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January 31, 2005

teaching dance stuff

a few people have asked about the stuff i've learnt from bill borgida lately. so i'm going to add it in a link.
it's fairly scatty, and could do with some editing, but people want it ASAP, so they'll have to just cope. i'll see what i can do about adding photos/demos etc later.

please note: while i'm keen to help, learning to dance from a bunch of notes on the internet is not going to work. you need to do it with your body, see people move and learn to see how things work in other people's bodies. otherwise, i hope this is a bit useful. it is also only part of a basic approach, and only half way through.

i'm drawing extensively on bill borgida's work, and stuff i've learnt about tango from jarny and i'm really only beginning to learn all this myself. so please allow for errors as i muck through all this.

"teaching dance stuff" was posted by dogpossum on January 31, 2005 9:50 PM in the category

January 24, 2005


finally a bunny photo. the squeeze is enamoured. and obviously the bunnies reciprocate: they mark their mates and favoured people. with urine.

this bunny is pumpkin. it was her cage-mate spud who decided the squeeze belonged to her.

"bunnies" was posted by dogpossum on January 24, 2005 10:00 PM in the category

January 21, 2005

My annotated working bibliography on Afro-American Vernacular Dance

My chapterÂ’s focus on the Melbourne lindy hop community is reflected in my choice of texts which address ethnicity and cultural appropriation in af-am vernacular dance.
The texts most likely to appeal to the general reader or lindy hopper are marked with an asterix. These are also perhaps the most important books of Afro-American vernacular dance available. I have included no autobiographical works in this list

Card, Amanda. "The 'Great Articulation of the Inarticulate': Reading the Jazz Body in Australian and American Popular Culture in the 1960s." Journal of Australian Studies58 (1998): 18 - 28.

Copeland, Roger, and Marshall Cohen, eds. What Is Dance? Readings in Theory and Criticism. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1983.

DeFrantz, Thomas. "The Black Male Body in Concert Dance." Moving Words: Re-Writing Dance. Ed. Gay Morris. London and New York: Routledge, 1996. 107 - 20.
[not entirely relevant, but de FrantzÂ’ interest in contemporary Afro-American vernacular music and dance and film are worth following up]

Desmond, Jane C. "Embodying Difference: Issues in Dance and Cultural Studies." Cultural Critique (Winter 1993 - 94): 33 - 63.
[an excellent essay addressing dance as a cultural practice. Uses cultural studies theory to consider how dances are transferred across cultures, and addresses issues of gender, class and race with satisfying depth]

*Emery, Lynne Fauley.Black Dance in the United States from 1619 to 1970. California: National Press Books, 1972.
[another key historical work addressing Afro-American vernacular dance. More rigorously researched but still some minor flaws]

Friedland, LeeEllen. "Social Commentary in African-American Movement Performance." Human Action Signs in Cultural Context: The Visible and the Invisible in Movement and Dance. Ed. Brenda Farnell. London: Scarecrow Press, 1995. 136 - 57.
[a really interesting article discussing the ways Afro-American children use dance and dance movement in every day life. Focuses on tap dance and contemporary dance, but fascinating for its attention to cultural, ethnically determined dance aesthetics and the socialization of dance movement in Afro-American culture]

Gere, David, et al., eds. Looking Out: Perspectives on Dance and Criticism in a Multicultural World. New York: Schirmer Books, 1995.

Gottschild, Brenda Dixon. Digging the Africanist Presence in American Performance. Connecticut and London: Greenwood Press, 1996.

Gottschild, Brenda Dixon. "Stripping the Emperor: The Africanist Presence in
American Concert Dance." Looking Out: Perspectives on Dance and Criticism in a Multicultural World. Eds. David Gere, et al. New York: Schirmer Books, 1995. 95 - 121.
[somewhat ambitious in some of its claims about the influence of Afro-American dance and song in western culture, but worth reading for some of its discussion of ethnicised dance aesthetics.]

Griffin, Sean. "The Gang's All Here: Generic Versus Racial Integration in the 1940s Musical." Cinema Journal 42.1 (2002): 21 - 45.
[another work discussing Afro-American dance and song in Hollywood film. A useful read]

Hazzard-Gordon, Katrina. "African-American Vernacular Dance: Core Culture and Meaning Operatives." Journal of Black Studies 15.4 (1985): 427-45.

