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mindlessmunkey of course

 

swingout

I am insanely busy.
So of course, here is a post. Also I am tired, so these words = rubbish.

I find teaching with a few very good, very clever and observant follows teaches me so much about teaching and dancing. I am so lucky to get to work with such great dancers and teachers.

This is what I’ve been thinking about swivels lately, after an intensive two months working on the ‘Frankie 89′ choreography Lennart and eWa taught us in Herrang.

Swivels are not styling, they are a powerful movement that makes swinging out at higher tempos possible. Relatedly: do not drop your triple steps.
Frankie taught follows to swivel right from their very first class. I know some teachers don’t do this, because they think that swivels are ‘too hard’. I think a lot of people think lindy hop is really hard. But it’s not. As Lennart says, “It is really a very simple dance.”

Doing more work with old timers this year, and with people who worked closely with old timers, I’ve realised that their approach is fundamentally different to modern lindy hoppers’. Modern dancers are recreationists, and are (for the most part) trying to reverse engineer lindy hop. Old timers invented lindy hop. And old timers were social dancers. So lindy hop is pure function.

What does that mean?
If you approach all lindy hop in the simplest terms, it makes a lot more sense. A swing out is really just two partners sometimes being together, and sometimes being apart. Now what’s the simplest, most efficient and practical way to handle that? Use a little turn – a slingshot. Just like launching a rocket into orbit, and then out into the solar system. A swing out is just a circle where you let go half way. A swing out open to open is just a stretch and then a little turn in the middle to redirect the momentum.

I feel quite strongly that you don’t ‘add styling’ to your dancing. Your ‘style’ should just be a natural consequence of your movements (of you, your body, the way it works, and the way you use it). Your arms swing in charleston because you bounce, you bend a bit at the hip in your athletic posture, and you allow your upper torso a bit of rotation/torque. Your fingers are ‘alive’ and not floppy, because you feel feels.

With this in mind, then, swivels must have function. A function that’s aesthetically pleasing, but effective function none the less. If you treat swivels as ‘just a fancy way of walking’ – two steps with a bit of shape – then you get down to a) the rhythm of the step, and b) the function of the step. I’m all for swivels on the spot as well, but traveling swivels are a key part of most dancers’ repertoires as well.

I’m avoiding digressing into talking about how followers’ movements are led by the leader here, ok? I know we could have a discussion about whether followers should take a step for every step a lead makes, but that’s going to get us off track, ok?

So how is a swivel a powerful way of moving? What makes the swivel more awesome than just walking? Yes, yes, we know they look fabulous. But we’re trying to stay on track, right?

I like to teach swivels this way:
Imagine you are doing the twist, 1960s style. Your weight is evenly distributed between your hip-width feet. You are wearing skiis, so don’t let your skiis tangle or cross.
Now, as your feet point to the right, shift your weight to the right. As they point left, shift your weight to the left.

Boom. Swivels on the spot.

Remind yourself to bounce/pulse while you do this – you need the bounce, because bounce is your body preparing to move. Each bounce is like a little spring coiling – it’s stored energy – and that stored energy is released when you take a step.

So now, instead of just shifting your weight while you twist, take an actual step. Right, left, right left.

BOOM. Traveling swivels.

You need to: bounce; wear skiis (for efficient alignment for the sake of your knees, but also to ensure a nice clear line of energy from the ground to your core and back again); use athletic posture (you know – jump up in the air, then land with slightly bent knees, arms out, a bit of bend at the the hip, etc etc); make clear weight changes.

Once you have all this happening, your swivel becomes a very powerful step. Powerful in terms of energy and muscle power, not symbolic feminist energy**. The bent knees, arse out (hip bend), relaxed arms, open chest, clear weight changes, bounce, etc etc makes this posture and way of movement super powerful and strong. Each step/swivel becomes a little power-push, just like a sprinter leaping from the block at the beginning of a race.
You really, REALLY need this power when you’re dancing fast. It’s one of the ways the follows feed energy into the swing out cycle. Add that to the way a bit of stretch on one/two works, a very efficient 3&4 (the turn/circle in the middle – triple step to add power and aid travel!), and you have this fantastically powerful little engine.

All of this makes for great biomechanics.
But it has also made me a much better teacher for follows. I tend to favour talking about leads, because I am a lead. This makes me cranky because it makes lindy hop sound lead-centred. But once you understand that follows really aren’t passive at all, that the way follows move contributes importantly to momentum, suddenly you have tools for talking to follows in class.

Sam’s moment of personal growth: understanding following empowers follows, makes this leader a better teacher and a better dance partner.

