Friday, January 27, 2012

Recommended Music - Cross Patch by Fats Waller

Following on the heels of my last post featuring Skye and Frida dancing to All That Meat and No Potatoes by Fats Waller I've decided to begin adding song recommendations to the blog.

So let's start with Mr Waller.  

I won't go into much detail as I'll leave that up to Wikipedia's article, but it's worth pointing out that he had the "honor" of being kidnapped by Al Capone to perform for him personally.

I know, crazy.

Oh, and he was one of the best Jazz pianists of his time and an extremely prolific songwriter.

So here's another one of his many great songs that I find to be particularly suited to Lindy Hop - especially when practicing the movements from the Skye and Frida post.

The title of the song is Cross Patch and you can purchase it here or on

He has many other songs that are also good and range the full gamut of tempos.  Do a little bit of digging around and you'll find all sorts of great stuff.


Thursday, January 26, 2012

Skye & Frida - Simple Patterns

Of course I couldn't go more than a few weeks before posting something with Skye and Frida.

Here's a demonstration dance - this time from an event in 2008.

Look past the low quality shaky-cam, the muffled All That Meat and No Potatoes by Fats Waller, and the odd mix of on-lookers and you'll find what I love the most about this:  The simplicity of movement.  The patterns are nothing complex; there's just a solid pulse and movement that naturally flows.

Skye leads so effortlessly from his core, Frida follows so effortlessly from hers.  They dance in the rhythm of the music, not on-top-of the rhythm.  They are both so solidly connected and so loose at the same time (and in just the right places) creating an effect that the tempo is slower than it actually is.  No really, get out of your seat and just step through a swingout with the song playing.  It's pretty quick, isn't it?  They make it appear slower and more relaxed than it actually is, and this is proof of their efficiency of movement.

I'd love to see more of these kinds of movements and patterns used in our scene. Watch the clip a few (hundred) times before you head out to your next dance and soak up the spirit and feeling of this until it just flows out of you.

I'm a firm believer that we tend to dance like what we see.  If you spend most of your time watching everyone else in the scene, you'll probably move like everyone else.  Spend more time studying and watching the type of dancing you're aspiring toward and you'll start to feel and move differently than everyone else.

On a side note I'd also like to hear more pulsing upper mid-tempo jazz in our scene as well.

Do you have any favorite songs that are similar in rhythm and mood to this one?  I'm always interested in recommendations to add to my collection.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

The Tranky Doo, and You.

If you've been out to either of the Tampa Swingang's regular dances, Sunday night at the Zendah Grotto or Tuesday at the Don Vicente, you might have seen a small group of us attempting (and humbly fumbling through) the Tranky Doo.

The Tranky Doo is an old Jazz routine which, according to the Wikipedia article, was choreographed by Frankie Manning.

If you're familiar with the Shim Sham or solo Jazz you should recognize a lot of the movements, and practicing it is a challenge but also a wonderful way to work on Jazz movements that you can use in your Lindy Hop.

This video above shows the first recorded appearance of the Tranky Doo from the movie "Spirit Moves" and features some of Frankie's contemporaries - Al Minns, Pepsi Bethel, and Leon James.  The song "The Dipsy Doodle" is overlaid onto the video as the film was originally silent (as far as I understand, please correct me if I'm wrong.)  The original song used was "Tuxedo Junction".

If you were in attendance at Swing Dance USA in 2010 at the Coliseum in St. Petersburg you might remember this rendition featuring instructors Gina Helfrich, Joel Plys, and Crista Seipp.

Here's one of my favorite instructional breakdowns of the Tranky Doo.  It's filmed from behind, at a slow pace, with a mirror, and with the count (a 1, ah ah ah, a 2 ah ah ah).  Many of us have used this and other videos to practice on our own so we look like we know at least a little bit before trying it in public.

Like all Jazz dancing there is room for personalization and interpretation.  You shouldn't ever see two Tranky Doo's that look exactly alike as the performers will often improvise and insert their own personalities into the dance.

I'll leave you with one of my favorite interpretations of the Tranky Doo.  It features Mike Faltesek, Bethany Powell, and Stefan Durham from a dance in Montreal in 2008.  Notice how coordinated and yet how uniquely they each interpret the dance.

I hope to see you on the dance floor trying this out with us.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Custom Dance Shoes on the Cheap

I just checked out my friend Pam's website Dance Happens the other day and notice a great video she recorded herself about how to make your own custom dance shoes for only a few bucks.

I actually did this a few years back with a pair of my favorite old sneakers.  The suede and glue cost me less than $6 which saved me a whole lot of money since most dance shoes are $70 plus.

For Lindy Hop I suggest having both a good pair of slick shoes and a good pair of sneakers (preferably Keds or Converse) for dancing at different tempos or on different surfaces.