*Hazzard-Gordon, Katrina. Jookin': The Rise of Social Dance Formations in African-American Culture. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1990.
[another of the key texts dealing with the history of Afro-American vernacular dance. Hazzard-Gordon, unlike many of the other historians in this vein, is Afro-American. Her book is fascinating for its emphasis on everyday dance spaces in af-am culture, rather than more elite institutions like ballrooms and studios. Her work is well researched and interesting]

Jackson, Jonathan David. "Improvisation in African-American Vernacular Dancing." Dance Research Journal 33.2 (2001/2002): 40 - 53.
[a fascinating and easier to read academic work on the topic of improvisation. Worth reading]

Kealiinohomoku, Joann. "An Anthropologist Looks at Ballet as a Form of Ethnic Dance." What Is Dance? Readings in Theory and Criticism. Eds. Roger Copeland and Marshall Cohen. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1983. 533 - 49.

Knight, Arthur. Disintegrating the Musical: Black Performance and American Musical Film. Durham and London: Duke University Press, 2002.
[a book considering the representation of Afro-American dance and song in Hollywood film. An interesting background for dancers when watching archival film]

Koritz, Amy. "Re/Moving Boundaries: From Dance History to Cultural Studies." Moving Words: Re-Writing Dance. Ed. Gay Morris. London and New York: Routledge, 1996. 88 - 103.

*Malone, Jaqui. Steppin' on the Blues: The Visible Rhythms of African American Dance. Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1996.
[the most authoritative and well researched of the histories of Afro-American vernacular dance. Worth researching, particularly for its consideration of Afro-American marching bands]

*Murray, Albert. Stomping the Blues. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1976.
[another of the key historical works on Afro-American vernacular jazz dance. Focuses primarily on music, but fascinating for its definitions of ‘blues’. It is not, though an example of solid research. Despite this, it is easier to read and worth looking through]

Pietrobruno, Sheenagh. "Embodying Canadian Multiculturalism: The Case of Salsa Dancing in Montreal." Revista Mexicana de Estudios Canadienses nueva época, número 3. (2002).
[considering salsa dancing in Canada, but interesting for the parallels between that dance community and Melbourne’s swing community. Especially in reference to the discussions of schools and cultural ‘authenticity’ in teaching]

*Stearns, Marshall, and Jean Stearns. Jazz Dance: The Story of American Vernacular Dance. 3rd ed. New York: Da Capo Press, 1994.
[one of the longest-standing and most useful histories of Afro-American jazz/vernacular dance. There are some sections which have been queried for their historical accuracy (most notably the sections describing the ‘cat’s corner’ in the Savoy ballroom), which emphasise an inadequately rigorous research methodology, but still a useful, and easier read]

Thomas, Helen. Dance, Modernity and Culture: Explorations of the Sociology of Dance. London and New York: Routledge, 1995.

Thomas, Helen. "Do You Want to Join the Dance? Postmodernism/Postructuralism, the Body, and Dance." Moving Words: Re-Writing Dance. Ed. Gay Morris. London and New York: Routledge, 1996. 63 - 87.

Usner, Eric Martin. "Dancing in the Past, Living in the Present: Nostalgia and Race in Southern California Neo-Swing Dance Culture." Dance Research Journal 33.2 (2001/2002): 87 - 101.
[a somewhat dodgy article which does not demonstrate adequate field research. Still one of the few academic articles about post-revival lindy hop]

Influential films which feature lindy hop and are reasonably easy to get hold of:

*Potter, H. C., Dir. Hellzapoppin'. film, 1941.
[Includes perhaps the most important lindy hop film sequence featuring Frankie Manning and the WhiteyÂ’s Lindy Hoppers. This film also stars Dean Collins, who is probably the most important dancer in smooth or Hollywood style lindy hop. Collins is a white dancer generally credited with bringing lindy hop to the west coast of the USA].

*Woods, Sam, Dir. A Day at the Races. film, 1937.
[another important film sequence, featuring the same dancers

*Mura Dehn, Dir. The Spirit Moves: Part 1: Jazz Dance from the Turn of the Century 'til 1950. Film, 1950.
[this is an excellent film, but relatively difficult to get hold of. It may be in your local or state library, and can be purchased on video from the savoy style website]

Some useful websites with reliable information about lindy hop
*Pritchett, Judy. Archives of Early Lindy Hop. website. April 2004.
[features some nice historical clips and with excellent information]

*Loggins, Peter. The California Historical Jazz Dance Foundation website. The California Historical Jazz Dance Foundation. January 2004.