I often say (stealing an idea Naomi Uyama used in a class) that follows have a responsibility to keep the rhythm for the lead. Ramona says that each partner has a responsibility to ‘take care of the beat’. Lennart says you need to ‘make friends with the music’. Steven Mitchell grunts “MM! Yeah!” I like to have partners bounce together on the spot before they start dancing, because it’s a way of reassuring your partner that you can find the beat (as well as a way to connect with your partner and the music).

These concepts all tell you that maintaining energy in your dancing is the responsibility of both partners. A science teacher friend in my practice group noted that swing outs can’t be 100% relaxed low impact. The stretch or ‘tension’ (in the sense of stored energy) has to be fed into the cycle somehow. If you let go earlier (5), if you lead by moving your body, you need to have 1 and 2 be much more powerful to feed the energy in. A powerful swivel helps follows contribute energy, a bit of stretch before leading in lets the leads contribute energy. Just like Frankie. This energy, then, is coming directly from your core: it’s built into the coiled spring of a vertical bounce, and it’s managed by strong glutes pushing, and a stable core.

This is where my knowledge ends. I just don’t know enough about biomechanics to say more. And I suspect I’m a bit full of bullshit, really.

But I find this approach really important for the way I then think about social power in following. It’s patently ridiculous to think of following as ‘passive’. A passive follow would be a dead weight. An active follow is engaging their muscles and actively contributing to the energy in the dance. Even if they never do a single jazz step or ‘variation’.

So following in lindy hop cannot be passive.

This then upsets the idea that a lead ‘controls’ the partnership. Nothing a lead tries will work properly if the follow isn’t actively contributing to and maintaining energy and momentum. The lead may think that a move has ‘worked’ under these conditions, but they won’t actually be leading.

*Teach your beginner students to swivel right from their first class. Skill them up. Give follows power. Don’t be afraid of lindy hop.

**But why can’t you think of swivels as a symbol of powerful feminist mite?

 

Reclining On A Rug

I’m delighted by people’s suggestions that they’re taking up lindy hop because they want a dance where ‘men are men’ and ‘women are women’.
Because the sorts of things that male jazz dancers did in the 20s and 30s aren’t ever quite as retrosexists imagine they were.

 

Still think that quenelle thing was no big deal?

watch this

 

I would like to write a post about anti-semitism, and why it’s important to address it, but I have a big event on in 3 weeks and I’m fucking crazy insane busy. And this is the sort of post that needs thought and care.

Why am I still harping on about this?
Because every day I’m moderating comments that get the lines about how this was just a joke, and we should get over it.

A most recent comment:

They probably took the ILHC as a friendly gathering, in where you could be irreverent and everyone takes a healthy laugh and ignores it.

That shit is scary. Scary scary scary.

 

I get onto the 422 to Newtown at 5pm, and take a seat next to this skinny little hipster guy. He had a bad case of massive-balls, so his legs were spread pretty wide, but I figured my big, wide feminist load practicing land-and-expand would ensure an equal distribution of seat. So I pull out my book and start reading.

But skinny hipster bro was resisting land-and-expand, and my wide load was falling into the aisle. So part of the way down King Street, I say (politely, because it’s never a good idea to pick a fight on public transport), “Would you mind moving over a bit please? I can’t quite fit on the seat.”

Now hipster bro had obviously been boiling away in silent rage all that time, and I hadn’t noticed. He says “No! I can’t move over any further!”
I smile and wait.
He leaps to his feet and shouts “Well, alright, if you’re going to TAKE OVER anyway!” and he waits for me to move so he can leave the seat.

This is where I allow myself a little smile. Poor little hipster bro, frothing in impotent rage, thwarted by my wide load, trapped against the bus window. And then I get up and out of his way, and sit back down.
He’s still boiling, because, as he backs away, he yells something about there being “Lots of other seats!” and as he lowers his (skinny) arse into one “See? Here’s one!” and I smile, because my wide load and me now have a seat to ourselves.

I did think to myself, as I walked up King street later, that he’d missed a prime opportunity to throw a fat-shaming “Your arse is too big for this seat and I!” comment. And I was also surprised by just how unthreatening or undisturbing I’d found him. He was too little, too skinny, too fashionable to frighten me. I knew I could probably take him in a fight if it came to it, and I definitely knew I could bring the verbal smack down. But I’d just used my most politest request, and my least threatening smile.

 

If you think I’m up in the crank states, I assure you: you ain’t seen nothing yet.

I’m going to address an issue which is sufficiently abstract and pedantic that it may be too persnickety even for the pages of CRANK: the energy economy of pretty much every popular science fiction TV series or film makes no sense at all.

