Blues in place

‘Bessie Smith at the Office’ – Anne Emond

(if you like this, you can buy a nice print: from Ann’s shop)

Last night I dropped in at the Geoff Bull and the Finer Cuts gig at the Corridor in Newtown. The corridor is a skinny, two-story joint with a roof top garden and heaps of hipsters. Because it is a small space, you’re wedged up against the band. Literally – I was hip-to-butt with the saxophonist a few times, and Geoff had to ask some Rowdy Yoofs to be a bit careful when they danced. All three of them. There’s only one mic – for the vocals. Otherwise, everything’s as it’s meant to be in jazz: unamplified, rowdy, right there up in your face.

Geoff Bull is a gun. He holds those young people musicians together, the way a good band leader should. Without him, they flounder a bit. Every band needs a good leader. Watching, I was suddenly struck by the way jazz music is like jazz dance. Well, duh, but it really struck me last night. We’ve been focussing our teaching on rhythms and sharing rhythms lately, and I suddenly realised that a good jazz band shares a little rhythm or a bit of melody in a gig the way we share a nice rhythm on the dance floor. Geoff played a little clump of notes once, twice, his eyebrows raised in the direction of the (ninja) trombone dood. By the third time, trombone guy had it, and joined in, at first the same notes, then mucking with the harmony.

I was suddenly reminded of the way I might share a rhythm or a move with a friend on the social dance floor, either my partner in lindy hop, or my solo dancing buddy(s). Once, twice, and then you both have it.
Watching Geoff, I felt my muscles start to jump as the signal got through. Once, twice, and then I had to hold myself to my seat to stop from leaping up to join in.

Bump-bump-baaa-bumpty-bump.

Just like in class, when we’re teaching the beginners rhythms: we step it or scat it clap it, then they join in when they’re ready. Then we step it out. Then we’re all dancing together, all joining in on that one repeating rhythm. And then you each start to play with it, make it slightly different. And suddenly you realise that every dancer’s body makes the rhythm unique. If you’re tall, your steps are wider, the time between each step is longer, If you’re little and fierce, you can add a little accenting stampy-stamp. Just like the musicians in the band: lower notes for a trombone, shouting squawks from a trumpet, bouncing thumps from a bass.

Bump-bump-baaa-bumpty-bump.

Watching the band, I wondered how they’d feel about me jumping up and joining in. Would they like it? I know I would. Later on, Geoff encouraged clapping, and clapping at just the right time. I think he’d like it too.

Later on,

the band sang that song ‘Closer to the bone’, where the lyrics go like this:

Closest to the bone
Sweeter is the meat
Last slice of Virginia ham
Is the best that you can eat
Don’t talk about my baby
She’s slender but she’s sweet
Closest to the bone
And sweeter is the meat

Now she’d make a good thermometer
If she drank a glass of wine
She’s built just like a garter snake
She climbs up like a vine
My friends tell me I’m a fool
To love a girl like that
Here’s the reason I like ’em slim
Instead of big and fat

‘Cause…..Closest to the bone
Sweeter is the meat
Last slice of Virginia ham
Is the best that you can eat
Now don’t talk about my baby
She’s slender but she’s sweet
Closest to the bone
And sweeter is the meat

Now she’d make a first class fountain pen
If she only knew how to write
Her figure’s like a piece of string
She rolls up every night
Everybody thinks that I’m a nut
To love this lovely worm
Boy there’s one reason I like ’em slim
Instead of round and firm

Sweeter is the meat
Last slice of Virginia ham
Is the best that you can eat
Now don’cha talk about my baby
She’s slender but she’s sweet,
Closest to the bone

She’d make a fine piccolo
If she only stayed on key
Boy she’s shaped like a rubber band
And she loves to snap at me
Everybody thinks I’m insane
To overlook her faults
But here’s the reason I like ’em skinny
Instead of full of schmaltz

‘Cause…..Closest to the bone
Sweeter is the meat
Last slice of Virginia ham
Is the best that you can eat
Don’t talk about my baby
She’s slender but she’s sweet
And it’s closest to the bone
And sweeter is the meat

Ordinarily, I like this sort of song. But this one bothers me. Something about a man singing about consuming, objectifying a woman’s flesh, his insistence that her personality can be overlooked because she’s physically all that… nah. I don’t like that talk. In a context where women’s bodies are commodified by our culture, this song makes me feel a bit not ok. If it were a woman singing about a man… well. Maybe that’d be different.