*"Progressive Era to New Era, 1900 - 1929. Prohibition: A Case Study of Progressive Reform. Harlem Rent Parties." webpage. The Library of Congress. The Library of Congress. January 2004.
[an example of archival material available online which refers to lindy hop and Afro-American communities of the ‘original swing era’]

*Loggins, Peter. "Informational: Styles of Lindy Hop." webpage. Jive Junction. Reuben Brown. Jive Junction. January 2004.
[An interesting article about the history of lindy hop styles. Loggins is one of lindy hopÂ’s most respected historians, and justifiably so]

"My annotated working bibliography on Afro-American Vernacular Dance" was posted by dogpossum on January 21, 2005 7:37 PM in the category

work thoughts

today i had a busy day inspired by Jane C. Desmond's article "Embodying Difference: Issues in Dance and Cultural Studies" in Cultural Critique (Winter 1993/94, pgs 33 - 63).

And IÂ’ve recently written an overly long post in this thread on swing talk about the charleston swingout.


The charleston - as you may or not know - was one of the key dances incorporated in the historical development. While the open/closed/open structure of the swingout (foundational step of the lindy hop) included the break away which so revolutionised partner dancing in the 30s (what, a couple dancing alone together?! improvising?!), I do suspect that the charleston contributed footwork and timing to the neophyte swing out. The break away was of course already living in the texas tommy and other pre-lindy partner dances. The charleston predated lindy, and gained mainstream popularity in the 20s though it did develop earlier than that and was initially performed in an Afro-American stage play whose name escapes me just now. The charleston itself developed from earlier Afro-American post-emancipation dances.

The charleston prevailed into the 30s and 40s, yet with a distinct style that differed from the early 20s charleston. The earlier version was more upright and with a different rhythm, while the later version is more syncopated and less upright. I’ve heard this later style referred to as ‘lindy hop charleston’, ‘30s charleston’ and ‘flying charleston’. This final name, though used by Jacqui Malone in her credible book Steppin' on the Blues: The Visible Rhythms of African American Dance is used by contemporary swingers in reference to another distinct step. In this clip Frankie Manning dances first the lindy hop charleston (primarily in profile) and the ‘flying charleston’ (in front-view). You can see why Malone refers to the lindy hop charleston as ‘flying’ charleston, as Manning’s distinctive style makes his stretched-out upper body appear to be flying, while his lower body goes like the clappers – a rea lly nice example of ‘cool’. ‘Cool’ is a concept used in Afro-American dance to refer to the juxtaposition of a ‘cool’ or aloof, or chilled face with a ‘hot’ body which is engaged in fierce physical exercise. Or some other similar juxtaposition of moods.

Charleston swingout?
The charleston swingout has come to contemporary Australian swingers post-lindy hop (ironically enough) and I doubt it ever made it to Australia pre-revival. Though I could be wrong...
It is essentially, the same movement as a swingout, where the partners come into a closed position and then out, but in the charleston swingout, the footwork is distinctly charleston-inspired and less of a ‘slotted’ movement.

I've been led the charleston swingout once or twice, but I wanted to learn to lead it myself. And it seems that there's a deficit of weight change information in the explanations I've had. Or else I've not had it explained to me in terms that I can understand.

I am all about weight change, as per previous discussions on this blog and elsewhere.

ok, so back to the topic at hand...

I'm reading some really great stuff about dance at the moment. For a bibliography of stuff IÂ’ve read this past week or so, check out this file.

At any rate, IÂ’ve been really fascinated by all this stuff and have started to wonder about the way we dancers use archival Hollywood clips of swing dance as an authoritative source for dance. The California Historical Jazz Dance Foundation, of which the respected post-revival dancer and historian Peter Loggins is a part offers this fairly exhaustive list of films in which lindy hop and swing dance appear. HellzapoppinÂ’ is perhaps the most-used and influential of all these, and stars Frankie Manning.

In that thread on the charleston swingout, people suggest I look up After Seben, a clip which features Shorty George Snowden (I think it is) dancing the charleston swingout. Now IÂ’m have some concerns about this source, as an historical guide to dance recreation. Check out the extended version of this entry to see what these concerns are.

