isn’t quite like teaching lindy hop. There are different teaching skills needed, and these skills in turn shape my lindy hop teaching. Your list may be (and is likely to be) entirely different.
Looking at Students
Superficial assessment – Over the course of one class:
A weekly class (beyond the drop-in ‘swing intro’ class):
- Have most people ‘learnt’/'got’ the move (ie assessing technical ability)?
- Are people enjoying themselves?
The drop-in ‘swing intro’ class, the wedding class, the large public festival PR gig:
- Is everyone smiling and having fun (aka is it incredibly noisy in the room)?
One-off workshop with a group I mightn’t see again:
- Have people learnt some of the moves, most of the concepts, discovered something new?
- Are they taking away puzzles or concepts to work on in their own time?
- Do people feel good about the class?
Superficial assessment – Over 6 weeks:
A weekly beginners class:
- Have the students developed basic fitness (ie can they make it through a class and still be concentrating, engaged with content), and has this level of fitness slowly improved over the 6 weeks?
- Do they have basic core stability (ie can they charleston alone without wobbling, can they turn their bodies in space with confidence (eg circle), can they lead/follow (maintain connection with a partner) while doing charleston, circle or other steps?
- Have they begun to develop an awareness of how their bodies work, and how to use them (eg if we say ‘stand on your right leg and touch your left shoulder’ or ‘do this’ while demonstrating, can they do this)?
- Are they beginning to learn things faster? This speeding up usually happens at the ‘threshold point’ (about 6 weeks) where they move from stumbling between steps, to making a sudden leap forward in skill. This is always relative to each individual student’s needs/abilities/age/etc, so you’ll always have a diverse cohort (hopefully!), but the entire group should see improvements at a particular number of weeks. My goal for each class: some things should be ‘easy’, some ‘challenging’, and at least one thing should be ‘unfinished’ and needing some extra work or thinking. The pacing of individual classes (and how much and what type of content should be dealt with during what period of time) is a different matter, and requires masses of experience.
- Are they aware of ‘basic’ levels of leading and following (eg extension, shared bounce, relaxed upper bodies)?
- Are they making clear weight changes?
- Are they confident with basic rhythmic components (eg step step, rock step in various directions, keeping feet under body; triple steps; stomp offs; charleston; jig walks)
- Are they confident with (or will they cheerfully attempt/explore) basic rhythmic sequences (eg step step, triple step; step step, triple step, triple step; charleston).
- Are they confident with (or will they cheerfully attempt/explore) basic rhythm breaks (eg johnny’s drop, mini-dip, Lennart break)?
- Do they have a fundamental repertoire of historic lindy hop steps (eg swing out from closed to open, swing out from open to open (lindy turn), circle, SBS charleston, basic 6 count shapes (under arm turn for lead and follow, moving from open to closed)?
- Can they count themselves in at the beginning of a phrase?
- Can they find the beat, bounce in time, match their partner’s bounce, and then begin on 1 (or wherever) with confidence and solid connection?
- Will they cheerfully attempt a range of tempos, and have moderate success at most (slow as well as fast)?
- Are they beginning to express an interest in the songs played in class?
A weekly ‘level 1′ class (ie the class after beginners)
- Are they discovering more complex leading and following skills:
-> shared bounce and matching bounce,
-> relaxed upper bodies,
-> not collapsing shoulders,
-> moving core as extension of connection through body (especially follows),
-> are they aware of and able to work with the follow’s delay, and to build this into the ‘swinging’ timing (especially leads)
- Have the students moved beyond ‘shapes’ and begun thinking about and applying broader technical themes (eg big themes: bounce, engaged body, clear weight changes, the ‘reciprocal connection’ (where follows return the lead’s pressure, and where leads learn to read this return of pressure), etc).
- Are the students starting to experiment with musical styles, and to explore the way swing, accent, phrasing, and beat vary?
A weekly workshop or practice session for intermediate solo students:
- Are students comfortable turning in space (eg dancing facing different directions)?
- Are students comfortable moving through space (eg FOTL)?
- Are students experimenting with and feeling ok about turns and spins (eg lock turns) and spin with some confidence?
- Are students comfortable with starting at 8 or 1 or anywhere?
- Are students making clear weight changes (thus facilitating transitions)?
- Are students comfortable making mistakes, and experimenting with the ‘wrong’ versions of steps?
- Are students solid with bounce, core engagement, not collapsing into moves?
- Are students remembering medium length sequences of steps?
- Are students comfortable with (or interested in exploring and experimenting with) substantially higher or lower tempos, more complex musical structures, and different styles of swing and jazz music?
Looking at venue/class viability:
- Is the class paying the rent?
- Is the class paying the teachers a minimum of $20 an hour each?
- Is the class paying the costs of promotion, administration, insurance, etc?