Looking around the room (because for a moment, I didn’t want to look at or engage with the band), I realised there were at least a handful of thin, beautiful young women near us. I wondered what they thought about this objectification of their bodies. And then I realised, they were already letting me know what they thought, in the best way possible. They were talking to each other loudly and enthusiastically, ignoring the band. Your sexist song? It is beneath our notice. Sisterhood is far more powerful, yo.

I like this at a jazz gig. If a band can’t keep the attention of its audience, then it doesn’t deserve that attention. If what you’re saying and doing isn’t reaching out grabbing at the attention of the people in the room, your work isn’t working. Particularly if the room is about the size of a large train carriage. Almost the size.

It was an interesting moment. The song was fun, it was good, it involved a fair bit of shouting from the band. But the content wasn’t cutting it. It made me feel uncomfortable, and it wasn’t working for those fashionable, thin young women. Your shock-content song: it fails to register.

And this brings me (finally) to Ann Emond’s comic up there. Bessie Smith sang songs that objectified men’s (and women’s) bodies, with the sort of fleshly enthusiasm that blues is very good at. But she was a woman, a powerful black woman, singing about men. She wasn’t a bunch of white middle class jazz musician blokes in an inner western Sydney bar. She was in a tent or a bar, shouting at a crowd who respected her (or were about to respect her), and she was a black woman in a time and place when black women were only very recently objects to be bought and sold (by white men). It meant – it means – something very different. And I write this as someone who understand the blues music idiom. I understand that there are layers of meaning to a song, and that this particular song invites reading on the slant, as well as on the face of it. But I’m not convinced that there enough layers, or enough complexity in the delivery of that song last night.

I think that context is what makes a blues song. It’s what makes the lyrics work. And while I was enjoying that Finer Cuts gig – I did enjoy that gig, far more than the last time I’ve seen them – that particular song didn’t quite cut it. 1950s Louis Prima isn’t quite the same as 1920s Bessie Smith. Or even 1930s Louis Prima. And I’ve seen that song not quite cut it before when Puggsly Buzzard’s played it.

Sure, I understand that they’re trying to be bold with dirty, transgressive lyrics. But I don’t think there’s anything much transgressive about a bunch of enfranchised blokes singing about consuming the bodies of women. That’s really just business as usual. The status quo in our culture.
It was particularly telling when you consider the fact that a beautiful, young, slim, black woman had joined the band for a chorus or two of ‘Careless Love’ just a moment before. If I had seen her sing about the sweetness of meat close to the bone, about the skinny, snappy man she liked for his body, if it had been that woman belting out those lyrics, then the band really would have been doing something transgressive. It really would have been provocative.

teaching with gender

This week I was mocked for describing students’ ‘beautiful basics’ with too much enthusiasm. I admit, I was cooing and gushing a little, but I have Strong Feelings about beginner dancers doing basics. So next week I’m going to experiment with using manly words to describe swingouts.

“Great! What ruggedly masculine triple steps!”

“What hairy-chested bounce!”

“I like how you let her in close and then pushed her away!”

“Hey, you almost emoted there, but then suddenly shut down and repressed – great stuff!”

Perhaps I should just go ‘Proper Man’ and just do taciturn.

“Grunt.”

That’ll totally inspire the students.

man on man grooming

This photo reminds me of Bobby White’s new project. Nothing homosocial about a blog full of pictures of hot guys where the women are entirely incidental. Nothing homosocial about bros checking out each other’s (fine selves) in fine clothes. NOTHING AT ALL*.