Posted by dogpossum on swingtalk discussion board: Jan. 21 2005,15:38
original posting.

ok, so i'm doing some hardcore research for the thesis at the moment on dance theory. skip down past all this to the 'my point' bit if you want to cut to the chase. but i wanted to present some of my evidence for my questions first. because i want to see if anyone knows anything or has good refs that challenge this evidence.

my research background:
mostly i'm interested in the transferral of dance forms and movements across cultures - so, in the case of swing dances:
- the afro-american appropriation of european partner dances
- the re-emergence of historical dances within the afro-american community in the 20th century (so a contemporary af-am culture appropriating the dances of a community from the past - like the re-emergence of the itch in different decades, etc)
- the white appropriation of lindy hop (and other swing forms) in the 30s - specifically in the west coast adoption of lindy, and later in the more mainstream adoption of lindy hop as 'jitterbug' in the later 30s and 40s.

vernacular dance and ethnicity
i've focussed on afro-american research (mostly in dance studies, but also in dance sociology and the newer area of dance cultural studies). but i've also read work on latino dance forms (including tango, salsa, etc) and africanist dances in places like haiti and the caribbean, where slavery brought african dances under white imperialism to indigenous populations.

one of the key things that i've noticed coming up in a range of works by different people, is the way the appropriation of dances by other communities involved changes in what we'd call the 'style' of the dance.

learning to move: dance movement as culturally determined and not necessarily 'innate'
in the dance lit i've been reading, they talk about the way different cultures and communities socialise children (and adults), in terms of movement and dance. so if you grow up in an afro-american community in LA, you learn to move in a different way than say a kid from a latino community in LA, a white kid in melbourne, a chinese kid in malaysia, etc etc. it's like language: we learn to speak in a paricular way in our local community, and all have different, localised accents.
so when people say things like "oh, black people can really move" or "white men can't jump" they're not noticing a genetic heritage so much as a socialised way of moving (which incidentally utilises whatever genetic potential is available).
this point about movement being learned and not innate is important because it suggests that dances evolve across time and culture, as do cultures and species. if you disagree with evolution as a theory, you'll never convince me.

much of the literature i'm reading discusses common traits in different localised ethnic dance communities.
so, we can discuss a white european dance aesthetic, which is made most evident in things like ballet:
- a straightened spine and 'upward' movement of the torso
- the alignment of hip and shoulder, with a straight spine
- straight legs and arms

there are a range of features common to an af-am dance aesthetic (which draws heavily on africanist influences):
- Isolation and movement of the pelvis - in rotation or thrusting
- Individual manipulation of other body parts such as torso, head, arms,
- Flat-footed movement style
- Flexed leg position
- a 'cool' face and 'hot' body (the juxtaposition of an 'aloof' gaze with a furiously fast and energetic body)
- down-ward inclined movements

there are also a bunch of other things that can be said about other dance cultures.
it's important to note that most dance aesthetics are not only ethnically or racially determined, but also heavily inflected by class. so while ballet represents a middle or upper class dance aesthetic, it contrasts markedly with the folk dances of lower classes white europeans, such as clogging, called partner dancers like reels, etc.

the thing i'm really interested in is the way a particular dance is 're-styled' to suit a new community when it is transferred from its original context.

that transferral works both ways: af-am to mainstream white culture; white european slave owners to african slaves; af-am 30s to 2000s predominantly white european australian; predom white 2000s american to 2000s predom white euro australian.

ok, so when white dancers appropriated black dance forms, they changed bits of it. mostly for cultural reasons, and usually to change the sexual connotations of movements. so there might be less 'percussive' thrusting, rotation or undulation of the pelvis; legs might be closer together; and partners might enter a looser or not-so-close embrace. arms are straightened, spines are straightened and lifted, etc.

the white appropriation also involved a de-emphasising of improvisation. mostly for practical purposes. the appropriation of black dance by white culture in the 30s and 40s (and today) was achieved primarily through dance schools and teachers. and it's easier to offer a more standardised product. and it's just plain hard to teach improvisation. so it was taken out. or greatly reduced. following the logic of the point about culturally-determined characteristics of dance movement, improvisation would be different across different cultures anyway. and white dance and music of the time was also a lot less tolerant of improvisation.
jazz is the best example of this: jazz dance has improvisation in it because jazz music does. and jazz music has indelibly afro-american roots (though it too borrowed from other cultures).

i've also done some reading on hollywood representations of afro-american dance. the basic gist of this: black dance was remade and represented for white audiences in hollywood film. so it's problematic to assume that these films give you a window into the complete world of 30s af-am dancing. or access to an 'authentic' lindy hop or tap or whatever. as one author puts it (LeeEllen Friedland fyi), black dance performances on film and stage in the 30s (and now) are only showing a tiny part of their repertoire.

having said that, really, we take what we can get. because we don't have much choice.