Mike gets jiggy with it in Crank. Buy it. You will be ENRAGED.

 

I think Suzanne Nguyen and Daniel Reeders’ piece Defining and Responding to Everyday Racism is useful to the discussion about race, ethnicity, and anti-semitism in lindy hop happening at the moment. It gives me some tools for figuring out just why these recent events get right up my bum.

I am heartily tired of people insisting that such and such is a ‘really nice guy’ (oh, i’ve known him for a million years, he’s my bff, he’s so nice!) or ‘just made a mistake (yet again)’ (she’s russian! we don’t know about black face!), or ‘he’s harmless’ (he’s just being a dick. Again. He’s harmless), and so they can’t have been engaging in racist/anti-semitic behaviour.

There seem to be an awful lot of privileged white guys who are ‘just joking’ when they wear black face or black face or a fat suit or make an anti-semitic gesture in high profile dance competitions. Just once, and I’d think aberration. But so many times, and I’m thinking pattern.

I don’t even think these are as simple as the ‘micro-aggressions’ described in Suzanne and Daniel’s piece: this is a straight up pattern of bullshit which reminds the lindy hop community that straight white folk have power in our community. And if we question the dodgy things people do, we are just ‘not getting the joke’. Apparently ‘the joke’ is that it’s ok for white guys to pull offensive bullshit that effectively normalises racism, anti-semitism… and all that other nasty stuff.

 

I have a minute (when I really should be working):

SwingNation SE03: Controversy at ILHC 2014

(via yehoodi on faceplant)

Deary me, this one is a mess.

My first comment is: if someone has to be dared to do something, surely they’ve figured out that it’s not a great idea? Or that there’s some sort of risk?
And I don’t buy the ‘living outside France, didn’t really know what was up with the quenelle argument.’ I live outside France, I’m not French, and even I’ve learnt about the quenelle.

My second comment is: you made a neo-nazi, anti-semitic gesture at an international dance competition. Not once, but several times. Your friends (high profile, international level lindy hop teachers) dared you to do it.

So you and your friends made a gesture which is associated with groups who advocate (and perpetrate) violence against jews in a public forum, in front of an audience of hundreds (thousands if you include the internet). You meant to make the gesture – it wasn’t an accident.

At the very least, all of them have (or _should_ have) jeopardised future teaching contracts around the world, and at the worst, you’ve presented the ILCH and lindy hop as a community that is not only ok with anti-semitism, but advocates violence. More to the point, even if you all were blissfully unaware of the real meaning of the gesture (and I call bullshit on that point), you have all made it clear that you have very poor judgement, and are likely to do very stupid things just on a dare. Not exactly great qualities in a teacher who’ll be flown around the world at great expense to teach dance and work as a role model and mentor to lindy hoppers in many different scenes.

The part that bothers me most about all of this, is that event organisers will probably still hire you to mentor and work with dancers in their scenes, even though you’ve made it clear that you are capable of fairly serious failures of common sense.

To my mind, even the very best apology you can possibly make will not in any way wipe this slate clean.

 

“Oh, it’s ok, he’s a nice guy who just wants to have fun. So his anti-semitism was just a joke.”

“It’s awful we can’t watch their routine any more, because my pleasure in their dancing is more important than their anti-semitism.”

Yehoodi

ILHC on fb

Yehoodi discussion on facebook

Lindy hoppers, get a fucking reality check. We’re talking about two French dancers knowingly including an anti-semitic gesture in a dance routine at an international lindy hop competition. There is no way they would not known what quenelle is – the gesture is freaking illegal in France. And to argue that this gesture is ‘just anti-authoritarian’ rather than anti-semitic is one fucked up argument. Your government has made anti-semitic gestures illegal, so your making that gesture is ok because you’re just ‘fighting the man’, and can’t possibly be contributing to, or normalising, anti-semitic sentiment? PUHLEESE.

I hadn’t heard anything about this issue until it had mostly passed, because I was running an event that weekend, and have been very busy since, but when a friend commented about it on facebook, I commented with:

————————
Wowsers. That’s really full on. I didn’t know anything about quenelle before this, so I didn’t recognise it in the routine. I did go and look it up, though, and it’s clearly a fairly offensive gesture. On the one hand it’s a hitlerian salute – an inverted ‘heil hitler’ gesture’ with clear anti-semitic overtones. On other hand, the meaning of the gesture has changed a bit in France to more ‘anti-establishment’. HOWEVER, the gesture is banned in France, and is so well-known, and so hotly debated, that you’d have to be living under a rock in France if you didn’t know that it is considered anti-semitic, and is used by scary arse neo-nazis in France.