I found this photo on gingerhaze, but I can’t remember where. This is the link, here.

*And it would be totally immature to find this idea a bit sexeh. Totally immature.

Happy International Women’s Day: equity and inclusiveness can be easy

As you may or may not know, I’m teaching lindy hop with a female friend. That means that the students have two female teachers, one leading and one following. So far it hasn’t seemed to make any difference to their learning or relationship with us – beginners are too busy worrying about their feet to actually notice that the leader teacher has boobs. One of the nicest parts about our class has been that we see regular women leaders and a male follower – all very serious about learning.

One of the things we worried about when we started planning classes which welcomed – normalised! – female leads, male follows and generally genderflexed approaches to dance roles was how we’d handle some problems. We welcome women who don’t feel comfortable dancing with men (for whatever reason), and we also welcome men who’d rather dance with men. But we weren’t sure how we’d make clear who was leading, who was following, and who wanted to dance with whom.

My first instinct is ‘everyone dance with everyone else – we’re a safe, welcoming place’, but I also understand that many women simply don’t feel safe or ok being touched by men. And that some men would really rather dance with other men, because the opportunities to social dance like this with other men are so few and far between. So how were we to accomodate all these variations in partnering?

Well, we haven’t solved those particular problems (we are currently just encouraging everyone and hopefully modelling a dancing partnership where each partner is treated with respect, and dancers learn to touch in a respectful way), but other problems have turned up. For as long as I’ve been leading, I’ve never been in a class where no one has remarked on the fact that I’m a woman leading (rather a man). Until this past weekend at the Sweet n Hot workshops, where nobody commented, and even I forgot that I was doing something unusual. Until I had to ask (reluctantly, and with trembling-scardycatness) for the teachers to use gender neutral pronouns because I was getting confused. Generally, though, I’m placed in a position where I have to respond to endless, endless comments about the fact that I’m a woman. I’ve always replied with lighthearted explanations.

I suspect that the students in our classes have had similar experiences. We usually mention the fact that we welcome students in either role, though we are still figuring out a way to do this that doesn’t imply that male leaders and female followers were/are ‘normal’, because they have always been just one option of many. But students are obviously still dealing with curious comments.

I’ve realised over the last couple of weeks, though, that the students have figured out their own solution. They just write ‘leader’ or ‘follower’ on their name tag, underneath their name. Simple, and effective. Why haven’t I ever thought of that? #doofus

Happy International Women’s Day! Some problems need big, complicated, difficult solutions. But others just need a little practical thinking.

Women’s History Month: Billy Tipton!


(image lifted from wikipedia)

I’d never heard of pianist, composer, bandleader Billy Tipton before I was sent an email recommending him for this series of posts (I’ll leave that kind correspondent to out themselves in the comments if they like.) Everything I know, I’ve scrounged online.

Basically, Billy Tipton was born Dorothy Lucille Tipton in 1911, and was a keen pianist interested in a life in jazz. By 1940 he was living as a man, binding his breasts and otherwise dressing and identifying as male. It wasn’t until he died in 1989 that Tipton’s family discovered he was assigned female at birth.

I don’t know the exact reasons for Tipton’s living as a man, but I want to include him in these Women’s History Month posts because he draws attention to the limits of single definitions of masculine and feminine. And one of the clearest points to be made about Tipton’s story is that living as a woman musician limited (and limits today) your profesional opportunities.

Sweet Georgia Brown by Billy Tipton

Women’s History Month: some thoughts at day 6

It’s women’s history month again, and I’m listing a different woman musician from the first half of the century every day (as I explain here). Last year I did a different woman dancer every day, and that was super great fun. I’m enjoying the women musicians, but I haven’t really had a chance to research or push myself, as I’ve been away at a dance event for most of this month. And today, I’m still feeling a little tired and rough, so I’m not really ready to push myself. Tomorrow. Tomorrow.

