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.
Because race is being discussed explicitly in lindy hop at the moment (and gender, impicitly), this conversation between bell hooks and Melissa Harris-Perry is nice and relevant.
My favourite part is where they talk about how black women are represented as ‘difficult’, as ‘angry’.
M H-P: “I am difficult… but so are white guys!”
This discussion resonates with me, because I often feel as though I’m being ‘difficult’ or a pain in the arse when I ask event organisers where the pay is, or why I haven’t been given the DJ program yet and it’s two days before the event. Or when I bring up gender again, or when I want to talk about high heeled shoes again (seriously, fuck – high heeled shoes are something ONLY WOMEN LINDY HOPPERS WEAR and it fucks up their balance, it literally DISEMPOWERS them while they are dancing! FARK! You can try to justify it every single which way, but if high heeled shoes are so fabulous for your fucking dancing WHY AREN’T MEN WEARING THEM?!). Or when I suggest that lindy hopping men might actually be raping and assaulting lindy hopping women. Am I still going on about that shit? Didn’t I have that moment to shout about that? It’s as though it’s ok for me to raise the issue once, but god forbid I keep banging on about it. And heaven HELP me if I want to actually do something about it.
Yes, I am difficult. Because questions about justice or gender or class or race are a bloody pain in the arse when you’re trying to continue running the world you always have. Yes, my friend, I am a goddamn difficult pain in the arse. Because your racist, sexist, classist shit is a pain in MY LIFE. I am the pebble in your shoe, mate. I am difficult. I am the follow who won’t do exactly as you lead, who insists on bringing her own improvisation. I am the rhythm beyond your step-step-triple-step. I am your interruption.
I’m going to end this post by saying: all that attention and vitriol directed at Ksenia and not at the Siltons was straight up sexism. STRAIGHT UP SEXISM.
It’s interesting to read/listen to this npr interview with Vince Giordano (linky c/o Ryan) in reference to this little mini-doco interview with Aurora Nealand.
The Nealand piece is actually an ad that’s part of a Louisiana tourism campaign, which of course leads to questions about cultural tourism, and how dancing lindy hop and going ‘full vintage’ (in terms of music, costume and dance) might constitute ‘cultural tourism’. And whether this counts as cultural appropriation. Or cultural transmission. Is tourism cultural transmission? Or does it mean something different when the receiving culture is, for all intents and purposes, the ‘market’?
I’m also interested in the Nealand piece because she mentions being nuts about Armstrong’s Hot 5s and 7s, and I just bought another version of these recordings.
I totally didn’t need this (I already have all the recordings, as CDs and as legit downloads), but I’m always looking for better quality sound on this important music. The set I bought was second hand from Ameoba, so it was supercheap. But the packaging is out of control – there’s a little book with all the session details (which looks great, but is actually pretty unusable – the text layout and logic of the listings isn’t just woeful, it’s fuckin’ shithouse), individual CDs, a tall package which doesn’t fit into my CD storeage properly… basically, this is a pack for stooges. Or to be given as a present. I justify the purchase with the fact that it was second hand and in crazy cheap American CD prices.
…but I still can’t help but think that this purchase was a little like going to NOLA for a ‘jazz holiday’ like the one in the Nealand video. A bit of cultural tourism, where I am very clearly the stooge.
The significance of interpretative repertoire (or language choices) in institutionalised discourse. Or, to our shame, we tolerate this.
I’m having trouble embedding it, but I’ve made a new 8tracks set for the event we’re running tonight, Hot Foot Stomp. I’m quite excited about this: we’re 3 women running a dance because we LOVE dancing and music and all that stuff.
This set began with Michael Gamble’s Rhythm Serenaders because I bought their e.p. and it’s just so great. SO great. It’s exactly what I’ve been waiting for. I wish that band was in my town. Or even just my country. That song King David gave me a hook for a set that just wasn’t coming together. Now I feel like I can DJ tonight with a good beginning place: one great, swinging song by a modern band. Yay!