->what is the minimum number of students required to cover these costs? eg 20 students @ $15 = $300 for 1hr rent ($50), 2 hrs teaching ($40), admin and insurance ($10), PR ($10)
- At what point does a class become ‘too big’? Optimal teacher:student learning environment is 20:2. Do you add an extra class when the group gets ‘too big’, do you adapt your current format to accommodate larger groups, or do you just carry on the same way, regardless?
- Is there a solid cohort of regulars, and what percentage of the weekly income do they constitute (ie how many regulars do you need to make your class numbers stable – 10 from a class of 20?)
- How does the class weather seasonal variations – can you handle the inevitable numbers drop when daylight savings kicks in? If there’s a day of warm sun after weeks of rain, can you cover your costs? Are you ready for the jump in numbers at the beginning of the year?
- Do you have strategies in place for periodically boosting numbers and generally keeping a public profile (eg promotional coupons, public dance gigs, etc), and are they adding too much, too little or just enough extra work to your workload?
Looking at teacher work satisfaction:
- Have the teachers moved beyond nerves and ‘figuring things out’ to confidence, calm teaching vibe and a relaxed, pleasant teaching experience?
- Are teachers working with a regular cohort, so getting a sense of achievement and satisfaction from students’ development and progress?
- Is the teaching partnership happy, healthy and satisfying (do the teachers feel confident introducing new ideas, to giving and receiving feedback together)?
- Are the teachers both ok with managing time and class progress in class (ie are they running to time or over time?)?
- Are both teachers ok with ‘leading’ the class on their own if necessary, or in being the more active lead teacher if the other is feeling rough and needs to take a back seat that night?
- Have the teachers reached a point where both are contributing equally, both listen to each other in class (and do not interrupt each other), both demonstrate good working partnerships to classes (eg how to give and receive feedback, how to explore a challenge together, how to give and receive appreciation)?
- Do the teachers feel ‘inspired’ – are they experimenting with new content, AND integrating this into the syllabus smoothly and confidently?
- Are teachers balancing new content with ‘old’ content, so developing a sense of ‘core skills’ for LH?
- Are teachers managing injuries and physical pressure of teaching effectively – ie are they nursing injuries, feeling exhausted the next day, or not getting enough sleep, or are they in good physical condition, recovering well the next day and sleeping well?
Looking at venue-teacher relationships:
- Is the venue happy with the arrangement? How do you know (do you see them often)?
- Do yo know the venue manager/owner’s name and have regular contact with them?
- Is the class meeting the venue’s needs (eg financial, cultural, creative, political)?
- Is the venue ‘working’ for the class: is it too noisy for a class? Too small? Too hot? Well located for public transport? Decent sound gear? Too expensive for the class sizes?
Looking at class culture:
- Is there a regular core cohort of students who are peers/friends?
- Is there someone to work the door, who does so enthusiastically, and with a friendly, welcoming tone?
- Do teachers enjoy teaching (eg do they look forward to classes, or do they make excuses not to go, or have to convince themselves it’ll be good?)?
- Do students feel challenged enough by content (eg do they have clear goals for their learning, and clear pathways to those goals (eg moving from beginners through level 1 to level 2))?
- Is there a stable class culture (eg a shared sense of humour and values, a cheerful willingness to learn, an interest and enthusiasm for challenging content, patience (from teachers and students) with new and challenging content)?
- Do students and teachers seek out new ways to contribute to class (eg bringing baked goods, DJing, organising out-of-class outings (eg to social dancing), going to drinks after class, wearing particular costumes or outfits, bringing questions about particular dance issues to class, requesting specific class content)?
As you can see, these are far-reaching and often contradictory questions. Not all of them are high on my list of priorities, and not all of them have to be ticked off for the class to be considered ‘successful.’ I think my main priorities are safe classes, where the bills get paid (including teachers being paid), class content has some historical veracity (ie jazz and swing music are played, the classic lindy hop steps are explored, rhythm is at the core of everything we do), and people (students and teachers) enjoy themselves.
A word about successful feminist classes
If you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time, you’re probably wondering why I haven’t talked about gender in any of these points. This is because I see gender equity as a natural consequence of safe, equitable classes. I approach all the events I run with the goals of good, safe, happy, healthy, inclusive, inspiring, interesting, friendly, accessible dance spaces for everyone. I’m continually asking myself ‘How can I do this better?’ and ‘How can we make sure that everyone enjoys what we are doing?’ And I’m asking these questions because happy, confident dancers are creative dancers. If you encourage a culture of innovation and creativity, supporting other people’s projects and sharing your own, you can make your local scene more interesting. To my mind, the perfect lindy hop scene is continually evolving, doing new things, discovering new music, trying new venues, choreographing new routines, pushing themselves to become better dancers or teachers or DJs or event managers or vintage fashion fiends. Just generally feeling creative and excited.
These priorities mean it’s important to be flexible and self-reflexive, willing to try new things, to entertain new ideas, and to untangle your own preconceptions about students, classes, teaching, music, events, and dance.