my point (finally)
ok, so with all this in mind, when i watch the 'after seben' clip with the charleston in it, i have some questions (please note: i only have a vid copy of this clip, and haven't watched it in a while - no vcr here - if you have a dig copy i can borrow i'd be overjoyed).

what's with that really upright posture, when everything you read about af-am dance of the time says that that upright posture wasn't indicative of the general dance culture?
the breakaway which we see there (and which gets us lindy hoppers really excited) was present in other dances, and is generally described as a lot wilder and crazier than what we see in 'after seben' (i have this great quote from a woman who describes how as a dancer in 20s shows she ended up in the orchestra pit or the wings or all over the place in the open position of... texas tommy i think it was - it was crazy shit).

so what's with that 'after seben' clip?

was it a carefully toned-down dance for white audiences?

i mean, i've read in a really great article by jane desmond that the original charleston was really toned down for white dancers, and that this toning down :

tended to make the dances more upright, taking the bend out of the legs and bringing the buttocks and chest into vertical alignment.

does anyone know anything more about the clip itself? the actual context of its production, for example?

an interesting case study of the appropriation and movement of dances and dance movements between cultures:
the 'ring shout' of the late 19th and early 20th century draws on african traditions of dances where participants moved in a ring. this structure was adapted for holy or 'sacred' christian dances in black churches. the format was also used in secular contexts - like jooks (sort of like bars, but less formal), house parties, ballrooms, etc - for social dance forms. the big apple that manning choreographed (as seen in keep punchin, and revived by contemporary dancers in various forms - compare CRR's version with sp's version as an example, then compare with the 'teachers' dance at hellzapoppin during mlx) was an adaption of the ring shout formation. today we still do big apples, but we also do jams, which are a further adaptation of the form.
despite the transferral of the rough structure, the way we dance these dances today in melbourne are quite different to the way they were danced in the 30s in harlem, in the 1900s in southern america, or in various areas of africa pre American slavery.

a note on my references:
i've been using a range of reputable sources for this research - articles and books by people who've been studying dance and movement for years and years, as well as anecdotal, autobiographical and archival material i've scrounged from various sources, including interviews with people like frankie manning, et al, film footage, etc.

i'm working with a range of resources. they include:
- stuff on dance theory, which tends to focus on performance dance and concert dance (stuff like ballet and modern dance)
- stuff on afro-american and other vernacular dances, by a range of authors, some of whom are white, some are af-am, some are radically political af-am, some are conservative white, some are latino, etc etc etc
- stuff on movement and dance movement
- cultural studies stuff
- sociology stuff, which tends to position dance as something to be studied
- and some limited stuff on dance theory today, in regards to improvisation and choreography
- a fukk load of dance history stuff, focussing on af-am dance. these use a range of sources, from interviews through archival material to film and so on. some of them are somewhat dodgy research (like the stearns and stearns book), but what can you do?
- i'm also using more populist references like stearns and stearns book 'jazz dance', the albert murray book 'stompin the blues', and katrina hazzard-gordon's 'jookin' (she does academic stuff too). some of these are way dodgy.
- i've got limited access to autobiographical books and archival material. more of which i'm not sure i can pursue at the mo, as i've got to stop researching and start writing this chapter next week.
- i also scour online sources for history. i tend to favour the references which are attached to people like peter loggins, who demonstrate a marked interest in the issue and in actual interviews.

in all this: the dance theory work is generally all written by people who are also dancers or human movement researchers. i also exercise a fair degree of scepticism: books which don't have solid references are suspect, as are 'facts' without corroborating evidence (i think of the stearns book here especially). i tend to favour research by af-am dancers and theorists when i'm looking at af-am work. but as an academic i don't favour politics over good solid research skills.

"work thoughts" was posted by dogpossum on January 21, 2005 6:38 PM in the category

>work words are all about discourse, not monologue.

over here, mig is getting into some serious prompting-creativity action. he's decided to not watch telly, or read anything for a whole week.

now, i'm not sure about the rest of the world, but if i didn't anything or watch any telly or read any internet, or listen to any radio, i'd be absolutely un-creative.
i wonder if art galleries and fillums and shows are out as well.

all those things are things that prompt me to write.
especially the reading thing. especially if i'm reading work stuff. i mean, look at the bibliography for the dance stuff i've read over the past week or two. that's like 25 things i've read in a week or two, plus play books of course - so add about 5 more books on there, plus the internet (including a vast array of swing discussion boards for research), plus all sorts of other things.

and i've been writing like a dang fool all week. notes and ideas and emails and discussion board posts and everything.
i find that when i stop sucking up culture from outside-me sources i stop pumping my own words back out.
especially work words.
work words are all about discourse, not monologue.

guess that's why i dig partner dancing and not something like tap... though it's only a matter of time...