I did decide in that first post of the month that I’d only dance as a lead this month, as a way of exploring International Women’s Day and Women’s History Month and what it means to be a woman dancing. Well, actually, I just decided that on a whim, without much thinking at all. I don’t follow much these days as I’m really trying to get my leading up to snuff, and the best way to get better at dancing is to dance. And as every lead knows, the real challenge comes on the social dance floor, when you need to come up with a series of moves, connect with your partner and attempt some sort of creativity all at the same time.
We won’t even mention the battle to maintain the fitness and aerobic capacity lindy hop demands.

I have to say, it hasn’t been hard, because I get to dance with amazing dancers, most of whom are my friends. And I’ve learnt so much in the past month or two it’s kind of scary – I suddenly find myself stretching and expanding my skills, pushing myself to try things that I’d never have tried before. But it’s certainly meant a bit of rethinking the way I operate socially at exchanges and dance weekends. My weekend pretty much felt like this:

I mean, the biggest change for me this past weekend in Melbourne was simply spending very little time with men. I have lots of lovely male friends, but I only danced with two of them this weekends, and I discovered that I just didn’t end up spending as much time catching up with blokes as I usually do. :( I think that’s mostly because I’d be chatting to some chicks, and then a song would start and one of them, or I would say “let’s dance!” and then we would, and then afterwards I’d end up mixing with chicks and chatting. Rinse repeat. This of course means that the men in the dancing scene need to man up and start with the following, because I refuse to miss out on their dancing wonderfulness! Good thing Keith and I got to DJ together, or I’d hardly have spent any quality time with a bloke at all this weekend. And that is UNACCEPTABLE.

Workshops on Sunday were fun. I learnt a LOT. And I did a private class with Ramona on Friday, which kind of broke my dancing for a bit, and then suddenly it all came back together and I was a dancing machine on Saturday night. Blues dancing: still a bit too dull for me atm. But then, only boring people are bored, and that’s doubly true of dancers – only a boring lead is bored. I need to woman up.

The DJ Dual with Keith went really well. In fact, I had the most fun DJing I’ve had in ages and ages. We ended up trading three songs until the last moment when we played alternative songs. I think we would have liked to continue for another hour or so, trading single songs, as we got more confident and figured out the skills and tactics we needed. But we’d been DJing for an hour and a half by then, so we might’ve gotten a bit tired. And I had to go in the jack and jill, and I’m not sure it would have been ok for me to DJ the competition I was in. Overall, it was nice to have a bit of a challenge, and it was nice to work with a friend I like and have lots in common with musically. But he is a bit of a sly dog, and wouldn’t tell me what he was playing next, most of the time, so I had to keep on my toes. But that was actually even more fun. DJ Dual: LIKE.

NB There were THREE women leads in the jack and jill competition, and one got through to the finals (in a group of six leads)!!11!1 That photo above is one I lifted from Faceplant – sorry I can’t remember whose it was. It’s of the J&J, I’m in there, and so is at least one of the other female leads.

Now: NEED MORE MALE FOLLOWS!!!

I ended up catching up with lots of internet friends over the weekend as well. Which is always a bit of a push, but well worth it. The best part was walking into a cafe, saying “Hello, I’m Sam, nice to meet you!” and then barrelling into an hour of solid, hardcore talking as though we’d known each other for years. Which we have, really. Just not in person. This trip I went for smaller catch ups, rather than bigger groups, because I wanted to get a chance to actually connect with everyone and I often don’t get that at bigger meet ups. But that also meant I didn’t get to see everyone I wanted to. Oh well, good thing I go to Melbourne regularly! I’m planning another trip in May for the Frankie Manning birthday celebrations, so I’ll see if I can fit in the people I missed this time. But that sucks, because you’re still missing people! And then there are all the dance people I want to see off the dance floor! This is, of course, why exchanges are so much fun and so challenging – so many friends descend on one city for just one weekend you really need an enormous dance floor to connect with them all!

Righto, I’d better write up today’s jazz woman!