I think it’s also important to remember that sometimes people aren’t happy, that not everyone becomes a brilliant dancer, and that sometimes a class just falls flat. But all those things are ok: a weekly class that’s safe and friendly might be very important to that person who’s struggling with depression and deep unhappiness. Their goal might be ‘get out of the house once a week’, and if so, your class is a success for them. Students progress at different rates, and while some people might pick things up quickly and amaze you all, the student who doesn’t ever actually become a ‘star’ but who cheerfully comes along to class regularly, gradually adding to their list of skills or experiences is still achieving. Their goal might be ‘have some lols and maybe learn to clap in time.’ Achieving modest goals is just as satisfying as achieving huge ones. Not every class you run will be fabulous. Sometimes you just suck. Your jokes are forced and rubbish, your explanations are unclear, your own dancing is wrongtown. Shit happens. So long as you pick yourself up and carry on, work on the things you can change (work on your own dancing! stop telling jokes! stop talking so much!), and just enjoy the company of good people, you have fulfilled some fairly satisfying goals.
I think it’s a powerful way to approach running dance events: seek out delight. For yourself, and for others. It makes for better dancing (because happy dancers are relaxed dancers, and relaxed dancers are just better lindy hoppers), but it also makes for better communities. Because unhappiness, frustration, rage, disempowerment, resentment, all that stuff is just rubbish. I have no time for that shit.
In practical terms, this means being cognisant of the way I use language in class, of the way I do things like handle partner rotations, dividing the group into lead and follow, and so on. Luckily, lindy hop and jazz dance are naturally very good at enabling resistance. All vernacular dances are about change, mutability and active use-value. Jazz dance, as the product of a people who’ve experienced slavery and segregation, positively delights in breaking rules, in innovation, and in thinking against the grain. Jazz dance, as a response to jazz music, is about individual representation and innovation within structures and constraints. The thing that makes all this so interesting and so wonderful is that jazz requires new thinking, new thoughts.
For example, the idea that to become a good lindy hopper, you must be able to solo dance is exciting: it suggests that if we are going to teach side by side charleston, we must first be able to charleston alone. If we’re going to be able to swing out, we must first be able to find the beat, dance a rhythm and move through space on our own.
And when we dance alone, we get to know ourselves a bit better, to feel confident in our abilities, and so enter dancing partnerships with more confidence and joy. So it makes sense to structure your class in a way that puts solo dance first. To have your students make friends with the music before anything else.
In terms of a political project, developing each student’s sense of self worth and making it easier for them to hone their individual skills is an important way of empowering people. And for women and men exploring gender, knowing we are all important and valuable and capable of great creativity outside a heteronormative relationship is truly powerful and radical. It says to men that they can explore all the ways there are of being a man, as well as, and beyond, those ways that are a response to women. They needn’t be ‘in control’ of anyone but themselves. And women, of course, can see that they don’t ‘need a man’ to be complete; they can experiment with independence, bravery, physical risk and physical pleasure on their own.
So, I guess I feel that solo dance is essential to the success of socially sustainable lindy hop scenes, as well as lindy hop classes and individual lindy hoppers. I believe that we cannot teach successful partner dancing classes without a strong emphasis on individual confidence, ability and delight in dance. And if that isn’t a feminist manifesto, I don’t know what is.
And when it comes to assessing the success of a class, it helps to have a set of criteria, for yourself, your students, and your place in a broader community. Be kind to yourself, be kinder to your students, and remind yourself that every day you dance is a day well spent.
to write about the connections between:
(linky c/o Wandering and Pondering)
Australian modernism and plays with perspective:
Al and Leon doing demos in the 1950s, Spirit Moves, 50s Duke Ellington, bop and the polyphonic qualities of early NOLA jazz.
from designflashback.de, c/o Alice
So there was (yet another) fuck up at MLX, and I had to quickly fill in a bit of set time in the back room to cope with some overflow. Basically, what was going to become the blues room had to become a lindy hop room until the main room was ready. The DJ rostered on didn’t have and never had DJed lindy hop. I only had my (new, and first ever) iphone to hand. And I’ve never DJed from my phone. And I had no idea what sort of music was on there.
So I sat down, just randomly selected a song that was on the first playlist I found (my current favourite version of ‘Ain’t Misbehavin”), and did some sound testing. One minute later, the room was crowded with impatient dancers. I was all ‘I got no clue here’. Inspiration struck: “Hello! This is the first and only time I will ever take requests, so what have you got?” People who know me were thunderstruck. I never take requests. Ever. But then the requests came thick and fast. I used the mic to introduce each song, and to point out who’d requested it, so the dancers’d know who to blame.
‘Greatest there is’. Not a song for everyone, but a song I love.
No one could come up with another song after that, so I just slotted in my current favourite Armstrong song, ‘Snafu’, because I thought its unusual style would suit the weirdness of that late Ellington song.