">work words are all about discourse, not monologue." was posted by dogpossum on January 21, 2005 6:23 PM in the category

January 20, 2005

I am totally up for some smiting. I have severe wroth to vent.

Ok, so IÂ’m doing some browsing through interesting blogs, via this blog, which I quite like. It seems IÂ’m actually not really pulling my weight as a feminista extravaganza. IÂ’ve gotten dull. IÂ’ve gotten domesticated. IÂ’ve gotten depoliticised.
Whatever happened to the hard-hitting, take-no-prisoners dogpossum who’d cheerfully roast fellow undergrads in English subjects, or take on arsehole blokes in my ‘peer’ group for their unsavoury comments?

These days I just keep on reading when the regular band of misogynists make comments on Swing Talk. And what the HELL am I doing with guys who continually comment on their female friends’ breasts, arse, body in my peer group? WHAT am I thinking? It is not ok to interrupt a woman-in-conversation with a comment that she should “keep doing that – you’re turning me on” when she’s demonstrating bounce in lindy hop. It’s especially not ok when the guy doing this has had a few drinks and is compensating for said woman’s demonstration of superior dance knowledge. It’s absolutely, 100% WRONG for me to sit there and say nothing when I see this clever, capable woman embarrassed in front of her friends. It is SO wrong it makes me gag that I don’t say anything – I don’t step up and call him on his bullshit – because, as with swing talk, I’m thinking ‘don’t rock the boat’.

GodDAMN IÂ’ve had enough of this shit.

And while I’m on the topic, what makes guys think it’s ok to sexualise a woman, to add a sexual subtext or theme to a conversation or general social interaction in mixed company? Now, I’m certainly no prude – hell, I’m the original Mz Potty Mouth – but why is it that 90% of the men in swing are incapable of making grown up judgements about when and where it’s appropriate to turn on the potty? Is every guy in the swing community locked into some scary adolescent world where women are really either potential-fucks, past-fucks, someone-else’s-fuck, or unfuckable?
I mean, HELL, can’t they just figure out that it’s generally not ok to initiate the dirty talk with a woman they don’t really know, in mixed company? Do they not realise that said talk will not, in fact, impress said woman, nor convince her that yes – judging from the aforementioned talk – this is a Man worthy of her time and interest. In other words: you won’t impress anyone – not that woman, nor any thinking man around you – with high school smut and social bullying.

Right. IÂ’ve had enough.

And for all the swing guys I know who read this blog: if you’re thinking about making some smart comment along the lines of “so you’re getting all radical, are you?”, be warned: I might not come back at you with a bad-arse wisecrack to devastate you in front of friends and foe alike, but I sure as hell will go out of my way to decimate your reputation amongst the sistahs after the show. While the not-so-radical sistahs mightn’t take public issue with your behaviour, and while they might even laugh along with your lame-arse jokes, they probably aren’t digging it. And they’re sure as shit not thinking ‘my, what a clever and observant guy he is. I’d so definitely want to spend some more time with him’.

So, if for no other reason than to keep in with the ladeez: cut that bullshit out. Only your dough-arse mates think its funny, and thatÂ’s only because theyÂ’re a) drunk; b) alcohol damaged; c) stuck in some weird-arse perennial adolescence; or d) pining on yo arse with some suppressed homosocial desire which is perhaps most likely a response to the populist misogyny that convinces them that all women are less than men because they are really nothing more than an object defined by their proximity to their dick, or to someone elseÂ’s.

Phew. So yes, IÂ’ve been sitting on some righteous feminist angst for a while.
And if I were any of the fuckwits in the swing community whoÂ’ve been shitting me lately, IÂ’d be watching my back. Or my front. Because IÂ’ve had just about enough. And MAN do I have one arse-kickingly fast wit. I will destroy yo ass in front of a crowd. I will reduce you to unintelligible grunts with my whip-like one-liners. And if I canÂ’t get you with the dialogue, I will SO fuck you up on the dance floor, motherfuckers.

I am totally up for some smiting. I have severe wroth to vent.