New & chic in jass

I’m quite liking this new trend in jazz/dance videos. I like the high quality of the videos, I like the editing, I like the relaxed dancing styles, I like the way they’re doing a very good job of selling lindy hop to a mainstream audience. Not so struck on the body image stuff, but to be honest, if you’re a hardcore dancer, you pretty much pare down to muscle, sinew and bone. Or do you? I’m not about to experiment; I like it that I can rock a good shimmy.

Hippocampus Jass Gang – Blue Drag

Carsie Blanton’s Baby Can Dance – OFFICIAL VIDEO

January round up

(photo of Mary Lou Williams, extremely awesome woman pianist, who fucking PWND the fairly dick-centred boogiewoogie piano world, from here. She was all about OWNING the discourse.)

I’m back running, desperate to get some serious exercise during the christmas dancing drought. So far it’s going well, except today I did run 2 of week 2 of the Ease into 10k program, rather than of the couch to 5k program. I couldn’t figure out why I was finding it so challenging. I figured it was just because I’m out of shape and it’s getting a bit hot even at 9am. It wasn’t until the last running section of the program that I figured it out. Dummy. Hope my knees pull up ok.

I love running. I’m not much good at it. I run slower than I walk. But I love running around my neighbourhood, looking at stuff and saying hello to people I see every day. Whether they like it or not. I also like it that just thirty minutes of running does the job. Delivers the adrenaline, kicks my arse, strengthens my core, lifts my mood. It’s finally getting hotter here, so I’m ready to swim again. Been in the pool once, and I’m suddenly on fire for lap swimming. Love that boring, repetitive exercise with clear, simple goals.

Right now I’m listening to a lot of boogie woogie piano, which kind of suits my adrenaline fixation. Lots of busy left-handedness.

The Sydney Festival First night stuff was fun. Thousands of people pouring into the streets of the CBD to dance and listen to music and watch stuff. The best thing I saw was a koori acrobatic troupe traveling through the festival with a team of gypsy musicians. That shit was hot. Then the next best thing was Tuba Skinny, being lovely. I didn’t much care for the Troc festival. I’m really tired of Dan Barnet’s grandstanding. I much prefer the Sirens Big Band when they’re doing their own thing, without someone with a dick bossing them about. Also, they played the lamest, lamest songs. But I did like the bit during the free class where I looked around and realised we were standing in the middle of a crowd of women dancing together. Extreme lesbian awesome. The Speakeasy after the festival was massive and hot and sweaty and I had a lot of fun there, too.

Our regular dancing gigs are about to start up. This weekend Swing pit is on Friday and Roxbury on Saturday. I’m bossing the DJs for Swingpit (do drop me a line if you want a set!), and I’m DJing at Roxbury. It sucks that they’re both on the same weekend rather than alternative weekends, but that’s one of those complicated things that really ends up being too difficult to keep sorted. I’m looking forward to DJing. I haven’t DJed a proper hardcore lindy hop set since MLX, pretty much, and the Roxbury gig is probably my favourite hardcore DJing opportunity in Sydney.

Alice and I are trying to get our venue sorted for our weekly classes, so if you know a good venue in Sydney’s inner west that’d like to righteous sisters running fun and also badarse lindy hop classes, do drop me a line. I’m looking forward to that.

Health wise, things are ok over here. Not optimal, but far better than they have been. It’s a long, slow road, yo.

Realised yesterday that most of the dance clips I’ve been watching lately are of competitions. Which is a bit boring.

Decided today that I’d really like to be a part of a community run dance event like Speakeasy, but run more regularly, and which focusses on proper lindy hopping music. I want to DJ music from 60 to 360bpm in the one set, and I want to play all my music. And I want dancers to come along and give it a go. I think I’ve finally gotten to the point in my DJing and dancing where I properly understand that just playing music within one tempo range is a complete fail, dancing and creativity wise. Not to mention historically speaking. I am now, officially, against separate ‘blues’ and ‘lindy hop’ events. They should all be in one basket. One event. …actually, I’m not sure I’m against those separate events. But I do know I’m going to continue to copy my current DJing hero, Falty, and play all the tempos in one set.