After every song I’d announce over the mic: “Hello! I am taking requests. So bring em. First and last time I’ll do this.”
“A good medium tempo warm up song by a big band!”
B-sharp Boston again.
“ummm” *sings incoherent melody*
(into the mic) “You will need to do more than sing the melody – I need a name, peeps.” So I chose for her.
‘Goin’ Out the Back Way’ because Ellington is my go-to man, and the sound gear in that room is so good I can play everything on it.
“A slower modern song with a female singer so I can dance slow”
LOVE Cecile McLorin Salvant. At least three people came up to ask who this was. It’s just a wonderful song.
(I briefly reconsider offer to take requests. Then realise…) “Sorry, don’t have it. Anything else?”
“Have it.” (into mic) “This one’s a request, but I don’t know what it’s like, so if it’s rubbish, I’ll mute it and we’ll skip to the next song.
Summertime. Pretty good, uptempo version that I wasn’t too familiar with, but turned out to be great for lindy hopping, actually. Bet he was disappointed, as he’s a solid blues dancer.
“Good request, that guy. What’s next?”
“You heard three different versions last night, and the band played it in the evening gig tonight.”
“I WANT IT!”
LCJO. Room goes nuts with glee.
“For real? It’s pretty mellow, and everyone’s pumping.”
Room gets its supergroove on. Main room opens. This room empties, and a blues DJ takes over.
It was mega fun.
Ain’t Misbehavin’ Frankie Trumbauer and his Orchestra (Ed Wade, Charlie Teagarden, Jack Teagarden, Artie Shaw, Jack Cordaro, Mutt Hayes, Roy Bargy, Carl Kress, Artie Miller, Stan King) 131 1936 The Complete Okeh and Brunswick Bix Beiderbecke, Frank Trumbauer and Jack Teagarden Sessions (1924-1936) (Mosaic disc 07) 3:22
The Greatest There Is Duke Ellington and his Orchestra 133 1949 Duke Ellington and his Orchestra: 1949-1950 2:44
Snafu Esquire All-American Award Winners (Louis Armstrong, Neal Hefti, Jimmy Hamilton, Johnny Hodges, Don Byas, Billy Strayhorn, Remo Palmieri, Chubby Jackson, Sonny Greer) 144 1946 The Complete RCA Victor Recordings (disc 03) 4:14
B-Sharp Boston Duke Ellington and his Orchestra 126 1949 Duke Ellington and his Orchestra: 1949-1950 2:55
The Goon Drag (Gone Wid De Goon) Sam Price and his Texas Blusicians 138 1941 Sam Price 1929-1941 3:19
Goin’ Out The Back Way Johnny Hodges and his Orchestra (Ray Nance, Lawrence Brown, Harry Carney, Duke Ellington, Jimmy Blanton, Sonny Greer) 155 1941 The Duke Ellington Centennial Edition: Complete RCA Victor Recordings (disc 12) 2:44
Anything Goes Cecile Mclorin Salvant and the Jean-Francois Bonnel Paris Quintet 117 2010 Cecile 4:46
Summertime Hep Chaps 137 2009 Swingin’ On Nothing 4:02
C-Jam Blues Lincoln Centre Jazz Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis 143 1999 Live In Swing City: Swingin’ With Duke 3:34
Bag’s Groove Swing Session (Levon, Jean-Loup Muller, Manu Hagmann, Julien Cotting, Rene Hagman) 120 2006 Leapfrog 4:58
So, I DJed a few sets at MLX this past weekend. The second one was in the back room, which became a lindy hop room while the main room became a blues room with a live band. Yeah, don’t ask me about that. It is meant to be a lindy exchange, but heck, I just book the DJs.
Anyway, it meant that there was a smaller crowd at that late night, and the back room had a much smaller lindy hopping crowd than MLX usually sees. For me, it made for a really lovely DJing experience. I like the layout of the room, the sound is great, and it meant that I could do a more intimate, personal set than I’d do in a huge room full of lindy hoppers. I started at 1.30 or 2am or something, and the crowd was quite tired. The crowd was quite lovely – almost all the DJs were in there rocking out (which I took as a great compliment), the numbers fluctuated as the band did sets or had breaks, and the dancing experience and ability of the crowd really varied – from people who’ve been dancing one hundred years, to total noobs. It was actually fabulous to play for that group, and the reshuffle meant that no parts of the room had been staked out as ‘cats corner’ or any of that shit. Just a good old fashioned dance party.
Alice, who was on before me, played a really nice set. So I figured, heck, I’ll just play a bunch of songs I like. Love. No pressure to make people crazy. Just play good songs that I love. The last half hour is a bit shit, I reckon, because I was exhausted and kind of lost focus. I also changed it up a bit as the crowd really changed in that last part of the night.