"I am totally up for some smiting. I have severe wroth to vent." was posted by dogpossum on January 20, 2005 3:46 PM in the category

January 19, 2005

things that've happened lately:

- i have caught two mice in my room in traps. i totally killed them.
- two bunnies came to stay with us while their owner is off at a dance camp. out with the old rodents, in with the new.*
- i got a new gym instructor. the lovely robert, who is - he informed me with justifiable smugness - a level two instructor. we speak only of centers, while i admire his marvelous moustache and struggle through core-endurance-inducing exercises involving swiss balls.
- i took The Squeeze to a tango lesson with jarny and he surprised me by thoroughly enjoying it. i forebore** saying i told you so.
- i became queen lead of the universe and in so doing made a Serious Point: men are not necessary for dancing pleasure.
- The Squeeze became tango following king of the universe, and heterocentric order was restored to the universe.
- i bought a big ham cheap and planned to bake it and feed it to people. the plan does not eventuate.
- the washing machine died (after surviving a house fire, years in a sharehouse and several moves) and i decide to buy a new one.

*yeah, yeah, photos will follow. i promise.
**is that, like, actually a word? did i say that right. no, don't tell me. i don't care.

"things that've happened lately:" was posted by dogpossum on January 19, 2005 10:37 AM in the category

it's never cool to see your blog is just a big white space surrounded by (entirely accurate) self-portraits.

but i have a belated breakfast to eat.

"" was posted by dogpossum on January 19, 2005 10:24 AM in the category

January 5, 2005

ok, so it's not so easy getting back into work.

i'm still fussing over my notes, trying to figure out exactly what i'm going to write about in this chapter. it all seems a fair bit more bullshitty now than it did when i was writing the notes.
but i've managed to put together a decent sort of chapter layout. it might be a big chapter, but i know where i can cut stuff out.
story of my life.

tomorrow might be a better working day. though i think i'll get some stuff done tonight. the hardest part is always starting the chapter, though i think i've pretty much gotten onto that with my plan. i do need to do some serious research on afro-american vernacular dance. see what sort of theoretical work is kicking around... so i can substantiate some of the stuff i'm writing about.
sigh again.
i am SO in the wrong country for this type of research. i'm SURE i need another research trip.

"ok, so it's not so easy getting back into work." was posted by dogpossum on January 5, 2005 12:17 PM in the category

January 4, 2005

afro-americn vernacular dance and the dance act: historicising lindy hop

OK, so it seems this chapter on the dance act has two parts or key points.

1. Presenting an argument for contemporary swing culture as an Afro-American vernacular dance. Or a dance drawing on this heritage.
2. Presenting a discussion of contemporary social and face to face dance practice and culture.

I am interested in the role of the media in these two areas.
In the first part, I'm interested in the extent to which history is present in contemporary swing discourse - how is swing culture historicised or, conversely, ahistorical?
With that in mind, I'm examining the ways in which a sense of historical context or history is communicated within and between swing communities. I discuss sites like Savoy Style whose emphasis is on the history of the dance and swing websites which provide briefer, potted versions of history like mine on
Free Swing Press
. Interestingly, the Melbourne schools aren't too keen on providing any history of the dance on their websites, though it's a fairly common feature on sites like the Perth Swing Society's website, and on similar sites overseas. I’m wondering if limiting the dissemination of this knowledge – or deprioritising it in favour of group/school identities – is a useful way of fixing the group’s identity on certain terms which emphasise the closed, school-identity, rather than a wider, more decentralised sense of ‘swing community identity'. Obviously, it's harder to control the interpretation and meaning of history in the latter state, which might lead to a re-construction of power dynamics and systems of privelege in swing communities.
On the other hand, Jive Junction, an American site, provides a fairly authoritative history of lindy hop styles in Peter Loggins’ article on this page. The key point of issue here, lies in Loggins’ engagement with the way histories of the dance have been employed by various groups to cement their own authority. ‘History’, here is not so much distinctly Afro-American or reaching into the pre-history of lindy hop, but concerned more with the geneology of lindy hop itself.

In this discussion of the uses of different media forms in historical swing discourse, IÂ’ll also mention of the role of archival footage from the 'original swing era' and discussions of musical geneaology in swing culture, though IÂ’ll leave more complex discussions for later chapters.