Her site is fairly new and lists instructors and events among other things.  Give it a look and sign up if you're interested.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

The Jam Cellar - Lesson Recaps

Okay.  I couldn't help it.  I was going to hold off on posting another video until this weekend and then establish a once a week pattern, but with everyone headed down to Soflex I thought I'd give you guys some great ideas to bring with you.

Head over to The Jam Cellar and look up their lesson recaps. They also have a YouTube Channel that chronicles years of these wonderful lessons.

So what will you find, you ask?
  • Solid explanations of Lindy Hop basics?     Check. 
  • More advanced Lindy Hop?     Check. 
  • Charleston?     Check. 
  • Balboa?      Check. 
  • Solo Jazz?      Check. 
  • Nationally known instructors including Andy Reed, Naomi Uyama, Bobby White, Kate Hedin, Nick Williams, and even post-Floridian Crista Seipp?      Check. 
  • Wisdom, humor, and a really echoey room?       Check. 
These are not your average free lessons either, which makes online and free an awesome price.

Also, if you're ever up in the DC area on a Tuesday night I highly advise stopping in.  The crowd is friendly, the building is cool, the rooms are hot and so is the jazz.  Seriously though, it gets really hot.  Bring an extra shirt or two.

At the top of the page Bobby and Kate* show off some subtle Lindy Hop movements - Swivel variations for follows and mule kicks for leads.  I really like the nuanced differences between the swivels.  

Also also, if anyone would like to take pictures or videos while at Soflex to post on the blog, or write a short review of the event, please let me know.  I won't be going but I'd like to start cataloging and promoting local events and could use the help.  Thanks.

*Bobby and Kate share a website at and Bobby's blog Swungover is always insightful and entertaining.

A Quick Note

Just a quick post to note that as of right now this site has had over 126 unique visits.

Thanks for all of your interest and support.  I already have more content ready to post, but I'm trying to roll it out on a weekly basis.  Although, if you think this is a good idea, I will consider updating my plans.

Thanks again for your interest.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Kevin and Jo - Connection

I've been having fun lately posing questions to people while out at dances.  

I've found that when asking follows who their favorite professional female Lindy Hoppers are I tend to get a more varied list, with more interesting reasons, than when I ask men the same question about male Lindy Hoppers.  Good job, girls.

When I asked Emma Bramer this question yesterday the conversation moved to Jo Hoffberg.  Her connection, control, and creativity definitely stand out.

Above is a clip I found a while back on her blog, Jazz It Up With Jo.  You'll have to search a few pages back to find the article, but that really shouldn't be a problem if you're into commentary on events, competitions, and even vintage fashion.  

She describes this clip as one of her favorite social demo's with Kevin. Pay special attention to the connection they have through their arms.  This solid connection is the foundation for many of the interesting and fun movements they perform here, and is just as dependent on the follow as the lead.  Hitting the right balance of not too heavy and not too light (the Goldilocks zone) takes practice.  It also takes a lead who gives the follow more time extended and doesn't just bring her back and forth at every opportunity.

Give it a try and let me know what you think.  

Does anything else stand out about this demo to you?

Why Lindy Hop Weekly?

On an upbeat Sunday evening at the Zenda Grotto I recently posed a simple question to some friends. 

"How do we develop better Lindy Hop leads in the Tampa Bay swing scene?"

A mix of replies peppered the half-serious, half-comedic conversation.  "Get hotter girls to come out dancing," a female friend said.  "You should gather up some of the newer guys and charge for lessons," a male friend replied.  

After opening up this conversation to various groups over the course of the night two common threads seemed to appear pointing to two main needs:

1) More Information - Everyone, and I mean everyone, every guy, every girl, everybody at every level wanted to learn more.  There is a hunger in our scene right now and it's for more information (not cowbell) about Lindy Hop.  People feel like they are personally hitting a ceiling and want more knowledge but don't always know how or where to find it.

2) Identifying Leads Dancers with Interest and Potential - How do we reach out to leads and follows who hunger for more information?  How do we identify them?  How do we create an atmosphere where they feel comfortable to seek new knowledge and to socialize with those of us who have simply been around longer?

So this crazy idea popped in my head.  It may not solve all of the problems, but I'm hoping it's a first step.

Every week I will post a video that I find informative, educational, or inspirational about Lindy Hop.

That's it.  It's that simple.  

I'm by no means a professional dancer and I've been doing this long enough to know that there are more things I don't know than I do know, but hopefully you will find something useful in the videos and information I post.  Hopefully you'll feel comfortable enough to comment and share your own thoughts or pull me aside at a dance just for some conversation or to ask a question.

Hopefully this will help focus our scene in a direction and give everyone one more means of finding some information, some inspiration, and connecting with other people.

Please share this link with your friends and the new people you meet and please sign up for the weekly reminders.  And please, please, please feel free to contact me at any time, seriously.

I hope you enjoy it,

Tom Blair