Anyway, here it is:
title artist bpm year album song length
Turn It Over Bus Moten and his Men (Richard Smith, Ben Webster, Johnny Rodgers, Lloyd Anderson, Jesse Price) 148 1949 Kansas City Blues 1944-1949 (Disc 3) 2:38
Yacht Club Swing Fats Waller and his Rhythm (Herman Autrey, Gene Sedric, Al Casey, Cedric Wallace, Slick Jones) 177 1938 The Middle Years – Part 2 (1938-1940) (disc 01) 3:02
Central Time Pokey LaFarge 198 2013 Pokey LaFarge 3:00
You Got to Give Me Some Midnight Serenaders (David Evans, Dee Settlemier, Doug Sammons, Garner Pruitt, Henry Bogdan, Pete Lampe) 187 2007 Magnolia 4:02
You Hear Me Talkin’ To Ya Luke Winslow-King (Rich Levison, Cassidy Holden, Shaye Cohn) 142 2009 2:12
Jumpy Nerves Wingy Manone and his Orchestra (Chu Berry, Buster Bailey, Conrad Lanoue, Zeb Julian, Jules Cassard, Cozy Cole) 177 1939 Classic Chu Berry Columbia And Victor Sessions (Mosaic disc 05) 2:53
West End Blues Louis Armstrong and his Hot Five (Fred Robinson, Jimmy Strong, Earl Hines, Mancy Carr, Zutty Singleton) 85 1928 The Complete Hot Five And Hot Seven Recordings [Disc 4] 3:22
Wild Man Blues Johnny Dodds and his Chicago Boys (Charlie Shavers, Lil Armstrong, Teddy Bunn, John Kirby, O’Neil Spencer) 174 1938 The Myth Of New Orleans 3:11
Stompin’ At The Savoy Jimmy Dorsey and his Orchestra 162 1936 Swingsation: Charlie Barnet and Jimmy Dorsey 3:12
Perdido – Take 1 Duke Ellington and his Orchestra 130 1942 The Duke Ellington Centennial Edition: Complete RCA Victor Recordings (disc 13) 3:09
Hootie Boogie (1945) Jay McShann 148 1945 Jay McShann: Complete Jazz Series 1944 – 1946 2:55
Chicken Shack Boogie Lionel Hampton and his Sextet (Benny Bailey, Johnny Board, Gene Morris, Wes Montgomery, Roy Johnson, Earl Walker) 124 1949 Hamp: The Legendary Decca Recordings 3:16
Joog, Joog Duke Ellington and his Orchestra 146 1949 Duke Ellington and his Orchestra: 1949-1950 3:01
A Viper’s Moan Willie Bryant and his Orchestra (Teddy Wilson, Cozy Cole) 153 1935 Willie Bryant 1935-1936 3:26
I’se A Muggin’ Stuff Smith and his Onyx Club Boys (Jonah Jones, Raymond Smith, Bobby Bennett, Mack Walker, John Washington) 161 1936 Stuff Smith: Complete Jazz Series 1936 – 1939 3:14
Peckin’ Johnny Hodges and his Orchestra (Cootie Williams, Barney Bigard, Otto Hardwick, Harry Carney, Fred Guy, Hayes Alvis, Sonny Greer, Duke Ellington, Buddy Clark) 165 1937 The Duke’s Men: Small Groups Vol. 1 (Disc 2) 3:10
With a Smile and a Song (-1) Teddy Hill and his Orchestra (Hot Lips Page, Pee Wee Russell, Chu Berry, Sally Gooding) 110 1937 Classic Chu Berry Columbia And Victor Sessions (Mosaic disc 03) 3:10
B-Sharp Boston Duke Ellington and his Orchestra 126 1949 Duke Ellington and his Orchestra: 1949-1950 2:55
Corner Pocket Count Basie and his Orchestra 137 1955 Complete Clef/Verve Count Basie Fifties Studio Recordings (Mosaic disc 05) 5:18
Corina, Corina Jimmy Witherspoon with Roy Eldridge, Ben Webster, Coleman Hawkins, Woody Herman, Earl Hines, Vernon Alley, Mel Lewis 140 1959 The ‘Spoon Concerts 3:22
Hound Dog Big Mama Thornton 125 1965 American Folk Blues Festival 1962-1965 (disc 05) 3:20
I Ain’t Mad At You Mildred Anderson 158 1960 No More In Life 3:04
On Revival Day Carrie Smith acc. by George Kelly, Ram Ramirez, Billy Butler 189 1977 When You’re Down and Out 3:49
La La Blues Pokey LaFarge 201 Riverboat Soul 3:42
Short Dress Gal Shotgun Jazz Band 138 2013 Don’t Give Up The Ship 3:10
San Francisco Bay Blues Lu Watters’ Yerba Buena Jazz Band with Barbara Dane 160 1964 Blues Over Bodega 3:42
My Baby Just Cares For Me Nina Simone 120 The Great Nina Simone 3:38
As I was playing ‘Yacht Club Swing’ I was explaining to a friend sitting next to me why I love that part where it goes deee-dooo-dee-doo. A minute later, another DJed plopped next to me to explain why he loved the part where it goes do-do-do-dee. Fats Waller brings all the nerds to the yard.