I don’t think many australians (or perhaps americans?) realise just how scary the new right (neo-nazi) movement is in Europe at the moment, and it seems ridiculous that people would make a ‘hitlerian’ gesture at all. But Irene and William made a very poor judgement using that gesture. While they may have been riffing on the ‘momma, you treat your daughter mean’ theme in the dance, it was a bad thing to do. And it was correct for ILHC to immediately distance themselves from that – they do _not_ want that sort of gesture associated with their event. No matter what the intent.

I’d double check the facts on this, though, as Rick’s made some factual errors on the yehoodi site lately.

—————–

William’s response to this issue:

William Mauvais: Hey guys, im sorry if i have hurt anybody with the routine it was not our intention and i think this is really crazy!!!!!

My mom and i worked so hard from far away, i leave in France she lives in Canada and she worked pretty hard by herself to make this routine fun. Anyway all of those things are going so far… We are dancers and not politicians!!!!!!

Anyway i think that this is really sad. Take off a video from youtube especially when its a swing routine with no political thoughts behind except the joy of sharing our passion.

For those who see something im very sorry but thats not the meaning we wanted to have….

Its just sad that my mom cannot share this video with our family cause that’s why we did it, because we are leaving far from each other and all our family wants to see what a son and a mom can do and the complicity that we can have together!!!!

Anyway after 7600 views on our video in 2 days and only good comments on the video, our family is devastated about the situation!!!!

Just to finish with, if people are offended about the video please don’t hesitate to contact me and talk about it.

I’m not gonna talk about this again cause i think its a waste of time!!!

Thank you and keep on swingin’ (source

Frankly, this response is even worse than the ignorance of including the original gesture. “I’m not gonna talk about this again cause i think its a waste of time!!!” Are you fucking KIDDING ME?
You think a discussion about anti-semitism is a waste of time?! You didn’t notice that anti-semitism in Europe is on the rise, and also PEOPLE ARE DYING?!

As I said on the facey, “I reckon William just didn’t think it through, and perhaps just doesn’t think that anti-semitism gestures are that bad. Which implies he’s ok with anti-semitism. Which scares me.” It’s also terrifying that Eruopeans might be so ‘used’ to anti-semitism, and have so internalised anti-semitism that they just don’t see it as worth their time. This is some scary arse shit. And it’s really serious and important.

James William McGraw commented on the Yehoodi FB page:

I’m not satisfied with William’s response. Did he know A) That this gesture was in the piece before it was performed and B) Did he and Irene know what it meant before they performed it. If it is the case they both knew and did it anyways, they should have their placement stripped and be banned from the event for at least a year.
28 August at 17:09

And I agree. I’m just not satisfied by this ridiculous answer.

Honestly, so many people were ‘ok’ with blackface routines, and others are ‘ok’ with sexual harassment and misogyny at a national competition night, and now we think questioning anti-semitism is a waste of time?

WHAT THE ACTUAL FUCK, LINDY HOP.

EDIT: William posted this 20 hours ago:

William Mauvais

To the lindy hop community,

In regards to my pro am with my mom this year at ilhc:

In the dancing there was a gesture that has become a huge misunderstanding. This was intended to be harmless, but regardless of that, it offended people in my life and community that I care about very much.

For that, I would like to express my apologies to the ILHC team and anybody that was offended by the gesture.

For the video removal: we completely understand the decision and are very grateful that we were not disqualified. Thank you for your understanding.
We love the lindy hop and our community, we didn’t mean to hurt anyone. This is a dance and community that is based on fun and having a good time. We wish only to do that, and once again apologize to anyone that was offended.

Keep on Swingin’ and hope to see you all soon!!!

William.
20 hrs · Like · 8

Don’t read the whole of that thread. The stupid: it burns.[/edit]

EDIT 2: I was going to keep updating this post, because it’s an interesting (and ongoing) issue. But I just don’t have the time at to do it justice at the moment. So I’ll have to leave this here, I’m afraid. And I’m sorry I had to leave it on such a fierce note. Perhaps the best thing about this issue, is that there’s been ongoing public discussion about it, and that the ILHC has been publicly engaged with the discussion, and William and his mother Irene have also returned to the discussion. I’m not entirely happy with the way this is being resolved, but I am happy that we are having an open, public discussion.
I recommend keeping an eye on the ILHC facebook page, rather than the yehoodi page, because I’m finding the yehoodi page is a beat behind and tends to not quite have the facts straight.