I’m also (while I’m expositing) impatient with dancers who don’t dance slow. Come on, yo, it needn’t be sexy. Though, having just watched Dirty Dancing, I generally feel that it should be dirty as often as possible. Being able to dance slow is really important in the development of your dance skills. Fast dancing hides errors. But when things are slow, you’ve got to have ninja skills. Good balance, good timing, clear understanding of musical structures. Rhythm. I am hereby advocating slow dancing. Though I’m not particularly interested in ‘blues dance events’. They are really really boring. Sure, I like a blues event attached to a lindy hop event, but a whole weekend of blues dancing? Hurrumph. Well, actually, I’m into it if the DJs and bands are ninjas. I need a very good ‘blues DJ’ to convince me to dance without the adrenaline to kick it on. And I’m not single, so I’m not into the whole frottage cheese side of blues dancing either right now. Though I’m certainly not against it. Sexeh dancing. It’s ok by me. I suspect I’d like blues dancing gigs more if I drink. But I’m boringly straight edge, so I don’t. I am an unashamed adrenaline junky, and I live for good conversation. Don’t make me take up drinking so I can deal with your conversation, k? I think, in the final analysis, that it’s easier to go to a lindy gig if you’re feeling a bit poopy or low energy, because the adrenaline kicks you out of your rut. But blues dancing doesn’t kick you, so you just carry on being a poo. Don’t go to a blues weekend if you’re feeling slumpy. Just don’t. It’s too goddamn dull.

…briefly, on blues DJing: same principles as DJing for lindy hop. Exact same principles. Work the crowd, work the tempos, work the energy, transition smoothly between styles, know your music, know music, don’t be a dick. Most importantly: WORK THE ENERGY.

Feminism, in the news. Or on the twitters. There’ve been a few big fights on the twitts lately. Annoyingly, the gist of it has been:

  • Middle class guys with big discursive power write some sexist bullshit in what I would call a discursively powerful/elite space.
  • They get called on it (politely, cleverly) by some sisters in a public, less powerful space (ie twitter).
  • The guys get all shitty about being called on their rubbish. Because they are TEH LEFTIES and they know about feminism because their partner is a feminist OKAY.
  • All the feminists get a bit shitty with the way the guys respond to getting a heads-up.
  • There’s lots of fighting on teh internets.
  • Everyone gets angry and upset.

Here’s a couple of my ideas on this:

  • Twitter is in real time, which means you can post really quickly. In the days of discussion boards, I learnt that it’s important not to post angry. I think that some of teh lefty interkitten people need to be reminded of how to talk in tutorials where everyone is equal: don’t talk angry. It’s upsetting. Be cool.
  • Blogs are good places for complicated arguments. But not many people are good at talking in 140 characters to hundreds of people at a time in real time, without having visual cues to let them know what people are thinking. Though, frankly, I don’t think those guys would have been any good at reading what was happening in their audience’s body language any way. Power involves speaking without fear of consequence. So you don’t need to worry about reading people’s bodies for their feelings. Because it doesn’t matter if they’re shitty: they can’t touch you!
  • A lot of the wordy lefty guy types aren’t much good at talking in a space that doesn’t favour formal turn taking and quietly attentive audiences. In twittersville, peeps are interrupting you, they’re interrupting each other. They’re doing collaborative meaning making (or meaning disruption) in a way that requires pretty serious skills. I keep thinking about the difference between giving a conference paper and being at afternoon tea with a bunch of lindy hopping ladies. One’s nice and middle class polite and gonna maintain your dick-power and status, the other’s gonna be loud, competitive, rowdy, disrespectful and full of dirty jokes, with lots of complicated unspoken rules and limits. Basically, twitter is not for menz who like the ladies to shoosh-while-they’re-talking.
  • Lefty men really, really REALLY don’t like being told that they’re using the privilege of power to other’s disadvantage. Especially when the person telling them is being calm, sensible and female.
  • Specifically, I think those two posts in the King’s Tribune are fucked up, old school sexism. Sure, they were trying to be jokes, but some of us don’t think rape is funny. Not ever. Because some of us have to think about protecting ourselves from rape most of our waking hours. And when you bring that shit onto the internet, you’re going to get your fucking arse kicked, idiot, because THE SISTERS ARE TALKING, HERE. Also, your jokes: they were rubbish. TRY HARDER. FEMINISM IS WAITING FOR YOU TO GET IT TOGETHER. The thing that shits me most about this is that, once again, it’s the sisters who have to help the sooky little boys figure out how to be decent human beings. We are not your mothers. WE HAVE IMPORTANT THINGS TO DO and we are tired of helping you tidy up your shit.