Pokey Lafarge. Love. I don’t know how I’d dance to this song, and neither did anyone else, really. Except those guys doing bal which kind of slipped into 2-step. They had it going on. Great party song, though.
I love Pokey Lafarge so close to Luke Winslow-King. I love Luke W-K.
Then I played Jumpy Nerves because people’d been complaining about how they hate In The Mood. So I was totally pranking them with that song (which features the ‘in the mood’ riff).
Relistening now, I have no idea how ‘West End Blues’ fitted into the vibe. But at the time, it was just perfect. A room full of lindy hoppers dancing slowly to the best recording of a blues song of all time. It was quite magical. They didn’t ‘blues dance’, they just danced. Except for that one chick who crumpled up her nose and said to me, really loudly, across the DJ table “AH! There is a whole room of this next door!” And I LOLed and said “I doubt the Hot Five is playing next door. If it was – I’d be there!” Anyway, this song went down perfectly.
I think this sort of odd transition worked because the population of the room was fluctuating so much. I’d have a packed room for three songs, then it’d empty as the band started its next set. Then a couple of songs in an emptier room, then a sudden influx.
Love ‘Wild Man Blues’. I’m definitely playing a particular type of set here, from Wingy Manone on for the next ten or 12 songs.
This is my favourite version of ‘Stompin At the Savoy’. As I was playing this, a Canadian dancer yelled to me “I love this song! I learnt to do the shim sham to it!” And loled, because I did too, and because we’d just finished teaching the shim sham using this song.
‘Perdido’ because we are all Lennart. And because there were a HEAP of solo folks in the room at that time, rocking out their rhythm variations in a pretty hard core way. It was like the room was suddenly all about jazz. A friend called it a ‘good jazz session’. Yes.
And then ‘Hootie’s boogie’ because that’s the other song Lennart uses to teach with a lot.
‘Chicken Shack Boogie’ because peeps were tired, and I love following up Hootie’s Boogie with this we love teaching 6-count partner stuff to boogie because it’s fun.
‘Joog Joog’ because MOAR ELLINGTON. A couple of dancers looked up at me with crumpled brows when the intro began, and I gave them the reassuring thumbs up, because it is a great dancing song.
‘Viper’s Moan’ because Teddy Wilson, and because some of the people in the room didn’t know much of what I was playing, and I figured they needed something familiar to hang onto. Also it is great. And I like the way we move between such different piano styles from Jay McShann to Hamp’s band to Ellington and then to Willie Bryant’s band.
…after that things went a bit ordinary, I reckon. I was tired, I had had a particularly shitty night dealing with admin problems, and I was just a bit over it all. So I didn’t do my best work. But that first part of the set makes me happy.
Omg I am so busy. SO BUSY.
Next Thursday I fly to Melbourne for MLX, the biggest, oldest, best lindy hop event in Australia. It’s fucking great – if you’re coming to Australia to dance, come for that. Nothing else comes close, and Melbourne is a great city. Weather is shitty, but there are good pubs. The music is THE BEST.
I’ll be head DJ for that, and the increasingly ambitious MLX program has made my job trickier this year. The number of bands: HIGH. I aim to dance until I might chuck. Yeah, that’s me running from the dance floor with my hand over my mouth. Super professional.
I get back on Monday. On the Wednesday our little teaching venue is hosting the charming singer Hetty Kate and the phenomenal guitarist Ian Date for a once-off ‘Swinging at the PBC’ gig. Every time I describe Hetty Kate as charming, or see her being described as ‘lovely’, I lol, because she is the saltiest arsekicker femme ever. We are very lucky to have them do this gig for us: Ian Date is now based in Ireland, and Hetty Kate is based in Melbourne.
That’s the very awful ad I made. I wish I could have a solid designer on my staff to whip up these ads at a moment’s notice, because I need approximately one million items a year to promote things online and face to face.
I think it’s worth pointing out that Hetty Kate has the best online presence I’ve ever seen in a jazz musician. She has a lively, interesting instagram account, which was particularly cool to follow when she was recording with Gordon Webster. She’s fun to follow on twitter, she has a fab website, which has everything a promoter needs: high-res photos, tour dates, downloadable posters, pdfs with bio information. She also keeps an up to date facebook page. And she managed a very effective pozible campaign, where she capitalised on a performing relationship with Gordon Webster to record a crowd-funded album. Working with Gordon is, of course, promotional gold in the lindy hop world – the guy has massive pull. All of this is just so great when you’re promoting her for events. Add to this the fact that she’s a very good ‘product’ – a great singer, an entertaining performer and a very together, organised professional – and she is the perfect musician to hire. If only 90% of jazz bands could figure this stuff out.