This is the music in the 8tracks set (but of course I won’t just put this playlist on at the dance and let it play):
title year artist length album bpm
Piano Boogie 1997 Kansas City Band 2:32 KC After Dark 177
King David (live) 2013 Michael Gamble and the Rhythm Serenaders 2:48 Little Swing Sesh ’13 164
Shorty George 1960 Count Basie and his Orchestra 2:57 The Count Basie Story (Disc 1) 201
Main Stem 1999 Lincoln Centre Jazz Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis 3:57 Live In Swing City: Swingin’ With Duke 200
Keepin’ Out Of Mischief Now 1956 Maxine Sullivan With Buster Bailey, Milt Hinton, Jerome Richardson, Osie Johnson, Dick Hyman, Wendell Marshall 2:47 A Tribute To Andy Razaf 132
Since I’ve Been With You 1946 Julia Lee, Leonard ‘Lucky’ Enois, George ‘Red’ Callender, Sam ‘Baby’ Lovett, Dave D. Cavanaugh, Karl George 2:48 Kansas City Star (disc 2) 129
Hootie Boogie (1945) 1945 Jay McShann 2:55 Jay McShann: Complete Jazz Series 1944 – 1946 148
Jesse 1939 Harry James and the Boogie Woogie Trio (Pete Johnson, Albert Ammons, Johnny Williams, Eddie Dougherty) 2:44 Boogie Woogie And Blues Piano Mosaic Select 224
Seven Come Eleven 1939 Benny Goodman Sextet (Fletcher Henderson, Charlie Christian, Artie Bernstein, Nick Fatool, Lionel Hampton) 2:47 Charlie Christian: The Genius of The Electric Guitar (disc 1) 234
Honeysuckle Rose 1937 Teddy Wilson Quartet 3:13 All Star Jazz Quartets (disc 1) 168
The Way You Look Tonight 1936 Teddy Wilson and his Orchestra (Billie Holiday, Ben Webster, Gene Krupa) 3:02 Lady Day: The Complete Billie Holiday On Columbia (1933-1944) (Disc 02) 167
Anything Goes 2010 Cecile Mclorin Salvant and the Jean-Francois Bonnel Paris Quintet 4:46 Cecile 117
The One I Love Belongs To Somebody Else 1961 Ella Fitzgerald acc. by Lou Levy, Herb Ellis, Joe Mondragon, Stan Levey 2:16 Clap Hands, Here Comes Charlie! 147
Take It Right Back 2004 Terra Hazelton (feat. Jeff Healey’s Jazz Wizards) 4:55 Anybody’s Baby 111
Frosty Morning Blues 2011 Smoking Time Jazz Club 4:53 Lina’s Blues 114
Devil And The Deep Blue Sea 2009 Reynolds Brothers (John Reynolds, Ralf Reynolds, Marc Caparone, Katie Cavera) 4:49 A Rhythm Rascals Cocktail 139
Central Time 2013 Pokey LaFarge 3:00 Pokey LaFarge 198
Update on using gender neutral language in class:
I like it.
It’s no big deal.
So now I’m taking it a step further. Yes, there is a point beyond gender neutral language.
I find that I don’t like referring to ‘the follow’ or ‘she’ as though they were some sort of universal object or being, while I’m teaching. I prefer to use my teaching partner’s name. For example, I might say, “If I want *partnername* to move straight ahead, then my right hand pushes (gently!) in that direction, and *partnersname* moves that way. What does it feel like for you, *partnersname*?”
I think that this stops me making massive generalisations about leading and following and dancing, and encourages me to think about how each dance is a unique interaction and negotiation of space and time and rhythm and creativity with each partner. Which if course is the point, right? That’s why we go social dancing – to really sample as wide a range of experiences as possible? Or is that just the hippy in me?
I mean, last night we were teaching double top turns to complete noob dancers, and I found myself explaining in abstract terms why you don’t (as a lead) hold your partner’s hand too high above their head: because it’s uncomfortable. I reached a point where I was just annoyed by myself and said, “Look, this is just common sense, right? You’re gentle with your partner and don’t twist their arm behind their back because that’d hurt them? Stay with them, watch out for them, watch them, because that’s the nice way to dance.”
Sometimes we (meaning me) seem to pursue these abstract essential universal qualities of ‘good dancing’ as though they were divorced from the actual humans involved. I mean, the reason why we make sure the follow’s hand isn’t too far above their head isn’t mostly about good technique. It’s mostly because we are trying to stay ‘connected’ (in a social sense) with our partner, and not hurt them. We want to be with them in a personal as well as technical sense. The pragmatics of this (ie where you actually position your joined hands), is a consequence of this recognition that your partner is a whole, complete human. Someone you want to get to know, if only for three minutes. And as a lead, the follow is trusting you to watch out for them. So it just feels like the right thing to do is to justify that trust by not being a dick.