I have written part of a post on this, but it got a bit upsetting to write. I think I want to pursue it, but perhaps on another day. But I think I need to, because apparently those guys aren’t actually ok with women talking out loud in public. Especially not when those women are disagreeing with them. And me, I aim to disagree.

The Eurythmics

I’ve been revisiting the Eurythmics in the last couple of months, particularly their 1983 album Savage. Even though I love it, Sweet Dreams (are made of this) is probably my favourite album.

I really liked the video clips for the songs from Savage, and have just realised that they were directed by Sophie Muller, and that there was a video clip for each song. All the clips join up (sort of) and make a kind of long film or story. I had no idea that these videos had anything more in common than particular characters until looking them up on youtube. I do have a Eurythmics video somewhere, but I haven’t watched it in years as I don’t have a VCR. My favourites are Beethoven and I need a Man.

Links to all the videos (I’ve starred my favourites):
Beethoven*
I’ve got a lover (back in Japan)
Do you want to break up
You have placed a chill in my heart
Shame
Savage*
Put the blame on me
Heaven
Wide Eyed Girl
I need you
Brand new day

Annie Lennox is always good for a bit of gender play, and I like the way she used different characters in these videos. I didn’t get into the Eurythmics until I was about 15, but ‘Sisters are Doing It For Themselves’ was released in 1985, and it really made an impression, even though I was only 11. There was something exciting about Aretha’s busty enthusiasm and Lennox in her short, bleached hair, leather trousers and tailored jacket.

I’m not all that interested in Annie Lennox more recently, nor Dave Stewart, but those earlier Eurythmics albums are really fun.

I think, really, I like Annie Lennox for those characters and dressing up in the Savage videos. I like the way they contrast with her usual short hair and jackets. I like this idea of dressing up and occupying characters or identities for performing. Not in a ‘I’m an actor and I’m playing blahblah’ way, but in a ‘today I put on this character, who’ll then go and do the show at blahblah venue and sing ‘Shame”. It’s a useful way of thinking about performance, for singing or for dance, and I think it’s a fun way of exploring gender.

This post isn’t really going anywhere in particular, but I’m putting together some ideas about imitation, copying, impersonation and so on. It’s such an interesting concept, and can work in so many ways, and I just can’t keep away from it. But Annie Lennox is a useful example (for me and my thinking, anyway) of how impersonation and identity/gender play can be subversive and quite powerful in a performance context.

gorgeousness!

Oh, oh, you MUST watch this! reliquia portenas clip!

I love everything about it. I love those chins, and they way they’re lifted as a sort of challenge/invitation. I love that grace! The sophistication! But also the sheer, testosterone-laden, machismo of it! My favourite part is probably the very end when they raise their arms to accept applause and do the little pantomime with the handkerchief. This is just gorgeous. It’s exactly the type of masculinity I like to pretend I can do when I’m pretending to be a sophisticated mandancer. Except that I suspect I come off seeming a bit more like someone’s unsavoury uncle.

(linky c/o Jerry, who I feel as though I’m stalking with all these links and shares and reposts and such)