I am quite excited about this gig because I’m running it independently. It’s tagged on the end of our classes, which we teach through a big dance school, but this social dancing bit is independent. I just thought ‘fuck it – let’s have a good party.’ I don’t care if no one turns up: it will be a brilliant fun time, and I figure: here’s a present for our group. I run a lot of events during the year, but this is the first one I’ve run completely independently. Well, there are still a lot of people involved, working the door, teaching with me, helping put the band together (there’re more musicians than just Hetty Kate and Ian), etc etc etc. But this is the first time I’ve gotten up the guts to do it all on my own. WINNAH.
On the Thursday after that, the teachers for the Little Big Weekend arrive, and the classes begin.
The Little Big Weekend kicks off officially on Friday night. I’m running this one, too, but I run it for the dance school, which means they fund it, but I plan and manage it, and work with a few superawesome people to run it on the weekend. It’s not possible to run a good event entirely on your own, and furthermore, it’s not a good idea: get other people involved to save your sanity, but also to give other people a chance to get involved in event management. The more people with more skills in your local scene there are, the higher the quality of the events, the greater the range of event types and styles. Diversity is good for lindy hop.
This is the fourth Little Big Weekend (they’re biannual), and it’s the most ambitious. Leigh Barker’s band the New Sheiks is coming up to play the Friday and Saturday night gigs, and they’re part of the Melbourne Rhythm Project. The MRP is a collaboration between dancers and musicians – lindy hoppers, tap dancers, guitarists, pianists, trumpeters, fiddle players….
They will be performing at the Saturday dance, but the dancers are all coming up mostly to hang out and be a part of it all. There are only three main workshops on the Saturday, but the third one will involve the musicians playing in-class, as we look at musical and dance structure and history.
This is exactly the sort of thing I LOVE, so that’s very exciting. And it’s very very nice to finally get to work with Leigh on a project after such a long time emailing and talking online, and chatting in person. Even if the entire weekend collapses (which it won’t – we’ve sold out of workshop passes already), we are still WINNAHS because we are trying something very interesting, and right in our own creative and professional ballparks. And it will be MAD FUN.
But that’s not all there is to the Little Big Weekend. The Speakeasy kids are flying in another Melbourne act: Andy Swann’s band. He’s been involved in lindy hop almost as long as I have, and he has mad skills. That party is already fully sick (at the last one I nearly did chuck up because I was dancing too much), so I’m not sure I’m physically capable of handling it. That party is one of the main reasons we don’t have Sunday workshops: it is not physically possible after the Speakeasy. The Speakeasy is the sort of late night party where people can dance seriously hardcore lindy hop, and then find that they’re just dancing all over the place. Not ‘solo dance’, but just rocking out. And the band usually bring their girlfriends (yes, the bands are all straight men. I’m working on that, though) and friends and they get up and just rock out, and it is awesome. There’s really good food, a blues room, a nice cool, quiet room to chill out in (I rarely avail myself of that – I like to keep on rocking). When the band ends at 4am you think ‘wtf? we just got started!’
Anyway, the week after that we don’t have any classes to teach because our venue has finished for the year, but I’m off to Melbourne again for Sweet n Hot to do some classes with ‘Skye and Frida’. Seriously doods, why doesn’t anyone ever list the follow’s name first? I mean, Skye is great and everything, but Frida is freaking powerhouse. She has unmatched dancing experience, talent and knowledge. I have booked a nice, quiet single room studio space on airbnb, so I’m going to chill. Hopefully there won’t be any chucking up on this trip.
Then it’s back to Sydney for a nice, quiet christmas. Until January comes, and new plans are set in place, and shit gets even realer.
I like what I do for a job, but sometimes I worry that dancing isn’t really important enough to spend this much time thinking about. But then I remember that running a business and being an event organiser and teacher and all that is actually a lot of work, requiring skills that are useful in all sorts of businesses. And dancing brings people joy, and sends joy out into the world. I could be working in fucking retail again, for fuck’s sake. But dance is about empowering people, and I think it’s important. THE END.
To sum up, here is Norma Miller being fabulous again:
Someone replied to my posting this by pointing out that the show itself didn’t seem so bad. That was interesting, but when I read Norma’s comment, it didn’t occur to me that I should engage with her criticism of the show. Who knows what that show’s like. I was reposting her criticism because Norma Miller is exciting. She makes me feel strong and reminds me that you need to be confident and loud and powerful.
My response was:
The thing I like about this is that Norma Miller is a confident black woman who calls herself ‘Queen of Swing’ calling out some dood who made a stage show, on public media. She just doesn’t give a fuck – she has a point to make.
Every time she calls someone out or declares, with confidence, that she is THE BEST, I get excited, because women aren’t allowed to do that in lindy hop. I bet no one sends her hate mail. Or if they do, she finds them at a party, stands really close to them and gives them the biggest telling off OF THEIR LIVES.
She’s fearless. FEARLESS. And for an older black woman living in America – that shit is AMAZING. …fuck, for a woman living anywhere these days, that shit is SO INSPIRING.
