You are here: Home > jazz on a winter's day

August 3, 2008

jazz on a winter's day

Posted by dogpossum on August 3, 2008 1:45 PM in the category fillums and lindy hop and other dances and music | Comments (0)

1. I am full of snot because I forgot to take my antihistamine yesterday and our house is full of moving dust.

2. I got up late because we went dancing at the Roxbury. Yes, we had a night at the Roxbury. It was wicked fun - a crowded, pumping room with lots of dancers and lots of fun. There's a lot of dancing in Sydney, and a lot of dancers. So far we have been out dancing four times (in two weeks!), and had to beg off a fifth because we were wrecked from house hunting. It wasn't just a heap of fun because there were so many dancers there, it was also a heap of fun because there's such a range of dancing styles on the floor. There're two major schools in Sydney, one which is an off-shoot of a Melbourne school, another which also has an interstate presence and which teaches 'Hollywood' style. I have to say that there were some leads there last night that blew my brain - they were so good I just thought 'just follow, just follow - don't muck this up with any fancy business'.
They weren't just technically good dancers, they were also socially 'good' - they'd smile and respond and interact with their partners and did nice things like say "thanks for that dance!" and ask for another with enthusiasm. They were also more musically interesting - not just dancing the same old boring steps in the same old combinations, regardless of phrasing or energy or the structure of the song generally. And then they were great because they did things like include interesting jazz steps, experiment with the connection and really make me pay attention.
First night in town dancing I was suddenly struck by how obstructive my own bad habits are to my following. And when I danced with someone who 'felt' like a Melbourne dancer (yanking me in on one, rather than using a more mellow lead in), I suddenly thought 'oh, this is why I have this bad habit of running in one, rather than waiting to be led - I'm trying to protect myself and avoid yank'. But that same protective rush is also impeding my following - it's like I'm interrupting and yapping on without listening to their idea; I'm finishing their sentences. And in turn this makes it difficult for us to actually have a proper conversation where we're both contributing equally.
A nice thing about dancing in a really diverse scene with lots of leads who take very different approaches is that I have to pick up my game and I feel inspired and really interested in actually dancing. Another nice thing is that it's really nice to watch the floor. In fact, it feels like we're at an exchange - even The Squeeze is dancing a lot. We're possibly going dancing again tonight (a big band squeezed into the Unity Hall pub in Balmain this afternoon) and while I'm a bit hesitant as we have more house stuff to do, he's all "yep, we'll be there!"
There're actually quite a few live bands to see in Sydney. In fact, there's not much of a DJing culture at all here, and most people are into live music for their dancing. This is really very nice - we've only seen one band so far, but it's always exciting to see new musicians. The year we went to SLX (the Sydney Lindy Exchange) the exchange coincided with the Manly Jazz Festival - now that was special.

jsd.jpg 3. Which is a nice segue to my next point. Right now I'm watching Jazz on a Summer's Day, a 1960 film made about the Newport Jazz Festival. FXH recommended it in his comment to this post, but I'd mistaken it for another film. Any how, I ordered it on our Quickflix account and I'm watching it right now, while I wipe my nose and The Squeeze has a long, deliciously decadent lie-in (the first he's had in about a month). It's a great film, the music is really fabulous and the visuals are really neat - lots of crowd footage, scenes from the yacht race and of course, really, really amazing footage of musicians. anita1.jpg
Newport looms large in my mind for a number of reasons. Firstly, because there are so many freakin' amazing albums featuring performances from the festival.
mj.jpg My most recent purchase in this series was the Mahalia Jackson live in 1958, and that really is fully sick. Beyond that, there's the Count Basie at Newport album, and of course, the Ellington at Newport in '56. Both of these are really neat. What makes them so neat is the fact that these were really big stars live in front of a massive crowd at an outdoor festival.
hs.jpgBeyond these, Newport is also an important character in a film I've always loved, High Society. Louis Armstrong stars in High Society, and the protagonist Dexter is played by Bing Crosby. Dexter is set up as a patron/organiser? (I can't remember which) of the Newport Jazz Festival, and the entire film is set in Newport. There're some interesting class things going on in the film, the one that always catches my interest being the way Armstrong is set up as the 'narrative' of the film in the opening scene as he and his band arrive in town in a coach (a nice contrast with Samantha's sports car). Armstrong also sings the really great song 'Now You Has Jazz' with Bing Crosby, a song which is popular with dancers (and good fun for dancing). There's a sweet scene where Armstrong and the band introduce the very straight, very white crowd of Newport socialites to jazz. They play the one song then it's back to straighty-one-eighty unswing, unjazz for the rest of the party. I really like the idea of a black man (and such an important man in the history of jazz) introducing a bunch of straights to jazz at a Newport society house party. The crowd are apparently completely unaware of the festival and its significance - oblivious to the world beyond their high society manners and conflicts. Crosby's role is kind of problematic, set up as he is, as the 'patron' for the festival.
It's interesting to watch High Society in reference to Jazz on a Summer's Day, and in the light of the festival's history more generally. And I'm very grateful to FXH for getting me onto this film in the first place.

Posted by dogpossum on August 3, 2008 1:45 PM in the category fillums and lindy hop and other dances and music


Post a comment

Remember Me?

(you may use HTML tags for style)