All of this is relevant to a discussion of face to face dance acts – actual, real-life dancing. The first section argues that swing dancing today is a contemporary incarnation of Afro-American vernacular dance. And that Afro-American vernacular dance embodies various discursive themes and ideological approaches not only to dance but also to communication and community which are fairly exciting for a feminist project like mine.
This attention to Afro-American history also allows me to manage some of the issues surrounding positioning swing culture as a diaspora. Diaspora is almost always a racialised or ethnicised concept in cultural studies. While I don’t have a strong history in race or ethnicity studies, I don’t think these matters can be overlooked in swing: this was a black dance developing from the slave history of an oppressed American people. And it’s been adopted by white, middle class kids in urban Australia. I want to know how this history is present or managed or re-presented or negated or whatever by the contemporary cultural context. Is this another example of cultural imperialism or appropriation, or perhaps an interesting example of a more dynamic cultural process? I see media forms – mass media communication – as playing a part in this use of Afro-American vernacular dance culture by contemporary Melbourne swingers.

So in the first part of this chapter I outline lindy hop and swing dances in terms of their history as an Afro-American vernacular dance. I make an argument for this history or context or identity as potentially subversive, dynamic, transgressive, etc – really, a dance-form which does ‘textual poaching’ in a very satisfying way.
In the second part I discuss the extent to which this potential is actually realised in contemporary Australian swing communities, by discussing f2f swing dancing in Melbourne on these terms.
I look for instances of poaching, tactical resistance, feminist-friendly stuff and – conversely - structural strategies of discursive control in contemporary, f2f swing dance.
I do all this through an analysis of f2f dance interaction with pays particular attention to the themes raised by the first section. How are elements like derision, challenge, imitation and mocking present in contemporary swing dance? how are these tools for subversion (or disempowerment) taken up by different dancers?
My analysis in this section centres on gender and sexuality, primarily in response to the limitations of space and time, but also as part of my own project as a feminist swing dancer to find a tenable position on the dance floor for myself. But attention to gender and sexuality is also useful in a more general sense, as the employment of various strategies and tactics in the negotiation of gender and sexuality in swing discourse indicates the more general ideologies at work, and their notion of identity and what it is to be a swinger. Swing dance culture, around the world, is heavily informed by gender and gendered identity. It simply makes sense to hang a discussion of identity and shared, communal identity on this issue.

"afro-americn vernacular dance and the dance act: historicising lindy hop" was posted by dogpossum on January 4, 2005 12:26 PM in the category

writing about my work on this blog is actually conducive to good thesising

ok, so i'm back 'at work'. i'm sitting in front of the computer, notes open in front of me, most pressing of procrastination activities completed (blogs read, discussion boards perused, laundry flapping on the line), stomach full and kettle on.

do you think i have even any clue as to what my thesis is actually about? it's been so long, i can't even remember what i was writing about.

right now i'm looking at these notes on the dance act itself, ready to hoe into an argument about afro-american vernacular dance and what that actually means to a bunch of middle class white kids in melbourne, and i just can't seem to remember what it was that made all this so important.

i think i need to re-read past chapters.
surprisingly, though, i've found writing about my work on this blog is actually conducive to good thesising. don't have a postgrad community to discuss readings with? why not crap on to an imaginary audience on the internet. kewl.

"writing about my work on this blog is actually conducive to good thesising" was posted by dogpossum on January 4, 2005 11:41 AM in the category

January 2, 2005


i know it's been a long time since i last posted, but things have been busy. i was in tasmania for around 6 weeks - 2 months, christmas happened, then new years and now. well. there was mlx in the middle, which was far funner than expected, probably owing to the fact that i was thrilled just to be in melbourne and having a break, as well as being gleefully responsibility-free, as a non-volunteer and non-hoster. ah, me-first. what bliss.

then i did some workshops in tasmania with bill and julee and the tasmanian dancers. the tasmanians do truly rock. i am also enjoying something of an extended dance epiphany. the secret? dancing is simpler than you'd think. phew.

now i'm back in melbourne, and will start work on the thesis again on monday. or perhaps tuesday, as i'm slotted in for an appointment at the gym. max has left the wick baths, but i'm settling for disco-moustache man. hopefully he'll be as good as max. hopefully.

this year sees me thinking about taking up tap (still), african dance (possibly), hiphop (again, possibly), yoga more intensively (as it rawks), more swimming, and most interesting of all, sword fighting for the stage. i'm facinated. but not sure where to begin.

but in celebration of the new year, i've added an ordinary-quality photo of crin and i being pirates at the mlx ball. there were other pirates in our gang, but they were either taking the photo or in the hall already doing performances.

"pirates" was posted by dogpossum on January 2, 2005 2:28 PM in the category