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October 15, 2009

blog - attend me!

Posted by dogpossum on October 15, 2009 10:14 PM in the category lindy hop and other dances and music | Comments (3)

Watching this clip is like the way I think about dancing. I mean, when I watch dancing, I think of it as a series of shapes and lines. Well, I don't actively, consciously think of that, it's kind of how I see it.

flight patterns from Charlie McCarthy on Vimeo.

But it's not just how I see it. It's also how I feel it, and how I hear the music. The music is like a series of patterns and shapes - each sound is a shape or a series of forms. And they fit together. So you get repeating patterns and you get random moments, but they all work as part of a whole piece of music.
When I watch a really good dancer, I see those shapes and lines that I hear in the music. When I watch a really good dancer, they make me see the music in particular shapes. Their bodies make the shapes, but their shapes tell me how they hear the music at that moment. And it changes each time they dance.
When it's two people dancing together, you see two people making shapes at that moment. They make the music into something you can see.

When I watch that clip, it reminds me of dancing, because it's making something moving into something still or constant. It's like that with dancing - it's something moving. Your brain recognises the shapes and connects the dots with a sort of line of understanding or meaning. But that line doesn't really exist, except in your head.

And when I'm actually dancing, it's like my body makes the shapes of the music. But it happens outside my conscious brain. I can practice and practice and learn to understand how to control the shapes my body makes, and refine the way I use it as a tool, but, really, the best dancing happens when your brain turns off and you just connect your body up to the music in a direct line. A direct current, from the musicians to your body.

I've been watching these clips from ULHS and thinking about the way the camera angle has changed the way I watched the dancers.

Blues Finals ULHS

blues finals ULHS

blues finals ULHS

Usually dance clips are shot from the middle distance, not from above. So we see the dancers in tableau, front elevation. They move and turn horizontally or vertically in front you. But these clips are from above, so we look down onto the dancers. And suddenly I see them from a completely different angle. I notice things I hadn't seen before. In the first clip the follow sits out, her hips back, while she's in open. I see it from above in a way I wouldn't have from below.

Watching the later clips, especially of Todd and Peter dancing with their partners, these leads' propensity for spinning their follows is emphasised. We see the follows spin and spin and spin. From a side or front view, we'd see the different types of spin, and the movements would be more interested, because we'd see more than the tops of these women's heads.
This simple shift in perspective reminds me that when most dancers watch other dancers or think about dancing, they're thinking about their own view from the edge of the dance floor. They're not thinking about other perspectives. Suddenly, opera and traditional theatre with its tiered seating seems more radical than any busted fourth wall.

I do like these three clips from ULHS. I've heard a bit of smack talk about them, critiquing the leads as too 'leady'. Of course they are - these two are the lead-centric leads; it's just that other leads are suddenly seeing this for the first time. Any follow could've told you before, because any follow will have felt with her body the effect of all that centrifugal force. Other comments have been that this 'isn't blues', that 'it's lindy'. Which is exasperating. I really hate bullshit lines where people declare a particular sequence of steps indelibly lindy hop or blues. I especially, especially hate it when people declare a song 'slow lindy' rather than 'blues'. Use your fucking imagination, kids.
How the fuck can you be so sure of the boundaries of a dance? When I'm dancing, I certainly don't think 'no way, buddy, that's lindy hop there'. I feel a lead and I might think 'oh, this feels like tango' or 'a nice swingout, here, even at this tempo!' but I'm not thinking 'now I'm lindy hopping' when a lead adds some swingouts to a slow 'blues' song.

It's madness, just madness, to my mind. It is all just movement, and you can make even one single move feel and work as any type of dance - you just have to work with the music and your partner and what's going on in the music.

I have to stop typing now. I'm typing is so fucking crap right now - all that using a pod and only using 140 characters has fucked up my typing. I need to do more writing.

Blog - attend me!

Posted by dogpossum on October 15, 2009 10:14 PM in the category lindy hop and other dances and music


Posted by: Jerry at October 16, 2009 1:25 AM

I agree about seeing the dance from above kinda blew my mind.

I posted some clips on my blog a couple of months ago from a dancer who filmed the Frankie95 Hellzapoppin comp from way up on high back stage. It almost gives me vertigo watching them.

Also the original Minnie's Moochers routine "Love Me or Leave Me" from ALHC 1999 had a lot of elements that were choreographed so they can only be appreciated from seeing them from above even though I don't think anyone ever saw it from that angle.

Posted by: Jerry at October 16, 2009 1:25 AM

Posted by: dogpossum at October 17, 2009 12:34 PM

Thanks for the links, Jerry. Watching those clips really emphasises the points where a lead who doesn't triple step (or rather, who just stands there) can really kill a follow's momentum. At speeds, that can really suck as it takes some much work to build up that energy again.
It's cool to see them from that different angle, though - you see so much more and can really get a better appreciation of moves which are otherwise obscured by a front-view elevation!

Posted by: dogpossum at October 17, 2009 12:34 PM

Posted by: dogpossum at October 17, 2009 12:36 PM

This of course reminds me of those Gjon Mili photos from the Esquire shoot:

There's also a photo of the Whitey's Lindy Hoppers somewhere which is shot from above. Part of that is used in the ILHC logo. The different angle makes the photo _really_ interesting.

Posted by: dogpossum at October 17, 2009 12:36 PM

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