There is no universal, fixed ‘correct’ way of dancing (ie you don’t hold your joined hands an exact 170cm above the ground and 80cm in front of your face). Partner dancing is about negotiating a series of ongoing, constantly changing relative positions and relationships. My partner takes large steps because I take large steps. I lift my right hand higher on their back because they are taller than I am, and than my last partner. I stop dancing like a crazy adrenaline fool, and take more care and pay more attention if my partner is heavily pregnant, or feeling a bit unsure. I begin each dance with some time in closed, so we can get connected and ‘get in tune’. If I feel them disliking what I’m doing, I stop and try something new. I’m constantly alert to the possibility that they might bring something consciously, or that their change in weight or timing might inspire me to try something new. And that I can then integrate that into our dance. This is much more than a conversation (and what a boring, limited idea that is). This is a dance.
And this is why I think I’m happier saying “I do blah blah if I want *partnersname* to do X” rather than “I do blah blah if I want the follow to do X.”
Let’s put the gender back into the description: “I do blah blah if I want her to do X” or “I do blah blah if I want the woman to do X”, then this depersonalising and essentialising is made even clearer. My partner is defined by her/their gender, rather than their role or even their individual personality. And this essentialising discourages you from thinking of all of your partners as unique people, and each dance and dance partnership as a series of compromises, adjustments, active engagements and meetings of mind.
So, you know, adopting gender neutral language is just a tool, or a gateway to much more exciting thinking and dancing.
As I re-read this, I wonder if this bizarrely abstract, technical approach to teaching is culturally specific. I’d suggest began in the 2000-2003 period, partly because some people got obsessed with technique, micro-level leading and following, groove (and the slower tempos which made all this possible) and blues dance. And most of these dancers came to lindy hop with no dancing, and almost certainly no partner dancing experience. They also tended to be people from technical or academic backgrounds: IT workers, programmers, etc etc. People who like to logic their way through problems. People who mightn’t (and here is where I make a gross generalisation) have much experience touching and interacting with other humans in a physical way. Beyond sex. So they needed to invent a ‘technology’ for partner dancing.
When if you had grown up with touching other humans, with partner dancing and dance in everyday, normal, ordinary spaces, as part of your ordinary day, you’d be all “Well, durh, if I do this dick like thing, my partner won’t want to be my friend/gf/bf and that’d be crap.”
Now, however, as we move into what’s really functioning as the second or even third wave of lindy hop revival, partner dancing has become so normalised, so much a part of normal life and social interaction, you don’t need to explain every little thing in tiny detail. You can be much more pragmatic and socially oriented.
I mean, one question we get repeatedly from brand new dancers in class is “We did this move, now the handhold is weird – how do we fix it?! [paniiiic!]” I love this question, because the answer is beautifully simple: “If the handhold feels weird, just change it.” And everyone lols, because it’s funny that we’ve gotten so caught up in the mechanics of what we’re doing we’ve forgotten how to hold hands. Of course, the nicest part of all this talk about hand holds is that if you preface all your thinking about hand holds with “Have relaxed, gentle hands, and be cool with letting go of each other,” then you quit worrying about hand holds and get on with feeling the good adrenaline feels.
This all really brings me back to that point: if you’re used to holding hands with people, you’re pretty comfortable with figuring out how to make a hand hold work. But if you’ve never walked down the street holding someone’s hand, or never touched someone casually, or never partner danced, then you are acutely aware of hand holding and are paralysed by HOLYFUCKHOWDOESITWORK!?! panic.
[aside 2]You know why my posts get so long? Because I start writing and thinking, and write as I think, and one idea just prompts another, and another and another, and suddenly the post is a million words long and my brain feels like it on fire with ideas. A long post is the sign of a happy and excited brain.[/aside2]
I am 99% likely to buy your album on bandcamp if you are a modern day jazz band playing recreationist swinging jazz.
I am about 10% likely to listen to that album and 3% likely to DJ anything from that album.
If you’re a dancer, the odds of my playing or listening to your album drop even further.
See, I love to support modern bands, but, frankly, there’s a lot of mediocre music played by inexperienced musicians out there. You need to do more than be a high profile lindy hopper who can plink out a tune on a piano or a guitar to impress me. And don’t get me started on vocalists.
So, sure, he’s my $20 or $15 (that’s what I’ll pay for an album or e.p.). But I’m not sure I can give you my speaker time. Not when there’s Basie I haven’t listened to in at least a week.