So I don’t even care one bit about that show or what it’s about. This is a story about how awesome Norma Miller is.
I love her comment, because she’s obviously doing a bit of self promotion (queen of swing), she’s calling bullshit, she’s shamelessly stroppy. And that’s what’s so exciting. Women aren’t supposed to be these things. We’re supposed to be shy and meek and modest. And Norma is not.
So, I’m going to end this post with this nice little quote which I found on I hope you like feminist rants:
I think that a lot of women would like to do more organisationally things in lindy hop. We’re not all designed to be the famousinternationallindyhopcelebrity. There’s so much body image shit going on there, so much gender crap about working with male partners. But if you are ambitious, and you do have ideas, and you want to just do more than dance in lindy hop, there are lots of options. Start small, and work up. You don’t have to run events or DJ or do stuff like that. There are other cool things.
You could start a once-off performance group with two friends. I’ve done this many times, and it’s great. You mightn’t do the best performance ever, but the process will teach you SO MUCH. You could work the door at a dance. Sure, it’s not glamorous, but the people who work the door, bump in and bump out of dance events are the ones who make the whole thing possible. It’s like the office lady at uni: she is the most important person in the department. And seeing how an event works in front-of-house teaches you how important it is to have a friendly face greeting first time dancers: lindy hop scenes are built on welcoming dance spaces. You could design and make dance costumes. You could design decorations for dances. You could learn to work sound gear (please, please do this and come and work for me – I NEED you! I will CHERISH you!) There are so many interesting options!
For example, Sydney Lindy Hub is run by a woman. This cool guide is the most thorough, most comprehensive guide to swing dancing in Sydney. There are quite a few guides to jazz music for dancers around. I ran one myself years ago in Melbourne. But this one does it right. What’s so great about it? Firstly, the listings are comprehensive. You’ll find all the band gigs, all the DJed gigs, all the dancer-run gigs, all the council run gigs, all the musician run gigs, all the live music venue gigs there. This thoroughness is the result of good research skills and – even more importantly – good networking. People contribute gigs to SLH, they contribute reviews of gigs, and they are engaged with the site. This is a total WIN.
This engagement is a product of the guide’s cross-platformness (a website + FB + twitter), but also of the administrator’s style. She responds to people positively and with enthusiasm, and she’s proactive in her support of events. I never get a chance to send her my event’s details, because she’s already on it. I never get to suggest live music gigs, because she’s already there. As an organiser, I see SLH as an essential promotional tool, so it’s in my interests to engage with it (and with the administrator), but it’s also a pleasure to engage with it, as it’s so useful and productive.
I like the positive, inclusive tone of the listings. I LOVE that SLH encourages people to go out and review gigs. It’s easy to just list a heap of gigs, but it’s the dancers’ reviews that make this site so powerful. The up to date listings help make SLH a really useful social calendar as well. People organise their nights of dancing around SLH FB posts and listings.
And finally, SLH is perfectly positioned in this moment in Sydney. There was a bit of a decline in organised dance events a few years ago, and SLH slipped in just as local dancers were getting really desperate for social dancing. I think that Sydney dancers’ current passion for live music (and fierce enthusiasm for seeking out new gigs) is largely due to the role SLH plays in the swing dance community. It brings people together, it’s a useful information tool, and the tone is light, fresh and enthusiastic. WINNAH!
I don’t think the administrator’s gender is particularly important in the general scheme of things, but if we are talking gender, and we are talking about how seeing other women inspires women, then I do think it’s important. For me, it’s important to know that I’m part of a network of creative, ambitious, enthusiastic women in lindy hop. It really helps to know that I can ring up a woman organiser in Melbourne to talk about how to manage employing international teachers. It’s exciting to get a call from a woman oragniser in another city who wants to do a collaborative project. And it’s just so NICE to get together with other women organisers at exchanges to just talk shit and then DANCE like fools.
And then, it’s even more thrilling to see women doing things like organising the Melbourne Rhythm Project (Ramona is a driving force there, though I think it’s a pretty collaborative project generally). It’s really creatively stimulating to get together with other DJs (male or female, though increasingly female – we have so many great women DJs pushing up to the top tier in Australia), and I am particularly fond of a woman blues DJ in Melbourne, Manon von Pagee, who has such fascinating observations about DJing for blues dancers. Which I just don’t understand. And, finally, it’s wonderful to be on a dance floor where I know there are heaps of other women leads, so that I’m just one of them. I’m with my peeps.
Men are important and great too, but when there’s so much bullshit in your everyday life, telling you over and over again that you should shut up and be invisible (so you don’t get harassed on the street, sent nasty emails, challenged in dance classes, critiqued on the dance floor), having a couple of powerful women figures out there doing shit is so important. Norma Miller, you are loud and stroppy, and I mightn’t always agree with your opinions, but by fuck: you make me feel powerful.